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Change Your Marriage by Changing Yourself




Excerpted from
Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again
By Michele Weiner Davis

Now that you understand some of the nuts and bolts of Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy, you are probably ready to roll up your sleeves and start making your marriage work. The good news is that the marriage-enriching techniques described in Chapters 4-8 do not require both partners' coordinated efforts. Your spouse doesn't have to read this book in order for the methods to be effective. In fact, your spouse doesn't even have to overtly agree to wanting to make the marriage work. Years of experience have taught me that both partners need not be present during therapy sessions for the marriage to change. In certain situations, both parties' presence hampers the change process. I have observed hundreds of people change their relationships without the presence of their spouse in therapy and without a formal agreement from their spouse to work on the marriage.

What does this mean for you? If you want your marriage to change, you can change it. If you want a better relationship with your spouse and are willing to make small but significant changes (remember the Butterfly Effect), you can turn things around by starting the ball rolling. By following the guidelines laid out in these chapters you will, single-handedly, be able to get your relationship back on track.

"Why Do I Always Have to Be the One to
Put Effort into the Marriage?"

Let's face it, there is usually one person in a relationship that takes the initiative to iron out relationship kinks. Since you are reading this book, you're probably the one. This doesn't necessarily mean that your spouse is disinterested or less interested than you in working things out. It just means that you have gotten in the habit of taking charge in the relationship department and your spouse has gotten in the habit of expecting you to do so. Remember the tandem bicycle?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this division of labor as long as you don't mind it. If, on the other hand, you do mind it, at some later point you might want to kick this habit and, after reading the technique section, you will know just how to do it. But for now' it's up to you to tip over the first domino.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, "I do want my marriage to work and I have been trying, but things don't seem to be improving. In fact, lately things seem to have deteriorated." That's because not all problem-solving efforts are created equal. Some solutions are more effective than others. If you have felt like you've been going in circles trying to straighten things out, perhaps the following section will shed some light on your dilemma.

The Solution Is The Problem - A Formula For Disaster

Quicksand is known to envelop its victim more speedily if one struggles to escape. The more intense the efforts to free oneself from the pull of the quicksand, the faster one sinks. The very action taken to sustain life actually increases the danger. Clearly, some problem-solving efforts backfire. The harder you try, the worse things get.

Solving marital problems can be like freeing oneself from quicksand. The harder you try to make things better, the less things change, which leads to frustration and, frequently, the decision that the marriage is dead. But there is a good reason that marital problems stubbornly persist, especially in the face of intense problem-solving efforts. Problems in marriages are maintained and aggravated by the particular way that people go about solving them.

When something troubling happens in a marriage, the spouse most bothered by the situation usually tries to fix it. If that particular strategy works, life goes on. If it doesn't work, the fixer typically escalates his or her efforts or does more of the same. Spouse A reasons, "Perhaps I haven't gotten my message across," and, rather than trying a totally different strategy, employs the same ineffective strategy with greater intensity. Unfortunately, more of the same behavior from spouse A yields more of the same undesirable behavior from spouse B. This more-of-the-same approach not only maintains the problem, it increases it. In other words, the attempted solution becomes the problem.

Larry and Joyce are caught in the "solution is the problem" vicious cycle. For the past two years Joyce has been feeling depressed; she hates her job, feels overwhelmed by their two children, has no friends and rarely wants to do anything other than stay at home. Their sexual relationship has become virtually non-existent. Larry, a high-energy, life-is-what-you-make-it person, has little understanding for someone who is, in his eyes, immersed in self-pity.

Previously, when Joyce felt depressed, a little pep talk from Larry would boost her spirits and she would be up and running again. But this was no longer true. Recently, rather than lightening Joyce's load, Larry's reassurances only made matters worse. "You don't understand what I'm going through, just leave me alone," Joyce would protest.

But Larry didn't leave her alone. He loved Joyce too much to just sit back and watch life slowly drain from her. Instead, he became even more determined to offer a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps lecture. "Take an aerobics class, you'll feel better," he would tell her. "This is just a phase you are going through, things aren't so bad." Joyce couldn't have disagreed more. Now, instead of feeling supported by Larry, she felt betrayed, isolated and deeper in depression.



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