As little girls, we often dream of our wedding day: the beautiful gown, delicious cake, first kiss, first dance, and of course, our incredibly handsome groom. What we probably didn’t imagine was everything that came after: cooking, cleaning, working, raising kids, nights falling asleep in front of the TV from exhaustion, arguing, and sometimes feeling like the person we should be closest to in the world doesn’t feel the same.
Then the thoughts creep in: my husband doesn’t love me. I don’t know why my husband never compliments me. I don’t know why he doesn’t appreciate me. These thoughts grow more and more prominent until they’re the sole focus when you think of your husband, and then it’s all you can see.
What you focus on becomes your reality, whether it actually is reality or not. The more you convince yourself that he doesn’t love you, never compliments you, or doesn’t appreciate you, the more you’ll find evidence to support those thoughts. Worse than that, you might start behaving in ways that bring those to fruition: behaving in ways that cause him to question who you are and whether you’re still the same woman he fell in love with. This can drive a wedge into your marriage that can’t be easily removed.
You can turn this around before it reaches that point, though. And it’s much easier than you think. Let’s look at each of these thoughts in turn and how you can change things.
“My husband doesn’t love me”
In the early days of your relationship, you held hands, cuddled, kissed and hugged all the time. You probably whispered how much you loved each other a lot, too. You went out on dates to movies, dinner, sports bars, window shopping, and ice skating. You felt the love so strongly. That’s why you married him, of course.
But now, you eat dinner at home most nights, and sometimes you eat with the kids because he’s working late. When you first got married you went to bed at the same time and fell asleep tangled up together, but now one of you goes first because they’re the most tired – and it’s usually him, because you’ve got to load the dishwasher, finish folding a load of laundry, or deal with a sick kid. You watch TV in separate rooms.
Compared to the early days, it’s easy to look at the way things are now and think it’s an indication that he doesn’t love you anymore. The reality, however, is that you’ve simply settled into married life. Once you’re married and have kids, the romance tends to fade. The routines and responsibilities of parenthood, homeownership and marriage trump the sweet tenderness of new love.
Instead of thinking he doesn’t love you, look for the signs that he does. Maybe he goes out for milk when you realize you’re out in the middle of cooking. Or he picks up a copy of your favorite magazine. A kiss on your cheek in the middle of the night when he got up for a drink, or a squeeze of your hand as he heads off to bed before you. These are little things, easy to overlook if you’re focused on the negative. Look for these instead, and you’ll start to see them everywhere.
“I don’t know why my husband never compliments me”
First rule: Never say never or always. When you say that someone always or never does something, you do them a disservice. He probably does compliment you, but you don’t hear it because it’s not the way you expect it.
Does he say dinner was good? That’s a compliment. Maybe he comments on how happy the kids are that you took them to the park? That’s a compliment on what a caring mother you are. He sighs as he falls into the freshly made bed and says he loves the smell of clean sheets? A compliment on the fact that you did laundry and he loves how you do it.
Maybe they’re not the kinds of compliments you want. Maybe you want to hear how beautiful you are, how wonderful and amazing and unique he thinks you are. But instead of thinking he never compliments you in the way you want to hear, try focusing on the compliments he does give you. Thank him, smile at him, and let him know how much his words mean to you. If he knows it matters, he might get back to the ones you want to hear.
“I don’t know why he doesn’t appreciate me”
This thought is a double-edged sword. You cook, clean, take care of the kids, do the grocery shopping and drop off his dry cleaning between loads of laundry. Maybe you even help take care of his elderly parents or a younger sibling that struggles with adult life. You do so much to make his life run smoothly, and he never (or very rarely) says thank you.
But appreciation goes both ways. When did you last thank him for taking out the garbage? For working hard and bringing home a paycheck, whether it’s the family’s sole income or just one of two? For mowing the lawn, changing the oil in your car, or checking your tires air pressure?
“Well, he’s my husband. He’s supposed to do those things,” you might be thinking.
The same could be said for you. You’re his wife, you’re supposed to do those things, right? But just like you’d like to see some appreciation for doing them, so might he. Try thanking him for doing things that he does all the time. Just a simple, “Thanks, babe, for taking out the trash.” You might be amazed at the difference it makes.
Love is a two-way street. You have to give it to get it. When you feel unloved and unappreciated, it’s easy to withdraw and hold back. But that solves nothing and only makes things worse. Shake things up, and give him what you think he isn’t giving you. It can turn everything around.