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Marriages in Trouble

©Randy Glasbergen. All rights reserved.

This week Ellen Christian asked me to write about how women can reduce their risk of breast cancer for her popular blog, ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom. Looking at her website reminded me that motherhood is an overwhelming job. Most of the women I know, regardless of whether they’re going through breast cancer or not, walk a tightrope that stretches across a bottomless canyon of exhaustion. We’re moms and wives; we work inside and outside the home; we’re often caregivers to spouses and parents, plus we’re “the buck stops here” department for everything from scheduling the pest control man to getting the taxes paid. If that isn’t difficult enough, we’re often not on the same emotional page as our spouse, and many of us have lost sight of how to reconnect. Recently I’ve noticed a lot of couples who don’t talk to one another. They don’t touch, they don’t even look at one another. I’ve seen more passion from people pushing a pawn across a chessboard.

Sometimes life takes us hostage, and we have to find the right key to unlock our shackles and set ourselves and our families free. I wonder if these distant couples are hostage to money, lack of sex, jobs, children’s activities, teens who act out, disappointment, infidelity or cancer? Have they thought about setting themselves free whether it’s with marital counseling, individual therapy, antidepressants, a new job, vacation, empathy, forgiveness or role reversal? I wish I could tell them there are things worse than death, and subjecting yourself and your family to a troubled marriage is one of them. I know what it’s like to lose the other half of yourself. I’m still working to free myself from the grief of losing James. I would, literally, give anything to be able to see him again for 10 seconds… Make that even one second and you can have my house, my car… Everything!

I see couples who probably loved one another at some point in time but no longer acknowledge the spouse sitting across the table from them. I see mates of manipulative and controlling spouses who look like they’re just trying to stay out of the line of fire. While couples may think the rest of us can’t see how miserable they are, we can. What’s worse, kids stuck in the middle of this marital discord may grow up to be just like their parents when they get married!

I wonder if couples have thought about what’s stopping them from openly addressing their problems and trying to fix them? Perhaps they’re set on punishing one another; maybe the one who blinks first is the one without the power, or they feel like a bad marriage is better than no marriage. If one spouse is afraid of the other, then that’s another issue entirely. Tread lightly and get professional help from a counselor or a women’s shelter. Your safety and the safety of your children are top priority. I realize leaving a physically abusive relationship takes thought and careful planning, but please, don’t stay there. You deserve so much better. Draw on every ounce of strength available to you to protect yourself and your children.

Those of us who’ve had cancer or who’ve lost someone precious don’t have the opportunity to “fix it” short of giving our problems to God. I’m almost envious of couples whose marriages are in trouble because they still have time to try and fix their problems. This is where I ask one of my favorite questions: What are you waiting for? Did you know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Are you in a healthy marriage, and if not, how can you and your spouse fix it? Since this may be another “the buck stops here” question, you may be the one who needs to begin looking for the answer. One way or another, your life depends on it.