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When marriage gets hard, are you all in? 4 things that can happen when a couple stays in it together

Marriage gets hard. How you get through those times makes all the difference.

Sometimes, married life can pack one painful blow after another. While some partners crack under the pressure, others decide to double-down and rebuild back up, together. What sets those couples apart?

Studio 5 Contributor Dr. Liz Hale shares four things that can happen when a married couple decided to stay in.


The majority of my couples enter therapy on the brink of divorce, emotionally exhausted. While they don’t necessarily want to be free of the marriage, they want to be free of the pain and frustration. Without knowing how to separate these two predicaments, divorce becomes a looming possibility. For many couples, marriage therapy is the last resort. (No pressure!)

Sometimes unhappy couples only see two options; stay miserably married or file for divorce. But there is a third option. Holding hands, digging deep, and turning their marriage into what they WANT it to be.

So what can happen when a couple decides to stay in?

Separation & Space Has its Place

I will always remember my couple who came in on the brink of divorce with a brand-new baby girl in their arms. Their 4th child.

After multiple lies, infractions, and betrayals, this wife finally had it. The deception and realization of his historic pornography viewing became her final straw. She asked her husband to leave the house and go live with his parents.

Prior to asking for a separation, this wife admitted that while alone in her van, she entertained hitting another vehicle with her car, or running into a light pole. She just didn’t want to be in pain anymore. The marriage she was living was not the marriage she had signed up for. And she hated her husband for it. After he packed his bags and left, she felt peace for the first time in over a year.

Space seemed to be an answer for this struggling couple. When he was asked to leave the family home, he hit rock bottom. It wasn’t long before he humbly came to his wife and laid everything out on the table. He accounted for every lie and came clean with each betrayal. His vulnerability elicited her empathy; the kind of empathy he had never known. The kind he imagined Christ would extend.

He continued to live with his parents while they continued to meet and share from their hearts. After two months, he returned home with a promise that they would never return to their old, cold, bitter days. Now that they have both tasted this open and honest love, they will not settle for anything else. They work on the kind of marriage they want, every single day!

Blind Spots Need Unveiling

A healthy “WE” is made up of two healthy “ME”s. There is magic when two partners are willing to face their own blind spots in the mirror. A couple who I have seen periodically throughout the years have been married for 47 years. I continue to be inspired by their courage to face really difficult things, contemplate ending their marriage in divorce, and yet continuing to choose each other and their marriage. What has made them so successful as of late? Humbly recognizing the roles they’ve played during their painful marital dips.

More recently, he began to face the pain he caused his wife through the years when he was critical of her appearance on the days she didn’t have her hair and makeup done. He finally said to her, “It’s gotta be so painful to go to bed with all your makeup on….all because you’re afraid of my criticism. I am SO sorry I have hurt you like this. My negativity stems from how I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror and see how much I’ve aged.” He has begun to see how staying off his own back, would also help him stay off of hers.

Her challenge was when she tried to be “helpful” to him. For instance in the car, she would often say, “turn here; the light is green; let me help you; slow down; go faster…..” He would tend to lose his cool because he felt disrespected, controlled, and like she didn’t trust that he could handle a simple task like driving. Her old behaviors made him feel emasculated.

Today, they are stronger than they have ever been. And it has been a couple of years now since either of them threatened divorce.

Boredom is Not a Crisis

It is normal to be supremely bored sometimes: bored with everything from where you choose to eat dinner on those rare date nights to what happens afterwards. You can hate your marriage for a whole month – or even longer – and still land on the other side of it all remembering why you married this person in the first place.

One month after one of my couples filed for divorce, they ended up going to a movie together because grandma took their kids for the night. They held hands and they never stopped. They cancelled their divorce and buckled up for a hellish year-long emotional rollercoaster. They’d be wonderfully in love one day, and full of rage and anger the next. For a long time it wasn’t clear to them if their decision to stay together had been the right one.

Now, they report their lives and love are stable, and they’re grateful they stuck it out. But they learned that they are each responsible for their own happiness. And beyond pet peeves, there are legitimate things they dislike about the other. And they’re learned that it’s ok to be unhappy with them and the relationship sometimes. It doesn’t mean that your love is bankrupt. In many marriages, you may WANT to leave at some point that doesn’t mean you should.

Dr. Liz Hale is the Studio 5 Family and Marriage Contributor. She is passionate about helping relationships survive and thrive! She works hard on keeping her own relationships healthy and strong. But don’t stand in her way of a daily, sanity-maintaining brisk walk (just ask her husband, Ben!).

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