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How We Saved Our Failing Marriage

Paul: We just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary and we’ve never been happier. But it wasn’t always that way. Around year 7 of our marriage, we began to struggle. And we did what so many married couples do – ignored the warning signs telling ourselves things were not that bad. We swept issues between us under the rug and after another 5 years of sweeping there was no more room under the rug! We were just roommates co-existing in the same household each playing our respective roles.

Steph: Somehow, we had lost the intimacy between us and couldn’t see a way out of our deep despair and disillusionment. We still cared deeply for each other, but our situation seemed hopeless. We mutually decided at year 12 to separate. We found out later that less than 30% of couples who separate reconcile and stay married. [1]  Most get divorced.

We’d like to share with you how we managed to climb out of the immense hole we had dug for ourselves. It started with a commitment to give our best effort to make our marriage work for us and for our children.

Paul:  First, we found a marriage and family therapist (MFT). I will admit that I placed no hope or faith in this step. I decided to go for only one reason – so that I could look my parents and our children in the eye and tell them I “tried.” Fortunately, we found the right counselor. We had no idea back then that 60% of MFT’s are “marriage-neutral” with no vested interest in helping couples stay together. They simply want to help couples “move-on,” regardless of whether that’s toward reconciliation or divorce. 
Take-Away: When searching out marital counseling, find a therapist who is pro-marriage and committed to helping you make your marriage work. [2]

Helpful Reading
Steph: We also began reading books on marriage and communication. Some notable standouts are: Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus by John Gray  The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman; and The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. While we read other books together, these three made the most tangible difference for us. 
Take-Away: Find reading material that is time-tested and reliable.

Marriage Enrichment
Paul: After working hard on our relationship for several years, we were in a much better place and decided to  attend a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend. This decision has had the single most positive and enduring impact on our marriage. This is not a weekend away at the mountains or the beach, but an organized program designed to help take couples deeper into intimacy. We learned key concepts such as: love is a decision that we must make over and over again and that healing and forgiveness are essential in any relationship. We learned a communication technique where we share our feelings daily to foster more intimate communication between us and so much more. Now, we make it a point to attend some kind of marriage enrichment event at least once per year. 
Take-Away: Find a Marriage Encounter weekend near you right now – while your marriage is still good! [3]

Steph: Our journey from disillusionment to joy is the beautiful “work” of marriage – work that is ongoing. If you have an experience that was helpful in saving your marriage, please share it with us in the comments below. 


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