Save My Marriage!

How do you feel about your spouse? Have you been hurt, abandoned, neglected, or even abused? Oftentimes in marriage, we can find ourselves in a very different relationship with a person than we experienced when we first met.

Sometimes there are sudden changes in marriage. You may feel as if everything was going well until, one day, you were caught by surprise to learn that your partner was being unfaithful to you.

More often, though, marriages deteriorate gradually. Slowly, day by day, small, daily conflicts pile up to become enormous mountains of unresolved anger, distrust, and hopelessness.

In both cases, relationships that began with optimism, excitement, and hope turn into quagmires of pessimism, futility, and dejection. We begin to feel trapped in these relationships as we become more and more certain with each passing day that things will never improve.

What can you do when you come to the end of your ability to stay in your marriage? Let’s talk about two of your options:

Option 1: Divorce. Desperation drives us to this step because we see no other way out of the anger, stress, sadness, anxiety, depression, and despair that we experience each day when marriage becomes insufferable. Divorce provides a “way out” of a tragically broken relationship, but people often fail to recognize that the process of divorce can be even more painful than the relationship is.

When couples divorce, deep emotions inside both people can suddenly erupt, exploding like a volcano. While the marriage survives, we keep these emotions at bay with the hope that things might eventually improve, but when the restraint of hope is gone, the pressure that has been building within us can emerge with an overwhelming flood of anger, bitterness, sadness, and even rage.

Additionally, when we are feeling trapped in a difficult marriage, the primary stressor on the relationship is the relationship itself. In most cases, it is easier to maintain the daily requirements of life such as paying bills, going to work, and taking care of children when two people remain married. Sometimes people are so desperate to get out of a relationship that they fail to recognize the additional stressors that will be released by the requirements of maintaining separate households, keeping up with obligations at work, or making arrangements for the kids. We tell ourselves that our emotional health will improve when we escape a loveless marriage, but when we do, we find that we become overwhelmed with stressors from other areas of life.

For instance, a single mother raising three children on her own may be happy to have a husband who will sit in the living room and watch football so that she can take a trip to the grocery store without taking the children along. A single man who works all day may find that he is annoyed to discover the inconveniences of picking up the children from daycare after work or keeping up with the laundry. Divorce solves the problem of emotional turmoil in a relationship, but it creates countless other problems in our lives that we do not discover until the relationship ends.

Option 2: Communication. This may sound overly simple, but if you are contemplating divorce, then you don’t have anything to lose by trying to work on your communication skills. The problem many people encounter with communication is that they don’t know how to communicate with their partners because your ability to have a healthy conversation has disappeared. The reason for this is that both people in the relationship have developed habits in communication that are preventing growth in the relationship.

For example, consider a newly married couple. The husband says, “Honey, can you please wash my jeans?” The woman is delighted to have a new husband, so she happily agrees to the task. She may even show a big smile on her face because the moment to “play house” about which she has dreamed since childhood has finally come true! She is filled with joy as she takes the man’s pants, and she even asks, “Is there anything else you want washed?” The newly married man says, “No thanks, honey,” and then he gives her a big hug.

Years later, though, the dynamic has changed. The husband wakes up late for work and digs through the laundry basket looking for clothes. “Where are my jeans?” he asks with annoyance.

The wife is busy getting the children’s backpacks loaded for school and replies with exasperation, “I think they’re in the laundry.”

The man runs to the laundry room to find his work clothes soaked in the washer. “Why didn’t you put these in the dryer? I’m gonna be late for work!”

“I didn’t have time!” she yells back. “I put them in the laundry before our son’s game last night, and I forgot to run the dryer before we went to bed.”

If you have been married more than a year or two, you can probably relate to situations like these. In the early days, communication is easy because we are excited by the new feelings of the early experience of marriage. Over time, the dynamics in the relationship evolve, and we begin to communicate with less love, respect, and joy.

The key idea is this: Somehow, the communication went from good to bad, and this usually doesn’t happen in a single day. Instead, little by little, the ways that we communicate with our partners deteriorate until we find ourselves unable to have a positive conversation.

it is not easy to fix broken communication patterns, but fixing brokenness in communication is easier than divorce. One step you can take is to schedule time with a couple’s counselor. There are a variety of issues that can be addressed with the assistance of a good counselor, but one of the most useful tools that a counselor can provide is simply to provide an environment where couples can learn to listen to one another and relearn how to communicate with openness and respect.

[If you need help communicating with your partner, click here to set up an appointment with a Christian counselor for individual or marriage counseling].

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