I receive many calls and emails every day, each one of them tragic, discouraging, and heart-breaking. Some are from women married for 25 years, who have suffered for many of those years. Some are from people who have been married 52 weeks, with a spouse saying they made a mistake in marrying in the first place. Disillusioned and discouraged after weeks, if not years of heartache, they all want out.
“My husband left six weeks ago and just sent me an email saying he wants to file for divorce,” a woman said to me recently.
“My wife says she doesn’t love me anymore. I can’t live without her. Please, please help me save my marriage,” a middle-aged executive said to me tearfully.
“I’m still with my husband, but I don’t love him anymore,” a bitter, hardened 40-year old woman told me. “Too many years of pain and anger. I just feel resentful now when I look at him.”
“I’ll do anything to save my marriage,” a 30-year old blue collar worker told me. “I thought it was all about me, but when she left I knew I had lost something incredible. Can you help me?”
This is a sampling of the opening lines I get from people in excruciating pain, people who have ignored the warning signs of a marriage in trouble. Here is one man’s story:
Dear Dr. David,
My wife left me six months ago. The longer she’s gone, the more I see what a jerk I was. At first, I blamed her for leaving. I told her she was ‘wrong’. In fact, I slapped Scripture on her, trying to guilt-induce her any way I could. My anger only pushed her farther away. I can’t believe the way I acted. My wife gave me chance after chance, and I ignored her.
I don’t know if there is a chance for us. I don’t know if my wife will soften her heart to me. I just want to tell everyone that your marriage is fragile, like a rose. You can’t stomp on it and expect it to remain beautiful. One day, when you don’t expect it, she’ll tell you she’s had it. You think you can take it, but you can’t. Make sure you know what you’re doing.
Regrets! We all have them. We look back and wonder what could have been. We see far clearer out of our rearview mirror than our windshield. We see the missed opportunities. We feel the remorse of treating our mate badly, of taking him/her for granted. And sometimes we recognize our mistakes too late.
Some of you reading this still have time. You still have the opportunity to save their marriage. Couples in crisis have a number of issues in common. Here are some warning signs you must watch out for that I discuss at length in my book, 10 Lifesavers for Every Couple:
1. They experience ongoing conflict without resolution.
No relationship can bear the weight of unresolved conflict. This “baggage” wears you down, even if you’re able to ignore it on a day-to-day basis. Couples need the skills to talk about tough issues and to resolve them.
2. They become insensitive and demanding of each other.
With respect dissolved, couples in crisis begin to treat each other badly. Sarcastic and biting, their language is far short of edifying and encouraging, further eroding marital integrity.
3. The relationship is filled with criticism and derogatory comments.
They begin to feel contempt for their mate, which erodes the love they once felt. The criticism becomes pervasive as the couple “forgets” the positives that attracted them to their mate.
4. They find more excuses to spend time away from each other.
Feeling anger and resentment, couples find reasons to spend time apart. They get involved in other friendships or activities, instead of spending time together.
5. They feel uncomfortable sharing intimate feelings with each other.
Finding their mate critical and insensitive, they begin withholding intimate feelings and details of their daily life. They fail to provide a “safe place for feelings to land.” This creates further distance.
6. They experience less and less physical intimacy.
Since intimacy is “into me see”, and this is seen as dangerous, the gulf widens. Couples move apart physically, even to the point of sleeping in separate bedrooms.
7. They compare their mate unfavorably to others.
The grass begins to look greener on the other side of the street. Tragically, some begin flirtatious relationships and even affairs as a way to cope with their pain. Others begin to look better than what they have at home.
8. They make threats about separation and divorce.
As the pain increases, many begin to make plans, if only in their minds, to leave their mate. They fantasize what it would be like to live alone.
If you find yourself with any of these warning signs, take action. Things will never get better on their own. Time alone will not heal your marriage. Stop telling yourself you should be able to fix things; you can’t. Denial (Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying!) won’t help you. You must be honest about the condition of your marriage and take appropriate measures to heal your relationship. Don’t let pride stop you from seeking professional help. Get a fresh, objective perspective as to what is wrong and learn the steps necessary to save your marriage.
You can save your marriage, but not on your own. You need God’s wisdom:
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
Get help now!
I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about Depth Marriage Counseling, or for further information or advice on Marriage Intensives. Consultations are available on what may be needed to assist you in your marriage. Please see more about my work at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and www.yourrelationshipdoctor.com, sharing your concerns and insights at firstname.lastname@example.org.