BN Staff: Ran across this story, and it simply resonated. How many times have we been told we can catch more with honey than vinegar? Or all the management strategies that encourage leaders to accentuate the positive skills of the staff rather than trying to mold each member into a duplicate of themselves. This writer believes we can better our relationships by letting go of the caustic issues and focusing on the alluring, complementary characteristics and actions of your spouse. We must agree life gets easier when we aren’t stressing over the issues.
Marriage Fitness with Mort Fertel
If you’re reading about how to save your marriage, you’re probably expecting to learn problem-solving strategies, communication techniques, and insights about gender differences. Do I have a SURPRISE for you!
The key to renewing your marriage is NONE of those things.
How do I know this? Because I experienced it!
Unlike other relationship experts who approach the topic from a clinical perspective, for me saving and restoring marriages is also very personal. I’ve been where you are now. I’d like to share with you my story.
My wife and I started out deeply in love. I remember staying up all night talking, surprising each other with thoughtful gifts, and speaking to each other in code words. You know the feeling of really being connected? That was us.
But then something happened that destroys most marriages. We had a son who died when he was one week old. And then we had twin daughters, who also died as newborns.
Understandably, my wife became depressed. I coped by immersing myself in work. We ran from each other emotionally.
Your situation probably was not so tragic, but something happened. What was it? How did you lose each other? Maybe you can’t put your finger on it, but something is definitely not right. That’s common too.
For us, after losing 3 children, everything felt different. Instead of talking all night, it was a chore to talk for a few minutes. Instead of using our code words, we used curse words. Our relationship consisted of screaming matches and silent treatments.
Somewhere deep in our hearts though, like you we knew we didn’t want to lose each other. So we made a commitment to work on our marriage. Sometimes I tried and my wife didn’t. Sometimes my wife tried and I didn’t. We went through different stages of “trying.”
We tried the obligatory, “Honey, let me repeat what you said to make sure I understood you correctly.” We applied conflict resolution strategies. My wife learned about Mars and I learned about Venus. We even went to therapy to wrestle with our problems. But guess what? Nothing changed. Nothing worked.
All the advice (books, counselors, whatever) asked us to confront our problems. But that just made us feel worse. And fight more.
As long as the “right” way wasn’t working, why not be dysfunctional? So we tried to convince each other of our way. You’ve tried that too, right? Obviously, that doesn’t work.
Then we had a breakthrough.
We decided to SET ASIDE OUR PROBLEMS. We didn’t talk about them at all. We didn’t bring them up even once. Instead, we put our energy into trying to connect. We used certain relationship techniques that transformed our marriage. Not only did we resolve our differences; we fell in love again! And we did it not by dealing with our problems (as serious as they were), but by establishing new relationship habits that brought positive energy to our marriage.
This is the solution to most marital situations! Believe it or not, the secret is to STEP AWAY FROM YOUR PROBLEMS and spend your time and energy doing specific relationship building activities.
It’s counter-intuitive, but if you do this, most of your problems will dissipate, the threat of divorce will go away, and the other people invading your marriage will become irrelevant. Before you deal with your problems, you first have to build good will with your spouse. And this is doable even in the most difficult marital situations. If your marriage is stressed, do NOT tackle your problems. Stop talking about the affair, the attention you’re not getting, or whatever. If your timing is off, trying to solve your problems will damage your marriage and make it LESS LIKELY that you’ll ever find resolution.
It’s not about conflict-resolution or communication skills because these are NOT the key to saving a marriage. The key is NOT to fix what’s wrong. The key is to make new things right.
And there are, in fact, specific things you can do, with or without your spouse, to make things right in your marriage. Temporarily put aside the problems and issues that are weighing you down and make it possible for you to establish a new momentum in your marriage. It works for any marriage even if only one spouse does participates. And the best news is that you don’t have to dig into your past, dredge up your problems, or practice communication techniques. This is not marriage counseling; it’s Marriage Fitness.
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