Those Willing to Put in the Work Can Save a Troubled Marriage

Conflict will occur but fight fair, and be kind. It is so interesting that we can be gentle with others but not with our spouses. That should not be.

It’s going to take a miracle to save our marriage.

Vanessa and I, along with thousands of other counselors and life coaches, have heard those hard-core words more times than we care to recite.

The good news is that miracles happen every day.

What we have learned is that “saving” a marriage doesn’t necessarily require a miracle. What is does require is a commitment and a willingness, as we shared with many couples, “to put in the work.”

To be transparent, every couple operates under circumstances unique to themselves. Major marital problems can center on infidelity, lack of intimacy, financial issues, addiction, poor communication, etc. What's major for us might be child's play for you and vice versa!

For those who are genuine in their desires to resuscitate their marriage and build it back better, we recommend the following as a “starter kit:”

1. Be Kind When Talking Through a Difference of Opinion or Conflict

It is not necessary or advisable to raise the temperature over issues that matter but that should not be the prelude to World War III. If he doesn’t pick up after himself and you, the wife, have asked him what seems like a thousand times, yes, that can be frustrating. So when you go back for the 1001st time, which approach do you think will work best?

Approach No. 1:
“I am so tired of asking you to pick up after yourself. Why can’t you get it through your thick head? I’m not your maid and I’m sick of this #%. You are worthless and I’m tired of you."
Approach No. 2:
"Honey, I appreciate how hard you work. I may not express that to you often enough. I want to ask, and I have asked before, would you pick up after yourself please? You know how I’m wired and a neat, tidy home would mean the world to me. Thank you for working with me."

I don’t know about you but Approach No. 2 is a runaway winner for me and every man I know.

Conflict will occur but fight fair, and be kind. It is so interesting that we can be gentle with others but not with our spouses. That should not be.

2. Practice Self-Awareness

More than anyone, your spouse knows you. When you two are at odds, it may seem as though they point out every perceived shortcoming, every flaw, every fault. Self-awareness allows you to filter through what is truth and what is stated rashly in the heat of the moment. It requires a great deal of humility to acknowledge that he or she is “right” on this or that point, and to be willing to work at changing these perceptions. It is worth it, because God used marriage to foster serious character development, exposing weaknesses in you that you didn’t know you had. (I am a witness.)

It can feel like your spouse is an expert at pointing out everything you do wrong, but you are the real expert on how you are feeling. Self-awareness takes work but it allows you know your strengths and weaknesses and to make better choices in the future.

3. Accentuate Your Mate’s Positives

Look for your mate’s positive character and attractive attributes every day. Celebrate and let them know what you appreciate.

On this past Sunday morning before church, I “casually” mentioned to Vanessa how great it would be to have pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Okay - it wasn’t casual - it was calculated. I had gone to the store the night before and “loaded up” on the ingredients needed to make a great thing happen. I confess - I had a plan and baited the hook with my pre-work.

Vanessa took the bait. I asked, she delivered, and we had a delicious breakfast together that set the tone for a good day. I let her know how much I appreciated her taking the time to cook. Something she’s done thousands of times that never gets old - but it is still worthy of a compliment.

(In full disclosure, I’m a horrible cook but I can wash dishes with the best of them.)

According to Dr. John Gottman, one of the country's leading relationship gurus, actively searching for positives makes a huge difference on how you respond to negativity. The human brain will invariably find what it’s looking for. If you are looking to find fault with your mate, you will find fault. If you are looking for positives, they are right there.

4. Seek Outside Help

It’s okay to seek an outside voice. Nowadays, quality and affordable help is available through so many venues. Yes, it can be difficult to share your burdens and needs with a stranger, but please don’t be afraid to seek wise, godly counsel. If JUST US LIMITED is not your “cup of tea,” that’s okay. We advocate strongly that couples and individuals who are struggling let someone else in. One of the greatest techniques of the devil (see last week’s blog) is to isolate you. But please know - YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Couples counseling or coaching can help you discover where that faulty wiring comes from that threatens to short-circuit your relationship.

Hope Springs Eternal

There is hope for a failing marriage. Don’t walk out the door just yet if you are willing to put in the work.

Please know however, if there is ongoing physical or trauma-inducing emotional abuse, these are the exceptions when we say “get out,” certainly for a time. Do not compromise your safety or the safety of your family for any reason.

But we believe with all of our hearts in the God of Hope. It may not take a miracle, but miracles still happen ever day. Believe it!

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