Why Stay Married?
The Right Questions Will Help You to Get the Right Answers
I for one would not want to have a bad marriage. I have never encouraged anyone to endure a bad marriage. But, I have never recommended divorce. So what is left? Looking at the possibility of whether it's possible to have a good marriage. Answering that question will take care of all the other questions.
Ask yourself the following questions for creating a clear mind and a positive future
- Regardless of what I think is possible for my marriage, what kind of relationship would I want to have with my husband/wife if I could? I would encourage you to type out or write your answer to this question before you go on. People often spend so much time thinking about what they don't want that they don't stop to consider what they do want.
Example: What wives commonly want is to be able to talk about thoughts and feelings while being accepted by their husbands. They want to have enjoyable sex and to plan things together. They want to feel important. They want to change their daily routine.
- What kind of relationship would my husband/wife want if he/she thought it was possible to have things just the way he/she wanted them to be? In my experience, this question often stumps people. They know for sure some of the things their spouse does not like, but they know very little about their real desires. In a bad relationship, these desires become walled off and protected. But, the odd thing is that often both husband and wife have many of the same desires.
Example: What husbands commonly want is to be able to talk about thoughts and feelings while being accepted by their wives. They want to have enjoyable sex and to do things together. They want to feel important. They want to change their daily routine.
- Have I clearly communicated what I want for my relationship and for my future to my spouse? It's not uncommon for my clients to have many complaints about their spouses, yet at the same time to have not communicated to their spouse clearly what they want. We can't get what we want just by complaining repeatedly about what we don't want.
Example: A wife has repeatedly told her husband that she doesn't like how he watches TV all the time and they don't spend any time together. He responds that they go out to eat once a week and on vacation each year. She shakes her head because he doesn't get it. But the reason he doesn't get it is because she didn't tell him clearly what she wanted. "I want you to sit in the kitchen with me each day as I prepare dinner and talk to me." He may refuse, but with such a clear message he is much more likely to sit and talk.
Have I run into something I don't know how to deal with, but which would be good for me and my spouse if I did? This question is at the heart of many of the problems that I help people with. They have difficult spouses with all kinds of problems. Some are avoidant, some have bad tempers, some have drug or alcohol problems, some are emotionally abusive, and the list goes on. But, rare is the spouse who really wants to be that way. I help my clients to be strong and loving and to help their spouse to change. Not against their will. Not with pressure and threats. Because, what is getting in the way of the relationship for both them and their partner is that problem. Their spouse is just as glad as they are when the problem is gone.
The number one answer for "Why stay married?" is because our spouses need our help. And it's right and good to do our best to help before deciding to leave. They need our help in order not to continue some kind of distant or damaging behavior, and in order not to have a pattern of failed relationships. Additionally, when we help them, we also get what we want. Our relationship changes from a lose-lose to a win-win.
If you are not so scared of losing your relationship, you are actually in a much better position to make it better. Because, ironically, men and women who desperately need their relationship are afraid of separation or divorce. They alternate between complaining and backing off in order to prevent separation. This is the neediness cycle. People who are not afraid of separation or divorce are the ones in the best position to improve their marriage. They are willing to do the tough, but loving, things that are required to rescue the relationship.
If you should have made a stand a long time ago, it is not too late. You will probably need guidance doing that so that you have a balance between tough and loving. Also, it is very helpful to know how to open up the communication and deal with your spouse's attempts to continue to avoid the very thing that he or she needs to talk about.
In my work with men and women we have three levels of work that we do to resuscitate a dying relationship. They are the same three levels that I talk about in my book, What to Do When He Won't Change. We get honest. We get respect. And we get cooperation. Only when we have those can we build intimacy. Many men and women make the mistake of trying to create intimacy first. When that doesn't work, they assume that it's not possible. But the truth is, they just put intimacy before respect.
If it were possible to restore love between you and your spouse, would you be willing to learn to do that? At this point, that is the most important question of all because there is a way to do that. I have never known anyone to regret learning to do that. My clients are learning and doing that. They tell me that they feel “empowered” and typically get improvement within two weeks of their first sessin with me.
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