Working On Your Marriage: How To Help A Failing Marriage

Although we experience many challenges in life, one of the most challenging experiences you can ever go through is a marriage at the brink of collapse. Chances are that you will be thinking of ways of saving your marriage from breaking down. Your family is something that is worth fighting for, otherwise all you have invested in it - time-wise and emotionally among others - will have been wasted. Unfortunately, you may be at a loss as to what you should do.

There are four important measures that suffice to change the tide so that your marriage can get back to shape once more. Here are the things you should not take for granted.

Fight fairly

Fighting fairly is something that many people in marriage relationships do not give much weight. You may have been talking about one simple matter, only for the discussion to turn to heated argument about many other things that you were not dealing with at that moment. This just results in lots of confusion and resentment. You should stick to the issue at hand and avoid personal attacks.

Every day brings a new start

You should learn not to bring yesterday's baggage into today's journey. Start afresh every day by ensuring that you forgive mistakes of the previous day sincerely and forget them before that day ends.

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Understand that affection is not a weapon

Many married people tend to turn affection into a weapon for 'punishing' their partners when things go sour. When there is a problem, they withdraw their affection. If you really want to heal your relationship, you should do the opposite. This is when you should be even more affectionate.

You should understand that men and women view affection differently. Men seek for affection more through physical gestures while women tend to focus more on verbal affirmations. When a husband avoids talking with his wife, he is turning affection into a weapon. On the other hand, a wife will do the same by avoiding physical contact - even sleeping separately, or at least changing positions!

Unfortunately, couples do not realize that when affection turns to a weapon, it comes with double edges, and they end up cutting themselves too.

Avoid the blame game

You should understand that each of you has personal weaknesses. You should not start pointing fingers whenever your spouse commits a mistake. Even worse, you may blame your partner for something that you are actually responsible for. When you spend time blaming each other, you will have no time to correct the mistakes, and you will just create more tension.

You should instead learn to own up to your mistakes and accept full responsibility. Then you should seek for the best solution. These measures will help you to save your marriage before it falls apart.

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Betty and Brian were pronounced atheists, and had been since they were teenagers. So when her Catholic family and his Jewish family protested about their marriage, they laughed at the small-mindedness of their parents and threw themselves a huge wedding bash.

Lisa and Leon knew one thing for certain--they didn't want children. It was nice enough being an aunt or an uncle--for an hour or less [or at least Lisa thought so; Leon thought any child exposure was a threatening, almost as if fatherhood were catchy]--but bringing up one of those? Not a chance.

And Kreindel and Kalman were orthodox Jews, raised steeped in the holy tradition. After a separate-seating marriage ceremony, they settled down to the task of building a having children, and building a holy home, spiritually speaking.

But things change.

I mean, just look at Mitt Romney. Sure, abortion's fine if you're not running for president in a highly conservative field. But sometimes Mitt, like all of us, has to re-think things. So, he said, sometimes he's wrong [fancy that]. So, he said, "I changed my mind."

Well, if Mitt can, can't Betty and Lisa and Kalman? I mean, everyone's doing it.

So Betty decided, when it was time for her oldest child to go to school, that she wasn't as much of an atheist as she'd thought--still mostly atheist, she assured Brian, most of the time--and she just couldn't deny her children the opportunity to grow up in the Catholic tradition as she had. Not Mass every Sunday or anything like that, not confession ("I mean, come on," she said, "seriously?"), but a good grounding in Catholic dogma--and of course Easter and Christmas Mass. "I mean, who could deprive their kids of Christmas, honey?" she asked, as Brian pondered if he'd been deprived all his life and came down firmly on the side of 'no.' And the very basis of their marriage, their firm belief in themselves as the final arbiters, was dissolved, as quickly as you can say, "Where's the enrollment deposit?"

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And Lisa? Well, Lisa held firm for a good long time, through her early and late twenties, and even her early thirties. And then, at her thirty-fifth birthday, she felt that it was now or never, that she would never have another chance to make up for it if she didn't have children now. In short, she changed her mind. And she had reproductive technology on her side, for when she tried to convince Leon of the rightness of her ways and received a firmly negative response, she just stopped taking the pill. And there you have it--Leon, who had firmly wanted his whole life to have as little to do with children as possible, was now a father-to-be.

And lest I leave Kreindel unscathed, let me tell you what happened to her. Kalman and Kreindel lived a beautiful, observant--if impoverished--life, each fulfilling his or her respective duties in prayer, Sabbath-observance, modesty, and study. Happily fulfilling those duties, Kreindel believed, until Kalman informed her--five children and a heavy mortgage into the marriage--that he couldn't keep up the facade any longer. He couldn't pray three times a day in shule, couldn't pore for hours over his Talmud for his meager stipend, couldn't keep the Sabbath restrictions. If Kreindel were to be honest with herself, she had seen it coming. But she had tried to ignore Kalman's increasing dissatisfaction, since the Kalman's beliefs and actions were woven into the very fabric of her existence. Kalman said he would stay in the marriage if he could be free of what was becoming more and more of a burden to him--or he would understand if Kreindel wanted a divorce. The choice was hers.

These are just a few of the innumerable stories of marriages where the fundamental tenets are broken by one spouse. The other spouse is left with this alternative: stay in the marriage, or betray his or her beliefs and lifestyle.

Any ideas?

Well, your spouse pulled that old Mitt Romney, "I changed my mind" on you, and now you don't even recognize your own marital territory.

It's hard--and my heart goes out to you.

But before you make any decisions, I think you need to get over your righteous indignation. Yes, you're right that it's unfair--it really is. But so, as they've been telling us for years, is life, so you've lost the sympathy card.

I guess I would tell you to ask yourself, "Am I willing to take an adventure into this new world? Is this a journey I could check out?"

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Perhaps this is just the beginning of a new world, one that, true, you never thought you wanted, but one that just might turn out to be rewarding. It's possible that Leon is so unwilling to act as a father, and is so hurt by Lisa's changing of the ground rules, that divorce is his best option. But it's also possible that Leon, if he thinks it through, might just like his own child better than his dreadful nieces.

There are some situations that it's likely you can't live with-- perhaps a spouse who's a heavy drug-user and brings all her junkie friends into the house to use while the kids are around. Ok, then you should go. But could you live with raising your children against your religion, or with being an active father when you've never wanted children? You have to decide these things for yourself.

There are two other points I'd like to make. One is that, no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, and even if you threaten--and proceed with--divorce--your old spouse isn't coming back. You need to get that idea out of your head, and you need to internalize your loss before you make your decision about whether to stay or go. If Kreindel is only staying with Kalman because she thinks one day he'll re-religious himself, she may want to re-think her position.

Finally, you should probably consider if it's worth going. Does your leaving the marriage help anything? In the example where your wife is a heavy drug-user, getting out can get you out of a horrible situation, and you can save your kids as much as the law lets. But even if Brian walks, his children will still be raised Catholic, so is his sense of betrayal so great that he simply can't stand to remain with his wife? Or is he perhaps better off working through his indignation and hurt, and adjusting to the changed circumstances as much as possible?

I suggest you think about these things when you ask yourself should you stay or should you go.

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What constitutes intimacy in a relationship? Is it having great sex once a day? Is it being romantically involved? It could be those things, but intimacy is sharing yourself with the one you love because you trust them and you appreciate them. Sex alone is not what makes intimacy. Romance alone is not what makes intimacy. But if you put romance, sex, respect, honesty, communication, and appreciate into the equation and you balance those areas out in the marriage that could very well constitute intimacy in marriage.

To feel close to the person you married, you first have to trust them. That includes knowing that they are there for you if you need them. An intimate relationship is a supportive one. When you appreciate, and encourage the person you love on a consistent basis you are forming an intimate bond. Rejecting your spouse in any way is pulling away at those trust levels that marriage so much needs. Couples need and want to feel secure and emotionally involved with their partner.

It is quite ironic that couples feel closer and more loving towards each other the more they give of themselves in the marriage. Intimacy is not something that just happens, it is made. It takes two to become intimate, and it takes two to bring and maintain intimacy in the marriage. If only one is working towards being close and the other is pulling away from getting close, then intimacy will not happen.

In marriage or in any relationship if you want to be intimate and share a close bond with the person you love, then the effort most definitely has to be put into it. Intimacy is communicating on a deeper level than just talking about the weather and "what's for dinner"? Many couples take this area of the relationship for granted. They do not realize that their marriage actually thrives on intimacy.

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Not sharing closeness with the one you are married to is one of the underlying reasons for infidelity in marriage, not just physically, but emotionally as well. And this brings me to communication in marriage. Emotional infidelity is becoming the new fad. It starts out innocent enough, but having an emotional involvement with someone other than your spouse is dangerous to the marriage. Couples do not need to go looking for someone who understands and appreciates them. All they really need to do is to be open and honest in their conversation with the person they married.

Communicating on an open and honest level is a part of intimacy. So it is very important to learn proper communication skills on that level. There are two different ways we communicate with our spouse. Productive communication brings something into the relationship to help couples to know and understand each other. From the communication below, ask yourself what you could learn from each other.

"I like it when you touch me there?" "I feel it easier to tell you my true feelings when you don't discount my feelings" "When you reject me, I don't feel very close with you." "I felt hurt last night when you made fun of me in front of our guests." "Please do not make jokes about me in front of our friends." "I would like it if you would try and come home earlier at night, but if your job keeps you working late so you can take care of us, I understand." "I would like it if you would not wear that skimpy shirt anymore. I want you all to myself, and I don't think it is a good idea having other men stare at your breasts." "I want to protect you, that is one of the ways I feel that I am loving my wife." "Could you please not cook spinach soufflé anymore, I just don't like it, but everything else you cook for us is wonderful."

This kind of communication is productive because it is open and honest. If you happen to say something negative always say something positive in the same sentence too. Productive communication brings couples closer together because they are opening up to each other. And this is what you want in marriage. It is my belief that couples have productive talks a couple of times a week. These communications keep you updated and emotionally involved with the person you married, which couples thrive on for an intimately satisfied marriage.

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