Making Your Marriage Work





Marriage is work.

Well, not really; and yes, kind of. But it doesn’t have to be the kind of work it is for so many couples these days.  And it certainly doesn’t have to be the kind of work that too often leads to little or no positive results and leaves both worn down and worn out.

I am writing this series of articles on MAKING YOUR MARRIAGE WORK WITHOUT MAKING WORK OF YOUR MARRIAGE for three reasons:

1) I am convinced that marriage does not have to be the constant and futile hard work that wares so many down and over time, wares them out.

2) There are so many marriage relationships that are a shell of their former selves, and after years of hard work, they experience little if any positive “return on investment”;

3) The third reason I have included this marriage series on a web site devoted primarily to raising great and healthy kids is this: While it is not impossible-we all know of exceptions-raising kids from the foundation of a healthy marriage relationship sure does make the job easier, more achievable, and even more enjoyable.  Yes, there are many exceptions where somehow, out of the chaos and unhappiness between Mom and Dad, emerged a healthy and happy child.  I think most would agree, however, that this is usually more the exception than it is the rule.

A goal of “Making your marriage work without making work of your marriage” is to encourage any who are over worked and under satisfied in their relationship, to reconsider that just maybe a successful marriage is possible, and that there is hope for reviving the relationship that once excited them, invigorated them, and enlivened them both.

Hopefully these ideas and suggestions will provide a catalyst for discussion between you and your spouse.  In order to be helpful, it is best that you participate by reading and addressing these ideas together.  And yes, it will take work, but it will be the kind of constructive work that hopefully produces lasting results, and will lead you both out of the habit and pattern of working so hard, but on the wrong issues. It will be the kind of work that will direct your efforts toward dealing more effectively on the real problems rather than just the symptoms of those problems.

I have made it a habit to begin most talks I give on the subject of making your marriage work without making work of your marriage, with a question.  Actually, I begin with two questions, but the first one doesn’t really count, since the answer is obvious. Nonetheless, I ask it.  The first is this:

How many of you here today have either gone through a divorce, or had someone close to you go through a divorce?

The answer is obvious.  Of course, everyone has.

After a show of hands from just about everyone (there is always some guy in the back row who doesn’t really want to be there and doesn’t want to play my silly game), I ask the second and more important question:

“What were some of the apparent problems that caused the marriage you were involved in or observed, to end?

The answers are consistently the usual suspects: irreconcilable differences, money issues, temper, physical or emotional abuse, unfaithfulness, religious differences, disagreements over how to raise the kids, in-law difficulties, and issues surrounding sex.

This is where I point out what I believe is a common and critical confusion between underlying problems and the symptoms that develop as a result of those problems going undetected and unaddressed.

As long as troublesome symptoms are confused with and identified as the real problem rather than understood to be the result of ignored and underlying problems, then any effort to save and revitalize a faltering marriage is at best, very hard work that wares us down and out, and at worst, it is futile.

The 4 articles that follow will address what I believe to be the four most common and recurring underlying problems that lie below the surface and give rise to a myriad of destructive symptoms.

Confusing troublesome symptoms with underlying problems is a common error made by so many hurting and struggling couples who are sincerely and desperately working to fix and improve their relationship.  In fact, it is a flaw in many a therapist’s office as well.  Even when a couple has gone for professional help,  it is often only the symptoms that are addressed and treated, leaving the real problems in place, untreated, and free to give rise to further troubles and difficulties.

It is perhaps a simplistic analogy, but addressing the symptoms that trouble us without digging into the underlying problems is similar to the task of weeding an otherwise beautiful garden. We either exert the effort to dig down and take care of the root system of those pesky weeds once and for all or we choose the quicker and easier route of cutting them off at the surface; it really is easier, quicker, and even looks better initially. But the results are short lived. Any good gardener out there knows that.

Very soon, the task of ridding that beautiful garden of the pesky and unsightly weeds must be undertaken once again. Eventually, the necessity of having to repeat our efforts ware us down, and eventually we may give up. That beautiful garden becomes overgrown and may even be abandoned altogether-all because the symptom (the weed) was addressed but the problem (the root system) was left to grow yet another weed.

And who among us would go to a physician for a chronic cough, and not insist that the underlying cause for that cough be found and treated? Although we are given cough suppressants, without finding and treating the underlying problem, our cough would persist and possibly become a serious threat to our overall health and well-being.  How could we expect or tolerate any different outcome when it comes to our emotional and relational health and well-being?

There are no doubt many other underlying problems that may lead to symptoms which create repetitive work and ultimate failure in relationships.  None, however, are more common than the four that the following articles will address. And no others are as destructive in terms of the symptoms they may create as are these four.

In an attempt to whet your appetite just a bit, listed below are what I believe to be the four most common and destructive underlying problems that consistently give rise to many of the “relationship-busting” symptoms:

1. Fear of intimacy

2. Past unmet needs

3. False assumptions

4. Faulty communication patterns brought on by baggage we bring in to our marriage.

I hope you enjoy reading Making your marriage work without making work of your marriage. And I hope that reading it will eventually lead to far less work, and far more pleasure and satisfaction between you and your spouse.

At the end of each of the four articles I will be posting in the near future, you will find a few questions that may help in the process of discovering and addressing any underlying problems that may be giving rise to the symptoms you’d like to eliminate from your relationship.

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