Advice about saving your marriage is often wrong, expert says
The lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is between 40 and 50 percent, according to PolitiFact.com’s estimates. Couples in trouble often seek advice from friends, family and counselors. But global marriage expert Mort Fertel, creator of the Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot Camp and author of “Marriage Fitness,” says much of the advice couples get is bad.
“Much of the advice people get about their marriage problems is wrong. It sounds good. It makes sense. The problem is: it usually doesn’t work,” Fertel says. “Reconciling a broken marriage is tricky. The process is not intuitive. You really have to be careful that the advice you’re following has proved to achieve the outcome you’re looking for.”
Fertel says his tips often run counter to many ideas existing within our culture’s zeitgeist.
“A lot of the advice people get is logical, but it’s not psychological,” he says. “It’s ineffective because it doesn’t take into account the unique dynamics that occur between a husband and wife who are emotionally disconnected.”
• Go at it alone. Most people think, “I need my spouse to work with me to fix our marriage.” But it does not take two to tango. One person’s effort can change the momentum of a marriage, and very often, it’s that effort that motivates the obstinate spouse to join in the process of saving the relationship.
• The wrong question. Many people wonder, “Did I marry the right person?” But that’s the wrong question. The key to succeeding in marriage is not finding the right person; it’s learning to love the person you found. Love is not a mystery. Just as there are physical laws of the universe – like gravity, which governs flight – there are also relationship laws that, depending on your behavior, dictate the outcome of your marriage. You don’t have to be “lucky in love.” It’s not luck; it’s choice.
• Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. That might have been true in junior high school when you went away for the summer. But in marriage, particularly in a broken marriage, absence separates people. It creates distance, and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve, which is closeness.
• Don’t talk about your problems. Talking about the problems in a marriage doesn’t resolve them; it makes them worse. It leads to arguments and bad will. Besides, you’ll never talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved yourself into. Marriages change because people change. Say little; do much. Speak in the vocabulary of your actions. New choices resolve marital problems; discussions don’t.
• Don’t think marriage counseling is the answer. Marriage counseling does not work in most situations. The success rate is dismal. Most couples report being worse off after marriage counseling. One of the reasons relates to point 4 above.
• Don’t talk to family or friends about your situation. One of the most important values in a marriage is privacy; therefore, it’s a mistake to talk about your marriage or your spouse to family or friends. It’s a violation of your spouse’s privacy and it’s wrong.
Mort Fertel is a world authority on the psychology of relationships. He has been featured as an expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox television networks, as well as dozens of publications including Glamour Magazine and Family Circle, to discuss his Marriage Fitness System. His program is endorsed by a wide variety of mental-health professionals, and he has helped save thousands of marriages.