Is This Marriage Really for Me?
by Ken Potts
Posted: August 25, 2019
Answering a tough question (first of two parts)…
Part two appears in the article ""
"Is this marriage really for me?"
My guess is, sooner or later, everybody asks this question of themselves.
Sometimes we ask silently, struggling to sort our thoughts and feelings without letting our spouses, our children, or our friends know what's going on. Sometimes we ask openly, often throwing our marriage -- and life -- into a state of crisis.
And sometimes we "act out" our question, distancing ourselves from our spouses or frantically clinging to them (trying to deny our doubt), or even through an extramarital affair.
Such a question is often asked early on in our married life, after the initial excitement of our new life together has worn off (when this happens, it is often because we didn't ask the question seriously enough before we got married).
However, even long-term, stable marriages will experience the return of this question at regular intervals throughout the duration of the relationship.
Finding ourselves questioning the future of our marriages comes as a surprise to most of us. There continues to exist in our culture the myth that people and relationships remain stable, predictable, unchanging over time.
And, yet, our personal experience, and most theories of individual and relational psychology, suggest that every person and every relationship goes through all sorts of growth and development over the course of a lifetime.
As much as we'd like to avoid it, then, the question "is this marriage for me?" is an inevitable part of married life. The choice we have as husbands and wives, then, is not whether we'll ever ask this question, but what to do when it arises.
Of all the ways to sort out our thoughts and feelings, running away, ignoring our doubts, or seeking solace in an extramarital affair are the most destructive. We usually just make things a lot worse. And we can so weaken the foundation of our marriages that, even if we do recommit to our relationships, there may be little hope for our future together.
Likewise, trying to answer this question totally alone leaves us dependent on our own clear thinking and feeling at a time when our thoughts and emotions are anything but clear. Left to ourselves, we can easily see only part of what's going on in our individual and relational lives and draw conclusions that are only partially accurate.
As I alluded to, however, the third choice -- trying to answer this question openly and honestly in the context of our marital relationship, often throws our marriages into such turmoil that it becomes difficult to gain a healthy perspective on our question. If anything, such turmoil may actually add to our doubts.
There is an alternative, however, which does offer some hope for sorting through our questions about our marriages.
First, I think we need to talk through our doubts with a close and mature friend, a pastor, or a counselor. We want to get it clear in our own minds what we are asking, why we are asking it, and what possible answers there are. And we need to check out our thinking with a neutral third party.
Second, recognizing that it always takes two to make (and break) a marriage, we also need to eventually involve our spouses in such conversations. Again, the presence of a third party to put things in perspective can be especially helpful.
I'm not at all implying that such an approach to dealing with doubts about our marriages is anything but difficult and painful. It does provide the best chance for us to work through our question in such a way that our marriages not only can be preserved but strengthened as well.
And what about the other spouses? What do we do when our husbands or wives share with us their doubts and questions about the future of our marriages? We'll talk about that in our next column.
Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of SamaraCare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois.• E-mail the author (gro.gnilesnuoceracaramas@sttopk*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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