Stop rehearsing marital problems.

Seek and discuss solutions to the problems.

Bad days are part of life. But they don't need to become a way of life. Severe marriage crises happen, but there are often ways to get past them. Accentuating the positive and minimizing the negative will help you to that end.

Although Alexander is cute and our hearts go out to him, another part of us wants to sit him down for a lecture:

"Look, Alexander, life doesn't have to be as bad as you make it. When you focus on the prizes you're not getting, you lose sight of the ones you are getting. When you count all the things you've lost, you miss out on all the things you've gained. It's time to get on with life."

Bad moods and bad days come with the territory. But bad weeks, months, and years are often optional.

Empathy

A critical barrier between a couple in crisis is the perpetrator/victim mind-set, which can be a serious impediment to healing. Here's how it goes: Having perceived myself as getting a raw deal from you, I rehearse the wrongs I've suffered and remind myself again and again that I am the victim. Of course, this point of view narrows my vision and causes me to move further and further away from you because I blame you for the pain I'm feeling.

Without intervention, before long I've convinced myself that you can never be trusted, you can never satisfy my needs, and you can never help me. In fact, you're completely toxic, and I need to get away from you. Can you see the harm in taking such a position?

The odd thing is that your mate is probably having the same thoughts about you. You're the perpetrator, the victimizer who can never, never be trusted. The barriers between partners becomes larger, the gap wider, and chances of reconciliation smaller.

Rarely is one person solely the perpetrator, while the other is exclusively the victim. More often, both partners have learned to hurl insults and hurts, and both have learned to rehearse their suffering.

What's the answer?

Harville Hendrix, in his book Getting the Love You Want, offers some very practical solutions:

  • You realize that your love relationship has a hidden purpose—the healing of childhood wounds. Yes, marriage can be a wonderful place of healing for both of you. You can have a "corrective emotional experience" where you are treated differently and better than you were in childhood.
  • You create a more accurate image of your partner. You stop viewing your mate as an evil perpetrator, and begin seeing him or her as very human and fallible, just like you.
  • You take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner. You must let go of the belief that your mate can read your mind, or that his or her sole job is to satisfy your needs. With your help, however, your partner will likely work on meeting your legitimate needs.
  • You become more intentional in your interactions. Rather than slipping into old default patterns of interacting, you work on being proactive—planning in advance how you will react to challenging situations.
  • You learn to value your partner's needs and wishes as highly as you value your own. In the mature, Christian marriage, you are willing to forego being the center of the world and strive to meet your mate's needs. In fact, you frequently stop to consider his or her immediate need, and if possible, you do your best to meet it.

If you can nurture a spirit of "we're in this together and must find our solutions together" as you navigate this crisis, you'll be greatly strengthened for the journey. If you can view your mate as vulnerable, fragile, and in need of your love, you'll grow in empathy toward each other, creating a powerful bridge. And if you empathize with each other, rather than fighting, you'll be available to assist each other in the healing process.