Our thoughts are powerful.
I remember the thoughts that caused me to leave my marriage ten years ago.
Those same thoughts fueled the affair I ended up having.
And I’m reminded of those messages every time I spend time with a guy in crisis, because what he’s telling himself are the same things I told myself.
There’s nothing new under the sun. I see that everyday as a marriage coach. The same thoughts that nearly destroyed my marriage are destroying marriages all over the place.
Don’t be a statistic. If you’re thinking any of these thoughts, let me assure you you’re not alone, but also give you some important perspective you need to understand.
Change in my marriage isn’t possible.
Oh how I remember feeling this. It really feeds a feeling of hopelessness. Here’s what I want you to know, though. This thought isn’t true. If all you’re doing is complaining (either to yourself or to your spouse), your marriage won’t change. If all you’re doing is stewing on the inside and growing bitter, your marriage won’t change. If all you’re doing is being passive and not taking action, your marriage won’t change.
However, if you’ll communicate your unhappiness and desire for change AND find a marriage coach or counselor to help you, CHANGE IS ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE. It’s okay to tell your spouse you’ve actually entertained leaving so they understand the seriousness of your communication. There is hope! With God, all things are possible.
Marriage should be easier than it is.
Oh man…this is one that can still ring in my ears if I’m not careful! I’m always looking for the easy button and believe that things should be easier than they are. Let me tell you that all relationships are hard work. You have to invest in relationships–you can’t put them on the backburner of life and expect them to thrive.
Should temptation enter the scene with another relationship, it will seem as if THIS is your answer. That’s because it’s exciting and new and fresh. You’re not living day to day with this person. You’re not sharing money with this person. You’re not raising children with this person. You’re not cleaning up puke at 2am with this person.
I was absolutely sure another relationship was the answer until it went on long enough to begin to have the same kinds of conflict my wife and I had. At that point I began to see that my thinking was skewed and that I was just trading out the hard of one relationship for the hard of another relationship.
I’ve lived for everyone else, now it’s time for me to do what I want.
I felt that I’d lived a life of obligation, commitment, and meeting everyone else’s expectations. That made me bitter and resentful. I truly felt that my marriage was a big part of the problem and if I let go of that, life would be better. And it was…but only for a little while. I entered into another relationship sure that was the answer…until it wasn’t.
I experienced “happiness” for a time but that was also fleeting. That’s when I realized that I took someone with me–and that was me! I had a skewed perspective. I had unrealistic expectations. Like the old country song, “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”
As my wife and I worked to rebuild our relationship, I found that I could be true to myself in my marriage. My wife didn’t keep me from that–the “pleaser” in me kept me from that. Sure there were some dynamics between my wife and I that needed to be addressed that fed that lie, but once we both understood those dynamics, we changed them and in our 2.0 relationship I’m free to be me!
The kids will be okay.
I was absolutely sure of this one. Three of my five kids were young adults in their twenties and two were teens still at home. I figured they would understand. They were old enough to be okay. They might be upset at first, but they would get over it.
Here’s what I discovered: no matter how old you are, you are deeply affected by divorce. My kids responses hit me between the eyes. Still I pushed forward in leaving and they were not okay.
Your kids will NOT be okay. Will they adjust to a new reality? Probably. Will they trust you like they did before? Probably not. Will their heart ever fully heal from you leaving? It’s unlikely. It will always be a place of brokenness in their story that will affect their own relationships in ways both you and they are likely to not understand. Don’t believe this lie for one minute. It will affect the kids–and future generations–in huge ways.
Jill and I sit across from couples in crisis several weekends a month at our Hope Renewed Marriage Intensives and individuals whose parents have divorced talk about the pain, the lies, and the struggles they’ve had in their life from their parents’ divorce. Some of those experienced divorce in childhood and still others have parents who divorced after they were adults. No matter the age…pain is experienced and hearts are affected.
I’m tired of being parented and controlled.
I hear this from a lot of the guys I sit across from. I get it. I thought that too. Did I communicate that to my wife in an honest, respectful way? Nope. I stewed about it on the inside. When it happened, I told myself I was just letting it slide, but actually bitterness was pooling in my heart.
Most women don’t know when they are “parenting” their spouse, but with help they can learn. With respectful, honest communication from you and a marriage coach or counselor, they can begin to identify the thinking that fuels their parenting tone of voice and actions. You can also learn the things you unknowingly do to contribute to her frustration. New relating patterns can be formed in your relationship that take “parenting” and control out of the mix! Admit it…you’ve gotten off course a bit, but you can get back on course. It’s worth the work to course correct the relationship!
I don’t love my spouse any more.
I get it. I really do. The feelings in marriage come and go. That’s a normal part of relationships. Here’s what I’ve learned though: our thoughts fuel our feelings. If all of my thoughts about my spouse are negative, my feelings follow. If all I think about is my spouse’s shortcomings, my feelings follow. However, if I begin to think about ways I’m grateful for my spouse, my feelings follow. If I think about things my spouse positively brings to my life, my feelings follow. Whatever you think, you will feel.
The Bible talks about “taking our thoughts captive” (2 Cor 10:5) This is a discipline we can learn to do that helps us push our thoughts–and our feelings–to a different place than they currently are. Don’t leave your marriage because you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling. You owe it to yourself, your spouse, and your kids to do the mental work of loving.
I remember the day that I prayed and ask God to show me how to love Jill like He loves me. That was a game-changer my friend because I realized that I had only been loving my wife based upon what I would get out of it. That is selfishness and doesn’t do well in a marriage relationship.
My spouse doesn’t hear me or care what I think.
When we’ve been in a relationship for a long time, unhealthy patterns form without us even realizing it. One spouse can begin to feel dominated by the other. The domineering spouse unknowingly minimizes the passive spouse’s thoughts and feelings. This contributes to the slow fade of minimizing we talk about in our No More Perfect Marriages book. Another relationship or even leaving the relationship isn’t the answer. Untangling the bad relational habits you’ve formed is the answer.
I’m never enough.
If I had a quarter for every person who’s told me this, I’d be a rich man. Maybe your spouse has a critical spirit or maybe you view any form of feedback as criticism. Regardless of what fuels this thought in your relationship, the root of it probably was inside of you before you ever said, “I do.” The foundations of our identity are laid in our childhood. The relational dynamics of our relationship with our parents and other authority figures pave the way for how we think about ourselves. If those dynamics were positive, your identity foundation will serve you well. If those dynamics were negative (as they were for me), you have a shaky foundation for your identity and you may need to do some identity demolition and remodeling.
If you’re a guy, it’s entirely possible that you feel confident in the business world and you don’t feel like enough at home. The answer isn’t leaving the relationship at home, it’s exploring what lies you’ve believed about yourself relationally for years. It’s digging into what you’ve used to feel good about yourself outside of God.
Don’t walk away. Don’t believe the lies. Don’t give into feelings of hopelessness. Leaving isn’t the answer.
Do have the courage to be honest. Do learn to speak up in a respectful way. Do have the humility to seek help. Do have the faith to believe that with God all things are possible. And if you’re struggling with the faith piece of the journey, that’s okay. God can handle your doubt and questions.
We crashed at 28 years of marriage and nearly became a statistic. Now we getting ready to celebrate our 38th anniversary and I’m here to tell you it was worth every investment of time and money we made.
If you want someone who understands to walk beside you and guide the way, we’d love to coach you and help you find the change and success you’re looking for. You might also consider our Hope Renewed Marriage Intensive.
If you’d like Jill and I to walk alongside both of you, we’d be honored to do that as well. Yes, you’ll need to invest your time and money, but it’s an investment that will make a difference for generations to come!
NOTE: We are committed to helping good marriages become great and hurting marriages find hope and help. Destructive marriages, however, require different resources and leaving may be necessary. Physical or emotional abuse is dangerous. If you’re in an abusive relationship, please get to a safe place and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can learn more about destructive/toxic marriages here.