Years ago a friend of mine began an affair with a co-worker. In the beginning, it was so exciting that they both divorced their former spouses and married each other. I don’t know the other woman or her family, but I know that the amount of pain suffered by his first wife and their daughter was enormous. It took years for them to recover. My friend cited multiple reasons why he would be happier with his co-worker than he was with his current wife. The expectation was that the problems he experienced with Wife #1 would never be true of this new marriage. (Tip: 50% of the problem went with him!)

Ten Years Later

Goat eating grass on the other side of the fence. We take 50% of the problems with us
This Grass Tastes Better!

Ten years later he confided to my sister that he and Wife #2 were experiencing the same conflicts that they’d had in their first marriages. Why? Why didn’t changing partners eliminate the issues that were so painful to them that they were willing to create pain and chaos for their children and former partners? Because at least 50% of the problem went with them into the new marriage!

They Were the Problem

When they left their first marriages, they took at least 50% of the problems with them…themselves. Certainly there are times when it is wise to leave a marrige…when there is physical or sexual abuse or when the partner is practicing an addiction and will not get help. But in the greatest majority of cases, the marriage problems are a “we” problem, not a “he or she” problem. And, 50% of the problem goes wherever you go!

Most Marriage Problems Can be Resolved

Not, all, but most marriage problems can be resolved by learning and practicing respectful communication and conflict managment skills. In nearly thirty years of coaching I’ve rarely seen a couple with the level of conflict that Jim and I were experiencing. Yet, our conflicts were resolved within a few months of learning how to speak and listen with respect and, when, too angry to be respectful, discharge our anger away from each other, not AT each other. Neither of us was addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, work or gaming. Those addictions make it harder for some of the couples I’ve worked with to deal with their marriage. The addictive behavior creates a wall between partners. And, not every addict is willing to stop the addictive behavior in order to save the marriage. (Look back a few weeks to read the newsletter titled “Addiction Speaks”)

It Takes Two

Most couples in distress blame each other. It’s rare, but refreshing when a partner says to me, “I’m the main problem. I know I need to change, but I need some guidance about how to change.” Even then, as we go deeper into the dynamics of the marriage, there are always behaviors that the partner needs to change, as well. It takes two to keep a painful or destructive pattern going in a relationship.

Marriage, Politics, and World History

Blame escalates conflict in all relationships. It’s his fault we don’t have a happier family. It’s her fault I’m unhappy. If only the right political party was the majority, our country’s problems would soon be solved. If only that neighboring country were under our control, everything would be better. When that group of people are erased from the earth, our people will be happier.

From the most intimate relationships to the world at large, judgment and blame and the actions chosen to express them, create more conflict, more unhappiness, more separation. Because you are 50% of the problem!

What Can You Control?

I remember the day when this awareness flooded my brain: “I’m mad at him because he won’t change. Therefore, if I want change, I must be the one to change.” So what can one person do?

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  1. You can ask God for guidance. “Please show me what I can change.” I prayed this desperate prayer after 2 1/2 years of trying to make my first husband change. Nagging, complaints and blame hadn’t worked. Because my prayer was completely sincere, within a few days God showed me a key area where I could change. Within a month of practicing this new behavior, the dynamic between us was noticably improving.
  2. You can enroll in Millionaire Marriage Club or the Stepping TwoGether Edition. Going through the lessons and practicing the recommended behaviors will change the relationship with or without the cooperation of your partner. (Either course is free for 7 days and then only $29/month.) If you need proof, email me asking for the story of a man who won back the love of his wife only by changing his own behaviors. It’s titled “Won by One.”
  3. You can learn how to set healthy boundaries…and enforce them. Order Pungent Boundaries. Several of my clients have had miraculous changes in relationships when putting into practice what they learned in this small book.
  4. If you are suffering from depression or an addiction, schedule an appointment with me to learn how to resolve the root causes.

An Invitation!

One of my clients reported that he and his wife chose to do the “hard, best things” rather than the “easy, wrong things.” Those choices brought their stepfamily through some tough adjustments into a happy marriage and family. They did not look for greener grass to make them happy. When you set a strong intention to find a healthy way through your current problem, guidance will come. The old proverb is true, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

You have my love and support,

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