Admitting that your marriage is in trouble is the essential first step toward saving it. Frequently, couples live in an unhealthy marriage without even realizing it. So congratulations! By merely asking this question, you're taking the first step. Without this personal acknowledgment of trouble, change in a relationship cannot be expected. Now where do you go from here?
To "solve" the problem of a troubled marriage, taking an honest look at all the "elements" of the relationship is a good place to start. There are three essential "elements" in any marriage: your role, your spouse's role, and the resulting marital relationship. Trouble does not start by itself: it's created by actors and by how they respond to life's events. Obviously, the actors in this context are the two spouses, and the marriage is what those spouses create by interacting together. So taking a look at your own role in the marital drama, your spouse's role, and what happens when your two personalities interact within the family becomes an essential step toward changing. Sometimes this is hard to do alone. Maybe things have been bad for so long that you have difficulty solving the puzzle.
Sometimes, particularly if the relationship has been bad for a long time, it is next to impossible to talk things over with your spouse. This is an essential step, however, in trying to save a troubled marriage. What if your spouse has no idea anything is wrong? Maybe the two of you avoid discussing unpleasant subjects at all costs. Maybe you don't talk at all. At the very least, to save a marriage in trouble requires that both spouses realize the marriage needs help, be it a tune-up or major overhaul.
Generally, husbands and wives in bad marriages are too close to their problem to see the dynamics clearly. It is easier to point the finger and become hypercritical of a partner than it is to view the whole marriage objectively. That's why the insights of a third party, preferably an experienced marital therapist, can be very helpful. Seeking counseling is an essential step in saving a troubled marriage. Select an experienced counselor and make an appointment. That one step alone will shake up the balance of the troubled relationship. But no counselor, good or bad, can fix this relationship alone. Both spouses need to participate and work hard. In other words, marital therapists are not hired to make people feel good. Their job is to point out problems and show clients how to correct them. Hearing painful reminders of your own role does no good unless you are willing to make changes. The same goes for your spouse.
If a spouse refuses to accompany you to the therapist, then go yourself. You may be able to dislodge enough of the negative dynamics within the marriage to make a difference. Most important of all, take action and keep hoping for that better relationship. Without striving for change, it will never happen.
Martha Bourne is an attorney, a mediator, and a collaborative lawyer who is Board Certified in Family Law. Her practice, Martha Bourne and Associates, covers all aspects of family law and has seen many changes over the last 23 years in Houston. She qualifies for Martindale-Hubbell's highest rating for small practices.
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