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Yes.  Plain and simple.  But, the bad news is that your marriage may not be worth saving.  It may be something that once provided comfort, love or joy but now provides the opposite. Like most people you still crave those comforts of a loving marriage.  The key is knowing if your current marriage is capable of providing that ever again.

Is your marriage really the problem?

Marital strife can drain you of the loving, cheerful spirit you once had.  It can make you miserable, damage your self-esteem and get in the way of your personal happiness.  But, who is responsible for your marriage stealing your happiness?

Could it be you?

There are ways to realize if your marriage is the root of your unhappiness or if your unhappiness is the reason your marriage is miserable.

Marriage is ultimately sustained with the support of two people.   If each spouse provides love, respect and maintains personal well-being and happiness then the marriage contributes to each of your lives.  If one or both spouses withdraw more than they provide by demonstrating mistrust, disrespect, anger, apathy or damaging behavior(s) then the marriage hinders your life and happiness.  

Is it me, you or us?

If your marriage is the primary problem then the good news is that you have found a source of your pain and can repair it or end it.  Depending on the nature of the problems, repair may be possible.  

This does not include doing nothing and continuing to withdraw from your marriage with blame, distrust, disrespect and apathy.  The marriage will only continue to destroy your life.  Only then you should blame yourself since you knew it needed your attention but you used it as a dumping ground and excuse for your unhappiness instead of revitalizing it. 

What should you do when the problem is primarily one spouse?

It's your problem

If you are the biggest problem in your marriage - marriage counseling, separating or divorce will only address secondary issues.  The primary personal problem and the root of your unhappiness will still exist.  Resolving your own issues may have a more positive impact on your relationship than dedicating your attention to only marital problems.

It's your spouse's problem

The same holds true for your spouse.  If he/she has a personal issue that has primarily contributed to your marriage problems, it needs individual attention before or simultaneous to marriage therapy.

Marriage and Individual Therapy

It depends on how serious each problem (personal or marriage) has become in your lives as to whether you and/or your spouse will focus on the personal problem first or both personal and marriage during the same time period.

Sometimes working on both at the same time (e.g. personal life coach and marriage counseling) is helpful.  Other times (e.g. addiction treatment) the primary issue requires significant attention for and by the individual who seeks care.  It's recommended the other spouse also seek separate, individual counseling if the issue(s) have affected the other spouse also. 

How to change a toxic marriage into something healthy and vibrant?  

Upon determining the marriage is the primary cause of your unhappiness and neither spouse has an immediate need for singular therapy or care, then you should determine if your marriage and spouse are worth fighting to keep.

Sometimes people feel obligated due to the needs of the other spouse, religion or money to stick with it.  They essentially throw obligatory intentions after bad love.  This is often mistake. 

A depressed and hopeless marriage often makes it's spouses depressed and hopeless too.  The longer they stay, the more damage it does to their family and individual lives.  Staying out of obligation or for fear of being alone only serves a failed unity at the expense of each spouse's personal happiness.  Without personal happiness, one's life is devalued.  A marriage should not have the power to devalue anyone's life.

If you or your spouse feels everything has been done to save the marriage but it's still taking more from either of you than it provides, a divorce may be the only option to eventual personal happiness.  This is not always a mutual consensus.  But, if one spouse feels it's over, in most cases, it's over.  The longer it takes for the other spouse to accept that, the more pain he/she will realize.

However, if you and your spouse love each other, but have recently begun to not "like" each other, behaviors or actions, (putting your love at risk), then it's possible, with attention and dedication, to save the marriage.

Ask a therapist

The obvious place to start saving your marriage is to realize what you are doing independently to sabotage your own personal happiness.  A neutral and trained professional can encourage you to explore the pathways to your unhappiness in an effort to cut them off and redirect yourselves towards positive channels.  

This may not preclude the fact that your relationship with your spouse may be what's making you unhappy.  But, it does mean that you can only be responsible for your own life and happiness. 

You can’t control what someone else does, thinks, feels or wants even when you feel he/she is the one who is wrong.

Determine the main problem 

Once you realize the root of your unhappiness you can better determine how much your unhappiness is damaging your marriage as opposed to how much your marriage is contributing to your unhappiness.  Remember, at this stage of your problems you will be experiencing a little of both, but one will be more significant than the other. 

You must be honest with your spouse about your feelings, goals and desires and your spouse must do the same in order to understand the problem and effectively deal with it.

Common marital breakdown

Often when two spouses struggle to get along, the marriage begins to implode.   Marriage withdraws are beginning to supersede deposits.  Communication continues to break down, walls go up.  The divide breeds as the anger, mistrust and heartbreak multiply.   Eventually, these dividers surpass the good aspects of the marriage.  

Soon, both spouses are feeling the overwhelming drain of their individual happiness.  Since communication is hindered, many spouses replace verbal reassurance, affection and compassion with angry thoughts, blame and sadness.  

This stage of divide brings an inevitable defensiveness that makes it practically impossible to recognize individual fault or happiness. After all, if you don’t know what's wrong, how can you make it right and therefore, provide your spouse and yourself happiness.  You can not positively provide for your marriage when you can not do so for yourself.  Often, each spouse initially focuses on the other's faults rather than his/her own issues that fail to provide for the relationship. 

Marriage Improvement Action Plan

Deal with your problems 

If your problem begins with you and you're willing to work to resolve them, the good news is that your marriage has a good chance of survival.  It will help for your spouse to be included in your therapy or solutions to address the problem(s).  Sharing issues and allowing your spouse to be a part of the solution is definitely a positive contribution to your marriage and provides you the support you need to get back to life and marriage satisfaction.

Your spouse should deal with his/her problems

If the problem is with your spouse and your spouse is unwilling to make changes based on your opinions and feelings, you can encourage therapy in an effort to enlist a trained and neutral third party to encourage changes.   Make sure your spouse is part of selecting the therapist, if possible.

If he/she is unwilling to go to therapy or make changes that you believe are damaging your relationship, then you will need to make serious decisions about the future of your marriage. 

If your spouse agrees to make changes for his/her betterment and your marriage, you should be patient and supportive.  Do not expect immediate improvements.  You should be involved in the changes in order to realize the greatest success.

What get's fixed first?

When both the marriage and your personal issues are creating havoc in your life you should fix your personal stuff first (unless the marriage problems are intertwined with your own issues). If the personal problem is serious and/or life threatening, the marriage should not be the primary concern.  A professional should be consulted in order to guide you based on your individual circumstances. 

Sometimes living apart can bring you closer together

When working on your own issues, in some cases, a legal separation from your spouse may be helpful so that you both can work independently on yourselves without the daily pressure to get along with each other. 

Make a plan

Develop a new action plan for reconciliation that details the boundaries of the separation and maximum time allocated for it's success. Have a local attorney put together the legal side of it to dictate the support, housing and custody arrangements, when applicable.  If things go right with therapy and “life recharging”, reconciliation is absolutely possible.


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