Need marriage help? Let the bells go cling-a-clang!

SOS! No, make that SOM – save our marriage.

When we have a tummy upset, we reach out for over-the-counter aspirin. But when that tummy upset becomes chronic and is depriving us of quality of life, we ask for a prescription drug. Then if the aspirin and the antibiotics don’t work and we’re all “messed up” inside, our next stop is the emergency ward. Thus begins a long path to recovery and wellness.

Marriage help is similar to getting help for your tummy ache. You have an argument one day and it gets you all knotted up. Instead of reaching for medicine chest, you either go out and take a walk and let off steam or you begin a dialogue with your spouse.

It’s essential though that you know the difference. An afternoon argument is no reason to run amok during the family reunion crying, “we need marriage help, help, help!” Keep your fights private. If you eventually kiss and make up and decide 24 hours later that it was another of those silly quarrels, there is no need to call the Coast Guard, okay?

However, if that argument repeats itself and you’re re-hashing the old accusations, then maybe a stronger dose might solve it. By a stronger dose we’re suggesting having a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse. If that fails, you have a contingent of support persons to mobilize.

Marriage Help: Count on Loved Ones

If you feel you need to talk about your feelings and insecurities, you can turn to these support persons:

  • Your best friend
  • Your sister-in-law (or mother-in-law if you get along just fine)
  • Your sister, brother or older cousin
  • Your parish priest
  • Your parents

We’re sure they will have good advice to offer and it’s up to you to filter through that advice and test which one will work. Sometimes when there are bumps in the marriage, a third party’s input might be more objective. In fact, much as it is embarrassing, your own parents would know exactly what you’re going through and will be able to empathize. When they listen to you talk and vent out your frustration, they might come out and say, “oh goodness, your mother and I had the same problem when you guys were just little!” So what may seem like a mountain to you is actually just a molehill to someone else; parents somehow seem to know best.

Needing marriage help, however, is something that not all of us are prepared to share with family. It is a delicate matter, and one that’s certainly very private. If the “state of the union” is not working like it used to, then the next step would be a professional counselor. It goes without saying that you need to consult someone who is experienced and who has had the proper training. We’ve heard of stories where counselors gave advice that made the marriage spiral down further. This is the last thing you need – an inept, unfeeling counselor – because what you need urgently is good marriage help. We’re not saying that counselors are all the same. A significant number of them have helped marriages – saved them in fact – and may have all the tools to put at your disposal so you can find the solution without much difficulty.

Marriage Help: Leaving Your Comfort Zone

One counselor who has met with numerous couples said that there is one thing he learned from his varied experiences. Individuals who led a very sheltered life and didn’t have many problems while they were young may not fully be aware of the hazards that marriage brings. Because of their sheltered upbringing, they are not used to dealing with life’s detours. When panic sets in they feel they’re at a stalemate in their marriages. Some sheltered individuals also tend to “look the other way” and pretend that nothing is wrong with the marriage.

He often tells spouses to step outside of their comfort zones if they want to grow and learn from their marriage. Living a daily routine eventually defines our personalities and the approach we take towards our problems. Very few people welcome drastic change in their lives, because it feels better to stick to routine, since “nothing is going to challenge us or our marriage.”

This comfort zone concept should not only apply in our marriage but in different aspects of our lives: work, community, church and social networks. “Why rock the boat” is frequently expressed by people who desperately cling to their comfort zones. Well, no risk, no gain. No discomfort and no pain equal stagnation. We mentally stagnate; before we know it, we’re trapped in our own stagnation.

The counselor explained that stepping outside the zone can seem like a scary undertaking, but these are the times in our lives that our capability to learn increases immeasurably. We transform our latent potential into dynamic ones, and during the process, our own abilities to cope even surprise us.

Marriage Help? Chin Up!

Transitioning from marital crisis to marital bliss is a long road ahead, but it can be done. It always takes two to tango and if both husband and wife are willing to explore the bad and good spots of their marriage with a third party, they’ll get to their destination – even if along the way all hope seems futile. Push yourself some more, feel more pain, and then tap that inner strength in you.

Marital problems don’t have to be viewed as problems. They should be regarded as lesson plans that can be referred to again when the same dilemmas crop up in the future. Neil Armstrong – the first man on the moon – said that arriving in the most mysterious corner of the universe felt like a giant leap for mankind. It’s the same in marriage. By taking little steps, we can take a gigantic leap – but it has to be a leap out of our comfort zone.

Even success coaches remind us every now and then about the glass is half full/half empty thinking. Attitude with a capital A!

Marriage Help to Go?

We vowed to stay away from fast food long time ago but once in awhile we like to indulge by having a generous helping of chicken wings. The greasier those wings are, the keener our taste buds become. Devouring those crisp little wings makes us remember the words of Dr. Ayala Pines who wrote the book, Keeping the Spark Alive: Preventing Burnout in Love and Marriage (1988). “The difference, of course, has to do with the balance between wings and roots. Couples who grow wings when the relationship has no roots (achieve individual self-actualization without their mate’s involvement and support, and without the security of a deep commitment to the relationship) end up flying away from each other, because there is nothing to root them and hold them together. On the other hand, couples who grow only roots (deep commitment and security) without developing wings end up locked in a stifling relationship feeling trapped, hopeless and helpless.”

When wings and roots don’t balance and that imbalance begins to erode the quality of our relationship, that’s when we could all use marriage help. Admitting we need it is not going to earn us any condemnation. We ought to be congratulated for acknowledging our failure and seeking help. It shows our commitment to our spouse and to the relationship.

Most of all, it shows character.

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