Thursday, July 14, 2016


Q. My marriage is miserable. We love each other but we can’t talk to each other. My wife and I argue constantly. We have been to counseling and it did no good. We’ve separated and reconciled a couple of times also. I’m ready to throw in the towel. Isn’t it better to have a good divorce than a bad marriage?

A. No it is not. There is no such thing as “a good divorce” though there may be some necessary divorces when abuse or violence are the rule. Divorce tears apart families, hurting children and extended family as well as the couple themselves.
Many couples as well as many in the helping professions - counselors and clergy alike, have become resigned to the idea that divorce is inevitable. This is not true. In an article in Strengthening Marriages, a newsletter from the Marriage Coalition, Judith A. Charlick, Ph.D. says, “Most people do not divorce because of a bad marriage with mental or physical abuse, alcohol or drug problems! They report that they have grown apart and can’t communicate well. Marriage skills can increase marital happiness and prevent many divorces.”
Similarly, in the same newsletter, the Reverend Christian Just is dismayed that many clergy often view divorce as inevitable. He says, “Not so......We can fix them! We don’t have to tell people to “stick it out” in unhappy and conflicted marriages; we can help them find the tools to make their marriages fulfilling, sustaining and joyous.” 
How is this possible? Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, says, “The idea is that love and marriage are actually skill-based propositions.” Sollee compares it to football in which we send a couple out to win with only love and commitment. “That’s like asking a football team to win on team spirit.- ‘for the Gipper’ but not teaching them any plays or signals. The basis for smart marriage is exciting new research that finds that what is different about marriages that make it - that go the distance and stay happy - are behaviors or skills.” Easy to learn skills!
I recommend you and your wife take a class together to learn the skills needed to make marriage work. Many churches are now offering weekly or weekend courses to help couples. One of these programs for building marriages is The Third Option.
The educational portion of The Third Option teaches couples skills necessary for a contented marriage and offers insight into the cause of problems. These are presented in an interactive way with skits, stories and demonstrations. This often gives couples a new model for understanding their relationship. They also learn that every marriage takes effort throughout life - just as any sport does.
A unique feature of The Third Option is the use of "Sharing Couples" who have had problems and worked things out. These couples share in a very open, vulnerable way the hurt and pain they have experienced and overcome in their own marriages. They also share the important role their faith has played in their reconciliation. Couples who come to the program do not need to talk about their problems in the group. The focus is on solutions and self-change. A number of couples say they would not be together today if it had not been for The Third Option.

I suggest you find a group where you can learn and practice communication skills. The Third Option, Marriage Encounter, and Weekend to Remember are three possible educational groups. A Christian counselor can also see you together to work on these issues. Also, read together Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas or Making Love Last Forever by Garry Smalley. Also see my blogs on Communication in Marriage.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Proverbs 3:3

Blessings, Dottie

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