I would like to challenge the marriage assumptions that have prevented you from seeing new possibilities in the uncharted waters of Us. The first assumption that simply must go is that you or your spouse needs to change in order for your marriage to improve.
As difficult as it may seem, I want you to consider the possibility that nothing about you or your spouse needs to change.
Nothing at all.
Beyond this I ask you to consider the reason that you began thinking that one of you needed to change. Could it be that you have unwittingly embraced the consumerism of our culture and applied it to your precious wife? Your precious husband? Such that you began to think of that person as a commodity? That's exactly where Mark and Rene were when they came to see me. (I should mention that there are times couples are counseled by me and my wife, Aileen. We do this on an as-needed basis.)
Mark and Rene, a 40something couple with 15 years of marriage under their belts, spewed venom back and forth at each other during our marriage coaching session. The verbal onslaught was tough to listen to, even though I've worked with hundreds of couples and heard it all.
Mark furrowed his brows, glared at his wife, and then looked at me. "You know, Dan, I can't stand being married to Rene any longer! If I had known this marriage was going to be like this, I never would have gotten married. Now we have four children and I feel like I'm trapped!" Mark's rage bubbled over. It was obvious he was purposely trying to hurt his wife with his words.
Rene looked disgusted. "Married? Really? You really believe we're married? If that's true, you don't act like it at all!" She spoke with contempt in her voice. "For starters you have a girlfriend in New Mexico. If you think you can continue to carry on with that woman, I want a divorce."
Mark escalated the attack. "Well, you drove me to her. She pays attention to me when I'm around and actually cares about what I do. All you do is gripe at me for not being enough. Besides, you kicked me out, so what am I supposed to do? Just wait around until you feel like inviting me back home?"
I was silent and let them duke it out with their words for a bit. I knew exactly where this conversation was going.
In a soft voice, as tears dripped down her cheeks, Rene turned to me. "Dan, I just got tired of waiting for him to do the things he said he would do." Then she whipped her head around and faced her husband. "When you were home with us, you would get up early in the morning and go to the office, where you worked all day with women. Then, while I was stuck at home with the kids, you would go out to dinner with them. I got tired of feeling abandoned and so I decided since you were never home and always out with other women, we might as well make it official. That's why I kicked you out. I hoped that you would soon realize what you had lost and begin to court me again. That never happened. You seemed glad to have left. Anyway, even while you were here, there wasn't an ounce of romance left in our marriage! How do you think that makes me feel? I want a man who will put me first in his life. Honestly, Mark, when we first met 20 years ago, I believed you were that man, but now I don't even know you."