Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: marital problems

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    Infidelity and Forgiveness

    Popular talk shows imply that everybody intentionally cheats in marriage.

    “In reality, most people don’t cheat,” says Kristina Coop Gordon, co-author of Getting Past the Affair. “Based on research, approximately 40 percent of married people cheat on their spouse. Studies indicate the person most likely to cheat is someone who is dissatisfied with their relationship and/or feels insecure about themselves. They use the relationship outside of their marriage as a way to feel better about themselves.”

    Some people believe that if sex isn’t involved outside the marriage, they weren’t being unfaithful to their spouse. However, Gordon and others such as Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not "Just Friends," disagree.

    Being unfaithful to your spouse starts when you begin to hide what you are doing with someone else. If you'd be uncomfortable with your spouse knowing about conversations with a co-worker or a regular lunch appointment, or if you schedule workouts to spend time with someone, then you have probably crossed the line.

    Only 10 percent of people who leave their marriage to pursue their affair partner actually end up with them. Many say they wish the affair had never happened. They often wish they had worked on their marriage instead.

    “It is not uncommon for couples who have experienced infidelity to believe that their marriage is over,” Gordon says. “However, based on 20 years of research we have found that at least 65-70 percent of couples survive the affair.”

    For many, this seems impossible. How can you ever re-establish trust? At least one spouse has betrayed the marriage relationship, creating a lot of trauma and questions. The offended spouse often experiences great anxiety and wonders if it will happen again.

    “If you are willing to do the soul searching in your marriage, I will just about guarantee your marriage will not only survive, but you will be happy in your marriage,” Gordon says. “In fact, a couple I recently worked with shared that as difficult as the affair was to get through, while they would not want to experience it again or wish it on anyone, they are grateful it happened because it was a real wake up call for their marriage.”

    Gordon’s step-by-step guide helps couples dealing with infidelity. It encourages them to look at themselves and their marriage, discover where things derailed and identify steps to get back on track. A huge piece of the restoration process is forgiveness.

    “Some people confuse forgiveness with excusing unacceptable behavior or no accountability,” Gordon says. “This is not true. Forgiveness is very freeing. Just because you forgive, it doesn’t necessarily mean immediate reconciliation. Questions still have to be asked. People have to be willing to look at themselves and acknowledge, ‘I messed up. What caused me to do that?’ Couples willing to do the hard work receive a gift because they learn a lot about themselves, their spouse and their marriage.”

    “The affair is one layer of our relationship," says a couple who used Gordon’s book to help them heal from an affair. "It is a painful, awful, yucky layer. We are continuing to weave our relationship and lay so many more layers on top of that layer that it will be just one line in the many layers of our marriage.”

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    Addiction and Marriage, Part 2

    Addiction and Marriage, Part 1 told of a married couple’s struggle with alcohol and its impact on their marriage. The story ended with Ellen resolving to find David (names changed to protect their privacy), who was drinking heavily, had quit his job and left town. She was going to bring him home and move forward with divorce.

    “Little did I know, the Lord had other plans,” Ellen says.

    She knew he had gone on a business trip to Las Vegas and resigned from his job while there, so she headed for the Nevada city.

    “I had a name of a hotel I thought I had heard in one of the phone calls (from David). I arrived in the middle of the night. When the taxi driver saw the name of the hotel, he tried to talk me out of going there, saying I had no business in that part of town.”

    At the hotel, Ellen found her husband on the brink of death from drinking.

    “It took six paramedics and police officers to get my husband out of that room and to the hospital,” Ellen says. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. In 48 hours we were on a plane home. When the plane landed, David went straight into treatment knowing our marriage was over.”

    Over the 30 days David was in treatment, Ellen received letters from him daily. Through the letters, she got to know her husband again.

    “If we had been talking, we would have been fighting because I felt so much anger toward him,” Ellen says. “I never once wrote him a letter. I did take the kids to see him on Father’s Day.”

    That day, Ellen saw her husband healthy for the first time in a very long time. In spite of her anger and resentment, she had a small glimmer of hope, like something bigger than themselves was going on.

    “Both of us had been trying to make everything better on our own,” Ellen says. “We didn’t think we needed anybody to help us, nor did we want people knowing our business. Exhausted and at the end of my rope, I finally broke down and shared about our situation with a group of friends.

    “Even though David was in treatment again, I was still so angry I could not even pray for him. I asked them to pray for him to heal and that my heart would heal. While I had no hope for our marriage, I didn’t want to hate him. I couldn’t say his name without getting sick to my stomach.”

    By the time David returned from treatment, Ellen had decided it was worth seeing what God could do with their marriage.

    “It was a scary time,” Ellen says. “Both of us believed that God had been mightily at work over the 30 days he was in treatment. We decided it was time to change our entire way of living.

    “Memorial Day 2015 will mark two years since the beginning of our transition. The peace we have today is something we didn’t know existed when we were in the throes of the addiction. It has not been easy, but it has been worth every bit of the time, energy and commitment.”

    If you find yourself where Ellen and David have been, they would like to share some thoughts with you:

    • Few alcoholics or addicts intend to destroy their marriage.

    • It is never too late to seek help. While it was often hard for Ellen and David to see past the shame, pain and embarrassment, getting treatment and allowing others to come alongside them in the midst of their struggle was one of the best moves they made.

    • Stop trying to fix it. Ellen had to acknowledge her role in this situation. She thought she had to fix it alone. When she stopped trying to fix him, things changed.

    • Healthy boundaries are necessary. Boundaries that honor God, yourself and your marriage allow you to make wise decisions. Sometimes leaving for a time is necessary.

    “For all of the men and women who find themselves feeling like they are at the end of their rope, we both want them to know there is hope,” Ellen says. “This has been a very long walk in obedience for both of us. It was so worth being uncomfortable and hanging in there when I didn’t want to and to see how God would take two very broken people and bring healing to our marriage.”

    Where to Find Help

    CADAS: 877-282-2327

    Parkridge Valley Hospital: 423-894-4220

    Bradford Health Services: 423-892-2639

    Alcoholics Anonymous: 423-499-6003

    Al Anon: 423-892-9462

    Celebrate Recovery: chattanoogarecovery.info

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    Addiction and Marriage, Part 1

    When David and Ellen* married, Ellen never suspected David might be an alcoholic.

    “We had a large time with friends and family,” Ellen says. “I knew he drank a lot, but it didn’t cause issues for us. I never felt unsafe. My life looked very normal to everyone around us. David was a good provider and the good far outweighed the bad in our marriage.”

    In 2004, David and Ellen moved to Atlanta with their 6-month-old daughter. While Ellen noticed behaviors in David that raised red flags, she didn’t think it was a big deal.

    “I noticed David was drinking more at night,” Ellen says. “In addition to David being super-stressed at work, I was terribly lonely and did not want to be away from my family. We had some knock-down drag-out fights which I attributed to both of us having too much to drink. Several times I left and stayed with my parents for a while. When I came home, we both apologized and life went back to normal. The fights were few and far between. We did not realize they were warning signs of things to come.”

    In 2008, the couple moved to Chattanooga feeling like this was a great opportunity to advance their lives.

    “I convinced myself that a new house, more money and getting out of Atlanta would help our situation. As time unfolded, things remained the same. We had great times and really bad times. Sometimes I wondered if I was crazy because life could go along for so long and be wonderful, then wham.”

    In 2012, Ellen began to notice a significant difference in David’s behavior.

    “I honestly believed he was having an affair,” Ellen says. “He was unhappy with everything including me and drinking seemed to be the only thing to help him cope and relax. Finally, David acknowledged he had a problem and tried outpatient treatment. Shortly after that he quit his job of 20 years, convinced that was the problem and took a new job in Louisiana. At that point, I was ready to do anything to get my husband back, even leave Chattanooga and friends I loved to support him.”

    In Louisiana, David was only home on weekends, and he hid his drinking well. Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly. After months of living in denial, Ellen finally acknowledged her husband was an alcoholic. Now with two children, she decided she could no longer live with David. She left with the stipulation that if he went to treatment she would commit to trying to salvage their marriage.

    “While I was gone, David got a DUI and was fired from his job,” Ellen says. “Once again he entered treatment. When he came home, we made a plan to move back to Chattanooga. David found a job pretty quickly. I knew he was having relapses, but I overlooked them thinking that if I could just be a better wife, I could make him better. I now know that was not true.”

    In 2013, David’s life spiraled completely out of control. While David was away on a business trip, his co-worker notified Ellen that David had called to resign from his position - and it sounded like he planned to take his life.

    “At this point in our marriage, we are barely speaking to each other,” Ellen says. “I had no idea where he was and I had no interest in going to find him. I was actually determined not to go - I was tired and had rescued him one too many times. My heart was done with him. Something in my core kept saying, ‘Show him grace one more time.’ I resolved that I did not have to be nice to him, but I had to go get him one more time and then I could be done with him.”

    Read part two of Addiction and Marriage for the rest of the story, and find resources for those who struggle with addiction in their marriage.

    *Names changed to protect privacy

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    Divorce vs. Conscious Uncoupling

    Gwyneth Paltrow created shock waves on many levels when she made this announcement on her website:

    It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.

    Love, Gwyneth & Chris

    Apparently conscious uncoupling, developed by a therapist, is designed to help couples divorce without drama.

    Interesting…

    “How many couples do you know who have ‘good divorces?’” says Michele Weiner-Davis, director of the Divorce Busting Center. “Even those with the best of intentions often find themselves struggling as time passes. No matter how you slice it, divorce is not an easy process.

    “In fact, in most divorces that happen in our country, one person wants it and the other desperately does not. Quite frankly, it is hard to imagine a heartbroken person being a willing participant in a program that supposedly honors the marriage and destroys it at the same time.”

    Except for extremely dysfunctional marriages involving violence, chronic affairs and/or substance abuse, research indicates that even if the parents are better off after the divorce, children do not fare better.

    Paltrow stated that even though they were going through the uncoupling process, they would always be a family. And first and foremost, she said they had two incredibly wonderful children.

    “Many couples believe if they divorce well they will still be a family,” Weiner-Davis says. “Based on many years of experience working with couples, I can tell you flat out that is the exception to the rule. Divorce ends marriages and dissolves families. Life will never be the same for your children no matter how hard you try. They will know that you and their dad are not together. Over time other adults will enter the picture which can’t help but make life more complicated for the kids.”

    Many have speculated that even though Paltrow didn’t coin the phrase “conscious uncoupling,” it softens the blow for children. It might sound softer and kinder than the word "divorce," but children have a way of cutting to the chase. Call it what you want, but don’t kid yourself, the children know exactly what is happening.

    If you are considering conscious uncoupling, divorce or separation, think about its long-term impact on you and your family.

    Research indicates that 70 percent of marriages that end in divorce are perfectly good ones. And, with help, those good marriages could get back on track and thrive. Are you making a long-term decision based on a short-term problem?

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    Does Divorce Lead to Happiness?

    It was a turning point in the fictional marriage of Katie and Ben in the movie The Story of Us, starring Michele Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. Katie tells Ben that she doesn’t want to end their marriage.

    “…You always know that I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly,” she says to him. “That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up.”

    Many couples in America today find themselves at the same turning point in their marriage. Many who choose to separate often find out that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Research has shown that if a person is unhappy, divorce is not necessarily the road to happiness.

    A national study in 2002 of 10,000 couples asked them to rate their marriage from life in hell (1) to heaven on earth (7). The couples were interviewed twice, five years apart. The study found that most people rated their marriage as happy. Eighty-one percent of the couples who rated their marriage as life in hell were still together five years later. Out of that group, the majority said they were very happy after five years.

    Following this study, University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite wanted to know what makes marriages miserable and discover how they can become happy.

    “We often talk about marriage like a piece of fruit – it went bad, as if it is out of our control,” says Waite. “I was interested in determining if the couples who divorced were happier following the divorce than those who chose to stay together in spite of their unhappiness.”

    Waite examined the couples who rated their marriage as "life in hell." Of the couples who stayed married, 78 percent were happy with life five years later. Only 53 percent of those who chose to separate or divorce said they were happy.

    Waite interviewed couples, asking them to tell their stories about how their bad marriage got better.

    Alcoholism, infidelity, overly-critical spouses, chronic miscommunication, irrational jealousy, and emotional neglect all fit into the equation, but the four most common issues that made marriages unhappy were: bad things happening to good spouses, job reversals, the kids and illness. Examples included: a spouse losing their job creating financial strain in the marriage, the challenges of raising children which left no time to be together as a couple, or a spouse making a poor decision during a weak moment.

    In response to the question, “How did things get better?” couples described what Waite calls the “marital endurance ethic.”

    “Couples shared something like, ‘Mostly we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and things began to get better,’” Waite says. “Many of them were influenced by friends’ advice to hang in there, that they were headed in the right direction.”

    A passage of time often has a positive effect on problems, according to Waite. Just because couples are unhappy now doesn’t mean they will be unhappy forever.

    Katie and Ben understood that fact. “There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight,” Katie said.

    Katie was able to see past their present moment and look at the big picture. She realized that her husband was a good friend, and good friends are hard to find.

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    Top 10 Potential Marriage Pitfalls

    Here's what some couples say are major issues to deal with in marriage, according to a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. 

    1. Problems sharing leadership
    2. One partner is too stubborn
    3. Stress created by child-rearing differences
    4. One partner is too negative or critical
    5. One partner wishes the other had more time
    6. One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings
    7. Feeling responsible for issues
    8. Avoiding conflict with partner
    9. Difficulty completing tasks
    10. Differences never get resolved

    Building a healthy marriage means that you have learned to turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Build on your strengths and find ways to creatively address your differences. Conflict management/resolution skills are crucial.

    In strong marriages, both partners say:

    • their partner understands their positions,

    • they feel free to share their feelings and ideas,

    • they take disagreements seriously, and

    • they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.

    The happiest couples said they were satisfied with the way they communicate, find it easy to express their feelings and find their partner to be a good listener. They note that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.

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    How to Select a Marriage Counselor

    It was an all-too-familiar conversation. Jody went to see a marriage counselor hoping to receive guidance for getting her marriage back on track.

    “After seeing the counselor twice, he told us, ‘You have three choices. You can separate for a period of time, file for divorce or keep on working,’” says Jody. “We were looking for someone to work with us on a specific plan for our marriage. Instead, we got a totally neutral counselor who didn’t seem to care whether or not our marriage survived. We weren’t neutral about wanting to save our marriage. He was."

    According to Dr. Willard Harley, psychologist and author of numerous books including the internationally best-selling book, His Needs, Her Needs, this is not unusual.

    During one woman’s first visit with a therapist, she specifically said that divorce was not an option. However, at the end of the 50 minute-session, the therapist told her he thought she really should consider divorce. There was no violence in the marriage - simply love gone cold.

    “People who seek help from marriage counselors usually assume that the goal of therapy is saving the marriage,” says Harley. "Unfortunately, most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. They see themselves as someone couples can talk to, but not someone who will coach them into changes that will ultimately save their marriage.

    “How can a plan possibly achieve its goal when there is no goal?” Harley asks. “It’s no wonder that most marriage counseling is so ineffective.”

    This does not mean that couples should not seek help. In fact, Harley encourages troubled couples to find a marriage counselor to help save their marriage.

    “Couples need to understand that there are times when even the strongest of marriages needs additional support and motivation. Frequently, only a professional marriage counselor or marriage educator can provide that,” Harley says. “An effective marriage counselor or educator will help you avoid or overcome intense emotional trauma associated with a failing marriage, create a plan that will help your marriage, and motivate you to complete that plan.”

    Whether your marriage is in significant distress or just in a tough spot, Harley’s tips can help you pick an effective marriage counselor.

    • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.

    • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is not willing to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.

    • During the interview, ask about the following:

    What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).

    What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).

    This is our problem (briefly explain). Do you have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and what is your success rate? (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).

    • After both spouses have a chance to speak to a few potential counselors, Harley suggests choosing the one that answers those questions appropriately. Then set up your first appointment.

    Jody and her husband ultimately decided to divorce. Looking back at the whole scenario, they question if divorce should have even been an option. At the time, they both felt hopeless about their marriage. Without a recovery plan, divorce seemed to be the only answer for them.

    If the counselor had given them a plan to save their marriage, they might be happily married today. They will always wonder if a more encouraging counselor would have helped change the course of their family's life.

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    Facebook and Divorce

    From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, "Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces."

    “When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” says Jason Krafsky. Krafsky co-authored Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife, Kelli. “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release stating that Facebook was cited in 1-in-5 divorce petitions. What got lost in the hundreds of articles it sparked was the research came from only their divorce petition database.”

    To add fuel to the fire, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members. They claimed that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys saw an increase in cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. Despite the media hype, you didn't hear the whole truth there, either. In reality, not all divorce attorneys completed the survey - just AAML members.

    “There were additional pieces that created even more confusion,” Krafsky says. “Suffice it to say this was like a big game of worldwide gossip and by the time the big media guns picked up the story the headline read, ‘Facebook Blamed for One in Five Divorces in U.S.’ The truth is, there is no valid research, study or collection of data at this point that accurately reveals how many divorces have been caused by Facebook. Until someone does legitimate research, trying to attach a number or percentage to what is happening only fuels an urban myth that is blazing out of control.”

    Clearly, Facebook impacts relationships of all kinds. Some marriages are breaking apart due to Facebook-related activity. Some married people use Facebook to live out their midlife crisis. For others, unexpected feelings and emotions when friending or interacting with an old flame catches them off guard. It can happen to the strongest of marriages.

    “I remember the day my wife walked into the room and said, ‘Guess who I just friended on Facebook?’ I asked who, and she said, ‘My first love.'

    "There was something about that statement that just hit me wrong," Krafsky shares. "I didn’t think Kelli would intentionally do anything inappropriate, but something in my gut said this wasn’t a good thing. It was shortly thereafter that we had a discussion about boundaries on Facebook to protect our marriage. We decided to unfriend past exes. This scenario prompted the writing of our book.”

    The Krafskys warn people that if you don’t have good boundaries, social networking sites are dangerous places to hang out.

    “Couples need to talk face-to-face and set up guidelines for their online time to protect their relationship from cyber-threats,” Krafsky says. “It is not enough to have good intentions. Most affairs do not start because someone says to himself, ‘I think I’ll have an affair.’ They start out very innocently.

    "Don’t fool yourself. You cannot friend an old flame and not take a trip down memory lane, thinking about what you did together in high school. We never forget that adolescent romantic love. Limit your time online and focus on taking your marriage relationship to the next level. While Facebook may not be the cause of 20 percent of all divorces, what some people are unknowingly doing through Facebook is undermining their marriage and putting their family at risk.”

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    There is Hope for Your Marriage

    Margery D. Rosen, author of Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, Can this Marriage be Saved? interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless.

    “The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to help couples have hope,” Rosen says. “All of the stories are true. I actually interviewed husbands, wives and their therapists. Interestingly, the main topics for couples in the 1950s and 60s are the same struggles couples deal with today. While the specifics of the story change from month to month, the circumstances that can shake the foundation of a marriage remain the same.”

    Rosen found something very interesting when she asked why some marriages burn out and others burn on.

    “The phrase ‘intentional commitment’ comes up often, the conscious desire and choice to make a marriage last,” Rosen says. “While commitment and acceptance don’t get a lot of press and they’re not the stuff of sound bites on the network news, it is clear that marriages are stronger when couples focus on what they like and appreciate about each other rather than what irks them. Happy couples argue, get depressed, lose jobs, battle over disciplining the kids. But their sense of we-ness over me-ness allows them to encourage each other during the good times and empathize during the bad.”

    When Rosen completed her research, she found that the issues couples struggle with boil down to these seven topics: trust, communication, fighting fair, power struggles, money, sex and balancing parenthood. Rosen believes these topics hold the secrets to a lasting marriage.

    Below is a taste of the wisdom from couples who made their marriage work under very difficult circumstances.

    • Trust. Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy, deeply satisfying marriage. In a trusting relationship, partners are honest with each other. Deceit does not shadow their words and actions. They don’t sacrifice a partner’s needs for their own or pursue their own goals at their mate's expense.

    • Communicate. Over and over again, communication problems rank as the number one cause of marital strife. “We’re just not communicating,” is a common lament. In many cases, couples think they are communicating, but the messages do not get through. In this area more than any other, couples can learn and practice specific techniques and strategies for sharing ideas and feelings. This can initiate dramatic changes in the way they relate.

    • Fight fair. People who live together are likely to disagree. Numerous columns showed that it is possible to direct anger constructively to improve a marriage rather than destroy it. A key step is for each person to recognize their part in provoking and sustaining the anger.

    • Defuse power struggles. Power struggles permeate every relationship. Being able to recognize marital power struggles is a key step in defusing them. Equally important, however, is understanding why a partner is so desperate for total control. Ultimately, the only lasting way to defuse a power struggle is to learn to accept each other fully, without competing, criticizing or blaming.

    • Be money-smart. Surveys identify money matters as the top trigger for everything from the occasional marital skirmish to all-out war. Money symbolizes power and control, love and security, as well as self-esteem and accomplishment. Couples who navigate best through financial issues consciously chip away the emotional veneer surrounding them and honestly discuss finances. They express what they need, what they want, how they can best attain these goals, and how to live with the anxious uncertainty that they just may not.

    • Make love. A couple’s sex life is in one sense a barometer of their marriage. The stress work and family obligations can physically and emotionally exhaust husbands and wives so much. As a result, they forget the importance of expressing love and tenderness outside and inside the bedroom. Couples with vibrant sex lives understand that the passionate, romantic love they felt at first becomes a more enduring, but equally satisfying love.

    • Team up. Most couples are unprepared for the transitional changes of parenthood. The arrival of children and their unignorable demands often propels couples into therapy. Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage finds that a couple’s relationship is their child’s blueprint for intimacy. By watching their parents, kids learn about themselves and relationships.

    “It takes courage to face marital problems head on,” Rosen says. “Can this Marriage Be Saved? proves that both partners can transform their actions and reactions. That openness and ability to change brings them a giant step closer to where they both want to be.”

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    6 Tips for a 'Til Death Do Us Part' Marriage

    Have you ever thought or said these words?

    I just can’t take it anymore... We’ve grown apart... I love you as a friend, but I’m not in love with you anymore... You aren’t the person I married... Things change.

    The crazy thing is, many happily married people also experience some of these feelings. It's true. Sometimes you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Other times you may feel distant to your spouse. Over time, mates do change.

    But do all these things have to shake the very foundation of your marriage? The answer is NO.

    What makes it possible for first-time marriages to survive?

    Marriage experts have found that couples who make their marriage work decide up front that divorce is not an option. Although many couples who choose to divorce have challenges, their marriage probably could have been saved and in the long run been a happy one. Their fatal error in the relationship was leaving their options open. If the going got too tough, in their mind, divorce was always a way out.

    You might be surprised to find this out, but research shows that divorce does not make you happier.

    Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages, conducted by the Institute for American Values, found that:

    • Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married.

    • Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses.

    • Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships.

    • 2 out of 3 unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.

    The bottom line is, you have to make a decision to stay at the table and be committed to making the marriage work. Here are some things to help you keep the vow: "until death do us part.”

    • Learn skills to help keep your marriage on track. Research continues to show that couples who learn how to talk to each other, resolve conflict, manage their money, have appropriate expectations of the marriage, and build intimacy are significantly more likely to keep their marriage on track over time.

    • Understand that the grass may look greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it. On the surface someone may look better than the one you are with, but in truth, even beautiful sod eventually has onions, crabgrass and clover if you don't properly care for it. In most cases, people who have jumped the fence will testify that the grass is not greener, just different.

    • Learn how to resolve conflict without threatening to leave the marriage. All couples have spats. Some yell; others talk things through. The common denominator for couples who keep their marriage on track is learning how to disagree with the best of them, but leaving the marriage is never an option.

    • Stop using divorce as a crutch. Instead of throwing in the towel when the going gets tough, consider it a challenge to learn as much as you can about your mate and how you can effectively deal with adversity. Intentionally choose to love the one you're with.

    • Keep the big picture perspective. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. One woman described her 65-year marriage to a group of young people. She shared about seven years throughout the 65-year span that were really bad due to work conditions, children, lack of time together, the husband's out of town job for a couple of years, etc. In the end, she asked herself, “Would I really want to trade 58 good years for seven bad years?” The answer was a resounding "No!" All marriages experience trials and tough moments. Don’t trade years of history for a couple of bad months or tough years.

    • Make a plan for your marriage. Going into marriage without a plan is like playing a football game without memorizing the playbook. If you want to win, you'll have team meetings, set goals, learn and relearn skills, learn how to lead and follow, and share responsibilities. And, you both need a copy of the playbook.

    If you want a “til death do us part” marriage, you must learn the plays so you can execute them correctly and prepare to adapt in different situations. That takes time. When you understanding that there will be occasional setbacks, you can move toward the goal line and even score a few touchdowns. Teammates block for each other, throw the ball to one another, help each other up, and encourage perseverance when the going gets tough.

    It has been said that individuals win games, but teamwork wins championships. So, make it your goal to have a championship marriage.

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    4 Tips for Handling a Ho-Hum Stage in Marriage

    Is your marriage unexciting and dull? Have the feelings you had for each other on your wedding day become a distant memory? Do you ever look at other people and envy the spontaneity and freedom they seem to have? If so, you aren’t alone.

    According to marriage experts, many couples enter into marriage with the expectation that it will always be exciting and romantic. Then careers, children, in-laws, and other demands come along and often throw couples for a loop. They begin asking themselves questions like, “Did I marry the wrong person? Why should I stay in a relationship when I am not happy? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons?”

    “Love is an interesting emotion,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It begins with what I refer to as the 'tingles.' You are emotionally obsessed with someone. You go to bed and wake up thinking about him, and have a hard time getting anything done because you can’t get him off your mind. This is accompanied by irrational thinking, believing that this person is perfect and there is nothing more important in life than being with him/her. Some people tell themselves that they will never be happy without this person in their life.

    “This is accompanied by an illusion of intimacy. When you encourage couples to attend a marriage education class, they look at you like you are crazy to suggest working on the relationship since they believe their relationship doesn’t need any work. The illusion of intimacy blinds people to their differences in things like taste, values, music, priorities, etc.”

    Emotional obsession, irrational thinking and illusion of intimacy lead to faulty conclusions such as, “I will never be happy unless we are married.” According to research, these feelings are not always permanent. The average lifespan of an obsession is two years - then people come off their high.

    How does this relate to a ho-hum marriage, you might ask?

    When the “in love obsession” subsides in marriage, people begin to see what they didn’t see before. All those things that were so cute when you were dating now get on your last nerve.

    “Many couples are shocked by their loss of feelings for each other and are traumatized by conflicts,” Chapman says. “In many instances, they have no idea how to deal with the conflicts. The conflicts lead to fights. Then they think things like, ‘I wish I had married the other person.’ Walls go up and there is a loss of intimacy. Each person can give volumes of evidence as to why their spouse is at fault for the failing marriage.”

    Then it happens. In the midst of your marital struggles, someone else comes along. The person is funny, spontaneous, full of life, neat, etc. He/she seems much more exciting than your current spouse. This person seems to have all the qualities you love in a person and you get the tingles all over again.

    “This is when people start thinking ‘I never did love her’ or ‘I got married for all the wrong reasons,’ to convince themselves that their marriage was not right from the beginning and to somehow justify divorce,” Chapman says. “The problem is, they don’t understand that in two years they could potentially be in the very same place. Some people marry multiple times because every time they get the tingles they think they've finally found the right person.”

    So, what do you do?

    • Recognize the tingles for what they are - they aren’t always trustworthy.

    • Keep your guard up – when there are troubles at home, you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the attention of others.

    • Seek out professional help from someone who is marriage-friendly.

    • Be leery of those who want to give you advice - even people with the best intentions can give you BAD advice.

    Understand that it is normal to experience ho-hum stages in your marriage. Even the healthiest of marriages go through this. The key is to recognize it and do something about it. The ho-hum phase should be temporary. You really can feel the tingles again for your spouse.

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    Resources for Dealing with Porn Addiction

    Perhaps you believe that you or someone you love is addicted to pornography. While the temptation may be great to keep it quiet, there are lots of resources to help with recovery.

    In her book, An Affair of the Mind, Laurie Hall says that, from her experience and research, there is no easy answer. As the spouse of a porn addict, she learned she had to disengage from trying to fix him and, instead, take care of herself.

    “You have to build your own personal foundations under you – boundaries, standards, tolerations and requirements,” says Hall. “It was not an option to tolerate this in my home. I learned that one of the first steps toward recovery, whether you are the person addicted or the spouse, is to seek help from a trained counselor.”

    Hall learned that some counselors empower those dealing with the difficulty of having a spouse who is a sex addict, while others simply don’t understand the nature of sexual addiction.

    “Working with a counselor who doesn’t get it can leave you feeling shredded,” Hall says. “I have hundreds of letters that bear out this point.”

    When looking for a counselor, Hall suggests asking these questions:

    • Where did they get their counseling training?

    • Have they had specific training in dealing with sex addiction? Where? When?

    • What is their approach in dealing with this subject?

    • Does the counselor network with national groups who deal with this subject?

    • How many people have they counseled on this issue?

    After the session, ask yourself:

    • Did the counselor treat me with respect?

    • Does this person view me as a partner in my own healing or as a project?

    • Did the counselor hear me or lecture me?

    • Does the counselor encourage or discount my intuition?

    • Is this person’s belief system compatible with mine?

    • Did I feel safe?

    • Did they offer any resources – books, pamphlets, websites and/or support groups for more information about sexual addiction?

    If you suspect a problem, but aren’t sure, you can take a sex addiction screening test. Dr. Patrick Carnes, an expert on sexual addiction and recovery, developed it, and you can take it online at faithfulandtrue.com under the self-assessment tab.

    If you know you have a porn addiction, Dr. Mark Laaser, author of The Pornography Trap and Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction, suggests you begin by admitting the problem. Talk with an accountability partner and seek help. Put blocks on your computer and put the computer in a public place. Be straightforward about what would tempt you. Porn is in the mind of the beholder; certain things are universally considered porn, but other things like catalogs and magazines could be pornographic to an addict.

    “With help from a trained counselor, we are seeing evidence that people can successfully recalibrate their brain,” says Laaser. “By demonstrating sexually pure behavior, you can rewire your brain to be satisfied with sexual purity in your marriage. Though it is not an easy process, there are people who have been successful.”

    You can find additional resources on these websites: