Today I was shopping in a well-known lingerie store. When I was in line, the woman behind me said, “Can I go before you? I have just a small purchase.”
“Of course,” I replied, because I was not in any rush. “I’m a couples counselor,” I laughed, “and I have developed patience for the smaller things in life.”
“You are a counselor? That is certainly a worthwhile job,” she said. “I’ve been married three times. This time I know it is going to last, because through counseling, I realized that I was the problem, not my partners. And here I used to think it was the men I had been choosing!”
“I am glad that counseling helped you,” I said.
“I began discovering who I am as a person, and I started making some big changes,” she nodded. “My pastor said that he’d seen numerous things that lead to divorce, but that the top four in his opinion all started with A. He called it the Four A’s of Divorce.”
“Which were?” I asked.
“Addictions, abandonment, adultery, and abuse,” she listed. “Well, I’d hit two of those A’s already, so I started to question how I chose these men. It was then that it started to make sense to me. There were personal things I needed to straighten out first. It’s amazing how much better each day is, now that I’ve become responsible for once in my life.”
Startling, isn’t it? She had begun to see that her own behavior was partially responsible for how two of her marriages ended, and so she was making changes in her way of living.
Don’t wait until your relationship is on the rocks. While the Four A’s are certain to cause a relationship to suffer and even terminate, there are some tough questions to ask yourself about your own behavior.
- I know what my partner’s faults are! Can I stop trying to change these, or can I learn to accept my partner? But, wait, what are my faults? Do I have any shortcomings? Have I made any mistakes? Can I own up to my weaknesses? Maybe I should look at my own behavior, too. It’s not a perfect relationship. Can we still have empathy for each other, even when there are mistakes made?
- Do I make promises to my partner that I don’t keep? Do I sometimes give mixed messages that could promote mistrust for my partner?
- How do I feel about the rules of a commitment? Do I want to do the daily work involved in a partnership to fulfill my responsibilities, or do I expect the relationship to survive on its own?
- What kind of partner am I to my mate? Would I want to come home to me? Am I someone I would want to be in a relationship with?
- My partner has a problem with (battering; substance abuse; infidelity; etc.). What are my options? How do I suggest help, or do I allow the pain and hurt to continue, as I am afraid to be alone? Is the acceptance of such behavior better than the dissolution of the marriage?
- Something is starting to go wrong in my marriage. Do I have the courage to address it with my spouse and a counselor, or hope it will just go away?
- Am I financially enmeshed with my partner in a way that keeps me dependent?
- Am I relying solely on my spouse to make me happy in life? Am I insecure in a way that leaves me ever-reliant my partner? Do I have a problem with boundaries? Can I say “no” when necessary?
- Am I ready to be honest with my partner about my own hopes and dreams? Do I fear being rejected? Can my partner trust me to be honest? Am I hard to get close to?
Wow, those were tough questions! Maybe you have pondered some of them before. But even if you haven’t, there is no time like the present. And the best news is that we have the ability to change, and that there are always options. First we need to recognize the problem and then do something different. Relationships are worth it as they can go the distance and do not have to end up in divorce. The ultimate fate of any relationship lies in the investment and follow-through of its components. A relationship is much like a baseball team, where each player is responsible for his part to cause a team win. How about making yours a win, too?
This book is the ideal guide for those contemplating marriage; those newly married; or those renewing their vows. Through counseling advice, and the acronyms “FACTS” and “FAITH” Barbara Peters outlines the steps needed to have a successful marriage. Barbara uses some case scenarios from her own practice to illustrate her message.