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The Simple Secret to a Happier Life

If you want to get it all done — and perfectly — at work... continued...

Several years into my own marriage, I would find myself glancing at my husband, Tony, sitting comfortably in his recliner, mesmerized by a rerun of This Old House, and wondering whatever happened to the lovestruck young guy who first wowed me with flowers, gifts, and impromptu weekend trips. Of course I knew he still loved me at least as much as he loved circular saws and crown molding — yet I couldn't help but crave the attention, romance, and affection that he used to shower on me during our first years together.

After a few years of marriage, it's natural to take for granted the good things you have — for instance, trust, companionship, and shared interests — and fixate on what's missing, explains Charles. And that leads to a growing resentment that eats away at your connection, little by little.

How to Let Go

Married life is like a hearty, multiflavored stew; romance is one ingredient, but so are bill-paying, parenting, and arguing over paint colors. Kids, house, and jobs fill your days to bursting, yet these elements can actually deepen your bond if you work through the challenges together. And when you find yourself obsessing about how your husband isn't as affectionate or spontaneous as you'd like, remind yourself that you're probably not the winsome charmer he fell for all those years ago, either.

Your relationship heats up when you shrug off your assumptions of what could be, adds Charles, and focus on what is. By chucking those preconceived romantic notions ("He forgot Valentine's Day, therefore he doesn't care about me"), you lose the disappointment factor. "Zero in on his positive qualities," advises Charles. "Nurture and compliment his good traits. He'll feel appreciated and will likely reciprocate."

Consider jotting down two lists of your husband's attributes — the ones that you adore versus the ones you can't stand. First, look at which list is longer. Then, rate each item from 1 to 5, with 5 being very important, and 1 being barely important. "Think deeply about what carries more weight for you," says Charles. "Chances are, the good qualities will have higher numbers." In other words, you'll see, in black and white, that your husband's loving and lovable personality traits outshine the difficult ones — and you'll gladly decide then and there to celebrate how wonderful he truly is.

If your child isn't what you expected...

Melissa Leonard, 33, has always considered herself a take-charge, type A personality. "I'm outgoing and I make friends easily," says Leonard, who's the owner of an etiquette-consulting business in Harrison, NY. So she was surprised that her daughters, now 6 and 5, are growing into very reserved girls. "At recess, they often end up sitting on the bench with the teacher's aide instead of playing with the other kids," Leonard says. "It broke my heart to see them act so timid, and I longed for them to get over their shyness."

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