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Six Words about Marriage Problems

SpeakerNetNews is running a contest to write a complete speech in six words. Here is mine, for all of us who have ever been distressed by something the love of our life did.

Assume love and reconsider what happened.

~ - ~


When is divorce acceptable? That's a question for theologians and ethicists. For me, the question is can you still have a great life with this man you married, or is it too late?

Contempt and rage are fixable problems. Steven Stosny has achieved some excellent results teaching couples to remove these from their marriages. He runs a couples' Boot Camp that has been featured several times on Oprah. The next one begins May 29th.

We all know people who are much happier after they divorce. US statistics tell us, though, that most people who rate their marriages unhappy or very unhappy and don't divorce actually find them happy again five years later, leaving them happier than those who divorce. There are two possible explanations for this. It might be that people are incredibly wise about whether it's time to pack it in or worth another shot. I doubt this. More likely, it's that reaching the point of great unhappiness motivates us to make the fixes needed.

You were unhappy, and he said, "Get a life!" Then you got a life. Now he's unhappy. You can say, "Get lost!" -- or you can see it as the opening you need to actually change your relationship and rediscover the strengths you once admired in him.

If you decide to give it another shot, your first step might be to separate or move in with others. If he cannot control his anger, whether because of addiction, bad habits, or never learning how, he runs a big risk of serious, shameful behavior until he deals with his problems. Such behavior will not be good for him, for you, for your children, or for your relationship. You may be the only one right now who can prevent it. If you cannot trust him to control his anger yet, please get help preventing him from harming you or your boys with it.

Just as your husband discovered his approach to your marriage won't work now that you have changed, expect to learn that your approach must change as he takes care of his anger and contempt problems. Stosny's program addresses this. You may also find that assuming love, expecting love, and finding third alternatives also help a lot.

I thought I wanted to divorce my first husband, only to learn what I was unhappy about had very little to do with him and would go with me when I left, leaving the good stuff behind. If your husband is willing to take the contempt and anger out of your marriage now, you may want to take another look at the good stuff you would be leaving behind.

[For the record, I haven't published any books yet, just this blog and three articles in Going Bonkers? Magazine.]

Like you, Unknown, I loved my husband and tried to keep him happy but he would become more and more verbally abusive. He would not or could not talk about his problems. I actually left him twice. I finally caught on that when he got home from work, he would pile on me the same abuse he'd been taking all day from his boss. He took it until he couldn't take any more in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. It was the only way he was able to show how much he cared. We had 53 years of the rockiest road you can imagine, but as my daughter reminded me, I had the man I loved for 53 years.

Your husband may have the same difficulty mine did in expressing his feelings. If you can possibly talk him into doing that, you might get to keep him as long as I did. But assume love, lead him along gently, and don't nag him into it. He needs to control some part of his life. Good luck!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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