Where do you go when you have marriage problems?
I think we all need a game plan!
Last Friday I was talking to a good friend of mine whose marriage has broken up. Her husband was involved in a lot of bad things, and finally she got the strength to kick him out. It’s been a difficult road for her for over a decade, and for most of that she felt very alone. She couldn’t tell anyone, because she wanted to be a good Christian wife. She wanted the church to still accept her. And he wouldn’t have wanted her to talk about it.
I told her that sometimes I get frustrated because it seems that we aren’t honest about our marriage problems.
I know there are people reading this who are really hurting, but so often the comments on this and other blogs are from people whose marriages are great. Now, please, if your marriage is great, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want you to comment! And I’m so HAPPY that your marriage is wonderful! But where does one go if one’s marriage isn’t? Where does one go if one’s really feeling desperate, and alone, and frustrated?
Maybe you’re only having marriage problems in one area of your marriage. Maybe everything is great but sex (I’ve been there). Maybe it’s going well, but your husband won’t talk about money and won’t let you in on the financial decisions. Maybe you love him, but you wish he would spend more time with the kids. What do you do?
Now please, don’t go looking for the one area where things are bad, because it doesn’t actually help to start trying to figure out what you’re upset about, especially if you’re not that upset at the moment. If you’re pretty happy, but you start thinking about what you COULD be upset about, chances are you’ll be upset pretty soon! I’m talking about those who are chronically frustrated and alone about some aspect of their marriage, and if you have to think to find something to be frustrated about–you’re fine! If you really felt that way, you’d know it.
So where do you go?
This weekend my husband and I are speaking at a FamilyLife Canada marriage conference in Barrie, Ontario, at the Horseshoe Valley Resort. I’m so looking forward to it! There are always couples there for whom the conference is their last chance, and it is exciting when breakthroughs are made. Marriage conferences can be a great place to go for some help.
What about mentors? If you can find one person who has a good marriage who is a little bit older than you, she may be able to help you navigate any marriage problems you have. But it means being honest. We had a couple over for dinner once whom we knew were having problems. We told them about our struggles early in our marriage. We opened up. But they never reciprocated. Five years later, they’re divorced. You can’t get help if you don’t talk.
Or what about reading some good books? Sometimes a new perspective can help you. (Update: There’s lots in my newest book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, about how to resolve longstanding conflicts and start feeling positive about your marriage again.)
Sometimes when marriage problems hit you need that extra help–and a good counsellor can be a godsend! Even if you’re the only one who goes, a counsellor can help you sort out your options and sort out the best way to deal with your marriage in a God-honouring way, and often that involves taking a firm stand against destructive behaviour.
Keep Learning and Have a Game Plan
My husband and I have been married for 18 years now. We’ve used all of these strategies at different times in the past. I’ve learned so much from books (which is probably why I like writing them!). We’ve learned a lot from the projects at marriage retreats. We’ve had different mentor couples over the years. And we’ve even seen a counsellor twice about specific things (mainly around grief after losing our son).
But keep learning, and keep investing, and most of all–be honest. If we can be honest with ourselves and even with someone else when our marriage starts taking a negative turn, then we can often prevent real harm before it starts. It seems to me that the reason marriages break up is because people don’t do anything with their frustration and loneliness while they still can, and then things become intolerable. So before they’re intolerable, say something! If we wait until things are at a crisis point, it’s often too late.
Now let me know: Where do you go when you have issues in your marriage? What do you do about it? How do you eventually overcome them? Tell me in the comments!