What Do You Want to Believe About Your Spouse? (Yes, You Get to Choose)

There is a person in my life with some psychological issues.

I mean, we all have psychological issues, but for this person, her issues often render her incapacitated, unable to complete even the simplest of tasks.

I have spent a good deal of time trying to siphon out what of this behavior is her illness and what is just her personality.

If her incapacities are just her personality- that makes me much less enthusiastic about helping her. I feel taken advantage of. I feel like she should do more for herself and rely less on others. But then when I think her actions are based on her illness, I am much more enthusiastic to jump in and help as much as I can. I’m more forgiving and loving.

What do you want to believe about your partner? You get to choose whether to believe in the best or the worst in them. Click through to read how to see the best.

So, which is The TRUTH? Does she not provide for herself out of laziness or illness?

Here is the groundbreaking conclusion I’ve come to in my heart— IT DOESN’T MATTER.

I am not her caregiver. I am not responsible for her improvement. The story might be different if I were her parent, but I am not. So if my responsibility is not to parent her, what is my responsibility towards her?


When I believe her limitations come from her illness, I show up with love. When I believe they are her own “fault,” I don’t.

Regardless of what the TRUTH is, I choose to believe the best in her because then I am at my best, I am at peace and I show up with love.


Often in marriage, we spend a good deal of time and effort seeking out the TRUTH of who are spouses really are.

Does my husband not do the dishes because he’s an entitled lazy slob or because he’s just tired from working hard? Or did he just honestly not think about the dishes one way or the other?

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Does my wife complain about how she looks because she’s vain and needs constant validation to feel good about herself? Or is she just a little sensitive and appreciates a compliment every now and then? Or is this just how she was raised and what is normal to her?

via tenor

There are so many potential reasons behind why our spouses do what they do.

When we spend all our mental energy trying to decipher why they do what they do in order to discern what kind of behavior they deserve from us, we are wasting a lot of mental energy and often our conclusions are not serving us or our marriage.

Here’s the thing- YOU get to decide what you believe about your spouse.

You do.

Left to autopilot, our brains will go to negative thoughts of their own accord (darn brains! always trying to keep us safe!). So you have to be proactive in this, but YOU get to decide what thoughts you keep thinking.

And that is what beliefs are- just thoughts you keep thinking.

You get to decide which side of any debate you will be on.

There are always reasons to believe the best of your spouse and ALWAYS reasons to believe the worst. In any situation.

I’m sure we could all come up with reasons and examples of how our spouses are lazy. I’m also sure we could all come up with reasons and examples for how our spouses are hard working. Which do you want to believe?

We could all list ways in which our spouses are completely selfish. We could also list ways in which our spouses are completely selfLESS. Which do you want to believe?

via giphy


No. It makes you human.

Sad fact: we’re all delusional about other people. There is just NO WAY to know what is in a person’s head and heart, so we think thoughts about other people based on evidence we find, but sadly we are so so so so often wrong in our judgments of others- just flat out wrong.

So, when we make judgments of others- we’re going to be delusional no matter what, we might was well be delusional in a way that will serve us.

In my initial story, there is just no way of knowing which behaviors and motivations and words come from psychological illness and which from some less flattering motivation. I could try to figure it out all day and I would probably be wrong most of the time because humans are just complicated creatures.

So I might as well root for the side of her that helps me be the best me and her be the best her.

I don’t think this makes me delusional.

via tenor

Aw. Well, thank you.


Have you ever been to a debate tournament?

My best friend growing up was an ace debater and I used to go to her tournaments. I was always SHOCKED at how she (and other worthy opponents) could debate positively for an issue that I saw as so clearly wrong or vice versa.

For instance, in one debate, they were debating building a hospital in a rural African town that desperately needed resources. How on earth could you argue this was a bad thing??

Well, building a hospital and staffing it with foreigners could put the local doctors and healers out of business. The doctors might provide so many immunizations to a disease that the disease morphs to become resistant to treatment. Because we don’t have a perfect knowledge of this town’s culture, bringing in lots of outside resources, food and ideas could really disrupt the culture and dynamics of the townspeople.

Hmmmmm. More complicated than I originally thought (and so are people!).

The point is, the ball is always in your court to decide which side of your spouse you choose to advocate. You get to choose which side to debate for.

Do you want to believe your spouse’s actions are coming from the best in them? Or the worst? Which side makes you the best you and them the best them? Choose that side and keep thinking thoughts to advocate for it.

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And that girl in my story above? Our relationship has NEVER BEEN BETTER than when I gave up trying to figure out her motivations and when I started just believing she was doing her best.

So. The choice is yours. You CAN believe whatever you want about yourself. But just for this week, I’m going to challenge you to rally for the idea that your spouse is doing their best. Look for ways this is true, keep thinking it, try it out.

Let me know what happens.

Why Are You Married? (A Helpful Mindset For When You Forget)

Yesterday I was cooking with my kids.

As my daughter spilled milk all over the table and the floor (and did in fact, cry over it), and my son flung hamburger meat all over the counter while “stirring” it for me, I paused and thought, “Why am I doing this? This would be easier without them.”

My kids like to use the Swedish Chef method of cooking.

Upon reflection, I remembered that I want my kids to love cooking. I want my kids to eat dinner and helping with cooking helps (or at least that’s what people keep telling me . . .). I want my kids to eventually be able to cook dinner all on their own.

The spills, the messes, the looooong dinner prep, that’s just part of the deal. Those things happen with young kids.

I needed to remember my why for this activity to be worth it to me.

Figuring out your why- why you are doing something matters. It can give you the perspective you need to get through tough times.



Why are you married? Why are you married to YOUR spouse? Why do you stay married?

I’ll give you a minute to really reflect on this.

The answer to why you got married initially will be different for everyone, but I’ll go through some examples to get your brain going:

– You could be married because that is what is expected of you, so you picked someone willing and did it.
– You could be married because you fell head over your heels for your partner and knew you wanted to be with them forever.
– You could be married because the thought of leaving your partner was/is more painful than staying despite your partner’s faults.
– You could be married because you were looking for someone to make you feel loved.
– You could be married because you thought it was your surest bet for happiness.
– You could be married because you felt pressured into it.

That too . . . .

There are lots of whys.

Not all are created equal.

Some are going to make for better marriages than others.

But whatever your why was to initially get married, it’s important to figure out a useful why for when times get tough, so you can think, “Oh yeah, that’s why I’m doing this.”

Regardless of your reasons for marriage when you first started out, let me propose a why for staying married that can be useful to everyone.

Why do you stay married?


That probably doesn’t sound revolutionary, but allow me to contrast it with some lesser reasons for staying married:

– to have someone meet your needs
– to have someone make you happy
– to have someone make you feel accepted and validated

Why do you stay married?

Not to have someone love you, but so that YOU can have someone to love.

Why marriage? So YOU have someone to love. Click through to read more.

Maybe that sounds backward, but let’s talk about what emotions do for us for a second.

When we are angry at someone, who is affected?

We are, right? We can’t affect the person’s emotions at whom our anger is directed. We can’t make someone feel angry or remorse or sorry. We often want to, but it doesn’t work that way.

The only emotion guaranteed here is that when we are angry with someone, WE feel angry. We feel anger. Not them.

It’s the same with love.

When we feel love toward someone, its not a guarantee that they will feel that love or act on it or be nice to us in return. What IS guaranteed is that when we feel love toward someone, WE feel love.

And when we feel love, we are at our best- our most kind, generous and compassionate. When we feel love we can act out of our integrity instead of out of defensiveness or pity or jealousy or whatever other baser emotion we may have.

Try on that thought and see how it feels- you are married so that YOU have someone to love.

This thought frees you up to just let your spouse be your spouse. This mindset frees you up to nag less, expect less, be let down and disappointed and irritated LESS. Your spouse is not there to meet all of your needs and fulfill your expectations of them.

Your spouse is there for you to love.

This is unconditional love. This is mature love. This is acting out of stage three values as explained here.

Having someone to love is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Are You Focusing on Your Spouse’s Attributes or Flaws? (how to flip the switch)

My marriage has undoubtedly improved since starting this blog.

In so, so many ways.

I can remember living and reacting from a place of fear before where now I have peace. Peace gives room for love. I’m coming closer and closer to loving Rich unconditionally – I can definitely feel that shift.

I’ve been trying to break down exactly WHAT has changed or what mindsets have helped me the most.

Certainly, I have had countless light-bulb moments while reading, researching, writing and thinking about marriage.

But what is it exactly that created the shift from conditional love to unconditional love?

I’m still not totally sure, and I know a number of factors have contributed, but I have nailed down one mindset shift that has helped FOR SURE.

And that has been changing my point of comparison. Or put another way, focusing on Rich’s good points instead of his bad.

Are you focusing on your spouse's attributes or flaws? Let's talk about how we can flip the switch on the focus in your relationship.

I never would have noticed this before, but I used to unintentionally put a lot of my attention on what I wished was different about Rich rather than what I was grateful for about him.

We all do this.

Our brains are unfortunately wired for this- wired to look out for potential dangers and safeguard against those dangers.

But when it comes to our spouses- when we’re constantly noticing and looking for our partner’s faults, this presents a bit of a problem.

Ok, a big problem.

Let’s talk for a minute about confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is our brain’s tendency to take new information and interpret it to conform to our existing beliefs. For instance, let’s say you believe your spouse is on their phone all the time. You see them on their phone and you think, “See! I’m right- he’s ALWAYS on his phone.”

Every time you see him on his phone you will add another mental tally mark to the “I’m right about this” column. Another time when he is not on his phone, rather than think, “Oh, this debunks my ‘he’s always on his phone’ theory.” You think of this incident as the EXCEPTION.

Confirmation bias hard at work here. “I knew it!”

In other words, our brains are kiiiiiinda out to ruin our relationships unless we CONSCIOUSLY work to tell them not to.

How do we do that?

We question our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves.

We focus on what our spouses ARE DOING WELL instead of what they aren’t.

Sounds awesome, sounds great, sounds simple.

Except for the fact that most of us do the exact opposite of this.

Myself included.

I could say, “I have a good husband.” But what does that mean? Good is relative, good in comparison to what? Comparing isn’t great for your marriage generally speaking, but we all do it to gain some sort of point of reference, so we might as well use this habit to better our marriages.

For example, many of us use as our ideal as our point of reference. We see our reality, but we’re comparing it to our ideal.

If this blogging thing doesn’t work out, I always have my art to fall back on . . . .

Instead, I’m recommending you ALWAYS use as your comparison something worse.

That’s one happy stick man.

Before we break this down, lets plug our spouses into this diagram. So that block that says “spouse” represents our spouses as they are and we’re looking past that focusing on our spouses as we wish they would be.

Note the frowny face.

Now, instead of using what we wish our spouses would be as our point of reference, we are noticing what our spouses are and comparing them to something worse. Here, we focus on what our spouses have instead of what they lack.

How do these scenarios make us feel?

Let’s take scenario A. When we are focusing on what we don’t have, we are looking at the world through the lens of scarcity. We feel depraved, dissatisfied, empty, wanting, ungrateful. This scenario does not create happiness.

Compare with scenario B. When we are focusing on what we do have, we are seeing the world through the lens of abundance. We feel satisfied, content, happy, GRATEFUL.

Now, notice that the reality box didn’t change ONE BIT in the scenario where we feel satisfied, content, and grateful to when we feel dissatisfied, depraved and discontent.

We SO OFTEN fall into the trap of “Oh my marriage would be great if my wife would stop doing ____ or my husband would do more of ____.”

We think our happiness is contingent on our circumstances, on our “reality.”

But instead of reality changing, did you notice what did change from the sad diagram to the happy diagram?

I’ll give you a minute . . . .

That’s right the PERSON changed.

Mic drop.

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The person had to elevate themselves in scenario B. Elevate their thoughts, their mindset, their gratitude and suddenly, their reality is looking pretty good and they are content.

So instead of looking at your spouse thinking- he could be helping more with the kids, she could nag me less, he could clean more, she could initiate sex more – look at your spouse and think, “Wow! He’s playing with the kids- he could be on his phone.” “Huh! She just complimented me, she could have criticized me.” “Golly! He put his dishes in the sink, he could have let them fester on the table all night.” “Gee! She’s talking to me in a flirty way, she could be ignoring me right now.”

Remember when I said this is something I KNOW has helped my marriage since I’ve started this blog? Here’s how it happened: formerly, my point of comparison was what I found to be lacking in Rich- I confirmation biased how much time he spent online, when he slept in and when I could use some extra help.

Then mr. bloggy came along and I started getting emails every week of people whose marriages are in dire straights (I ask people to tell me their most pressing marriage problem when they join my email list). I also joined some marriage Facebook groups, and those who post are dealing with addiction, abuse and infidelity (gosh, so much infidelity out there guys).

Reading these things everyday did great things to disrupt my confirmation bias. Suddenly instead of being miffed if his phone was out, it seemed a miracle my husband paid attention to me at all! I began to be filled with gratitude every time he did the dishes or helped around the house knowing that millions of husbands are cheating on their wives. Like, right now.

Dishes??? Psssshhhh, no biggie.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky as I to read about rough marriages everyday. (#blessed!)

On the contrary, many of us are saturated in the picture-perfect Instagram world where couples are traveling together, buying each other flowers, eating exotic delicacies and laughing over hilarious inside jokes.

Look at them!! They’re having so much fun! I bet they never fight about the dishes . . .

If this is your comparison day after day, you may become dissatisfied.

Flip the switch. Change up your point of comparison to . . . . nothing.

Expect nothing of your spouse and then when they do something pleasing, it’s so awesome! Every time!

Suddenly you are happier. Suddenly you are focusing on what they ARE doing instead of what they are NOT doing. You’re shining the spotlight on their attributes rather than their faults.

This is important.

Our perspective matters A LOT. Our thoughts matter A LOT. Our point of comparison matters and the extent of our gratitude matters A LOT. Like a lot a lot.

So try it out this week – try to consciously focus on your spouse’s good points rather than their bad – and see what happens.

If you’re like me, your marriage will become much happier when you consciously make the effort to do this.


Saving a Marriage From Divorce

Can a marriage be saved from the brink of divorce? What would that even look like? I’ve collected stories and advice for couples hoping to save their marriage from divorce.

When someone signs up for my email list, they get a little welcome email which asks them to respond back stating something they are currently struggling with in their marriage.

I get quite a few of these emails each week.

At first I was surprised to find how many of these emails expressed marriages in dire straights- on the brink of divorce, dealing with things like infidelity, addiction, abuse, etc. I’ve received three such emails dealing with infidelity just this week.

This has caused me concern many times because I feel inadequate to offer them anything helpful, never having experienced any of those problems firsthand.

But then I thought, while I don’t have experience with a marriage in dire straights, I can certainly point you to people who have been there and who can offer hope.

So the past two weeks I’ve been scouring the internet for helpful articles and stories for couples on the brink of divorce who are making it work.

Because if you are in this situation, it can often seem like you are all alone- surrounded by happy couples with no problems. Like this woman said,

“I always wound up asking [my friends] if they knew anyone—anyone—who had been through this and made it out the other side, anyone who’d survived an affair and come out happily married. Because I wanted to believe it was possible, and to know how it could be done. What was normal? Was there a road map? How long would it take? None of my friends seemed to know such a couple. Other marriages might have survived an affair, but no one was talking.”

At the outset, let me say that you are certainly not alone, and I sincerely hope you find peace and hope and forgiveness regardless of where your marriage lands.

Let me be clear (again) that I am not anti-divorce. I do not think every marriage should be saved and I don’t judge couples for whom this is the best option (the stories of hope section includes two such couples).

Saving a Marriage From Divorce | The best articles on coming back from infidelity and the brink of divorce.

This post, however, is primarily for those who have already made the decision to stay and need some hope and direction for what is ahead.

So here are the results of my digging for stories of hope for couples on the brink of divorce:

Stories of Hope: Saving a Marriage From Divorce

(the titles are links)

He Cheated: She Stayed: One Woman’s True Story of Getting Over Infidelity

I found this little gem in O Magazine online. The author is utterly real and relate-able.

Her story starts out with her being the mistress to someone else’s affair before she was married, so she begins by outlying why affairs are so alluring.  Then, years into her own marriage, her husband cheated and she got the other end of the experience.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“The year following Sam’s confession was wretched. I felt as if I were living forward and backward at the same time, excavating details about the past—ours and theirs—as I tried to figure out what came next: How could I keep our family on an even keel, and what could I do to fix our marriage, and was it even worth the trouble?
…It is very hard to fall back in love with someone you know as well as you know a spouse after 12 years. You have none of the momentum of early love to propel you forward, and all the habits that drive you crazy to drag you down. But we both cared for our marriage enough to want to give it a chance, and to try our best not to damage it further.
Much as I am loath to admit that anything good could come out of his affair, our marriage now is, in important ways, often better than it ever was. Sam doesn’t dismiss his anger in hopes that it will go away—and he’s getting better at pinpointing some of the vulnerable feelings that the anger, like a guard dog, protects.” 

How I Saved My Marriage

This one, written by Richard Paul Evans doesn’t involve infidelity and I’ve shared it before because I find it so powerful. Definitely worth the read for any relationship.
“Our fighting became so constant that it was difficult to even imagine a peaceful relationship. We became perpetually defensive, building emotional fortresses around our hearts. We were on the edge of divorce and more than once we discussed it.
. . . Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself.” 
Saving a Marriage From Divorce
Richard and his wife Kerri. Source: Hoopes Vision

Surviving Infidelity

This is written by a man whose wife of 35 years cheated on him. I was very impressed by how committed they both seemed to be to making it work (I’ll say more about this one in the ‘my two cents’ section).
“. . . even after I forgave her, I still hurt, I still hated, and I was still crying. But I realized at that point how much I loved my wife. And I believed that, even though she did what she did, she still loved me.”

The Big “D” Word

This is another long-time favorite marriage article of mine. All about disappointments and adjusting your expectations.

“There may come a time when you look at your spouse and look at your life and come to the hard realization that the dreams you once had will never come true with this person.  That truth hits hard.   You may feel trapped and backed into a corner with the only feasible solution being the big “D” word.  The thought of moving on can be so scary and yet alluring all at the same time.  The thought of a fresh start, a second chance to begin again and to get it right this time around.  These thoughts begin slowly at first like a quiet whisper at the very back of your mind.  But with every argument, every hurtful word, every disappointment, that voice that tells you that, ‘you deserve better’ gets louder and stronger.  It will convince you that you’ve done all you can.  It will try to steal your hope.  That voice will make you believe that things will never change.  And then, as the final and fatal blow it will stir up bitterness and resentment.  That voice will aim to harden your heart and convince you that the only thing left to do is walk away.” 

Pam and Greg. Source: Clean Life, Happy Wife

Life After Porn Addiction, Affairs and Lies . . . It Does Get Better

Alright, so this couple did get a divorce, but I put it in here first off because it shows that even with divorce, there is still a lot of work to be done in healing, forgiveness and self-growth. Also, I like what he says about the importance of overcoming shame (which secretly underlies a lot of our misery and bad behavior) and how he describes why he cheated.

“You can change your thoughts which change your actions. You do this by getting help from someone you trust. You do this by choosing to believe that you can be more than just these addictions, or problems. You CAN do something about it.

. . . To this day, Lynn and I are still friends, business partners, and co-parents and we get along just fine. That is thanks to both of us, putting in the work to heal, grow, forgive, and strengthen our relationships with ourselves.”

The Lie and Truth About Marriage

So this couple also eventually ended up splitting up years after this was written (yet remain very close), but I include it here because it is such a good description of what making it work when its hard actually looks and feels like.

“Real love is about METAMORPHOSIS, and metamorphosis IS FIFTY SHADES OF PAIN – just ask the butterfly. To let love work on you, to let the metamorphosis happen- you must allow the illusions of who you thought you were to fall away,  look reality dead in the eye and open your arms wide to the REAL him, the REAL you, REAL marriage.  

. . . Start feeling loving feelings a little each day. Download the truth that: Yep. FEELINGS FOLLOW WORK.  REPEATEDLY ACT LOVING AND EVENTUALLY- You will find yourself FEELING LOVING. Promise yourself you will never forget that love is not something to wait for or wonder about or search for or hope for but SOMETHING TO SHOW UP EVERYDAY TO CREATE. LOVE Does Not Just Happen. It’s FORGED.”

Advice from Experts

If You Want to Save Your Marriage After An Affair, Read This

This is a great article written for a spouse who has had an affair who wants to save their marriage. It is full of experts and authors sharing actionable steps.

“Research shows that if the betrayed spouse needs to process what happened or talk about feelings, healing won’t happen unless the unfaithful spouse is willing to participate in the conversation openly and honestly, in a reassuring way,” she said. “Sometimes the unfaithful spouse’s shame gets in the way of being present for these conversations. Know that you can acknowledge that shame and still be willing to put it aside so your partner knows their needs are paramount.”

I Just Discovered I Was Cheated On, Now What Do I Do?

Written as a partner article, this is what to do if you have been cheated on. Again, full of helpful quotes from experts.

“Give yourself permission to feel every emotion that comes your way: sadness, bitterness; hopelessness; total, utter rage — all of it. 

. . . You may feel like a victim now but you remind yourself that you haven’t been totally robbed of your agency. You still have a say in what happens next in your relationship.” 

We’re On The Brink, Can My Marriage Be Saved?

This is a reader question answered by a couple’s therapist. In it, she gives eight insightful questions to ask yourself as well as some strategies to heal.

“As a couples therapist, I see many couples that come into treatment despondent and angry.  There are years of damage and mistrust. . . . In all of these cases, at least some of the time, there is hope for true and genuine reconciliation.  Of course, this can happen if and only if both spouses are open to the idea of changing how they think of the relationship and how they interact with each other.  Don’t expect this to be a quick or easy process, but it is possible and I have seen it happen.”

My Two Cents

As I read through story after story after story of infidelity and broken marriages this week, I started thinking about my research as a graduate student studying criminology.

For my master’s thesis, I wanted to answer the question, “Why can some prisoners come out of prison and stay out and when so many end up back in? What is the difference between them? What characteristic or factor is the turning point?”

To answer this question, I spent hours and hours interviewing prisoners and former prisoners. I attended re-entry programs and questioned the instructors.

I’m not the first person to ask this question of course, and the literature outlines many contributing factors to recidivism: employment, family support, access to good programs, social economic status, race, etc.

But what I found in my interviews was that some people could have every box checked- a good job, friend and family support, the best programs and still end up violating their parole time and time again. Whereas others had everything against them and were still able to stay out of the system.

I concluded that the biggest factor boiled down to DESIRE. The important role of personal desire and conviction just couldn’t be ignored. If a parolee didn’t REALLY want to stay out of prison or get clean- no program, child or job could make them change.

And for those who seemed to have all odds against them who got clean and stayed out of the system- the difference seemed to be that they really, really wanted it. Wanted it enough to change at great personal sacrifice. Wanted it enough to seek and receive help. Wanted it enough to go through the really, really tough times.

Saving a Marriage From Divorce | The best articles on coming back from infidelity and the brink of divorce.

I wonder if it isn’t the same for the couples who make it work and those who don’t? (not that I think marriage should be likened unto prison 😉 ) I’m no expert in this field, so it’s just a hypothesis.

The tricky thing in marriage, though, is that it takes TWO people who really, really want to make it work. Want it enough to change at great personal sacrifice. Want it enough to seek and receive help. Want it enough to go through the really, really tough times.

We can only ensure one-half of the desire necessary unfortunately. Our spouse is responsible for the other half.

I think this couple is a great example. While reading this man’s story, it felt different from the many, many other infidelity stories I had read that day.  It felt like, wow, I actually believe they are going to make it work. The difference was that they convinced me that they both REALLY wanted to make it work.

Its like what Richard Paul Evans said, “We’ve learned how to take care of each other and, more importantly, we’ve gained the desire to do so.”

The desire needs to be there. A lot of it.

I know its not that simple- that a strong enough desire isn’t the ONLY thing necessary. Just like its not that simple for parolees to break free of the criminal justice system for good. Some people have every factor against them and for them its almost impossible. Its SO much easier to go back.

Likewise, some couples have every factor against them- histories of addiction, infidelity, depression, mental illness, personality disorders, financial strain.

For every couple though, I do believe a strong desire to stay is the starting point. And I definitely believe in the power of selfless love, devotion and commitment to work miracles. I really do.

I don’t believe saving a marriage is the best path for every couple. There is legitimate abuse out there.

Only you can decide whether or not your marriage should be saved. If you are trying to make that decision, marriage therapist Jennifer Finlayson-Fife offered some great questions to ask yourself in my interview with her for my upcoming book. She said to ask yourself:

  • Is making room for this person going to make me give more than I can really give?
  • Am I prepared to live with the consequence of breaking my family?
  • Can I stand by my decision weighing the cost it will be to all of us?
  • Is this decision being driven by my fear or by my clarity?
  • Ultimately do I want this enough? If I don’t want it, is it because of my weakness or my strength?
  • Is my decision coming from the best in me or the worst in me?

Whatever you choose, I believe the path ahead must include a lot of inner-work toward healing, peace, hope and forgiveness.

Good luck friends. I’m rooting for you.


Do I Need My Anger?

Recently it was my choice to pick our monthly book for my book club.

I chose Loving What Is.

Shocker I know.

Not everyone loved it, which is totally fine because truth be told,  I don’t love the writing style and I find the tone a little pandering. BUT the ideas in it are golden. Golden I tell you!

I can’t tell you how much this book has helped me (I mean, I’ve tried . . . and tried).

But anyway, in our conversation during this book club, several people took issue with the book because wouldn’t loving what is cause you to accept unjust situations?

What if you were being abused? Should you just accept it and love what is?

What about things that are wrong in the world? If we loved it, nothing would change!

What about things that are wrong about myself or my husband or my children? Don’t I need my anger to change myself and others? Do I have to become a doormat?

I’m going to make the point in this article that no, I don’t think clinging to anger is either healthy or productive to solving problems.

However, I fully admit I could be wrong here, so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I think feeling that my anger serves a purpose has been the greatest roadblock to my own self-improvement.

Let me be clear, I think anger is natural. I don’t think we should feel guilty when we feel anger rising inside us. I don’t think we should fear anger or condemn it. But (there’s always a but), I do not think holding on to anger is productive. I think thinking anger is productive is what poisons us.

Its what poisons me.

Let me illustrate my point with three examples- one about myself, one about the world and the last one about marriage.

Do I Need My Anger? Anger can be a great spark to incite action, but clinging to it can poison you. Click through to read more

Example #1: Myself and My Productivity

As I’ve done “the work” (this worksheet from Loving What Is) its been interesting to see which patterns come up again and again in what bothers me.

A while ago when I would go to bed, I started writing down “things that lifted me up” in one column and “things that brought me down” in another. Interesting patters started to emerge from doing this regularly.

I noticed the same things tend to bring me down again and again.

Heading the list was this little number:

“I should get more done.”

I’m sure none of you can relate, but I’ve had a real destructive relationship with this sentence for . . . hmmm ever. It brings me down. It makes me beat myself up.

When I want to be happy, this little black cloud says, “But no, because you should get more done. You should be being productive right now- look at your house- you’ve got emails to respond to, bills to pay, your to-do list to tend to. You can’t feel good about yourself because you didn’t accomplish much today and have so much more to do.”

I think that misunderstanding the role of anger has kept me from progressing past this.

I have stubbornly clung to the idea that letting go of my anxiety towards my self would mean that I would get less done. I’m terrified to accept myself as is because I’ve thought in doing so, I would become complacent. Lazy even. So, I cling to these negative emotions like an anchor.

But anger is a TERRIBLE anchor! It steals my joy. It makes me beat myself up. It takes all the happiness out of doing the things that I actually want to do.

I’ve realized this truth in other areas of my life (in dealing with my spouse and my kids for instance) I have successfully discovered- anger does no good there. I’ve seen the anger for what it is- a major hindrance in my relationship to them, but for some reason this area of productivity I’ve found the hardest to give up. I know that it is a roadblock in a healthy relationship to myself, but I find myself again and again so hesitant to work on letting it go.

Example #2: The World’s Problems

This is a common discussion my husband and I have. We have differing ideas on the role of anger (differences of opinion in marriages?? Whaaat?).

One of the things I love about my husband is that he really and truly cares about those who are suffering in the world. He wants to alleviate their suffering. He wants things to be more fair economically and politically- for everyone to have their fair shake at a good life.

And he doesn’t see this happening, so he thinks that his anger serves an important purpose. He learns about those suffering unfairly in the world and thinks that they deserve his anger. He finds it his duty to learn about them and feel angry on their behalf.

He would say his anger is what leads him to call his congressmen, spread their message and shine light on a predicament that others are choosing to ignore. He wishes more people would be angry because it is what moves people to get. things. done. To be outraged enough to speak up and act up.

I can see that viewpoint and I can also see that those thoughts come from the best in him, not the worst.

But I have a different view . And please, don’t think I’m trying to convince you that he is wrong and I am right. As I mentioned before, I’m open to being wrong.

Do I Need My Anger? Anger can be a great spark to incite action, but clinging to it can poison you. Click through to read more.

I think change and involvement is necessary in these tough world problems. I think acting is important. I think we should all be informed. But I do not think anger is either necessary or productive. I truly think we are only hurting ourselves when we choose anger. And not only ourselves but those around us as well.

I think anger or outrage could be the initial spark to move us to act, but I do not think that clinging to anger solves or helps anything. And I don’t think we do those who are hurting any great service by remaining angry on their behalf. I think we do them a disservice by lowering our own quality of life and that for those around us.

I think instead of being fueled by anger, our motivation to act can and should be fueled by respect. We respect those who are suffering enough to spread their message and do our part to correct their injustices. I believe anger is not only the more dangerous and potentially destructive fuel source, I also think its less effective.

I think dealing with our anger in this situation seems so unsettling because in order to deal with it we often have to face this uncomfortable little thing called forgiveness. This often feels wrong to work on forgiving a person or institution that is so clearly in the wrong. Why would we do that? What would that accomplish?

I think forgiveness accomplishes a great deal, topping the list- inner peace and increased love for those around us. Plus, when we speak with anger, it makes people opposing us shut down, not pay attention.

And no, forgiveness does not mean we become doormats. Forgiveness is such a misunderstood value. I describe that here.

Now, I’m not sure why I can see how damaging anger is so clearly in this political example (perhaps because it deals with someone else’s anger and not my own?) but not clearly in my own example of productivity.

By my own logic, I should know that anger not only has more destructive consequences, but just isn’t as effective in the long run as is respect. Productivity fueled by self-respect would be longer lasting and would certainly lead to a healthier self-image and self-esteem. And I do think it would cause me to get just as much done. And would vastly improve the quality of my life.

Why then do we cling to our anger? Why do we think it is so necessary for change?

Example #3: Marriage

I had a friend explain to me once that she was hesitant to let go of her anger and explain things calmly to her husband because then he would never change!

For example, she was feeling really overwhelmed with her schedule and cleaning and cooking one week and wanted her husband to step it up and help out more for the next week or two. She calmly asked him if he would help more around the house one night and he agreed, but then didn’t do anything. The next night she popped her lid, got upset and emotional and what do you know- her husband started cleaning!

Becoming really upset became a trigger for her spouse to know when to act. And she was none too keen to give up this power.

(We do this with our kids all. the. time. They don’t seem to listen one bit until we start yelling).

Here’s the problem with that: our anger has consequences. Negative consequences. Both for us and for those around us. Maybe unseen consequences, but they are always there.

With our spouses, our anger directed at them will always cause a loss of connection. Our friendship will take a hit every time.

It also does things like increase our blood pressure, cause us stress and trigger a large variety of unhealthy ways to cope with negative emotions and stress (numbing feelings, overeating, perfectionism, controlling those around us, drinking too much, distracting ourselves in too much time online, etc).

Do I Need My Anger? Anger can be a great spark to incite action, but clinging to it can poison you. Click through to read more

I’ve noticed in my own marriage, anger brings nothing good. For instance, when I come to Rich upset about something and he can sense my anger, his defenses go shooting up right from the get go. He is on guard immediately and easily becomes defensive. I do the same when the tables are turned.

When we come to our spouses in anger, we are not providing an environment for productive conversation. We’re providing a battle ground.

Its the same in my productivity example- how do I feel when I beat myself up? Like being more productive? No.I feel ashamed and want to numb those feelings (which generally consists of doing very unproductive things).

Its the same in my political example- how do you feel when you see a Facebook post of an angry political rant that goes against your beliefs? The intent of the post was probably to persuade you to their way of thinking, but have you ever been persuaded by an angry rant?

I would guess not. I, for one, am always deeply appreciative of friends who post their controversial thoughts in a thoughtful, respectful way without throwing others under a bus. These posts are infinitely more productive in changing people’s minds.

Its the same in our marriages. Dr. David Schnarch says that the most loving thing we can do with for our spouse is to manage our own anxiety.

Negative emotions can be effective to spark action, but they always come with negative consequences.

I think we can use the initial spark of anger to drive us to right wrongs, but only after we deal with our anger appropriately (the work is a great way to do that) and then are able to act out of respect for ourselves and others.

Those are my thoughts and observations, but I really want to hear what YOU think.

Do you think anger is productive? Necessary? Useful? When and why?

Do you struggle with clinging to your anger to incite change in yourself or others?