Category Archives: Marriage Help

Separation does not work

I’d like to thank a recent visitor to this blog for prompting me to write this post.

When a relationship crisis strikes, the marital environment can get pretty toxic. It can become difficult for the spouses to suffer each other’s company. There may be tension, arguments, the “silent” treatment, and even fights. I have personally experienced all of these things. None of them is pretty. Given such circumstances, it might seem logical for the spouses to separate from one another. It’s likely that most well-meaning family and friends would advise this, and indeed many so-called marriage “professionals” would advise this as well.

Many of you know that I am a Marriage Fitness practitioner. Core to the concepts and practices of this program is to avoid separation insofar as is possible. I feel so strongly about the benefit of what I’ve learned from the program and how to deal with my own unwilling separation from my wife that I feel compelled to duplicate the link to their website again, right here, in most clear (and perhaps obnoxious?) fashion. Please, please, please make this website your first stop if you are dealing with separation.

Click here to visit the official Marriage Fitness website.

Just do it. It will saver your marriage. So please, just do it: go there and check it out. Remember folks, I’m not a huckster. I just really believe in this program and will stand by it 100%. I personally know of situations involving separation — or worse — that have totally turned around because of the positive impact this program has had on the marital situation, despite obstinacy, affairs, separation, etc. But I digress…

Separation is a terrible, terrible idea. It accomplishes nothing. It puts physical distance and emotional space between yourself and your spouse, and all that distance and space will do is to further erode your connection with your spouse. Feel your relationship is distressed now? Well guess what — separation will make it worse. A lot worse. If your spouse wants to disconnect from you, then that will happen in a hurry if you separate. If your spouse wants to have an affair, then that will quickly follow the separation. If your spouse is having an affair, then that affair will almost certainly escalate if he or she leaves. (There is a silver lining to this, though: the affair could very likely blow up a lot sooner as a result.) If your spouse is thinking about divorce, it becomes a whole lot more likely that this will happen if you separate. If your intention is to reconcile your marriage, then separation complicates everything and achieves nothing.

Yes, you should ignore the well-meaning friends and the credentialed “marriage” counselors who would advise separation. They clearly do not have the best interests of your marriage in their hearts.

Now, don’t get me wrong: you cannot force your spouse to stay with you, but you should do everything within your power to try to prevent an impending separation. This does not mean that you should plead, threaten, or bargain. Words are useless at this point. You will need to show your spouse that you want him or her to stay through your actions. You will need to make positive changes in the marital environment, through both working on yourself — the aspects of your behavior and person that led to the marriage breakdown — and through learning and employing the best possible relationship skills and habits. This is really the only way to stop a separation.

The problem is that sometimes even this doesn’t work. You can do everything right, and still your spouse ends up determined to leave. In fact, it often appears that it is because of these changes that your spouse decides to separate. Please don’t let this confuse you if this happens. What you’re seeing is nothing other than a fairly potent form of pushback. It’s typically a sign that you are rewriting the story your spouse has been telling him- or herself, and that story could be months or even years old. It most certainly will be old enough for your spouse to thoroughly believe it. So it comes as quite a surprise to an obstinate spouse to see you suddenly change for the better. Your rewriting of that story challenges everything he or she believes to be true about your marriage, and that’s a difficult place to be. The human ego seeks desperately to preserve itself at all costs, and it doesn’t take well to existential shocks that truly and experientially define its boundaries and definitions.

So what do you do if you’ve done everything right and your spouse still wants to separate? Well, you might just have to accept that separation is a temporary station on the journey to reconciliation. It happens that way sometimes, and it has happened that way for me as well. You don’t want to participate in, encourage, or facilitate that separation in any way, if you can help it. Make it clear that it is not your desire that he or she separates, but that you have no control over your spouse’s choices and have done and are doing your best to understand your spouse’s feelings and concerns. You also absolutely must make it clear that your spouse will always be welcome in the marital house without any judgment or conditions whatsoever. This is very important, because your spouse will need to come home at some point. If there’s an affair, the affair will end. If it’s obstinacy, that ice will melt. If it’s divorce proceedings, your well-directed efforts will likely bring those proceedings to a halt.

If you unwillingly end up with a spouse that separates, don’t fret it too hard. It’s still possible to pursue reconciliation despite the separation. You can reach out to your spouse in virtually all the ways that you could if he or she were still at home. (See the Marriage Fitness website for resources on how to do this — they have a whole program that is oriented around this and other kinds of difficult situations!) It may likely take longer to get to reconciliation, but you can still get there nonetheless.

This perhaps another question open: what if you were the person to separate? Maybe life at home was too painful or too difficult, and you felt like you simply had to get out to make the situation more bearable. The answer is simple: if you really want to reconcile your marriage, then you have to return home. You have to move back in. And you’ve got to do it now. Not tomorrow or the next week, but now.

Separation hurts, it’s painful, and it’s ultimately pretty useless. If it’s happening to you, don’t despair, because you can turn things around. If it is looming over your situation, don’t freak out, because you can change the momentum. Please make sure that you check the resources page on this website for links to helpful, marriage-friendly sources of information, inspiration, and guidance.

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The “lone ranger”

I came across this article on Marriage Sherpa today, and it illustrates a basic principle in the marriage reconciliation process: it does not take two to tango. You can absolutely reconcile a marriage, even if only one person is willing to do so. Trust me on this: I’ve been doing it for months now. I still haven’t reconciled my marriage yet, but I do believe that now I am closer than ever. (There have been some late-breaking developments today that I will write about once I’ve got a bit of time to decompress.) My situation is a bit complicated, to be sure, but then again, all marriage reconciliation cases are complicated to some degree.

The reason I think this article is significant is that it flies in the face of much of what is on offered form the marriage “counseling” community. It would seem as if many marriage counselors would more aptly be called “divorce counselors,” as their practices seem more likely to lead to divorce than to reconciliation. Indeed, some I’ve come across seem to be out there mainly to help distressed spouses find “closure” (which, in my opinion, is one of the most bogus terms out there) on their way to finally destroying their marriages. That situation is really quite shameful, so it is good to know that there are at least a few honest souls out there who are sticking up for marriage.

I’ve been lucky to work with a couple of them. My counselor (whom I’ve never met in person, by the way) begins from the premise that you’re married, and you’re going to stay married. This is a very different starting point than the majority of counselors who seem, at best, to be marriage-neutral.

So, what of the reference to the “lone ranger”? Simple. That’s what those of us who follow my marital reconciliation path (Marriage Fitness) are called, if we are doing it on our own. It’s a tough path, but it is doable. The biggest part of the fight is getting the obstinate spouse to wake up enough to see that it would make perfectly good sense to join you on that path. Once they do, things can really fly; getting to that point, however, can be lengthy and require much endurance and stamina.

Anyway, stay tuned for my next update. I had a very positive day today with my wife during her weekly visit. I’m close to cracking that nut wide open — but first the affair fog needs to lift.

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Adultery: Poor Math

The good folks over at Marriage Sherpa have posted another article that should be helpful to those of us dealing with adultery. It’s entitled “Affairs: Doing the Math: It Doesn’t Add Up” and is well worth a read.

Actually, the “math” here is a bit different than one of their previous articles on the topic. In that article, the position was taken that the wayward spouse takes an 80% risk for a 20% return; in this more recent article, it’s 90/10. Are affairs getting more serious? Hardly. One just cannot quantify the outright stupidity that occurs in adulterous relationships, so any figures are just metaphors. Adultery is 100% pointless, 100% of the time.

Anyway, do go give those articles a read if you get the chance.

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When You Get Pushback

This is the first in a series of educational posts geared toward those who are trying to reconcile their marriages.

Marriage reconciliation is a tricky business. You really cannot go it alone, because, coming out of the gate, virtually none of us has the experience or wisdom necessary to bring a troubled marriage back into safe harbor. In fact, most of the things we’d be likely to do — pleading, begging, arguing, appealing to reason or emotions, etc. — are not just counterproductive, but also harmful to the reconciliation effort.

Furthermore, those who do seek professional help typically go to one of the thousands of credentialed marriage counselors who offer their services in cities both big and small. Although there are some good counselors out there, the overall picture is pretty bleak: at least 70% of people who start marriage counseling report themselves as less happy a year later. What’s more shocking is that 50% of people who undertake traditional counseling report getting divorced within that one-year time frame. This is quite abysmal: one normally wouldn’t go to a doctor for a relatively routine yet somewhat serious complaint (e.g. bronchitis) and expect a cure rate of 30%, let alone a morbidity rate of 50%. That’s just plain unacceptable. I know of far too many people who have gone the traditional counseling route who end up resigning themselves to separation, divorce, and the subsequent agony. It’s all so needless.

Those of you who have been reading this blog regularly will know that I often refer to my own “reconciliation program;” those of you new to this website should know that I have a reconciliatory discipline that I follow that works and is proven to be at least 90% effective. Some of my readers know about this, because they are fellow practitioners of that same program, other’s don’t. I did write about this in one of my first blog posts: I’m a Marriage Fitness practitioner. I’m not a huckster, but I do stand behind things in which I believe. One of the few links you’ll see in my sidebar is to the Marriage Fitness website, because I think it’s important that people facing serious marital crises be able to find the help they need, and this program (run by Mort Fertel) is, in my opinion, simply the best one out there. It’s a program that brings about true personal transformation, and with that transformation comes a transformation of the energies of the marital relationship, and that in turn provides a very powerful momentum toward marriage reconciliation.

The principles are simple: implement the best possible relationship habits and skills, and simultaneously work diligently to change the aspects of yourself that led to your marital crisis. These two principles are pretty much all that one needs to know about reconciling a troubled marriage.

Well, actually there is one additional thing. Pushback. It’s one of those unpleasant side-effects of the reconciliation process. You do all the right things, you work on your “fixings” and employ those awesome relationship skills and what happens? Your spouse grows cold. Your spouse rejects you. He says spiteful things. She hangs up on your phone calls, or shuns them to voice mail. He rejects your gifts, or refuses to see you for weeks on end. It can be depressing, dispiriting, and discouraging. Just read through a sampling of posts on this blog, and you’ll find plenty of examples of pushback.

Yet it is also a sign of health. Much like the human organism manifests unpleasant symptoms in ridding itself of an illness, so too does a spouse manifest unpleasant symptoms when ridding his- or herself of egocentric behaviors whose only purpose is to destroy the marriage.

Pushback comes primarily from one place: pain. The obstinate spouse is riddled with pain. He feels he has suffered tremendously at the hands of the spouse who wants to reconcile. Yet that reconciling spouse is simply showing the obstinate spouse that she has chosen the moral position — a position in which promises are honored and from which one simply does not walk away just because things got difficult. The obstinate spouse finds this hard to understand, because from his perspective, there are no viable remedies short of exiting the marriage. This, of course, is not true. (Just click one of those links above if you need further proof.)

Pushback can be difficult for the reconciling spouse to bear. This is because the reconciling spouse typically has as much egocentric territory to defend as the obstinate spouse. This is the human psychical equivalent of two islands bashing against each other, refusing to cede any ground while also refusing to recognize that they’re both made of the same stuff: ego. It’s only when one loosens the grip of ego and begins to see suffering the obstinate spouse endures because of his desperate ego-clinging that the whole situation starts to become more workable. In short, if one can loosen that grip, then one begins to develop compassion, and that will change the tide toward reconciliation.

Even so, that doesn’t mean that dealing with pushback is easy. I’ve seen plenty of it over the past 8 odd months, and I know many others have seen worse pushback than have I. What do I do about it? Ignore it. That’s pretty much all you can do. Ignore it and soldier on. In fact, I have a slogan:

When you get pushback, then push back harder!

That doesn’t mean you have license to be rude, nasty, inconsiderate, or in any way to return the behavior the obstinate spouse is showing you. Quite the contrary. It means that you push back with unconditional love, with understanding, and with genuine concern. This is how you reconcile your marriage. Every day you relentlessly push in the direction of reconciliation, setting the agenda by showering your obstinate spouse with unconditional love. It pretty much always works. But you do need a method, and that’s why programs like Marriage Fitness are so effective: they’re organized to give you those tools, and and a plan of implementation in which to use them.

But hey, you don’t need to believe me. If you’re skeptical at all — and you should be — go over and check out the Marriage Fitness forum. Unlike the many other forums I visited on my initial searches for guidance and wisdom, this forum is not filled with angry, vindictive spouses looking for divorce. Quite the contrary: it’s one of the most positive and supportive places I’ve ever found for people experiencing marital crises. And, there are plenty of experienced practitioners there who would likely be happy to fill you in. Who knows, you might even find me there.

Just remember: pushback is a symptom, and it’s usually a symptom of health. 

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