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Resucitating your marriage

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It might not be too late to save your relationship

By John Lapp

Resuscitate — what in the world does that big word mean? Well, I’m sure that the Spencer County EMT personnel know that a resuscitator is an apparatus used to restore respiration to a partially asphyxiated person, even to a person who may be unable to be restored. That doesn’t mean that they give up without trying.

I know that the EMT personnel from Orange Park (Florida) who responded to the emergency needs of my wife didn’t give up. The reports I subsequently received from the hospital included that she was “clinically dead for 4-5 minutes,” but this is 2012, and now, 17 years later, she will within the next several days celebrate her 74th birthday.

So, why did I take the space to briefly explain what it means to “resuscitate”? Specifically, to bring your attention to what many in my counseling office have described as a dead marriage, and to furthermore help you to not fully act on that premise and give up.
I know that I felt that way when standing outside the restaurant on that seemingly fateful day 17 years ago this month. I was informed by an attending police officer that “she’s not breathing ... she has no pulse, but they are still working on her.”

As I write this, some of those same emotions are still present as I recall that very emotional event. The “apparatus” that was used, and still is used by EMTs, was designed to revive the patient, and this time, thank God for his mercy and love, she was revived.
Many marriages already have been pronounced, or have had it pronounced by others outside the marriages, as dead.

What makes it seem dead are many ongoing factors that have perhaps, slowly but surely, turned this marriage (as was stated in last week’s Counselor’s Corner) from the ideal to an ordeal. But before you believe that a new deal would be better, try (again) to see if this marriage can be resuscitated.

I know that a partner’s controlling behavior, lack of responsibility, lack of emotional support, among many other factors, have caused you to feel that your marriage has now become an ordeal. And, I also know that most couples experiencing marital distress do not seek formal help in dealing with it, and sometimes when they do decide to seek counseling, they first have talked about it with family, friends, physicians, and/or their pastor or priest.

More often than not, the help they have received has brought about some relief, yet the problems still continue.

In my experience working with hundreds of couples over the past 40-plus years, early intervention when the problems are first noticed can help the marriage partners to work at getting things worked out.
In fact, one author states: “60 percent of the spouses in my study reported marital dissatisfaction and doubts about their marriages during the first year of their marriage.” That does not mean that there has yet been an extensive history of hurtful and bitter feelings, a negative pattern of interactions between the spouses, producing thoughts of despair.

There are some national programs that suggest that newly married couples would do well to have a monthly checkup session to assess how they are doing so far, a process of avoiding the beginning stages of degeneration that may quickly develop into serious matters. Some authors have stated that the most common period for divorce to occur is two to five years after the marriage.

One of the things that has been most present in the reports of these early marriages is the addressing of marital expectations. Maybe you entered the marriage with preconceived expectations that you will always live in this state of marital bliss, not withstanding that soon after the wedding vows have been exchanged, you discovered that your spouse has some flaws that you didn’t know about, but are now emerging with this day-to-day existence you have on a 24/7 basis. There may also be an expectation that the marriage would include the fantasy: we should meet all of each other’s needs and at least be able to sense each other’s needs as if we could read each other’s minds.
This is obviously not possible.

One of the best interventions I have used in my instruction with those who seek my help is to keep reminding yourself of the positive things that are still evident in your relationship. Often in the development of marital dissatisfaction, many positive traits of your partner are still there, but you may not have paid attention to these traits because of the ongoing deterioration of the relationship. This, subsequently, may have also changed your attitude and developed within yourself mannerisms such as nagging, complaining or distancing. When this happens, although you are still physically living together, you are emotionally/mentally/spiritually in two different worlds.

Your marriage may not be dead. It may still have a chance of being revived, being resuscitated, and maybe your thoughts of a a better, more satisfying, relationship should be held off until you attempt to breathe into this marriage some new life.

For more information, call 477-2818. May God help you and bless you.