Christian Living


Marriage 911 05/08/19

Saving Your Marriage Alone

Frustrated husband dealing with a troubled marriage

There is perhaps no more helpless feeling than to have a sense that your marriage is slipping away and you cannot convince your mate to work on the relationship.

Perhaps your mate has physically separated, threatened to separate or has withdrawn emotionally. You feel frantic and scramble to save your marriage. Unfortunately, the more you 'work on it,' applying pressure, the further away your mate moves.

They have heard 'I'm sorry' too many times and your arguments fall on deaf ears. They've heard the pleas for forgiveness and have hardened their hearts. Filled with resentment, they push away.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

I've seen this dynamic countless times — one mate is emotionally exhausted, ultimately withdrawing from the marriage. The other mate responds too late, finally 'gets it' and then, out of desperation, frantically tries to talk their mate into staying.

"She's angry and says she is tired of working on our relationship," Frank said. "Trish doesn't think she plays any part in our problems. She can be incredibly stubborn. So, she says 'go ahead and go to counseling, but I'm not going.'"

"How long has she been frustrated like this?" I asked.

"To be honest, she's asked for counseling in the past, but I haven' really wanted to go. Now, she's pulled away and I'm the one asking for it and she won't go."

"She's tired," I said. "I see this quite frequently in relationships. It means you have to take the high road and may have to do most of the work for awhile until she sees that you are serious about change."

"But, that's not fair," Frank protested. "She is just as much to blame as I am. We didn't get here from my actions alone."

"You're partially right," I said. "Certainly, she has a part to play in your marriage problems. However, at this point, she has pulled away. It is going to be up to you to do your part. This isn't about what is fair or who is to blame. You're going to want to convey that you are dedicated to the relationship, that you're willing to look at yourself, even if she isn't willing to look at herself."

"But," he continued, still uncertain about having to do all the work. "Doesn't it take two to create marriage problems? Doesn't she have to do her part too for this to work?"

"Yes and no," I said. "I'd much prefer for her to be involved in the counseling. But, for a season, you may now have to do more of the work. When she sees how much you want this relationship to work, she'll likely join in. When you get your side of the street clean, we can approach her about her side of the street. But, let's focus on your side of the street first, OK?"

Frank struggled to accept this position, wanting to make their problems be mutually made and mutually worked on. The problem is, she is not ready nor willing to do any further work. Truth be told, she has probably already done much work and is now pulling away out of desperation.

For the next several sessions, we outlined what he could be doing to 'clean his side of the street.' For as much as he wanted things to be 'fair' and 'for her to face her issues,' he struggled to stay on his side of the street. We outlined his tasks.

1. Accept your situation.

Frank must first admit and accept things as they are. His wife has pulled away, likely as a response to many wrongful actions on his part. He must let go of any notions about 'right' and 'wrong,' 'fair' and 'unfair.' These will not serve him well. He must focus on the damaging behaviors he brought to their relationship.

2. Maintain a clear focus on yourself.

He must remain solely focused on himself. He has much to work on and any distractions will only take him off course. He must see the huge task facing him of working on his character. 

3. Cultivate a right heart attitude.

His wife will no doubt watch for changes in his actions, but more important will be a change of heart. As the Psalmist says, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise" (Psalm 51:17). A humble heart will help him stay focused on his actions and extending grace to her.

4. Be committed to this corrective course of action.

Frank has made changes for a short time before. His wife will be watching to see if he can 'stay the course.' Filled with doubt and disbelief, she may be waiting to see if he will fail or fall back into old patterns. He must now show that he is sincere about maintaining positive change.

5. Seek opportunities for working on the marriage together.

Frank must be observant, aware of any opportunities to work on their marriage together. Perhaps it will come in the form of a dinner out together; perhaps worshipping together. Perhaps it will come in the form of a family outing. He must be alert for any and all opportunities to connect with her.

Is your marriage broken? Are you working on it alone? Take heart and know that much can be done by one person.

We'd love to hear from you. Share your feedback or send us a confidential email and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center and my Marriage Intensives on my website: www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.You'll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

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