Each year in America alone, nearly 1 million marriages end in divorce.This is an incredible number! That would be as if all the citizens of Houston Texas were divorced (each divorce leaves 2 people).
The question is how many of those marriages could be saved. Unfortunately, that is an invisible number. If your marriage stays together, it is hard to find in the statistics. As Marian Wright Edelman wrote, statistics are stories with the tears washed off.
Can your marriage be saved? If I could answer that, I would be a wealthy man. I can tell you that if your marriage is in trouble and you do nothing, the outcome is guaranteed. If you do something, there is a much better chance that your marriage will be saved.
And I can tell you, in four simple steps what you can do to save your marriage. You can start right now. But you must understand that I said “simple.” That is not the same as “easy.” These steps are not easy. They do, however, give you a path that you must follow if you want to change the destiny of a marriage in trouble.
Here are the 4 steps:
1) Quit the blame game.
Stop blaming your spouse and stop blaming yourself. This is the first step because marriages get frozen into a pattern of blame that immobilizes any prospect of progress. Instead, the momentum gets dragged down and down.
Blame is our way of avoiding seeing ourselves clearly. It is much easier to point the finger somewhere and say “It’s their fault.” But in marriage, you can just as easily turn that pointing finger on yourself and place the blame there, saying “it’s all my fault.”
Unfortunately, blame feels good in the short-term, but in the long-term, it prevents any shift or change. So, even if you can make a long list of why you or your spouse should be blamed, forget it. Even if that list is factual, it will not help you put your marriage back together. Blame is the fuel of divorces.
2) Take responsibility.
Decide you can do something. Change always begins with one person who wants to see a change. Understand that taking responsibility is not the same as taking the blame (see above).
Instead, blame is saying “regardless of who is at fault, there are some things I can do differently, and I am going to do them.” What buttons do you allow your spouse to push? What buttons do you push with your spouse? Decide not to allow those buttons to be pushed and stop pushing the buttons.
What amazes me in my counseling is that everyone knows what they should be doing or not doing. But it is difficult to move in that direction. Don’t be caught in that. Decide that you will take action.
The difference between blame and responsibility is this: if I am in a burning building, I can stand around trying to figure out who started the blaze, why it has spread so quickly, and who I am going to sue when it is over (blame), or I can get myself and anyone else I can out of that building (taking responsibility). When a marriage is in trouble, the house is on fire. How will you take action to save the marriage?
3) Get resources from experts.
If others have been helped, you can be, too. Experts with a great deal more perspective and experience can be a real help in these situations. Do your research and divide the useless from the useful, then take advantage of the useful.
Don’t assume that your situation is so different from every other situation. I can tell you that after 20-some years of providing therapy, not too much new comes through my doors. Don’t get me wrong; the story changes, but the dynamics are the same.
Remember what Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” In other words, what got you into trouble will not get you out of trouble. That requires a whole new level of thinking. And that is what you get from an outside expert, someone with a fresh perspective.
4) Take action.
More damage is done by doing nothing by taking a misstep. It is too easy to get paralyzed by the situation. Therapists often talk about “analysis paralysis.” This occurs when people get so caught up in their churning thoughts and attempts to “figure things out” that they never take action.
It is not enough to simply understand what is causing the problem. You must then act! On a daily basis, I find people coming to my office with the belief that if they can just understand their problem, it will resolve itself. That simply does not happen. Resolution of the situation takes action.
Will your marriage be saved? If you follow my suggestions, you have infinitely more opportunity for saving your marriage than if you do nothing. Marriage is one of those places where it takes two to make it work, but only one to really mess things up. You can only do your part, but many times, that is enough. Resolve not to ask the question but to begin to act.
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