Pam and Jason* have been struggling for a long time in their marriage for a variety of reasons. They spent hours and hours in counseling trying to figure out a way to make it work. Recently they decided they were no longer going to make the effort and that it was time to move on and get a divorce. They switched from seeking help for each other, to wanting counseling on how to deal with their children and their “change in direction.”
As I stepped back from this very common process I see so many couples go through, it made me wonder at what point they changed. When was the exact moment and by which spouse was it determined that it was over? Was in a moment in time or a multiple-step process? It’s possible that one or both of them simply got tired of fighting and figured it would be easier to end it rather than endure any more pain. Unfortunately, that is so far from the truth. There is more pain associated with the complications of divorce, and yet couples continue to give up when they may be so close to finding a solution but don’t see it.
I don’t have all the answers to the limitless complexities and issues that seem to arise for the multitude of couples in trouble. However, I can share a few thoughts that come to mind with the “Pam’s and Jason’s” of the world that have given up:
1. The couple stopped or never started really trying to deal with difficult issues they were facing, because it was too hard.
2. When they stopped dealing with issues, their emotions about the other person faded toward indifference and they started caring less and less about what was going on for the other person.
3. The last common theme that seems to take place is that much thought, feeling and behaviors, that were once inconceivable, are now experienced as normal such as sleeping separately, no awareness of the other person’s schedule, and no knowledge of their spending habits.
The old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is very applicable in the case of marriage. When couples are working through circumstances and it starts to get really hard, it’s usually a sign that they are getting close to the very core of their issues. That’s when all the previous time and effort starts to pay off because you are almost there, and yet it seems to be the time when couples give up because it’s too much work.
It’s like climbing a mountain. The closer you get to the top, the harder you have to climb because the steeper the climb. But it’s worth it because you know victory is close at hand. You wouldn’t think of giving up when you are so close to the top, especially when you look down and see all the hard work you’ve endured to get there.
Think of working on your marriage like climbing a mountain. The closer you get to the top, the harder the climb will feel, but when you reach that summit, you feel like you’re on top of the world and all the effort will have been worth it.
*Names have been changed.