Letter to a bitter wife

How to have a good relationship
7th August, 2008

Dear Christine,

   Saving a sick marriage is a team effort.

   It is often the case that one partner's actions originally caused all the problems. All the same, those problems will then have caused everyone to act differently, and more important, see things differently. New habits arise on both sides. These are not only habits of action, but of thought, perception, emotion. And these new habits then get in the way of change.

   I don't have your view of the relationship between you and Jake, only his. However, the situation is very similar to what I have seen in many marriages. Also, my work is based on research -- you could fill a house with books written on couples therapy. So, I am pretty sure I understand what's going on, and how you and Jake can fix it. At the least, come and check out what I have to say.

   Briefly, people always believe that they and their partner are driven apart by issues. "If only Jake didn't drink, if only he spent more quality time with me, if only he did this and didn't do that... then we would have a hope." But research shows that those same issues are also there in working marriages in which all people in the family are reasonably content. The difference is in how the issues are handled. There are always disagreements between people. What counts is how people react to each other in dealing with the problems. You, Jake and I need to look at this: the style of relating to each other, resolving conflicts and having an emotional impact on each other.

   Look at it another way. If everything is Jake's fault, then you are powerless. You can only hope that he makes the changes you want. If he doesn't, or can't, then nothing is left but ending the marriage. However, if you both have responsibility for what went wrong, then you both have the power to improve things. Isn't it worth seeing where you may have power for good?

   There are four possible outcomes for you:

1. Reconciling, and building a good life for yourself with Jake.

2. Reconciling, and continuing in ongoing misery.

3. Separating, and then living a good life without him, perhaps finding another guy.

4. Separating, and then living in misery, repeating the patterns of the past.

   Which of these happens is not a matter of what you do, but of how you do it, how you think about the other person. Even if all the problems of the past are his doing, your reactions to him also need to change. Come and let's examine this. It will benefit you even if there is too much pain for the two of you to continue together. And it's the only hope of saving your marriage.

Sincerely,

Bob Rich

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