We try valiantly to keep things running smoothly in our lives. We keep up with the yard and car maintenance, make it to work and our children’s functions on time, dashing about to keep things running smoothly.

That’s a good thing. Routine is good for us—except for when it is not!

There are times, many times, when we try to convince ourselves that all is normal. We reason that if we keep doing “things” the way we’ve been doing them, at some point in time “things” will change.

This is called DENIAL—Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying (to myself.)

We pray, we hope, we wish and talk to others, all the while, so often “things” remain the same. This does not mean that we should stop praying, hoping and talking to our friends. It simply means that there are times when things must fall apart before they can get better.

When our denial finally breaks down, when we come face to face with the facts that for things to change we must change, we have come to the end of our denial.

I recognize that this is a hard truth to hear. Who wants anything in their lives to fall apart? Certainly not me. Who wants things to collapse and cause heartache and turmoil? Again, not me.

Yet there are hard truths we must face.

Someone has said, “There can be no breakthrough without a breakdown.” We must experience an end to our denial, the pain of our circumstances, before we are open to new truths, new insights and new experiences. These can be enlightening and exciting, albeit frightening, moments.

While Scripture stops short of telling us to expect a breakdown, the lives of many tell a story of reaching an end to their way of doing things. “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions. Wait for hope to appear” (Lamentations 3:28-29 MSG).

What are the dangers of hoping against hope that things will automatically change? Is it really necessary for things to fall apart before we put them back together in a healthier way? Consider the story of Suzanne and Ty.

Married for fifteen years they were the epitome of the successful couple. They were able to make money—lots of it. However, as they were successful in their business dealings, they failed to learn how to really connect with each other. Their faith was shallow, their relationship to each other superficial, and her requests that they invest energy on their marriage had fallen on deaf ears—until now—when she had insisted they get marriage counseling.

Ty was busy. Very busy. He ran his own automotive parts franchise and worked long hours. Suzanne was initially in favor of the business venture but has grown to resent the demands it places on him and their family. Her efforts to talk to Ty about his hours and his increasing irritability with work have not gone well. He is defensive and resists her attempts to speak into his life. They were heading for a meltdown when they came to me.

“We get along when we get along,” Suzanne said firmly. “But when we fight, look out. I try to talk to him, but he has things set the way he wants them. I just wonder where I fit into the picture.”

“I don’t know why she talks like that,” Ty said, obviously irritated. “We went into this business venture together and this is what it takes to be successful.”

“But we’re drifting apart,” Suzanne pleaded.

“We don’t have to,” Ty said. “I still love you and you still love me. What’s the problem?”

“Other than we don’t see each other and haven’t been out on a date in six months,” Suzanne said sarcastically.

Ty shrugged.

Suzanne threw up her arms in a gesture of frustration.

“Do you see how you capitulate, Suzanne?” I said. “You seem frustrated, but I suspect you do very little to cause change.”

“Why should it be up to me?” she countered defensively.

“Because, you are the one pursuing change,” I said. “I suspect Ty could go along with things like this for a long time.”

“It doesn’t seem fair,” she said.

“Perhaps not,” I said. “But someone must bring about a breakdown for there to be a breakthrough. That will probably need to be you in this case. And if you do, change may not come easily or smoothly!”

I decided to share with Suzanne and Ty what I’ve learned about the importance of “things falling apart,” and how this can be a tremendous opportunity if faced effectively.

First, keeping things the same is usually denial. We often resist change. Change makes us uncomfortable, makes demands upon us, and often points out deficiencies in us. We avoid change, and yet the more we avoid change the more distress we will experience later. “Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

Second, it takes a breakdown to have a breakthrough. It isn’t simply the person with the greatest number of problems that must “breakdown,” but the mate of that person as well. Both partners contribute to things staying the same—not just one. Both participate in collusion to keep things the same.

Third, both partners must look at how they contribute to keeping the status quo. Both partners enable things to stay the same and so both must look at how they will cooperate and collaborate to change their relationship. There is no “bad guy” and also no “good guy.” Both contribute in different ways to the problem and must contribute to the solution.

Fourth, identify what exactly must change. As long as you remain unclear with the dysfunction of the relationship, you are likely to remain unclear about what needs to change. Courageously face problems, naming them and your part in them. Sit down and talk candidly about what needs to change in your marriage.

Finally, make agreements about what needs to change and who will do what to enact the change. Join forces to bring about needed change. Stop pointing fingers and own your part. Endeavor to change what is within your power to change. Stop enabling your mate not to change. Hold each of you accountable for specific changes, catching each other doing things right and beginning the change process.

We have had an incredible response to our free offer of my eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, found on our website. This is an interactive eBook for you and your mate to work through together. We want to hear from you—What have you found useful about the book? What would you like further information about?

Please also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: September 23, 2013