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Feeling Helpless in Your Marriage

What To Do When You Feel Helpless or Are Helpless


Photo: Stephen Rees / iStockphoto
Photo: Stephen Rees / iStockphoto
As a kid did you ever have to stand and watch helplessly as your snowman melted? Or you watched the ocean waves demolish your terrific sand castle?

These are early life lessons in learning how to handle helplessness and disappointment. There will be times in your marriage when you cannot help your spouse or your spouse won't be able to help you. There will be times when all you can do for someone you love is to listen. There will be times when all someone can give to you is a hug.

Examples: Feeling Helpless, Being Helpless, and Acting Helpless

It is important to know the difference in acting helpless, feeling helpless, and being helpless.
Acting helpless can hurt your marriage because it is a way to manipulate your spouse and a way to be overdependent on your spouse.

Feeling helpless just happens. The sense of feeling helpless in your marriage can vary:

  • Intense: An intense feeling of helplessness could be like learning your spouse was unfaithful, living in a low or no sex marriage, realizing that your finances are in deep trouble, etc.
  • Moderate: A more moderate feeling of helplessness may be like not being able to help your spouse feel better when he/she is suffering from a cold.
  • Less intense: A lesser type of helplessness could be like not knowing how to help your spouse with a remodeling job like hanging wallpaper or for many others it may include not being able to alleviate a spouse's fears or worries.

Being helpless is when things happen that are out of your control: a chronic illness, a tragedy, death of a loved one, a devastating hurricane, flood, fire, or other disaster. Helplessness for some is losing the ability to do something by or for themselves such as driving a car.

What To Do When You Feel Helpless or When You Are Helpless

  • Identify the source of your helpless feeling or helplessness.
  • Accept that your concern for your spouse or a difficult situation can be good for your marriage as long as you don't try to control, smother, or hover in response to your concern.
  • Stay focused on what you can do and not on what you can't do. Be realistic. Accomplishing a seemingly small task can be empowering to you and meaningful to your spouse.
  • Taking care of yourself, both emotionally and physically, can help you feel less helpless and less trapped. That means getting regular sleep, eating a healthy diet and drinking water, exercising, and having some fun and laughter in your life.
  • Set a schedule to help you stick with your priorities and pace yourself. Be patient.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between the two of you. That includes listening to each other. Don't fall into the "yes, but ..." frame of mind. Suggest to your spouse that the two of you do some brainstorming for possible solutions. Stop making excuses and talk with each other.

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