It is truly heart-breaking to see a couple get to the place where they say, “I just don’t want to be with you. Maybe I never did.”
For couples in this position, they’ve typically had a slow build up of disappointments and unhappiness leading to this stage. The good news is you can put some protective factors in place that will combat resentment, miscommunication, and hopelessness in your marriage.
Editor’s note: If you are divorced and/or remarried, know that you are not disqualified from living an abundant life!
1. Fight Discouragement When Things Get Tough
I’ve heard many, many people say that they believe that marriage shouldn’t be that hard if you’re with the right person. It is 100 per cent normal to sometimes have difficult seasons in marriage. In my marriage, we went through tough times when finances were tight when we were both in school, when we moved from one state to the next, and as we struggled with infertility.
Hard times in marriage aren’t necessarily a result of problems brewing between two people. Sometimes life is just plain painful. And, if you don’t have pretty decent stress reduction skills, time to date one another, and effective communication, tough times can directly affect the marriage. Plain and simple, all of us will have times of struggle in life. Divorce-proof your marriage in tough times by committing to turning toward one another and embracing a team attitude.
2. Take a Stab at Marriage Counselling
I’ve had quite a few people tell me that they have concerns about seeking counselling because of negative experiences in the past or because they believe that counselling is proof that their marriage is beyond repair. The opposite is actually true. Counselling can bring huge benefits to your marriage.
When both people seek to improve their relationship and both are willing to make some changes, counselling can be highly effective. The problem is, many couples will wait years after developing problems before coming in to do some work.
Think of it this way — if you find out early that you are having elevated blood sugars and you can treat it before it gets serious, you’re much more likely to avoid a diagnosis of diabetes. In the same way, working on small problems early in their development means that you’re more likely to have success in the counselling process.
3. Even Though It’s Tough, Talk About the Problems
I’ve worked with several couples going through intense pain in their relationship. I’ll give assignments to them specifically designed to help them connect better and feel more closely bonded. Many times, this will lead to couples to no longer want to talk about the difficulties. They’ll note, “Things felt so good on date night, I didn’t want to bring up an issue.” Or, they’ll say that talking about problems will only make them worse.
I politely disagree.
After all, the lack of effectively talking about issues in the past is the reason that they are seeking guidance and help at this time. Think of going to a medical doctor because you’ve been having a host of intermittent symptoms that have you concerned. Would you leave this information out at your appointment if you were not experiencing them in that moment? Not if you wanted to get better. You’d mention the issues so your doctor can help you. We should do the same in marriage. Talk about the problems so you can find a workable solution.
While it takes a little work, it really is possible to stay committed to one another and to enjoy your marriage. If you’re looking to improve your marriage, try the following:
1. Sit down with your spouse and talk about one thing you can each do to work on having a more fulfilling marriage.
2. If you feel you need a little help, seek out a pastor or counsellor that can help you develop some communication and conflict resolution skills.
Marriage should be enjoyable, so do the work to make sure yours is.