“Linda” is a member of my virtual coaching program. She left me a message yesterday, “Sometimes, it just sucks.”
For the past four months, Linda had been working hard to save her marriage. Over the years, Linda and “Craig” had fallen out of step with each other. Maybe it was just those life events pulling at them: careers, kids, friends, other interests. Neither meant for it to happen. But it had. Linda and Craig were so disconnected that Linda found herself avoiding Craig, while Craig was doing the same.
Every discussion led to an argument. Every argument led to the “silent treatment” by one or the other.
Sex, well. . . it seemed that “making love” was replaced with “making hate.” Then one day, even that stopped.
Their spiral was steep and fast. One day, over one glass of wine too many, Linda asked, “What are we doing? Where are we going?”
Craig responded. And Linda hadn’t expected his reply: “I’m about done here,” Craig stated. “I can’t live with the tension and disappointment. Every time I look at you, I see how you look at me. I feel horrible every day and every night.”
That night, Craig moved to the couch. He told his kids the next day, “I have allergies and have been keeping your mother up, snoring.” They had no reason to not believe him. Linda’s eyes were red and swollen. She cried and sobbed throughout the night.
For the next few days, the “silent treatment” became icy silence. They practically avoided each other.
But Linda couldn’t stand it any longer. “So what are we going to do?” plead Linda.
Craig said he was not sure. He just knew that things could not be like they were, and he didn’t think anything could change. Deep down, Linda feared the same thing. But she refused to face that.
She began to plead and beg. She tried to rationalize and argue. But after a couple of days of that, Craig was only more convinced of how bad things were — and more convinced that nothing could change. Linda realized she had to stop trying to convince him to stay.
For the next couple of weeks, Linda simply dragged through the day. She was barely able to move one foot in front of the other. Linda has told me that the only thing that kept her moving was her kids. She did not want them to see the pain and be scared.
One day, Linda woke up (and truly woke up). She decided this was not who she was, the situation was not what she wanted, and she was not going to give up. That is when Linda found me and my Save The Marriage System.
By that evening, Linda had digested lots of information and was ready to save her marriage. She changed how she interacted. She changed her arguing, stop trying to persuade, quit reacting to the “bait” Craig threw her way, and started looking for opportunities to connect.
Guess what happened?
Craig barely responded. He didn’t even seem to notice.
That could have been the end of the story. Linda could have given up. She could have walked away, and they could have started the legal process.
A few things kept Linda moving ahead. First, she came from a broken home and knew the pain. She did not want that for the kids. Second, Linda had made a decision that staying too long and trying too hard was better than giving up too soon. Linda had made a promise at her wedding. She wanted to keep it.
So, she kept at it.
And some days, it sucked.
Craig would tell her that nothing had changed (even though Linda knew she had changed). Craig would remind her that he believed that once love is gone, it is gone forever (strangely, as Linda worked on herself and he relationship, she began to feel a softening toward Craig — not quite love, but no longer was it hate). Craig stayed disconnected (in spite of Linda purposely trying to reconnect in ways Craig always wanted).
Some days, it sucked badly.
Linda wanted to give up.
One thing kept her going: she had committed herself to work as long as she could.
I told Linda something that changed her stance:
“Sometimes, bad marriages are made by good people acting badly toward each other.”
As much as Linda wanted to look at Craig as a bad person, she knew differently. She just needed a reminder. People do not always act as they should. They act out of their hurt — which feels like anger to the other person. Those moments of hurt and anger, though, are just desperate attempts to connect.
1) Work to see your spouse through loving eyes. It is much too easy to only see your spouse through the hurt and pain. Through that lens, you will only see someone who may be: spiteful, vengeful, hurtful, angry, etc. But when you use loving eyes, you may see someone who is also hurting and unsure what to do, someone just as disillusioned and worried as you.
2) Make a list of the reasons why you want to work on the relationship. Write out as many as you can think of. You will come up with practical reasons: your finances, the kids, what others will think, and retirement. But you will also come up with some deeper reasons: belief in commitment, desire to learn and grow through a crisis, wanting to show your children how to move through struggles, and many others.
Mark out the practical ones. They may be important. But they will do little to inspire you. Keep a list of the deeper, soulful reasons. Pull them out and read through them when you are frustrated and feel like quitting. Your feelings can lead you away from your plans. As my wife says,
“Consult your plans, not your emotions.”
3) Accept that some days will suck. They just will. Sometimes, things will be moving forward. Then, you have a setback. It is easy to panic and decide to quit. Or you can just accept that is the nature of the process. Some days go great (don’t think you are in the clear), and some days will suck (don’t think this means it is all over). Keep it all in perspective. Enjoy the good days; endure the bad days.
Keep it all in perspective. Your marriage did not get into trouble overnight, and it will not improve overnight. The process can be slow and frustrating. But it is worth it in the end.
4) Take care of yourself. This is a stressful time. Your body is feeling it. Be sure and:
a) Eat well. Don’t get suckered into “comfort foods” that are full of carbs. The carbs turn to sugar and keep your body in “siege mode.”
b) Get some movement. I hate to call it exercise, but you need your body moving. 20 minutes of walking or even some short-duration, high-intensity activity (see the 7 Minute Workout) can help your body burn off the adrenaline load and help you maintain a good physical and mental frame.
c) Get your rest. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Too little or too much is an indication and a cause of stress. Get your rest and you will have more resources for your efforts.
5) Take this time as a chance to grow. Read some books on self-development, listen to podcasts or audios (I have podcasts here and at my blog for self-development, Thriveology.com). There are so many resources out there. Feed your mind, your soul, your spirit. Take this difficult time as an opportunity to grow and discover what your challenge has to teach you.
Linda was right. Sometimes, it just sucks. But in the midst of the “suck-y,” you may discover lessons you need to learn and capacities you never knew you had. The effort, regardless of outcome, is what you can control.
Your intentions and actions are within your control. Circumstances and actions by others are not.
You line up your argument: hit ‘em with facts about how divorce affects the kids, show ‘em how divorce will devastate retirement for both of you, show ‘em research that proves divorces do not lead to more happiness or satisfaction, etc., etc., etc.
Now, you just know you can convince your spouse to stay!
Have you done that? Have you decided to rationally explain why you should stay married, and how you two can work things out?
How did it go?
My guess is, it failed miserably. At least in my experience, I have not seen that approach work. A polite spouse may say, “You’ve given me lots to think about.” (This is short-hand for “You’ve given me lots to think about, but I have no intention of thinking about it.”) A less polite spouse may tell you where you can go, making it clear that the spouse is not interested in logic or reason.
Why is that? Aren’t we reasonable creatures? Don’t we follow logic?
The simple, and quite obvious, truth is that we humans are anything but rational, reasonable, and logical.
A quick glance around will let you know that logic is not winning in the world. Emotions carry the day.
In fact, according to research, upwards of 90% of decision-making is emotional (and mostly unconscious). We simply look for logical and rational reasons to support our emotional decisions.
Which is why your efforts to argue logic and reason will fail.
Marriage is nurtured by emotional connection — and starved by a lack of it. When a marriage is connection-starved, decisions to leave are fueled, not by logic, but by emotions. And attempts to argue logic? They will fail.
Listen to the podcast and let me know what you think!
If you feel the need for more help in healing the emotions, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little explanation: for years, my son said he wanted to skydive when he turned 18.
That was years ago.
Last week, he turned 18 (what happened to those years??).
Time to follow through.
My wife spent a great deal of time and effort for us to be able to take the leap on his 18th birthday. But the weather had other plans. A rainy, yucky day canceled the jump. . . .
Until the next day. A beautiful, sunny, cool fall day.
We drove out into the middle of nowhere. And we jumped.
The pre-recorded disclaimer by the attorney said it all. He stated, and I quote, “I have no idea why someone would choose to jump out of a perfectly good plane. But you have chosen to.”
The ride up was no big deal. I kept rehearsing what needed to happen.
But that one moment, precariously balanced on the wing, staring down 10,000 feet to the ground, I had a thought, “What am I doing?” Then, I recommitted, and we jumped.
That jump made me think about one thing: there has to be that time when you fully commit to something. That moment when there is no turning back. There is only going forward, leaping into the unknown and hoping for the best.
Working on your marriage requires that leap!
Sometimes, we get so caught up in becoming an expert in some new pursuit that we forget to jump.
If you want to save your marriage, you do need to gather some basic information and begin to create your strategy. (If you need help with that, grab my Save The Marriage System.)
But then, at some point, you have to commit and leap.
You can’t keep planning. You have to get started.
Once you get started, you can work on fine-tuning your plan, learn more, and continue progressing.
Take a listen to my podcast, and if you are ready for some coaching “on the way down,” drop me an email! Email me here.
Then, Julie began to tell me a story about growing careers, a big social life, passionate pursuit of hobbies, and then children. Three. All within 5 years.
One day, when the youngest had just started school, Julie’s husband dressed for work, dimpled his tie, turned toward Julie and said, “I’m not happy, you are not happy. This is not working.” Then, he left.
Julie was shocked that he was so matter-of-fact. Could he really drop that emotional grenade and head to work, acting as if nothing happened? Julie reeled through the day, lost in her painful thoughts. Hadn’t they been in love at one point? Wasn’t this supposed to be “happily ever after?”
Then, Julie saw flashes. Times when each chose something else — a hobby, an activity, friends, work, children, even the iPhone, over spending time with each other. Julie realized they had stopped kissing goodnight, stopped holding hands at church, and stopped telling each other about their days.
Oh, Julie had known this. But she kept telling herself, “When the kids are older. . . ,” “When he gets that promotion. . . ,” “When the triathlon is over. . . ,” “When summer/fall/winter/spring comes. . . .” She just knew they could reconnect then.
But after each new stage of life, they just continued on the well-worn path of disconnection.
Julie and her husband had drained their battery of connection. Sure, it was well-charged when they married. But they kept draining it over the years, neither noticing the battery was nearing being drained. Then one day, Julie’s husband spoke a truth they both knew: they were disconnected. In fact, they were so disconnected that he could say the words and go to work. He might have know Julie would be caught off-guard. But he was disconnected enough that he didn’t care.
Connection is like your cellphone battery. It may carry you through a day or so. But the more you drain the batter, the longer it will take to recharge. Keep draining it, and at some point, it will simply shut down.
Let’s look at the 5 myths of connection in this week’s podcast. See if you are falling into the myths — and headed for trouble.
If you are already there, please grab my Save The Marriage System RIGHT HERE.
If you want even more advanced training, drop me a note: Lee@SaveTheMarriage.com
Connection is the nourishment of every marriage. If you break the connection, you starve the relationship.
So why are so many marriages connection-starved?
Most people don’t realize how important the connection is. So, life gets in the way: careers, friends, hobbies, interests, children. Over time, the distractions build up.
Until one day, you realize that either you do not feel the warmth toward your spouse or your spouse does not feel the warmth toward you.
By then, you may already be a couple of stages into the disconnection spiral. And you may have never seen it coming!
Just a couple of days ago, “Sue” told me she thought the relationship would take care of itself. She thought she and her husband built the connection during their dating days.
“Somehow,” she told me, “I thought the marriage would just roll along. We would be happy and all would be good. I forgot to reach out to him. He stopped reaching out to me. Now, there is a huge, cold divide between us in bed. I don’t even know how to move forward. I am beginning to think he doesn’t even like me anymore. And I have lost all respect.”
Take a look at the graphic to the right.
You will notice that Sue has identified 2 stages in the process of disconnection: dislike and disrespect.
Where is YOUR relationship?
In today’s podcast, I explore the very typical (but very tragic) pattern of disconnection — a process that takes many marriages right to the brink of divorce and separation.
If you know the stages, you can understand the process. And the process is reversible. The earlier you start, the easier the process. The deeper the hurt and the lower the stage, the more difficult the recovery process.
Are you ready to reconnect? Please grab my Save The Marriage System RIGHT HERE.
If you already have my System, but want some more intensive training, shoot me an email: Lee@SaveTheMarriage.com. I have some audio training that will transform you and your marriage.
These are common questions I hear when I speak with people.
Why is it so hard to define this?
One simple reason: it is a gray area of connection. A physical affair is much more clearly defined. A physical boundary has been violated. So, while there may be some difference of opinion on what constitutes an affair, it is clear when it becomes physical.
Not so with emotional infidelity. In almost every case, it starts innocently enough. . . so innocently that the involved parties continue to proclaim that nothing is wrong, no boundary has been violated, and there is no problem with the relationship.
Yet emotional affairs DO threaten marriages. Emotional infidelity sucks the limited emotional resources a person has, leaving the marriage floundering without connection. The emotional pain for the spouse who is losing the connection to someone else can be as extreme as if there was a physical affair.
Unfortunately, this often falls outside of the understanding of the spouse involved in the emotional relationship. He or she will often continue to justify, argue, and refuse to acknowledge anything is wrong. . . until everything falls apart and the truth is overwhelmingly evident.
In this podcast, I take a look at emotional infidelity and give some guidelines to help distinguish “just a friend” from a relationship that has crossed the line.
Listen below and let me know what you think in the comments area further down.
When “Janie” came to see me, she was lost. She could not understand HOW her husband could be so wrapped up in his affair. “Doug” was discovered at a lunchtime rendezvous with his mistress of 6 months. A friend saw them sneaking into a motel room, and quickly called Janie.
Doug was ashamed, swore he would break it off, claiming it had only happened a couple of times. While Janie didn’t really care how often they had met, Janie also didn’t believe him. Doug had been distant for some time. In fact, his distancing was at about the same time he began texting and chatting with the other woman. Janie knew something was wrong; she just couldn’t imagine Doug would cheat.
In fact, few would have believed it. Doug was always at his kids’ games, was in church every week, and was a civic leader. He was also deeply involved in a very unhealthy relationship — one he seem completely unable to break from.
“What is driving him? Why is he acting this way?” Janie pleaded.
Affairs seem to burn so hotly. It can baffle the people involved and the spouses hurt by the relationship. And it can be a fire that is tough to squelch and hard to escape.
Do not confuse the heat for love.
Rarely is love hatched in the midst of dishonesty and deceit.
Janie told me she just didn’t get it. The other woman was less attractive, more needy, less successful, and just did not match up with what Doug proclaimed he wanted in life. Yet there they were, deeply involved and proclaiming the “truth” of their relationship.
I pointed out one thing I want to point out to you: affairs are not about the other person. The other person is an object, a projection of lots of other things. But it is really not so much about that other person.
Very frequently, after the affair is ended, the cheating spouse says to me, “I have no idea what I was thinking. I don’t even LIKE that other person.”
Unfortunately, it can take time to get to that level of disconnect.
In this week’s podcast, I want to share with you the mixture that creates the “rocket fuel” of the intense feelings involved in an affair.
Take a listen and let me know what you think!
Statistics on infidelity are a bit difficult to come by. Estimates range from 30% to 60% of marriages have some episode of infidelity during the marriage. That is a large span, from a minority to a majority of relationships. One study found 22% of men and 14% of women admit to cheating in their marriage.
Let’s be clear: statistics don’t matter. What matters is what happens in YOUR marriage. Just know that if infidelity is or has been a part of your marriage, you are not alone.
But infidelity does not have to end a marriage. In fact, many couples find it possible to not only recover their relationship, but actually build a stronger marriage after the affair. An affair can become a “wake up call” that things need to drastically change.
Are you wanting to save your marriage after infidelity? I have prepared several resources to help you.
Mental models. We all have them. It can help us make sense of the world. . . and keep us stuck. Every mental model is really a shortcut in understanding reality.
A mental model is simply a way we understand something. Politics are a mental model. Each political view has a certain viewpoint on many topics and issues. But given the wide array of political views, it would appear that each viewpoint has shortcomings — information that is missing or ignored.
The same is true throughout our lives. Every mental model we have gives us both strengths and weaknesses. And we rarely examine why those models are there, or where they come from.
Many of us grew up with the “tough it out” or “screw it, I’m out” models of marriage. The lessons learned by watching these two models can keep us stuck and limit our possibility for change in marriage.
Are you ready to make a shift in your mental model? Allow me to offer yet another model. I think you will find my model has more potential than either of the other two models.
In this week’s podcast, I cover the 3 models and give you help in making the shift. Let me know what model you had growing up, and how you are changing it now. Just leave a comment in the area below.
If you are ready for a new model, but are not quite sure how to get there, please grab my Save The Marriage System RIGHT HERE.
I remember when I first took a personality test years ago. It was the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI). I answered a bunch of questions and received a four-letter designation (not to be confused with 4 letter words that have been used to describe me!).
What amazed me was how accurate the description was for that particular type (1 of 16). The designation helped me think about how I processed the world.
There is one problem, though. That particular profile has lots of moving parts, making it a bit complicated for the typical person who is trying to figure out how your personality and your spouse’s personality makes your marriage more or less difficult.
Today, I want to offer a much simpler approach. This approach, the Personality Matrix, has only 4 different types. And you don’t even need a test to tell you where you fall. When you hear my descriptions in the audio (below), you will quickly locate your primary type. You will also quickly assess your spouse’s type.
You will also discover your greatest strengths and weaknesses — and how to escape your vulnerabilities.
More than that, I will share with you how to speak to your spouse’s type, so that you both feel more understood — and more capable of navigating the stuck points of your personality.
I invite you to leave a comment below, with the type you discovered and how you are going to make a shift away from your natural weakness.