Is Compromise the Answer?

Today with most marriage counseling, the marriage counselor will advise the couple to compromise with each other.

In other words, learn to accept your spouse’s faults or quirks. If she burns dinner, that makes it OK that you lost $300 at the casino. If he or she cheats, well, that makes a good number of the other’s faults OK.

An article on Buzzle.com stated “Marriage is all about compromise. Compromise is hard. With or without marriage counseling, married couples need to learn to solve their problems. Counseling can be a place to learn these skills, but should never be the only thing used to save an unhappy marriage.”

But compromising doesn’t really restore the love and passion, does it? To be frank, compromising often doesn’t even restore the enjoyment to a relationship.

I believe that in order to save a marriage that is in trouble, you have to sit down and take a hard look at what your spouse has done to you that was difficult for you to experience or that broke the agreements of the marriage. But you also have to take a serious look at what you have done to your spouse that was difficult for them to experience or that was against the agreements and commitments of the marriage. Considerably more on this is available in my marriage book—and the eBook version is currently available at no charge.

It’s a 2-way street. Everybody knows about the Golden Rule, i.e. not doing something to someone else that you wouldn’t want to have done to you. Well those are the things that can wreck a marriage. If you look at it from both ways, it can really have a healing effect.

You’ve Just Had a Big Fight…

You and your spouse just had a huge fight. You’re absolutely sure you’re in the right and most likely your spouse feels the same way. You have a few options:

  1. You could continue fighting.
  2. You could stop fighting and let the upset simmer for awhile (maybe days or weeks).
  3. You could both take a walk around the block (each in the opposite direction) until the two of you are extroverted from the upset.

I’m going to recommend Option Number 3.

When two people are very upset, it’s difficult to resolve things from that very upset state of mind. If the two of you take a walk around the block, the idea is to walk long enough until you are “extroverted” from the upset. In other words, you’ve popped out of the upset and you no longer want to strangle your spouse. While on this walk, each of you needs to put your attention on things in your external environment: look at plants, trees, houses, other people, clouds, etc. Put your attention on things outside of you and this will produce an extroversion from the upset. And, as mentioned, each of you goes a different direction on this walk.

When the two of you have successfully completed this walk, you can then sit down and take a fresh look at what’s upsetting both of you.

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of this “walk.” I can absolutely assure you it will put the two of you in a better position to resolve the upset before it gets too far out of hand (or goes onto the backburner where both of you stay upset for awhile).

In my book, When the Thrill Is Gone, additional procedures are given to resolve marital upsets. There is also an entire chapter to help people get over the loss and upset of a previous relationship that didn’t end well. The eBook version of this book is currently available at no charge.

Are Some Marriages Doomed to Fail?

No relationship is “doomed” to fail. I believe each person, through his decisions and actions, determines how happy and fulfilling his life will be. And I believe this holds true for married couples. I’m not big on fate or astrology. I’m big on personal responsibility.

Now, having said that, if two people with very little in common, who have spent very little time together race off to Vegas and get married, the chances of their marriage succeeding are not as great as the couple that has taken the time to know each other and who share many things in common.

I’m not against people meeting and having such a compassionate first week that they are absolutely compelled to tie the knot right away. I find that exceptionally adventurous. And I would never say such a couple is “doomed” to fail. With the right tools, every marriage can succeed.

How much should one know about a possible spouse-to-be prior to getting married? That depends on what each person considers important. Religion is extremely important to some and completely insignificant to others. Some consider opposing political beliefs a deal-breaker. How about each person’s ambition? Does the wife-to-be wish to have a full-fledged career and perhaps a child 15 years down the road? Does the husband-to-be want to continue in his current job that takes him out of town two weeks of every month?

It’s probably a good idea to talk over the main issues. The more things you share in common, the more points of agreement (and strength) you’ll have going in.

What if you’re married and you didn’t take the time to really sort these things out? Not to worry. It’s never too late to communicate. There is an earlier post on married couples setting goals. That will help.

A successful marriage is based on a few very key fundamentals. One of these is communication. The answer is always going to be in the area of more communication, not less.

Can a Pet Help a Marriage Succeed?

We’re all familiar with the emails that make their way around the net that tell a story compelling enough for us to forward the email along to our friends. Some of these emails tell a hilarious story; some inspire us to do something kind, compassionate or perhaps even adventurous. We do love stories!

Well, today I received one of those emails and it was about a very grumpy father (in his 60s) and his daughter’s attempt to bring some joy and peace of mind to her dad. And as the title of this post suggests, it was about a pet.

Now, I realize not everyone is a pet lover. And I certainly respect that. I grew up without any pets in the house and I always felt I missed out on something. So when I got my own place (a beat-up apartment above a restaurant that had fabulous French Fries), one of the first things I did was get a dog. It wasn’t a pure bred, but he sure didn’t know it, and he and I had a fabulous relationship.

Read more »

When a Child Wants to Help…

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is not recognizing when a child wants to help. Being in small bodies, they are not going to offer the same kind of help that a fully grown person does, but they will make the effort. And when that effort is not recognized AND acknowledged, then the child will start to “help” in ways you don’t appreciate.

I’ve seen this with my own eyes: A child around two years old is sitting in a shopping cart. He takes an item from the cart and tries to place it on the conveyor belt to the cashier. The unaware mom stops the child from doing this and says, “that’s okay, honey, I’ll take care of that.” Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many moms yell at their child for attempting this. Perhaps the mom is worried the child will drop the item. Perhaps the mom is in a hurry. Perhaps the mom is just stressed out.

Now we turn to the mom who sees this seemingly insignificant act as a real effort on the child’s part to HELP. The child wants to contribute in some way. She’s small, but she can grab onto some item in the shopping cart and TRY to get that item onto the conveyor belt. The smart mom observes what is happening and let’s the child complete this act of contribution. If the child is having difficulty pulling it off, the mom helps out in a way that allows the child to still take “ownership” of the help that’s being offered.

When the helpful act is accomplished, the mom gives the child a very hearty thank you (and maybe even a hug). The child gets that her help is appreciated and will continue to deliver this kind of help in the future. Parents allow the child to complete these acts of help and acknowledge the child each time for doing so.

As mentioned earlier, the child who has this line of help and contribution cut off by the mom or the dad (or siblings) will find other ways to “help.” The child will do things that are a bit (or very) destructive. This will certainly get a response. Not the response the parent or the child really wants, but a response nevertheless.

Give your child the freedom to contribute and you will be doing your child (and your marriage) a great service.


More ideas on bringing up children in my book When the Thrill Is Gone. Ebook version is currently available at no charge.

The Advantages of Sleeping On It…

You and your husband are upset about something. What advantages are there to sleeping on it?

I'd have to say…none.

If you and your spouse are in the middle of an upset, it's worth the extra effort to try to resolve it before heading off to bed. For a few reasons:

  1. You'll get much better sleep if the upset is behind you.
  2. Though some upsets will "fade away" with time, many do just the opposite. They linger and can have a negative impact on other areas of life.
  3. Upsets (even minor ones) that are allowed to accumulate can put unnecessary strain on the marriage.
  4. If there are kids, whether they view the upset(s) directly or not, they are affected by them.

Sometimes we're just too tired to sit down and resolve an upset before going to bed, but any effort you (and your spouse) make on this kind of thing can be very helpful. Even if all you do is look each other in the eye and say, "hey, I know we're upset but I think the world of you. Let's agree to fix this tomorrow for sure." — that's far better than sleeping on it. And a fast hug or kiss wouldn't hurt.


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One Very Easy Way to Improve Communication…

If you and your spouse are not in good communication with each other, there are a number of ways to improve the communication, but here is a very simple approach: talk to your spouse about things that are VERY REAL to him/her.

Each spouse has a number of subjects that are “very real” to them. It might be work-related,  a favorite sport, a particular political view, maybe even a sibling that one spouse spends a lot of time with. If you’ve been together for even a short time, you pretty much know what these subjects are.

If you’re the wife and you’d like to take that first step to improve communication, discuss subjects with your husband that he has a good bit of “reality” on. If you do this, your husband’s willingness to communicate will be higher than before. Keep it sincere along this line and you will eventually see an increased willingness to communicate about other subjects (recent upsets perhaps).

People find it very easy to talk about things that are very real to them. When the level of communication in your marriage drops, talk to your spouse about these very real subjects first and you’ll have taken a simple and effective step to raising the level of communication.