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Marriage Advice: What to Throw Overboard When Your Marriage Is In Trouble


When your marriage is in trouble and you're fighting to keep it afloat, it's time to throw anything that isn't helping you overboard. You need all your wits about you to be able to handle the crisis and tackle the problems. Anything that's an impediment or hindrance has to go.

During this time of confusion and stress, you only have a limited amount of energy and time, and you have to put those resources where they count the most. You don't have time or energy to waste if you're going to be successful in saving your marriage.

What do you need to consider throwing overboard? The following eight recommendations can help you to decide what to let go:

1. Release your need to be "right." If you're intent on winning arguments or proving that your partner is wrong, you are hurting your chances of creating a win-win situation in your marriage for you and your spouse. Does it really matter in the long run who's "right" or "wrong"? Or is it more important to create a harmonious marriage where the opinions of both partners are respected?

2. Let go of worrying about what others think or say. No marriage is perfect, and if others find out or suspect that you're having problems, don't let that concern you. If they stay married long enough, they'll eventually encounter problems, also, if they haven't already. There's a wonderful saying that I find helpful, "What you think of me is none of my business."

3. Give up preconceived notions of how you should react in certain situations. Maybe you've always said that if your partner had an affair, you'd end the marriage. But each situation is different, and there's not an across-the-board answer that fits every case. You'll want to look carefully at your particular situation and the extenuating circumstances and then make a careful decision that's right for you.

4. Throw out your demands to be in control. Life has a way of effectively teaching that you can protest all you want, but many things are out of your control and always will be. You can't control what your spouse chooses to do or if others criticize your approach to saving your marriage. You can only control your own decisions and actions.

5. Toss out the temptation to tell others all of the juicy details of what's happening or how your spouse has "done you wrong." Be discrete in who you talk to and in what you say. Later, if you stay married, it may be difficult for family and friends to feel comfortable around the two of you if you've painted your partner as a "louse." You can let others know that you're going through a hard time and need their support without divulging every detail.

6. Release your need to handle everything on your own without outside help. It just makes good sense to use resources that are available, such as counseling. The objectivity and experience of a professional counselor can help you to explore your options and make a wise decision that's right for you and your marriage. And everything will be kept private and confidential.

7. Let go of trying to make everything okay for everyone else. It's not possible to please everyone, so that's a losing battle. You can't pretend you're happy in your marriage just so your parents don't get upset, and you can't pretend everything is okay just so you don't hurt your spouse. Sometimes the chips just have to fall where they fall and that's it. Everyone else has to cope with it and adjust.

8. Give up the need to have others agree with your decision. It's certainly easier when others agree, but it's not necessary. Just because your best friend urges you to divorce due to your spouse's affair, that doesn't mean that's necessarily the best decision for you. It's your life, and you have to live with the consequences of your decisions and actions, so be sure that whatever you choose to do is what you really want.

Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com, where you can also sign up for the free weekly Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get ideas and support for improving your marriage.


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2005