We all who have been married know the feeling, waking up each morning to the same feeling of not knowing how to feel where to turn, something is different about the relationship and it just not the same. You both try to talk about it but now you are at your wits end because your partner is fine, or just as confused as you are in knowing what to do in bringing the spark back and surprisingly enough some have never felt a spark a day in their marriage.
While many troubled individuals and couples choose to end their marriages out of the belief that their situation has become irreparable, their motivation often tends to be driven by a desire to free themselves from overwhelming emotional pain, rather than a genuine conviction that repair is not a real possibility. Learning how to manage the feelings of disappointment, frustration, and pain that inevitably occur in marriage, can help couples to navigate their way through these treacherous waters without making the choice to bail out prematurely. The good news is that there are teachable and workable means of managing emotional distress that all couples can learn.
It’s not an absence of love that drives people to divorce. Ninety percent of divorced couples state that they still love each other. Love or a lack of love in most cases is not the problem. What most couples need is a higher level of relational skills such as conflict management, dealing with differences, committed listening, non- judging presence, responsible self-care, discernment, mutual appreciation, emotional honesty, and personal responsibility, to name a few. While most of us would agree that these skills are beneficial to any relationship, knowing about them and embodying them in one’s daily life are two very different things. With practice and support, however, these skills can be cultivated and strengthened. Think about it, we were grown up to believe to avoid pain, to just go on your knees when things are not going well and God will work it out, but in reality I am sorry to say, it really doesn’t work like that.
Most couples wait too long to get help. A recent survey found that on average, couples with persistent marital difficulties made their first outreach to a counsellor six years after the initial onset of the problem. Most couples go to the Counselling just for the counsellor to justify their reason for wanting to leave, not to bring the relationship back together, so you will see two stone face persons sitting in front of you and all they are interested in is pointing a finger at the other for the state the relationship is in. Sometimes they think that by going to the counsellor a magic potion will be sprinkled and they can just go home with the information, doing the same old thing hoping for a miracle. Wishful thinking or the hopes that things will just “spontaneously improve” is rarely sufficient to implement necessary corrections to a troubled relationship. Things don’t generally stay the same when they are unattended. Relationships are either growing or dying. There’s no neutral ground, and continued breakdown diminishes the chances of full repair. Generally, the longer couples wait to get the help that they need, the longer it takes to heal the relationship. Of course couples should by all means make their best efforts to use the skills they have to do their relationship work on their own as a first resort. However, when your best efforts fail to bring about the desired outcome, it’s better to get help sooner rather than later.
Would you believe however that 80% of problem marriages can be restored if persons get the desired help on time? It’s an unfortunate truth that many people go into marriage with the expectation that eventual divorce is a likelihood for most couples. Others enter marriage with another equally illusory belief that “love is enough” to get you through the rough times. As most of us know, love goes through many seasons and there can be some harsh winters. Some of the factors that can determine whether or not a couple makes it have to do with identifying and challenging beliefs and expectations that can set us up for disastrous self-fulfilling prophecies. Contrary to common opinion, there is no shortage of good resources to keep marriages healthy and to heal them when they’re not, but there has to be a willingness to recognize when help is needed as well as an intention to engage in the repair process in an open and responsible way. When these conditions are met, in most cases, the prognosis is good.
A recent San Francisco Chronicle article about marriage featured several tips to promote a healthy relationship, including:
- Spending time with each other
- Learning to negotiate conflict
- Creating a spiritual connection
- Practicing forgiveness with each other
- Improving communication skills and
- Showing respect for each other at all times
Let me however add that in order for us to have a healthy relationship we should strive to have a better relationship with our God, whoever we perceive him to be, this is very important. We hear it but we do not accept it as truth that the couple that prays together stays together and I am not talking about prayer from the lips, but prayer from the heart, that of having a working relationship with your higher source. Stay connected, the disease of the divorce is too high a price for us to use it as the first option for a failing marriage.
Treat each other with love… all the time.