Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your column in the June 16 issue with great interest as I have faced similar challenges in my marriage. Baruch Hashem, through therapy, I have been able to see the positives in my husband and today we have a much closer relationship.
While I can’t know if the marriage of your letter-writer can be saved, I do think it’s a plus that her husband has acknowledged that he has a problem and is willing to be in therapy. It makes such a difference when both spouses can admit there is something wrong and can commit to doing what is necessary to make the marriage better.
Believe it or not, getting divorced is sometimes easier than taking the chance and going into therapy.
I wish this couple much hatzlacha and hope they have the success we have had.
Thank you for reaching out. You are correct that admitting there a problem is winning half the battle. Many men and women go to therapy alone because their spouse won’t admit that there is anything wrong. While this can be effective in certain situations, it can never be as successful as when both spouses are willing to do the work. Research has shown that admitting wrongdoing is the first and most important step to repairing a relationship and beginning to move on.
Once a couple is in therapy and is willing to work on their marriage, it is imperative that they try and focus on positive aspects. It is easy to get into a cycle in which the negative aspects of the marriage are focused on and discussed. But, if both spouses want to save the marriage, it’s crucial that they focus on each other’s positive traits. This will be the foundation of rebuilding their relationship. Once the focus is there, there will be a springboard from which to work on recreating their connection.
It’s very important to remember that trouble I a marriage can be just a rough patch. Yes, you are in a bad place right now, but if you’re willing to forgive your spouse and repair your marriage, the crisis will pass. It takes a lot of strength and hard work to rebuild a marriage; however, as you noted, it’s also very hard to be divorced. Furthermore, relationships in general are hard, so it will not necessarily be any easier making a new marriage work!
If there’s anything in the marriage that is worth saving (which is likely since you married each, and presumably liked each other to begin with), then there is a way to find happiness with each other again. Divorce is sometimes a necessity, but many times, the marriage can be saved.
Lastly, research has shown, and I have seen in my many years of working with couples, that conflict can lead to growth. It can deepen the relationship and help create a stronger bond between the spouses. As the saying goes, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Difficulties in a marriage can also help strengthen it. Of course, without the right intervention, difficulties can also end a marriage, but if there’s even a small chance that the marriage is worth saving, it’s absolutely worth trying.
Thank you for highlighting how helpful it is when a spouse is willing to admit his/her problems and tries to rectify them! You are correct that many spouses have a very hard time admitting there’s a problem and an even harder time admitting they need professional help. This is absolutely a giant step in the right direction. Hatzlocha!