September 3, 2013

by Deb Hirschhorn

Sometimes a marriage can hurt so much it feels better to be alone, but resist the temptation to quit. Instead, consider healing the marriage. If you are hurting, so is your partner. Your partner’s off-putting behavior is a loaded message: It means he (or she) needs healing. The worse the behavior, the more he needs someone to reach out.

Here are five steps for both of you to heal.

1. Empower Yourself

First, step out of your role of victim. I know that’s difficult – you’re hurt! But healing begins with choosing how you will engage life. If you meet anger with anger, what you get in return is more anger – with no one listening to each other.

Instead, you can accept that your partner’s is behaving in a difficult way, and decide not to act in kind. You also can decide to take care of yourself through this difficult period. That means purposeful focus on the joys in your life: Greet your children, co-workers, friends and other family with a smile that shows you are truly glad to connect. Take pride in your work and your accomplishments. Delight in the delicious food that you eat; allow yourself the pleasure of a good night’s sleep. Affirm your own goodness often.

In short, be happy with who you are and with the good things in your life. Your happiness will serve as a balm for your own wounds and those of your partner as well.

2. Set Healthy Boundaries

When we are irritated, we can’t listen and absorb information; conversations will deteriorate. So, when you or your partner is annoyed, it’s not a good time to try to talk. Arrange ahead of time to take a break, do deep breathing or mediate instead of trying to discuss things when one or the other is in a bad mood.

Setting healthy boundaries also means that even if the mood is neutral but one person or the other has slipped into blame or other negative behavior, the conversation has to be over. After all, what good is it to continue talking when one person must receive that bad energy? No information will be exchanged and there will be no improvement in the issue under consideration.

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