Wife can save marriage by showing strength

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dear Dr. Dobson: Last week you gave recommendations how I could change my relationship with my unhappy husband, Joe. How is Joe likely to respond to the new me?

Dear Reader: He may test your resolve in the next few months by showing hostility, being aloof or flirting with other women. He'll be watching for signs of weakness or panic. If you continue to show self-confidence, you will convince him that he is actually free.

Three things typically happen when you convey that understanding:

(1) The trapped partner no longer feels it necessary to fight off the other, and the relationship improves. It is not that the love affair is rekindled, necessarily, but the strain between the two partners is often eased.

(2) As the cool spouse begins to feel free again, the question he has been asking himself changes. After having wondered for weeks or months, "How can I get out of this mess?" he now asks, "Do I really want to go?" Just knowing that he can have his way often makes him less anxious to achieve it. Sometimes it turns him around 180 degrees and brings him back home.

(3) The third change occurs not in the cool spouse but in the mind of the vulnerable one. Incredibly, she feels better -- somehow more in control of the situation. There is no greater agony than journeying through a vale of tears, waiting in vain for the phone to ring or for a miracle to occur. Instead, the person begins to respect herself and receives small evidences of respect in return.

Even though it is difficult to let go once and for all, there are ample rewards for doing so. One of those advantages involves the feeling that she has a definite course of action to follow. That is infinitely more comfortable than experiencing the utter despair of powerlessness that she felt before. And little by little, the healing process begins.

Does this approach always work? Of course not. Nothing always works in human relationships. Some people will re-examine the decision to leave and decide to return. Others will keep on going. Either way, however, showing respect for yourself in the crisis will maximize the opportunities for your relationship to survive. Even if it's too late to reconnect with Joe, you'll have your self-confidence back and will be able to go on without him.

Dear Dr. Dobson: We need a little more income to make it, but I have preschool children and don't want to seek employment outside the home. Is there an alternative?

Dear Reader: You might want to consider building a home-based business that can be run while taking care of your children and keeping your sanity. Among the possibilities are catering, desktop publishing, pet grooming, sewing, consulting, transcribing legal documents or even mail-order sales. Choosing which business is right for you is the first of three practical steps suggested by Donna Partow. She's the author of a book called "Homemade Business." You can start your own enterprise by taking a personal skills and interest inventory to identify your particular abilities and what you might like doing the best. The second step is to do your homework. Begin by asking your librarian to help you research your chosen field. Look up books, magazines and newspaper articles. Talk to other people who have done what you'd like to do. Join an industry organization and a network. Subscribe to industry publications.

According to Mrs. Partow, the third step is to get as much support as you can. Get your children, spouse and friends on your side. Setting up a small business can be stressful, and you'll need as much encouragement as you can get. If you've been torn between family and finances, having a home-based business may be the best of both worlds.

Send your questions to Dr. James Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: