Tag Archives: Pushback

The Power of a Single Piece of Chocolate

Yesterday I was my wife for the first time in over two months. We were obligated to attend a “status conference” at which the court would try to determine why we were not on track to obliterating our marriage. What emerged from this conference was, well, quite interesting indeed.

I began my day as I typically do, rising early (usually around 6:00, but often earlier) and doing my morning spiritual practice. I had a hard time with this yesterday morning, as I was quite distracted with thoughts of the impending status conference. So, I cut things a bit short and got myself ready.

The court is located downtown, and the hearing was set for 9:00 a.m. This meant leaving the house about an hour prior to allow for rush-hour traffic and to find parking. I ended up parking the car about 40 minutes before the hearing time. With time to spare, I decided to walk down to a nearby coffee shop that is one of my wife’s favorites; the shop roasts their own beans, making Italian-style roasts of very high quality. I was a ordered a doppio (double espresso), as opposed to my normal americano, as I thought I would not have sufficient time to finish the latter.

The espresso arrived, and on the saucer was a small wrapped piece of dark chocolate with the name of the coffee shop on the label. I thought to myself that I should just save the chocolate and give it to my wife. Let’s call this thought “planting positive seed of intention, #1″—my intention with this thought and its subsequent action was totally pure, inspired by love and generosity. I took the chocolate and put it in my pocket. Then I drank the espresso and walked over to the courthouse.

I arrived at the courtroom a few minutes before the session was to begin. The schedule outside the door indicated that the judge would be hearing about 70 cases on that morning. I opened the courtroom door and saw my wife sitting in a row of benches right next to the door. She looked at me and smiled. I went up to her and greeted her, and she was very genuine and cordial. This seemed totally out of character from both her behavior of late as well as from some allegations she had made with some motions she had recently filed with the court, but I’ll get to that later. She told me that I needed to go check in with the bailiff, and I did so. I then returned and she moved over to make a space for me to sit next to her. I gave her the piece of chocolate and she thanked me for it, putting it in her purse. Let’s call this “planting positive seed of intention, #2.”

I was open, spacious, and emotionally stable. She was nervous and ill at ease; not so much with me, as she seemed surprisingly comfortable with my sitting next to her, but rather with the situation of being in a courtroom, attempting to destroy our marriage. She looked like hell: dark circles under her eyes, and somehow, despite having made the effort to look very presentable, seemingly unkempt. She was clearly a woman undergoing sustained emotional torment—torment that she has entirely created herself. I engaged her in conversation, and things were relatively normal, or at least as normal as they can be in such circumstances.

The judge arrived and began to hear cases. She slammed through these at the rate of about one every 3 minutes or so. The cases were not heard in order of their listing on the court schedule, but rather in some order determined by the bailiff. We sat and waited for about an hour. Then, a woman walked into the spectator area where we were seated and called our names. She and a colleague had been doing this—calling the names of various litigants—since the start of the session, but neither my wife nor I had taken much notice. We identified ourselves and were taken into an antechamber behind the courtroom. We sat down, I diagonally across the table from the officer, and my wife to my immediate left. The woman identified herself as an “early resolution officer” whose task was to ascertain why we were not in compliance with the court’s case schedule. There were apparently some questions about the status of our paperwork, so she had to ask us some questions to get our case ready for the judge to hear.

My wife indicated that she had recently filed a motion with the court to amend her petition; she had already amended it once, but violated court rules by simply filing a petition without the court’s permission. Essentially, this petition was invalid, but on advice of legal counsel, I did eventually file a response—last week. In my wife’s motion to the court, she decided to ask for certain forms of relief that she backed up with frivolous and flimsy allegations. What is important, however, is that the early resolution officer told her that, since she had filed these motions, she had now essentially put our case on hold: it could not move at all until the judge ruled on her motion. That hearing is set for early September. My wife asked what she would then have to do if the judge ruled in her favor, and the officer said that she would have to have me personally served, as she would essentially be starting the case all over again. This does not mean that the case schedule itself would be changed—her trial date still stands—but it certainly could be continued by the presiding judge because of her motion. The officer then said that she was going to recommend that we come back for another hearing at the end of October. I think this news surprised and shook my wife a bit; I believe she expected that matters would just be resolved and things would move forward, and instead she learned that her very actions were now stalling the process she had wanted to set in motion.

It’s funny how karma works sometimes.

The officer filled out the orders for the judge to review, and, while she was doing this I said, “for the record, I am an unwilling participant in this litigation.” The officer said that our state is a “no-fault” state, meaning that my wife could bring a dissolution of marriage case before the court without showing any cause whatsoever; I told her I understood that, but that I felt it was the wrong thing to do, and that I believed that we not only could reconcile our marriage, but that we had the obligation to make those efforts first. Let’s call this “planting positive seed of intention, #3.”

My wife did not flinch at all when I said this, but sometimes these seeds sting a bit when we plant them. They insert themselves in the consciousness in a way that simply cannot be removed. We were shown back into the courtroom to await our hearing with the judge. My wife now became visibly withdrawn and uncomfortable, and began to move away from me. She became unresponsive to comments I made to her, and was clearly uncomfortable.

We waited another 30 minutes, and finally we were called before the judge. I was confident and at ease; my wife was nervous and unsteady. The hearing was very straightforward; the judge simply asked what paperwork was still in process, and my wife told her about the motion she had filed. The judge ordered that we return in late October, unless all paperwork was filed a week beforehand. She was very professional and understanding. She then asked if we had any questions, and my wife asked her if she had to have me served. The judge explained that the judge hearing her motion would first have to approve it, and if that happened, then she would have to either get me to agree to an “acceptance of service” or she would need to have me personally served, just as if the case was starting all over again. This made my wife rather uncomfortable. I thanked the judge and we left the courtroom.

We did not exactly leave together; instead my wife, who had been so open and genuine just 90 minutes earlier, was now making a beeline to get out of there. She was visibly frustrated and was now trying to avoid speaking to me. She stopped at a bench in the hallway, as did I, to put away her paperwork; I tried to speak to her but she walked off into the ladies’ room across the hall. I just walked away, out into the lobby, to wait for an elevator.

She came down the hall soon after, and her energy was totally different than it had been at the start of the hearing. That genuineness was now transformed into anger and hostility. I tried to engage her in conversation, asking her if she needed anything, and she told me I had to leave. I offered to hold the elevator door for her, and she walked away. She refused even to get into an elevator with me. I looked at her and said, “you do not need to be hostile to me,” and told her I was leaving to go to work. I got in the elevator and left.

I have not heard a peep from her since. But, that chocolate stayed in her purse.

She knows I am committed to saving our marriage. My actions have shown that for nearly 22 months now. Her life currently appears to be a shambles because of the poor life decisions she has made over those past 22 months. She appears to be on a downward spiral that she will not have interrupted, and I am willing to allow her to have that spiral. It is likely that she will have an emotional breakdown, and this could happen soon. She is certainly in the physical, emotional, and mental states that would enable that to happen. She is equally likely to have a huge blow-up with the adulterer, and that could likely happen soon as well. After all, he probably wants this whole situation over and done with, and will learn that it was her actions—not mine—that are now causing this delay. His patience, I would think, must be nearing an end. Chances are the blow-up and breakdown will occur around the same time, and probably in that order. The affair will end—I am more convinced of that now than I have ever been, as I can see it written all over her—and her life will truly spiral out of control.

But for now, that piece of chocolate remains. She may have eaten it already, or she will do so soon. She will not throw it away, but even if she did, it does not matter. When she sees that chocolate, whether it be to eat it or to chuck it in the trash, it will make an enormous impact. That piece of chocolate is a very powerful seed of intention. It carries with it the sum total of all of my positive efforts over the last 21-plus months. It carries with it all of the positive actions I have taken over the course of our marriage, as well as over the course of the two-year friendship that preceded our marriage. It carries with it all of the highs and lows of our relationship and the ways in which we connected. It carries with it one very simple, yet powerful and unstoppable message: “I love you and I always will.”

And that, my friends, is the power of a single piece of chocolate.


It’s funny: I’m looking through my posts, and about two weeks ago I posted an article by Mort Fertel that deals in part with the topic of this post: avoidance. The title of that article was “How to Know if Your Marriage Will Survive” and, while I have no doubt that my marriage will survive, the idea of avoidance has reappeared in a sort of ironic way in the past few days.

To recap that article, one of the most reliable predictors of whether your marriage will hit trouble lies in the avoidance of conflict. This is a big counterintuitive, as one might typically think that a healthy relationship is a harmonious one. But, being a student of harmony (seriously: this has been my profession, i.e. musical harmony) there cannot be any interesting relationship that progresses without some form of dissonance. It is the dissonance that compels the movement forward to resolution, and pretending that there is no dissonance in a relationship just stores dissatisfactions and other sources of potential conflict to arise at some later point.

Thus it was in my marriage, by and large. My wife and I did not fight very much, and we often just let problems ride. Over the 1-2 years preceding our marital crisis, these problems began to resurface and demand attention. Neither of us really knew what to do, nor did we have the skills needed to deal with them. So, it was kind of inevitable that there would eventually be a blow-up of sorts.

This week finds us me in a different kind of avoidance. I am literally being avoided by my wife. Last week there was conflict, but it wasn’t an actual fight. Instead, it was her prevarications and justifications meeting my firm position of standing my ground for our marriage, a stand that was coupled by an occasional stern phrase or two. I don’t think I’m wrong in sensing that she was under a lot of pressure, and that she really did not want to have to deal with all of the issues she has created and exacerbated over the past year; instead, she’d just like to walk away from them all and allow them to disappear into the ether, like so much mist that disperses as the sun rises. Indeed, she exhorted me to just “walk away,” which, of course, I refused to do. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying now that she likely realizes that she is in an intractable situation, one in which she truly has lost control, and in which she will not find her imagined “happy ending.” No, there’s just tragedy ahead for her and the adulterer; that’s predictable.

Last week, she made many threats. She threatened to cut me off entirely, to never see me again, and to take the dog away and never allow me to see her again, either. I was prepared for her to begin to act out on some of those threats, perhaps in an unpredictable and likely incomplete way. But I was a bit more prepared for what she’s doing now, which is just to ignore it all and hope it will all go away. At least, that seems to be what’s happening right now.

She was in town yesterday and the day before. I know this for a fact, because I have seen the purchases she made on our bank records. I know she was here. Wednesday came and went without any contact from her. Thursday did likewise. I had an unexpected cancelation in my otherwise packed schedule yesterday that left me with a couple of free hours, so I went home to do a bit of thinking. Well, actually I went home and did a bit of self-hypnosis first (you’re all aware by now that I do this regularly). Then, I had an idea occur to me: I could deliver the gift my wife had rejected last week to the colleague’s house where she had been spending the night. It was the middle of the day, so I was reasonably sure that she would not be there, but would almost certainly return before the adulterer picked her up — in his brand, spanking new pickup truck (it’s a grey Chevy that looks like it gets about 18 m.p.g.; I’ve seen the pictures) — to take her back to his place out in the sticks. A magazine had come in the mail for her the day before, so I thought it a good opportunity to deliver that, along with the gift that I had readied.

I had already wrapped a couple of the gift items up, using paper that is exactly her taste: I wrapped up her copy of the letter to her parents, as well as a little box of chocolates. These I placed inside a mailing envelope, along with the magazine. I wrote her name (in Japanese, no less) on the outside of the envelope, and then set out.

I got to the colleague’s house, and indeed nobody seemed to be there. I quietly left the package on the porch and then drove away. Arriving at my next appointment, I emailed the colleague to let her know that I’d left a package, and to apologize for any intrusion, although I was sure she’d understand. I also emailed my wife to let her know that I’d left the package there before, although she likely got the email after she found the package. The colleague later emailed to let me know that it was fine, and that she would make sure my wife got the package; she further said that she would be happy to help us in whatever ways she could. She said that, although she didn’t really know the full extent of the situation between us (actually, she likely knows far more than she is letting on, and certainly knows far more than she should), she hoped that things would work out to our between us. I did not avail myself of the opportunity to tell her that, if that were truly her wish, she should not allow my wife to stay there anymore, and that she should not allow my wife to talk about either our marriage or her relationship with the adulterer. In fact, I did not avail myself of saying anything beyond thanking her and telling her that things were fine for me, but very busy.

My wife never contacted me at all. That was to be expected.

The other thing she did not do was to stop by the house to pick up the dog. I half expected she might do that, and then leave me a note of some sort. Instead, it seems like she has just side-stepped the whole issue.

One thing I know for sure about my wife at this point is that her life is wholly incoherent. She is unable to make a plan that she can stay with for more than a few hours, it seems. I don’t think she can plan things out even for a week at a time. It just appears to me that she is nearly totally ruled by her emotions at this point, and that these emotions are thrashing her up against the jagged cliffs of her conscience again and again. Her response is just to pretend like those cliffs are not there, and that her internal emotional life is not turbulent. She can do that, but I’m pretty sure that I know the consequence of this suppression: panic attacks, eating problems, and insomnia. This is pretty much what happens to her every time she avoids things.

Also in avoidance are her parents, from whom I’ve heard absolutely nothing in the intervening days since I sent them the letter. It’s been almost two weeks now, and I’ve not heard a peep. I don’t expect to, either. I’d hoped they’d reach out, or at least send a card or letter, but it seems like even that is too uncomfortable for them. I can understand their shame  of their daughter having betrayed me, and how difficult it must be for them to deal with this humiliation. I can imagine that they feel quite powerless.

Not in avoidance is me. I’m engaging and will continue to engage. The end is in sight. I do believe this is true. The pushback is a good sign. The avoidance is a typical after-effect. The next week or so could be critical.

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Pushback, One Year Later

Pushback is inherent to the reconciliation process. It can be very disturbing and even quite hurtful when it occurs, and indeed it can be very painful to endure. You simply have to be willing to suffer some pushback if you are in a distressed marriage, and have an obstinate spouse whom you are trying to sway in the direction of reconciliation.

Pushback can also be enlightening. It can be a window into the obstinate spouse’s heart, and soul. It is a method through which the troubled mind expresses itself, and it often does this in very transparent ways. If you understand what pushback looks like, then you can experience it with a calm detachment and sense of compassion that will allow you to endure — and you will need endurance to get yourself to the finish line.

Yesterday was Wednesday, and with every Wednesday comes professional commitments that bring my wife into town for about 36 hours or so. By now I know her rhythms and can largely anticipate her movements. She typically arrives around 9:00 a.m., when the adulterer drops her off at the home of a colleague with whom she stays when in town. This colleague is an older, single lady who commands a six-figure income, yet lives in a tiny, drab little house in a somewhat questionable neighborhood. She has a dingy little basement apartment, furnished with only a bed, in which my wife spends one night per week.

She seems to spend the morning doing frivolous things, like sitting in cafés, drinking coffee and surfing the net. She might have some lunch and then go shopping. Then, she will do a bit of teaching and then go to an evening rehearsal. This wraps up quite late, and she will have someone drive her back to the colleague’s place, where she will spend a depressing evening all alone in that dingy, dank basement, watching the ceiling lights flicker. The next morning will also be spent with frivolous activities, as will the early afternoon, then she will teach a bit in the late afternoon. After this, she will be picked up by the adulterer and driven back to his house out in the boonies 40 miles north of here.

These are her movements as best as I’ve been able to reconstruct them from six months of observation.

Yesterday proved to be no different. She arrived in the morning, and texted me a bit before 11:00 a.m. to ask me to drop the dog off for her week of custody. She claimed in her text to be busy all day and to have no time to see me. I called her back immediately; it went straight to voice mail, and I left her a message asking her to call me back. I also texted a response that said “Please call me ASAP.” I had some tax documents she knew about that needed to be signed, and I needed to get that taken care of without fail.

I then got a call from a client, and during the middle of that call my wife called me back. I returned her call when I got off that call with the client. She was clearly in some sort of public location, and began to prevaricate about how she was busy and wouldn’t be able to see me. I told her about the documents, and she then did assent to see me. We arranged to meet at a shopping center a couple of hours later, as I’d be heading in that direction on my way to work. She also asked me to drop the dog off later in the day, but I declined her request, telling her that I felt uncomfortable dropping our dog off if there were nobody home. I explained this to her very thoroughly, and she understood. She then agreed to let me take her home from her rehearsal and to deliver the dog at that time.

When the appointed time came for our first meeting, I arrived punctually and found her in a clothing store. I greeted her cordially and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She seemed a bit off. I talked her into joining me for a coffee (tea, actually) and we sat at a nearby coffee shop for a few minutes while we signed the documents to prepare them for mailing. She seemed rather distant and preoccupied. I offered to give her a lift somewhere, and she asked me to take her back to her colleague’s house. I dropped her off and made my way to work.

Later that evening, I went to pick her up. I had to run some errands on the way, and this included picking up some photos I had ordered — old pictures of our dog when she was a puppy. These had a pretty high nostalgia factor and followed a specific theme. A couple of magazines had come in the mail for my wife, and I knew she’d read them, so I placed a few of the photos at random intervals inside the magazines. I also had a grapefruit that I had collected from the shrine on Sunday that I would be giving her. I had told her about this in advance, so she knew it was coming.

As I sat in the parking lot and waited for her, I was reminded of a time almost a year ago when I went to pick her up — also on a Wednesday night, right around 9:30 — when I was going to unleash a torrent of emotional violence into her life. On that night, I had discovered her affair, and had resolved myself to kick her out of the house, and to pursue a divorce. But that’s a story for a different time.

She came out of the rehearsal and got in the car. I told her I was hungry and had not eaten dinner yet; she was also a bit hungry, so we headed out to get something to eat. She still seemed rather off and a bit distracted. While we were driving to the restaurant, she began to badger me about logisticals she wanted me to take care of, things I’d been basically ignoring because they would contribute to our separation. I more or less did not engage in this conversation.

We arrived at the restaurant, and she really seemed preoccupied. She would not even look me in the face. I attempted to engage her in conversation, and she began by asking me why I continue to live in our house, which we have rented for about four years now. She told me she was not coming back, she had made up her mind and would not change it, and that I simply needed to accept that and move on. She tried to convince me that it would be better to live in an apartment and save money. I did not answer any of these questions; instead, I asked her why she wanted to talk about these things when we were having dinner. Clearly, she was very troubled.

She then told me that she didn’t like having to shuffle our dog around from one place to another. She said she didn’t want to cut me off from her entirely, but that some other solution needed to be found. At this point, I said, “you know, there is an easier way.” I did not elaborate, but I was implying that she could just come home and begin to reconcile. I do believe she understood the implication of what I was saying. She then began to criticize me, saying that I did not have a peaceful life, and that I was very egotistical for not “letting go” of her. I told her that my life actually is very peaceful, and that she was able to make decisions of her free will. Not only that, but that she took a course of action a year ago without giving me any choice or say in the matter.

This is where her pushback became very transparent: she was simply projecting her own turbulent emotions onto me.

She seemed very adamant about her choices, and was visibly annoyed and frustrated as she ate her meal. I tried to engage her in conversation, and she asked me not to change the subject. She continued to harp on the idea that her mind was made up and that she would not change it. She complained that I call her twice a day (actually, it’s usually about three times), saying, “Do you think that’s going to change my mind? You know, I don’t even listen to your messages.” I did not buy into any of it.

Then she told me that she had received an email from the university telling her that she needed to apply for on-leave status, and that she would be assessed with a large fee if she did not. She had been told by others at the university that she was not eligible for this application because she was overrunning, and that instead she’d need to petition the Dean for an extension once she knew when she’d be likely to finish up. She seemed very concerned and this probably was adding to her overall cocktail of stress. At this point, I counseled her very thoroughly and rather sternly, since I know how these bureaucracies operate. I told her that she absolutely had to go on campus the following day and talk to these people face to face. Not only that, I told her to get all of this information in writing, and further to get names and contact information so that it’s all documented. That way, if somebody did screw up and give her incorrect information, she’d be covered.

The rest of our dinner together was rather tense. Well, actually she was tense; I was more or less fine. We paid the bill and headed out for her colleague’s house. En route, I tried to make conversation. I asked her how her brother was doing. Her response was simply, “I have no idea.” This tells me that she had not spoken with her family in quite some time.

We arrived at the colleague’s house, and she told me I didn’t need to come in with her. I helped her with the dog, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She paused in the middle of the street, clearly wanting to communicate. She told me that she felt trapped, like a bird being kept in a cage. She felt as though she were some sort of zoo animal. “Do you know what happens to birds you keep in a cage? They die.” That’s what she said. She insisted that she would not change her mind. She told me it had been a year, and her feelings hadn’t change. Well, of course they hadn’t — she has been committing adultery for all that time, and her feeling pretty much can’t change until that affair has run its course. I told her that she took that initiative to “be free,” and made choices of her own free will, and that I was given no choice in the matter. I quite simply said that I am married to her and plan to stay married, and that I would always believe in us and in our marriage. This left her visibly quite frustrated, and she turned around, walked across the street, and into her colleague’s house.

I realize this post is getting quite long, but there are two main things to draw from this encounter. First, she is in tremendous pain, and obviously is having serious difficulties with her chosen path in life. This is predictable: any path that begins with an act of gross immorality is a path that ends in ruin. This pretty much always happens. The pushback has been occasional and has come in fits and starts, but has become a bit more frequent these past few months as her path quite predictably crumbles. Second, it is very clear to me that she is about an inch away from a breakdown. She is in an incredibly fragile state right now, and feeling as though she is under tremendous pressure. She wants to blame all of this on me, because it would be much easier for her to just externalize everything and walk away from it all. That never works, though. All of the problems, the pain, and the guilt would follow her wherever she might go. It truly is a lose-lose situation for her.

What also is a lose-lose situation for her is the aftermath of this conversation. I’m sure she has talked it over with someone. She probably talked it over with her colleague that very night. This colleague is much older and has never been married, has put her career before her personal life, and in so doing has never really had any successful relationships. She would really not be in any position to help my wife. But the real lose-lose dynamic occurs with the adulterer himself. She was sure to have been frustrated after this encounter, and likely to want to share that frustration with him. This news would only make him mad and impatient, I would think. Knowing that she would cause him to become mad and impatient, she could instead keep those feelings and that encounter secret from him, and this would simply cause the tension to build.

I know my wife better than anyone. I have seen her break down many times. I know that this breakdown is right around the corner, and could well be preceded by a blow-up. Part of me is just waiting for a phone call with the message “please come get me,” as I think it quite likely that she’ll blow up at the adulterer and he’ll throw her out of his house.

The other thing I know about my wife is that these pushback phases are temporary and that there is some sort of softening that follows. The last time she had given me pushback, it was over the phone, and she emailed to apologize for her behavior later that evening. This time, she didn’t apologize, but emailed the following morning (yesterday) to thank me for preparing the tax documents. She also told me that her grandfather had passed away the day before. Since she is a bit estranged from her family, I believe she had just found out about it that morning, as she indicated the night before that she had not spoken with her family in some time. Her grandfather was 92 years old, and in many ways the black sheep of the family; this story might be the topic for another post.

For now, dear reader, if you wouldn’t mind just holding my wife, her family, and especially her grandfather in your thoughts and prayers, that would be greatly appreciated.

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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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