It can be MUCH better

June 15, 2011

in Hope, The "D" word

Kissing under the starts © Lomachevsky | Dreamstime.com

Bottom line upfront: No matter what you marriage is like now, it can be much better. Whether it’s currently good or bad, it can be better. If you both think it’s over, it can be better. If one of you has moved out, or a divorce has been filed, it can be much better. Even if divorce has occurred, as long as you are both single, you can have a great marriage. I can say this with confidence because I know couples from each of those categories who now has a fantastic marriage.

What does it take to have a much better marriage? Long term it requires that both husband and wife be dedicated to making a better marriage; but short term it only requires one person make that commitment. The majority of the time (not 100%, but the vast majority), if one spouse really starts to do what’s right, the other will start to make changes as well. It’s human nature to reciprocate love, kindness, and change – especially when the changes benefit the who did not make them.

The real issue here is this: how far is each of you willing to go to have a better marriage? How much are you willing to change? What are you willing to give up for a better marriage? How much time and effort are you each going to devote to getting a better marriage?

Is it worth it? I’ve never known anyone who gained a great marriage say it cost too much. Those who achieve it are unanimous – it’s worth everything it costs and then some.

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4 comments
Brooke
Brooke

My husband and I are currently working on trust, honesty, and openness issues. He just told me he was getting ready to go to his friend's house for a visit, and as I was preparing to ask who all would be there (digging to find out if other girls would be present), I came across this post and decided I would make the first move and trust him to just go see his friend for no reason other than to catch up. My husband has never given me reason to question his loyalty or faithfulness, but because of my past, I find trusting and believing others difficult. Your blog is helping me to remember to make decisions that positively impact our marriage, and to avoid those that are damaging. I know he would never go to see his friend with the intention of seeing other women or hoping they would be there. He's a good, honest man, and your blog is helping me to remember that.

Tony
Tony

Funny you should mention Joe Beam. As you may know, he is one of the resources I contacted. I even made it to his radio show even though I don't live in his area. Told him my story, told him I was willing to do whatever it took to save my marriage. He said he would personally find a local resource that would facilitate his program. I would hear from someone on Monday after the Saturday show. Monday came, no call. I called them, and basically got the brush-off. So is it really that guys like me don't want to save their marriages, or that the ones touting a 70%+ or whatever success rate pick and choose the cases they take to ensure they get that high rate? I don't know, so I'm not accusing anyone of anything. What I am doing is sharing my experience, and it wasn't an experience that folks wanted to get involved and save my marriage. Do I believe you can have success? Yes I do. Do I believe that 50.01% or more of the men who earnestly have a passion for saving their marriage, for making it better in circumstances as I've described actually achieve that goal? No I don't. If my experience is typical, and why would I think it's not, I was a man who wanted to save his marriage, when his wife left, took 1000% of the responsibility for where the marriage was, while she was having an affair and lying about that fact. I asked her what I did to drive her out of the home, only to hear she would tell me after she got the divorce, only to never be told. I went to my church, to be blamed for her affair, contacted every resource I knew from her parents to the Harley's of Marriage Builders, Focus on the Family, Family Life, Joe Beam, Dr Ken Nair, and probably others I don't have at the tip of my tongue, such as the Smalley Institute or whatever it was called nearly a decade ago. So you would think that after contacting that many organizations, many who claim the success rates you mention, that one of them would have known what to teach me, or how to reach her, or both in order to save the marriage. Didn't happen. Other than my pastor who blamed me for her choosing her affair, but not willing to actually find a mentor for me or to confront her, the others said there was nothing they can do. So how do you arrive at a mostly successful rate if you do nothing? The only way I can think of is if you carefully choose who you will work with in order to guarantee a high number. What other explanation do you have for a husband who is motivated to save his marriage, to do what it takes, and still fails to find help that will even come close to making his marriage better? I would like to see number for ALL men who present to one of any of the resources you claim to have a high success rate to see how many they actually take on, and how many they say they cannot help. Because if they approach others as they approached me, there is no way they have a majority success rate if they fail to engage in any sort of program with the husband struggling with what to do to save his marriage and his family. PS, I don't think I named anyone, I simply said THOSE who stereotype without naming who they were. If you are stereotyping, then it's not helping. If you are not, then I'm not talking about you. I clearly said, "So it’s time to question some of the stereotypes we’ve seen." If that was a good idea for that blog, why not question the stereotypes (not the people making them) to see if they hold water, or if they are bunk. The stereotypes certainly do not help save marriages. In fact, such stereotypes often provide justification for those who would walk out, blaming their husband, using such stereotypes such as he just doesn't care about the marriage or family, see, this article in Cosmo or whatever publication says so. So Paul, unless you are the stereotype, you have nothing to fear by my call to question the stereotypes.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Tony - There are plenty of ministries and counselors who have 70% and better success rated with couples who came to them on the way to the divorce lawyer. Marriages where one or both were done, where they only went because the kids or their church begged them to. (I heard Joe Beam discussing this yesterday.) One problem is taking the wrong approach. Those who focus on right and wrong, rather than finding ways to bring about change, are usually disappointed. Likewise when the goal is to prove one's self correct, or innocent, or the one who has been wronged. I just ran across this tweet from Michele Weiner-Davis - @DivorceBusting of divorcebusting.com: "If feelings of self-righteousness override your desire to be close, you'll be right but miserable." The question is one of priority - is the priority to put the other in their place, or to heal the marraige? Is the one who is trying to fix the marriage willing to set aside their pride, their need to have the world know they have been wronged, and their need to come out on top? Unfortunately some who say they are working on their marriage have other goals and needs that are more importnat to them than making the marraige better. They want a better marraige, but only if it happens in the way they think it should. Often both husband and wife are this way, and if neither will budge, then the marriage is doomed. (Don't think I am talking about you here, I don't know you or your situation, so I can't have an opinion on it.) BTW, you have again accused me of stereotyping men. If you look again you will see I made NO gender reference in my post. What I said is true regardless of the genders, and I put it this way because I have a growing number of female readers, and this post works for both men and women. You are reading your situation into my words. You are welcome to continue doing that, but realise you are not arguing my point or even arguing with me when you do that.

Tony
Tony

The vast majority get better? Is there any peer reviewed data that backs up the notion that if only one person does the right things, or as you say, really starts to do what's right, the other will make changes as well. It's been my personal experience that doesn't happen. If they are already engaged in misconduct, doing the right thing only fuels the sense of entitlement they already have. But I also realize my sample space is small, so I'm willing to read some peer reviewed studies that back up the assertion. Otherwise, it's just which set of anecdotes do you believe? Perhaps no one who got to a great marriage would say the cost was too much. How about those who didn't arrive there? I'd say the cost was way too high. Instead of fighting for my marriage when my ex-wife moved out, and I later learned she was in an affair, I should have simply sought a court order so she was forced to return our child to the marital home and filed for divorce. The time, treasure and heartbreak was not worth it given the results. If any man is reading this and his wife has left, protect your family by making sure you don't leave your home and do not allow your wife to take the children from the marital home. You can decide if you want to work on your marriage or not. But given everything I've read, if your wife has not been honest with you about how she feels and suddenly wants to move out, she's emotionally divorced you years ago and didn't have the honesty to share that information with you. I certainly would not trust such a person, one who is not willing or able to be 100% open and honest about how she feels to respond favorably. Most things I've read indicate she's closed off her heart to you, and in my experience that is true. You could be Christ incarnate and it wouldn't move hear heart. You could pray the very same prayers Hosea prayed for a hedge of protection over Gomer but you will not achieve the same result. I'm not saying to be mean. I'm saying that you shouldn't trust that someone who is willing to deceive you by not being open and honest about how she is feeling when it comes to your family. You shouldn't trust that she is making Godly decisions when she walks out and wants to take the children. You can't force her to stay, but you don't have to allow her to either push you out, or take away your children. I did the commitment to being better, solo. I ended up divorced and a visitor to my child. I would recommend being focused on being the primary custodian of your children if you are faced with a walk-away wife. If your wife is unwilling to be emotionally open and honest with you, then you need to limit her access to the children, as she'll pass along those traits. If she wants to open up, learn to be honest and be a godly partner, then you can leave the door open. But I wouldn't pursue her, or make it easy for her to take your children. Make it easy for her to leave, as you can't force someone to stay. But don't make it easy for her to put you out of the day to day life of your children. Perhaps my case was a fluke. But given that 2/3rds to 3/4s of all divorces are sought by women, and relatively few of those are for marital misconduct on the part of the husband, it's time we expect more not less from our wives. It's time we lovingly reject the lies that men more often engage in misconduct, and that men do not have relationship skills that are as well developed as women. Men and women bring different sins and different skills to the relationship. Neither is worse or better than the other. Men may cheat more, but women give up more. So that's a draw. Men may hit more, but women verbally and emotionally abuse more. Since all abuse is damaging, it all hurts. Women may talk more, but men communicate through physical acts, therefore both communicate love one to another. So it's time to question some of the stereotypes we've seen. Last week, this blog linked to the Black and Married with Children Blog (or something like that) that questioned some of the stereotypes folks have about blacks. So why not question the same sorts of negative stereotypes about men, such as men cheat more, or men are not as committed to their families? I won't go into that here, as I'm getting away from the topic. But suffice it to say, I don't think many of the stereotypes hold up. For example, unless men are having affairs with other men, men and women are equally represented in affairs. It doesn't matter if the woman is married or not, she is still cheating God's plan for sex and marriage. Her marital status doesn't excuse her from cheating. If men file the minority of divorces, how can we continue to buy the line that men are not committed to marriage? If you are going to fight for your marriage, make sure you are fighting for a woman who is worth fighting for. That's all I'm saying. If she's not willing to be open and honest, then is she worthy of being your wife? If she buys into the negative stereotypes surrounding men, do you want her as your partner?

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