Saving a Marriage
by Dr. John Luton
I can only think of two reasons why you might be doing a search on saving a marriage:
- Perhaps your own marriage is in trouble and you’re looking for counseling, or
- You’re trying to find information about saving a marriage so you can help someone you care about.
Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Read on and you’ll understand why.
Saving a Marriage ~ How to begin healing a relationship
First of all, I want to commend you for making the effort to save your marriage. This tells me that you’re a person who’s deeply committed to a long-term relationship. Saving a marriage is hard work, but it can be done.
As a pastoral counselor, I’ve talked to so many people who’ve been in your shoes. I’ve received calls from both husbands and wives who are extremely motivated to preserve marital relationships. Often, only one person is willing to go for marriage counseling. Can one person accomplish anything if your partner isn’t willing to work on the relationship? You bet! Here’s how.
Saving a Marriage ~ The Concept of Control
If you’re having marital trouble, the best advice I could possibly give to you is to learn the lesson of control: You cannot control another person; you can only learn to control your own behavior. Take this lesson to heart and you’ll begin to promote healing of your marriage relationship.
What does control have to do with saving a marriage? Everything!
No matter how much you might want the other person to change, you’re asking the impossible. Now, I’m not saying your partner doesn’t need to make any changes. He or she may indeed need to make some changes – maybe some drastic ones. All I’m saying is that you have absolutely no control over your partner’s behavior. You can only work on your own behavior in the relationship.
And that’s good news! Because you’re the one who’s willing to get to work, right?
Saving a Marriage ~ What can you do? Plenty!
After realizing there’s nothing you can do to change the other person, accept the fact that you probably need to make some changes yourself. And, as difficult as this may sound, the ability to bring about personal change lies within the realm of possibilities. It’s in your hands.
What kinds of changes? Let’s take a look at just a couple that can go a long way toward saving a marriage – your marriage.
Saving a Marriage ~ The Power of Words
First of all, you can work on the way you communicate with your spouse. For example, do you often find yourself saying things like, “You never give me any attention” or “You always belittle me”?
While both of these remarks may reflect valid criticisms of your spouse’s behavior, there are two problems with these kinds of statements:
When you start a sentence with “You …,” this will probably cause your partner to take a defensive posture – as if he or she is being attacked.
Instead, try beginning your sentences with “I” instead of “you.” This will give you an opportunity to “own” whatever sentiment or feeling you wish to express. An example might be: “I’m feeling a little left out,” or “I feel like I’m not very valuable right now.”
When you start your sentences with “I,” you reduce the likelihood of starting a fight because you haven’t put your partner on the defensive. By dealing specifically with your own feeling in a particular moment, you may find your spouse more willing to meet your need for attention and affirmation. Some couples have reported amazing results from using this simple communication technique.
A second problem with the above statements is that they contain the words “never” and “always.”
“Never” and “Always” statements are usually not true. Again, these words may put your partner on the defensive, and that’s probably not what you were trying to achieve. You were just asking for a need to be met. So, try to eliminate “never” and “always” from your vocabulary whenever you’re talking to your spouse.
Saving a Marriage can be well worth all the effort!
If the concepts of control and communication make sense to you, then I’m sure you’ll want to explore additional resources for more helpful advice.
Saving a marriage requires much hard work and many times – at least initially – that work must be accomplished by only one of the partners in a relationship. However, the blessing of restoring wholeness to a relationship is worth the effort.
For more information about saving a marriage, read Dr. H. Norman Wright’s book titled: “Communication: Key to Your Marriage,”
To learn more about the National Christian Counselors Association and its many course offerings, visit any of the following Web sites:
About the Author: Dr. John W. Luton
Before joining the mass communication faculty at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, Dr. Luton served as pastor of churches in Maryland and North Carolina for almost 20 years. He is a licensed clinical pastoral counselor with the National Christian Counselors Association and he holds the advanced certification.
Dr. Luton is also the primary author of Mastering Pastoral Counseling Utilizing Temperament, a Phase II course that is offered by the NCCA as part of its national licensure program for pastoral counselors. The course is also used in many seminaries and counselor training centers throughout the nation.
Growing up in northeastern North Carolina,
John Luton marveled as his father told stories about his
childhood and World War II adventures. Bluebird
in Belgium relates those wonderful stories.
Dr. Luton teaches world literature and
mass communication at Elizabeth City State University.
The Lutons have three grown children.