“I thought my marriage was OK”. This was the lament of a young man who came in with his wife to see me for coaching. A couple of months ago his wife informed him that she has been unhappy in their marriage for about five years and now is thinking about leaving. How could they have such drastically different perspectives on their marriage?

The simple answer is really bad communication. In reality, things are never quite so simple. The problems in this relationship stem from multiple issues, including how they have dealt with past experiences, differences in how they think, how they are motivated, and how they deal with emotions. They also have not learned how to understand and meet one another’s basic needs.

I remember feeling lost and confused in my marriage at different points in time. It is not easy to work through tough times. However, the rewards of pushing through and hanging in there can be great. For example, my wife and I recently had a great visit with our daughter and her husband and our wonderful granddaughter. Seeing the next generation living healthy and happy lives is sweet indeed. These are the good times.

For the young couple in my office there is hope. They have finally started to confront their problems and really talk to each other. Even though telling the truth hurts, it is a necessary part of recovery. If you are in a hard place in your marriage right now please don’t give up before you do everything you can to work it out. Imagine yourself happily married for 40 years and reaping the rewards of enduring love. Hold unto that thought and make it happen.

Here are a few tips:
1. Decide to be happy and make marriage your priority
2. Share your honest thoughts and feelings with your partner. Not “you make my life miserable”, but “this is what is going on with me right now”.
3. Find out what is most important to your partner today. If you listen to the feedback openly you will hear the themes. What is the underlying need, fear, or pain that is being communicated?
4. Once you know what is most important, sincerely try to respect and meet the need or concern with love as consistently as possible.

Give not in order to receive but to become capable of giving more. Love generates love.

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