“Bro. Brad,” the female client started. “I am so tired of fighting in my marriage. It seems that we fight about everything, from what we are going to eat for supper to what we watch on TV and everything else. It all started a few months ago when my husband decided he just didn’t want to be married to me any more. He told me that the spark was gone and I freaked out!” At this point, she began to cry. I asked her, “how long have you been married?” “8 years,” she replied. I asked her to tell me some of the ways her marriage got off course. She then began to tell me her story.
As I listened to her share her side of the story, I began thinking about how she might be able to make a difference in her marriage even if her husband didn’t choose to come to counseling. She didn’t want a divorce…She just did not have a clue of what she might be able to do in order to “save” her marriage.
This scenario might sound familiar to you. Maybe you have actually felt this way or have had this experience. Possibly you have heard someone tell you something similar to this. What do you do when you are in a marriage that is full of animosity and conflict but only one wants to get help through counseling? There are several things for you to do that can make an impact.
- PRAY. I believe that God has a solution to all of our problems. We have to seek Him for direction in handling our problems. Also, He ordained marriage in the very beginning. He wants your marriage to flourish. He wants to be in the center of it. Invite Him in. He will work on you as well as your marriage.
- Evaluate what you have done RIGHT in the marriage. In most cases, no one is totally wrong about everything. As the old saying goes, “A broken clock is right twice a day.” It is very important that you have an honest evaluation of your behavior in the relationship. I like to encourage people to start with what is right. Starting with the positive helps the picture to not look so dark. Think about your actions, your attitudes, and your attributes that have contributed to what has been good, pleasant, fulfilling, and right in the number of years that you have been married. Make an actual list. Write it out on a piece of paper and refer to it often.
- Now that you have a list of what you have done right, make a list of what you have done WRONG. This list is not what your spouse says you have done wrong, but rather what you know that you have done wrong. The important thing here is that you own your wrong doings. If you just go on what someone else accuses you of, then you really are not owning it. Be as specific as you can as you make this list. If you want to ask your spouse for help in making this list, feel free to ask for help. I’m sure that your spouse would love to tell you all that you are doing wrong. Be prepared to get an ear-full if you ask for help.
- Ask your spouse to forgive you of what you have done wrong. Use your list, not theirs. Do not try to explain away your actions. Take full responsibility. Expect your spouse to react to you admitting your faults with statements like, “It’s about time” or “Finally” or maybe even “It’s a little late for that.” Please don’t get discouraged or defensive at this point. Just state that you are attempting to apologize and are asking for forgiveness; nothing more.
- Identify changes that you need to make and implement these changes. When we apologize for certain actions, our spouse is waiting to see lasting changes in our lives before they truly accept our apologies or will trust us to move forward in our relationship. Maybe you have an anger problem and you yell a lot. You can apologize for yelling and state that you are going to change. But the next time you have a conflict, you yell again. Do you think your spouse is going to trust that you have changed? Of course not. You have to work really hard not to do the things that have created some of the problems in your relationship.
- Finally, only own your part of the problems in your marriage. As I stated earlier, you are not always wrong. Your spouse plays a part in the problems. Don’t accept their blame and guilt. Only be responsible for yourself.
Often times when one partner in the relationship begins to make changes for the better, the other partner will follow suit. I remember many years ago, that was true in my marriage. We were not in a very good place at all and my wife began to make some changes that I was wanting her to make. I followed suit by making the necessary changes that I needed to. I am not totally sure if any of it was conscious or subconscious, but both of us made changes. Our marriage went from being not in a good place to being in a very good place. These steps can help your marriage turn toward being good, even if your spouse doesn’t want to get counseling.