He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Finding anything good to focus on is difficult when you're in the midst of a marriage crisis. Waves of emotion create a gulf between you and your mate. With your emotional bridge in shambles, seeing the other side can be tough.

Steven is a bright lawyer who is married to Sarah, a winsome young woman. I began working with them after a severe crisis in their marriage prompted them to call for an emergency appointment.

Steven and Sarah are both in their early thirties and have three children. They came to see me after Steven had an affair with his personal assistant at his law firm. The affair, which he readily admitted after being discovered, devastated both of them.

"I never thought I'd do something like this," Steven said with obvious disgust.

"And I never thought you'd be capable of it either," Sarah said. "I thought we had so much going for us, but I guess not. If you could do this, we don't have anything."

Sarah was obviously filled with anger and needed to vent. I waited for her to continue.

"I asked Steven to leave last week," she said. "We have nothing if we don't have trust. I'm not sure if there's even any purpose in us coming to counseling. What's the point? I'm not sure if I want to be married to a man with so little self-control."

Steven threw his hands up in the air and looked at me.

"I hope you can talk some sense into her," he said. "She's got me painted as a criminal. It's not like I'm denying what I did. It was wrong and I know it. But it's not like there's nothing worth salvaging here."  

"You don't get it," Sarah snapped. "Anyone who can cheat on his wife and children obviously doesn't think much of his marriage. So I'm not real interested in hearing about all that we've got to salvage."

I listened to their troubling story, attempting to help each understand the other and offering hope that we'd be able to stabilize their marriage if they were willing. I discussed strategies for creating safety, which we've talked about in previous chapters. However, our session ended too quickly, and I was skeptical that they believed they could find anything worth saving.

Sarah and Steven left my office discouraged. She was weary from trying to understand how her husband could cheat on her. She was furious, but she was also frightened that he might cheat again. She felt fragile and wounded, unsure of how she would manage their three children without his help if she left him.

Steven also wondered if their marriage could be saved. I scheduled additional sessions with them and also agreed to meet with Sarah alone to help her consider her options and determine how best to cope with this emergency.

A Salvage Project

Sarah is extremely disheartened and sees nothing to salvage in their relationship. She sees only more trouble on the horizon. Is she right? Is there nothing to salvage? Is it time for her to walk away? Many people in her circumstances do just that. However, it's important to consider the possibilities when the problem is fixable. Acting impulsively is rarely the best choice.

An exciting movement is taking place in many of our urban areas. In Seattle and Tacoma, close to where I reside, run-down warehouses are being transformed into chic, modern loft condominiums. Worn brick facades are being sandblasted and restored to their original beauty. What was once on the short list for demolition is now being targeted for renovation.

Someone had the insight to see the possibilities in these industrial sections of town, once considered to be a blight on the urban landscape. Now, after standing empty for many years, these classic buildings are bustling with boutiques, salons, day spas, and luxury apartments.