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Category: Relationships / Topics: Choices and Decision Making Coping Family Relationships Unity, Unified Values

Can This Marriage be Saved?

by Ken Potts

Posted: September 1, 2019

Tips for saying "yes" (Second of two parts)…

Part one appears in the article "Is This Marriage Really for Me?"

That's Life

I think it probably happens in all marriages sooner or later.

One or both spouses question -- openly or secretly -- the future of the union.

We've already talked about what this means for the husbands and wives trying to sort through such doubts.

This week, we're going to look at the dilemma of the other marital partners in these situations.

Maybe some of us see it coming. We sense that something is "out of sorts" with our spouses, though we may have little idea what it is. We sometimes even ask what's wrong.

Usually we don't, though, perhaps not really wanting to know, or figuring things will just "blow over."

I suspect, then, that most of us are caught by surprise when our husbands or wives announce they are having doubts about our marriages. Our initial reaction, not surprisingly, is often simply shock. We go into emotional overload and our ''circuits'' just shut down.

Such shock, however, soon gives way to other feelings: panic, confusion, hurt, fear, bitterness, anger, rage, despair. We can cycle through these feelings again and again over the course of dealing with our spouses' -- and now our -- struggles.

Our response to such a marital crisis is, in fact, often dictated by such emotions. Our feelings can be so powerful that they overwhelm our better judgment, we find ourselves doing and saying things that we know not only don't help, but even make things worse.

Some of us, for example, respond by simply disintegrating. The force, fluctuation and duration of our emotions overwhelms us to the point we can barely perform even the most mundane tasks. Severe depression or immobilizing anxiety can be evidence of such disintegration.

Others channel our emotional energy into trying to force our spouses' recommitment to our relationships. We attempt to persuade, argue, or demand they stay in our marriages, or we beg and plead with them to remain with us.

Sometimes in our emotional turmoil we overtly or covertly push for a quick resolution -- any resolution -- of such a crisis. We give ultimatums, set deadlines and threaten to take action of our own.

In other cases, we distance ourselves, withhold our own love, or even give love to another (surprisingly, some extra marital affairs do get started by one spouse as an attempt to force the other spouse to make up his or her mind about the marriage).

As mentioned, none of the emotion-driven responses help the situation much. Usually they do a lot more harm than good. Too often, however, they seem to be all we are capable of.

There is an alternative. It isn't easy, but it may be the one thing we can do that will eventually help when such doubts surface in our marriages.

We can simply wait.

We can be there for our spouses, offering them our friendship and love when they will accept it. Yet also giving them space and time when they need it to sort things through. We can listen to them when they choose to talk and share with them our thoughts and feelings when they want to listen. We can preserve as much as possible the daily life together we have built.

And we can keep waiting.

Such waiting is probably the most difficult thing we will ever do in our marriages. We will have to draw upon wisdom, strength and courage we may not even know we have.

And it will be important that we not try to go it alone, that we confide in a close friend or two as to our struggle and share our thoughts, and especially our feelings, with these friends on a regular basis. We also may want to seek out professional help.

Whether they are ours or our spouses, doubts will arise in all marriages. That seems to be inevitable. How we deal with these doubts can often determine whether our marriages have a future.

If we attempt to work through them together, if we are open and honest with each other, if we give them the time and attention they deserve, we also may be laying the foundation for a "new" marriage that will be more meaningful than any before.

Let's at least try; the life we have shared together is worth that much.

Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of SamaraCare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Posted: September 1, 2019

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