“Marriage shouldn’t be that hard.” That was the opening comment of my client this week. He was convinced that his marriage was doomed. He believe it was because his marriage had become difficult. He believed that this should not be the case.
I had to chuckle. Marriage is the most intense relationship that any two adults will have in their life. There’s no way around it. Two people living together that intensely, making decisions together, having sex together, making decisions together, and doing everything else that married couple do are going to have difficulties. No way around it.
I turned to him and said “why do you say that?” He told me he just figured that marriages should just work. They shouldn’t be hard work, and when there are problems, they should just be able to be solved instantly. Now, I don’t generally laugh at my client, but it was all I could do to hold back the laughter, and only let out a chuckle. “You have got to be kidding,” I said. “Marriage is tough, whether it is in good times or bad, marriage is tough.”
I continued on for a second, “every single marriage has problems, the question is whether you work through them out or not. It is not a question of whether you will have problems.” You see, I really believe that every marriage is destined to have difficulty. That is just the way it is. Statistically speaking, half of those couples will choose not to work on their problems. About half will find a way to deal with the problems. That does not mean that there were no problems, only that they discovered how to deal with the problem.
“Come with me,” I said my client. I walked my client to the window. We looked out onto the parking lot. I pointed to car and said “is that yours?” “Yes,” he said, “that’s my car. Looks pretty nice doesn’t it?” I had to admit, it with a pretty nice car. It looked like it was well taken care of. I asked, “did you just grab the car, or did you do some research? Did you, when you were getting ready to buy it, maybe buy a car magazine? Did you look up the price on the Internet, maybe even did you research on what other people thought about the car?”
“Yes, I sure did! I spent months looking at my options. I probably went to the dealer like 10 times.” He chuckled, “my wife was tired of hearing about that car.” So then I asked, “have you had any problems with the car?” My client thought for a second. “Well, yes. It made some funny noises.”
“What did you do?” I asked. He responded, “first, I looked it up on the Internet. Then, I bought a book about the model of car I had. I found out that it was a fairly common problem, and it only needed a little bit of tightening of a couple of bolts to stop it.” I continued, “and did you do it yourself? Or did you take it to the dealer?”
“I took it to the dealer. They are the experts on this.” “So, you didn’t sell the car?” I pushed him. “No. It was just a little problem.” I pushed a little harder, “I’ll bet you would have had bigger problems if you hadn’t fixed it, and let it go on and on.”
“Probably so… Doc, is this about my car or about my marriage?” He had me. He knew I was really talking about his marriage. “How long have you been having problems?” I asked. He thought for a second, then said, “probably four or five years. But we had some of the same problems even before we got married.”
“Did you get a book about marriage? Did you talk to a therapist? Did you go to a seminar? Did you do anything that might address the issues?” I asked. I knew I had him. Just like most people, he had a problem in his relationship, but he didn’t seek good advice. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only people he talked to were his drinking buddies. Not the best place to go for marriage advice.
Marriage is tough. It’s tough because it requires us to set ourselves and our ego aside for the betterment of both of us. In other words, we have to get outside of ourselves, and look at the greater good of both people. That does not mean that one person has to give up everything. But it does mean that it takes looking at the good of the relationship when making decisions.
Someone once said, “You can either be right. Or you can be happy, but you can’t be both.” This is especially true in marriage. If you insist on being right, you both will be miserable. Choose to be happy. And when there is a problem, recognize that is normal, then seek out some help in resolving it.
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