Trying to save your marriage is a difficult and challenging time. While it can certainly mean working on your marital relationship, it often involves working on your self.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Missy. Missy was married for almost thirteen years and she spent several years before the end of her marriage trying to save it and that meant starting with herself. Here’s Missy:
There had been multiple affairs and so at one point I finally did ask him to leave. When he left it was not with the intent of it being permanent. I always wanted to work on the marriage, but I knew I just needed to regroup, basically.
He was gone for about five months. This would’ve been in 2008 and the divorce was not until 2010. At that time in 2008, I began working on myself. I started working with a therapist on my own and got real truthful with my family about what was happening in the marriage.
When you’re trying to save a marriage you don’t air all of the dirty laundry, even to family because you don’t want them to think badly of him in the future. So, I just quit living the pretend lie and let everybody know that I was floundering. That rallied a huge sense of support for me and for the marriage.
Everybody realized this thing’s in trouble—this person’s in trouble and it was actually a great thing.
He came back and we did try to work on it. It was so different from the way our marriage had been before that for him to acknowledge that I had an opinion and that I had value—it wasn’t all him. It was just a challenge for him to ever get used to me in that different way.
I used some the boundary principles in the book Boundaries (by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) to guide me. They teach about how you take care of yourself and you have boundaries for safe people and unsafe people and those type of things. But one of the issues in our marriage was a lot of rage. My former husband was an angry person and took that out on me, because pretty much I let him for years.
As he came back that was one of my boundaries, was that I wasn’t going to take that anymore. If he began to rage or yell or belittle me, I would ask him to leave the home instantly.
I would say, “I’ll ask you now to change the way you’re talking to me or leave.” I gave him the choice. There were times that he left, but eventually, I think that part of our marriage did get better, because he did learn that I won’t take it and he had to change the way he talked to me.
I’m so glad Missy talked about working on herself because it’s not always obvious. When your marriage is in trouble, the automatic or standard recommendation is couples therapy. Individual therapy is scary because ultimately instead of figuring out how to save your marriage, you end up determining if your marriage is right for you. It gets to the real core of the problem and I suspect the outcome from this approach, whatever that may be, is more robust.
I think this is why we hear so often that marriage counselling wasn’t effective. It certainly wasn’t effective for my husband and I. We went through counselling on three separate occasions and with hindsight I can see that the therapists tried to resolve the issues at hand … more like mediation… but we never got to the real core. For my part, that was my inability to confront a couple of fundamental issues. I was working on the belief that I was married, that those issues came with the marriage so there was no point in talking about them. Those issues never went away, they were always present and were absolutely a fundamental part of the end of our marriage.
With hindsight, I think it would have been more productive for me to have done individual therapy …
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.
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