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Why Your Marriage is Worth Saving

Why Your Marriage is Worth Saving

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Are You Having Doubts About Your Marriage?

We’ve all been there. I’ve been a marriage counselor for over a decade, but I’ve also been married for nearly two decades. (Yep, I’m that old). In addition to successfully working through rough patches in my own marriage, I’ve sat in the marriage counseling office with literally hundreds of hurt and angry couples over the years. One thing I’ve learned is this: It’s common to have moments of doubt. After weeks of nasty exchanges and hurt feelings, why shouldn’t you start to wonder if you’re really compatible? After a series of bitter fights with no resolution, why shouldn’t you start to feel a little hopeless? It’s reasonable to wonder.

It can be very difficult to remain optimistic about your relationship when you’ve been having bad experiences with each other. But here’s the thing: When you’re feeling hurt, angry, frustrated or afraid it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and the opportunities that lie beyond the struggles. Because it can be so hard to think straight when you’re mad and hurt, I’m going to hold the hope for you and share my long-term perspective with you.

Four Reasons Why Your Marriage is Worth Fighting For

One: This is NORMAL.

All couples go through challenging times together, on the road to becoming stronger. It’s one thing to get married. (Having a ceremony and party is a piece of cake. Pun intended). It’s quite another thing to become married. The process of becoming married doesn’t start until the honeymoon phase is over, because, unfortunately, we don’t even know where we need to learn and grow until we have a conflict about it.

Stepping on each other’s toes, getting upset with your partner (or having them get mad at you) is how we learn where we need to make changes. Those skirmishes outline the current boundaries. Becoming married is the process of redrawing those boundaries. Becoming married usually involves learning how to communicate with each other, learning how to show each other love, learning how to work together as a team around household tasks / parenting / finances, learning how to respect and honor each other’s boundaries, learning how to prioritize your relationship, learning about your own “growth opportunities,” and learning how to accept each other — faults and all. (Listen to “Cultivating Unconditional Love.”) This is a lot of work, and is often, regrettably, hashed out over many, many fights and tense exchanges. Reflect upon how many months you spent planning your wedding? Plan on it taking much longer to successfully become married. FYI, many couples put this work off, not fully “becoming married” until many (often long) years after the actual wedding occurred.

Two: It Gets Better

Sadly, many couples crash and burn during this normal growth process when they think that the relational turbulence they’re experiencing means that something is intrinsically wrong with their relationship. It isn’t. Becoming married is challenging for everyone. It’s tragic to me when couples bail on their relationship without giving themselves and each other the chance to grow together.

Because when you successfully get to the other side of this it gets much, much easier. Imagine what your like will be like when this is resolved: Communication is easy, you have a set of agreements that you’re both on board with, you have systems in place that allow your life to run smoothly, you’re not constantly triggering each other’s anger or anxiety, you’re supporting each other’s hopes and dreams, you’re both feeling loved and respected, and you’re having a good time together. (And even having sex!)

I believe this is possible for you, but like all couples there is work to be done between here and there. Start by revising your expectations that this “should be easy.”  To give you a timeline, I think my husband and I began to figure all this stuff out around year five at our house. (And that was actually about 8 sessions into our marriage counseling process). It could have happened a lot faster, in retrospect, had we gotten help sooner.

Three: This Will Follow You

Even if you do ultimately choose to end this marriage, you’re going to take your patterns and unexplored growth opportunities (aka, “issues”) with you into your next relationship. If you want to be successfully married to anyone, sooner or later you’re going to have to work on your ability to communicate, show love, work together, respect boundaries, etc.

The research shows very a clear and dramatic relationship between the number of marriages people attempt, and the success rates. Despite common misconceptions about high divorce rates (read “Why Divorce Rates are Down”), most couples in first time marriages who come into marriage from a place of strength in terms of their age, education, socioeconomic status (read, “What’s The Best Age To Get Married?”) can make it work. However, second marriages have a much higher divorce rate. Second marriage with children involved are not for the faint of heart. Third+ marriages are frequently troubled, and haunted by ghosts of the past.

The punchline: No matter how many partners you churn through, your patterns in relationships are unlikely to change until you do.

You’ve already made the vows — why not double down on your commitment and do the work right here? If you do that, your very worst case scenario is that 1) You’ll grow into a stronger, healthier person more capable of having a high quality relationship and 2) If you ultimately decide to leave, you’ll do so knowing you did your very best.

And the best possible outcome? You’ll create an amazing, satisfying, intimate and happy marriage that lasts a lifetime. Win-win!

Four: This Stopped Being About You When You Had Kids

Disclaimer: Although I am very much pro-marriage, I’m not necessarily “anti-divorce.” In fact, sometimes ending a relationship is the most responsible thing to do if two people have discovered they are really, intrinsically incompatible AND that they aren’t committed enough to make the changes necessary to have a healthy marriage with each other. (Read, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?”) This is particularly true for dating couples, childless couples, empty-nesters, or younger couples who are still  in the process of developing an adult identity.

However, if you already have kids together…. I believe that you owe it to them to fight as hard as you can to make this work. Of course there are rare times when it is better for the children if you live apart, particularly if one parent is not safe for them to be around (like in cases of domestic violence, physical, verbal and emotional abuse, substance abuse situations). However, in less extreme circumstances, even when divorce is handled as  sensitively as possible it is very difficult on kids.

The chaos of getting shuttled around to different homes (and the potentially different rules and expectations in each), dealing with suddenly single parents who are distracted, overworked or dating, negotiating step parent / step sibling relationships, and coping with the grief of their lost family is an awful lot for kids to handle. It frequently overwhelms their ability to cope, and may be either externalized (showing up as behavior or emotional issues) or internalized (trying to be “perfect” and not have feelings). Neither is good for developing little minds and hearts.

Some people believe that it’s bad for kids to be around fighting and conflict. This is certainly true when toxic, scary fighting is happening, like name calling, abusive language, things getting thrown, or people being hit. However, kids learn how to resolve conflict in healthy ways when you model it for them. They also learn that normal, healthy relationships still have conflict and friction, but more importantly they learn how to successfully work through it. That way they won’t feel worried that something is terribly wrong with their own marriage when it’s time for them do the work of “becoming married” too.

I know it can feel hopeless sometimes, especially when you feel like you’ve tried everything. Divorce can seem like the only reasonable solution when you have no idea what else you could possibly do, and when your partner seems dead-set against changing. But just because YOU don’t know what to do, doesn’t mean there isn’t a path forward. Getting expert help and guidance can open new doors that you didn’t even know were there. Is it hard work to pull a marriage back from the brink of divorce, and save a family? Yep. But imagine how relieved you’ll feel when you’re on the other side of this, with an intact family and a happy home.

Having a strong, healthy marriage is the greatest gift you can give your children. It’s worth the work.

Main Points:

  1. This is normal
  2. It gets better
  3. This is a growth opportunity for you, either way
  4. If you have kids, this is bigger than you

I hope these ideas help you keep your head up, and remain hopeful about your future together… even when times are hard. Keep fighting for love, my friend!

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Considering Divorce? Don’t Panic: It’s Just January

Considering Divorce? Don’t Panic: It’s Just January

January is The Most Common Time Of Year For Breakups and Divorces

Does your relationship have a holiday hangover? Don’t let your relationship turn into a statistic! Take some advice from your online marriage counselor and learn how to turn 2016 into the best year ever for your marriage.

It’s time to deal with your relationship: Memories of the holiday meals and sparkly presents are fading into the distance. The brown pine needles have been vacuumed from the rug. But the hurt feelings, resentments, and disappointments? Hoo boy! NOW is the time of year when it finally feels safe to talk about the hard things that have happened over the last few months.

Holidays are wonderful, and there is lots to love. But they are also stressful, and they put uniquely difficult stressors on relationships. The cracks in every relationship strain around things like money, in-laws, setting limits with the kids, “being thoughtful,” who might be drinking too much or flirting with a certain someone at a holiday party, or all the unhelpful ways people cope with stress. Over the holidays, pressure gets put on all those cracks at the same time.

People cope the best they can. Many people, as they go through the holidays, say to themselves: “Just get through it, get through it, get through it.” The holidays are supposed to be happy right? So people keep the lid on the hard stuff. They smile when they feel like screaming, they stuff the disappointments, and they endure the annoyances. Silently. With mounting bitterness.

As any marriage counselor worth their salt will tell you, stuffing things only makes them fester and grow like warty mushrooms of resentment on your heart. So by the time you arrive in January, what you’ve been holding on to for the past month or two may feel like a really. big. deal.

Furthermore, nobody wants to open up a bunch or hard stuff right before the holidays. Certainly nobody wants to talk about breaking up. Couples who weren’t in a great place even before the holidays start to feel squeamish about dealing directly with their problems before all the family events and vacation plans. Married people “don’t want to scar their kids by ruining Christmas.” So they wait, stuffing their feelings and biding their time until the ball drops on a New Year. A new start. A new life.

And then they blindside their partners with talk of breaking up, or the “big D” in January.

Do Not Be Afraid of The January Relationship Crisis

Seriously. Use it to your advantage.

  • Use it as an opportunity to resolve issues, and make the changes that need to be made: This can be a “fresh start” for your relationship, just like your other goals and hopes for the new year.
  • Now is the time for a fresh start for your relationship: Talk about the things you haven’t been talking about. If you can’t talk about them productively, that’s normal too — that’s what marriage counselors and relationship coaches are here for. Get in touch and we can help you communicate, reconnect, and work through it productively.
  • Show your partner how much you love them by staying calm, and letting them know you’re willing to work on it. Practice listening non-defensively, and responding to their requests. Let them know you’re willing to do whatever it takes to work through it with them.
  • Educate yourself: I am re-releasing the podcast I created last year on this subject, “The January Relationship Crisis.” Listen to it to get deeper insight into what’s going on, and how you can work together to reconnect. While you’re there, browse around the other relationship podcasts I’ve made to learn more. (And if you like the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast please subscribe and leave a review!!)
  • Use the resources available to you: Sign up to get my free relationship advice freebie (below) and then check back here over the next few weeks for new posts on “How to Get Your Unwilling Partner to Go To Marriage Counseling,” “How to Deal With a Partner Who Shuts Down,” and “How to Deal With a Partner Who is Always Angry.” (Don’t miss these posts: Sign up for our monthly round up at the top right of this page and I’ll send them to you next month).

2016 could be the best thing that ever happened to your relationship. Facing challenges fearlessly, as a couple, is what will create a stronger, deeper connection than ever before. No one wants relationships to be over: They want them to be better. Embrace the “January Relationship Crisis.” This could be your chance to take your relationship to the next level.

Happy New Year!

Lisa

Listen Now: “The January Relationship Crisis” (Love, Happiness & Success Podcast Episode 63)

Music Credits: Ty Segall, “So Alone”

Contemplating Divorce? Don't Panic. It's just January.

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Subscribe to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast on iTunes. Please, rate and review if you enjoy the Podcast!