All Posts by E.J. Smith

About the Author

E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS

Tending the Garden: A Springtime Analogy for Making Marriage Work

By E.J. Smith | Help

8a6fc4d0-d3f5-4f23-a8ef-5cb11818ad05_zpsvbqub9bvAs the weather gets more temperate and lovely here in Texas, my husband and I have been spending more time outside tending to the landscaping of our home.  It all started two weeks ago because I had a “vision” of how I wanted our flower beds to look.

However when we went outside to start plotting, it quickly became apparent that we needed to do some heavy weeding and clearing out of old brush and debris before the ‘fun’ could begin. 

And after the surface weeding was done, we started trying to remove some of the plants from the previous owners.

What we discovered was that seemingly lithe green stems were attached to tangled, gnarly masses that took most of what was left of the daylight to remove.  And by the end of that first weekend— we didn’t have renovated flower beds.  We had giant gaping holes of dirt and a huge pile of debris for our bulk pickup the following Thursday.

Was I disappointed?  Sure thing.  I also felt a little silly.  See, I hadn’t really paid that much care to our flower beds up until that point, because I knew I wanted to make a change.  So I just didn’t bother with them.  And in my zeal to create something pretty and new, I completely neglected to see what was already there.  Thus completely miscalculating the amount of time it would take to address, and also probably creating more work for both my husband and I by not maintaining the beds— even if I didn’t particularly love them.

Your Marriage Is a Garden Bed

Sometimes I think we have a tendency to view marriage the same way.  We know there’s something about our current situation that we don’t like.  So, we read a book.  We search the internet.  We attend a marriage retreat.  We get great new ideas and set out to make a changes:

“We are now going to do date night once a week.”

or

“We’re going to have sex every day this week.” 

The problem is that often these plans, much like my own for our garden beds, do not take into account the weeds and underlying issues that haven’t been addressed, and that we’ve been trying not to look at because… well, they’re ugly. 

Sharing more physical intimacy, or going out on dates regularly are great ideas.  However, it might be difficult to be naked and intimate with someone when old hurts keep you feeling on guard. And setting high expectations for a romantic night out when you have barely spoken in months might be a recipe for disaster as well. 

In the Weeds

I know a lot of marriage and dating websites, EngagedMarriage.com included, try to make working on your marriage relationships look like fun.  And that’s a really great thing because proactively working on your marriage absolutely can be fun!  But sometimes, it’s not going to be fun.  Or, more accurately— sometimes in order to get to the fun part— you need to go through the not-so-fun part and have the difficult conversation so that you can get to the fun part and actually be able to enjoy the experience when you get there.

Pulling weeds out of my garden bed when I’d had something else entirely in mind that Saturday is not what I call a “good time”.  And when the weekend came to a close, by some accounts, our beds look worse than when they started.  The weeds weren’t aesthetic by any means, but the bare dirt and the gaping holes that you could see all the way from the street were worse.

Just the Weeds

Difficult conversations while dating, engaged, or married can be much the same.  From personal experience, I can say that I’ve left many a difficult conversation feeling raw, exhausted and completely humbled.  But there’s also something pretty amazing that seems to occur in the days  following those periods of rawness— our relationship flourishes.

I believe this largely has to do with the way in which these difficult conversations occur.  Difficult conversations about relationships need to be limited in scope to the specific issue(s) at hand. When possible, I like to recommend tackling one thing at a time— be that spending habits, cleaning up around the house, extended family, sex life, career concerns, or whatever.  The same way I didn’t pull out every single plant in my garden beds, but rather targeted the weeds— difficult conversations in marriage need to stay focused on the issue at hand and avoid the defensive tendency to go eye-for-eye with grievances.

Sometimes, it is going to be your fault.  Sometimes, you are going to be in the wrong.  Other times it will be a dual problem that needs both parties on board.  Instead of slinging mud back across the battle line of your relationship, sometimes its better to have it hit you square in the face.  Own your slice of the humble pie. 

Planting Flowers

Hopefully I haven’t beaten this flower bed analogy to absolute death just yet, because there is more to the story… 

This past weekend, I finally had the opportunity to plant my flowers & herbs.  Even just thinking about them makes me so happy.  As much as I didn’t enjoy the experience of delaying my plans by a whole week in order to clean out the beds, I realized this past weekend that without the extra cleanup and prep work, there would’ve been no room for these little plants to grow.  And now instead of fighting through debris, they’re able to flourish.

This is a similar reward to what couples can experience when they’re willing and able to work through the not-so-fun stuff as well.  Working on your marriage should be about more than just damage control!  And the way to break the perpetual band-aid cycle is to have those tough conversations. 

Your Turn

Do you find you and your spouse avoid conflict at all costs?

Is there a time when you had a difficult conversation with your spouse, and found that in the long run it paid off?

Did you try to have a difficult conversation that when horribly wrong?  And you’d do just about anything to avoid a similar experience going forward?

I want to know!  Next month we’ll be talking about more ways to approach those difficult conversations and some
specific techniques for navigating rough waters. 

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Love & Utility:  Balancing Service & Self-Worth

By E.J. Smith | Help

daa15027-4b17-438b-9a11-1f7473eea84a_zpsn2qapt6cAs much as I try to keep my topics of discussion broad enough for the general masses, this month I need to talk to a group that is quite dear to my heart.  Would all the people pleasers on the internet raise your hands?

When you think of your spouse, what image comes to mind? In that snap shot, what are they doing?  Are they doing anything?  More importantly, are they doing something that serves you in this image? How do you feel right now, as you observe that image in your mind’s eye?

Now I want you to think of you.  If you had to take a picture that accurately represented yourself to me, what does it look like?  In this snap shot, what are you doing? Are you doing anything? More importantly, who are your actions serving— yourself? Your kids? Some one else?  While there may be a handful of self-identified people pleasers out there who’s ‘snap shot’ included no one but themselves, I’m going to trust that a majority of you pulled up an image that had you acting in service to someone else. 

“But That’s Just Who I Am!”

Well, great!  I mean, being a people pleaser isn’t a bad thing necessarily.  In my experience, people pleasers are very nice, warm and often nurturing folks.  They care about people! Who doesn’t like that? Can you imagine what this world would look like if our caring professions — teachers, nurses, mental health techs, child development workers, veterinarians & vet. assistants, & stay at home parents— didn’t include natural nurturers?  Its a scary thought.

Caring & Self Worth

So clearly I’m not out to tell you that being a nice, caring person is an inherently a bad thing.  But something I’ve noticed that I would like to invite you to consider is to what degree is your self-worth wrapped up in your care-giving for others? A true people pleaser goes beyond simply caring for others.  Caring and acts of service can often become identity and currency.

Relationship Currency

Thinking about relationships in terms of currency is built on the notion that interactions with others can be viewed as transactions of sorts— no different than when you go to the grocery store and exchange money for a bag of apples. You give the clerk your money swipe your debit card, and the people at the store let you walk out of the store with the apples.  In relationships, people will throw out what Dr. Gottman calls a “bid for connection”.  These are verbal and nonverbal invitations to connect with one’s partner. 

To put it as simple as possible: 

Partner 1:  “Pay attention to me!” 

Partner 2: “Okay! Hi, how’s it going?”  or “No.”

Obviously I don’t imagine many people go around literally shouting, “Pay attention to me,” but you might consider giving it a try just to see what happens.  I did it to my husband recently.  The look on his face was priceless.

Caring as Currency

Often, I’ve found that individuals learn (usually in childhood) that people generally respond pleasantly to one’s bids for attention when that bid includes something directly beneficial to them.  We’ll call this a service bid.  This “truth” can become problematic and create a personality trait of people pleasing.   When service-related bids become the primary or the only way in which folks receive positive attention, they may learn to believe, “I am lovable when I am useful” or worse, “I am only lovable when I am useful.”  It becomes incredibly difficult to have a healthy sense of self-worth when one places a such heavy emphasis on external service.

Some common phrases you might hear when someone’s self-worth is tied to their “utility” are:

“S/He’ll call when s/he needs something… I know this, yet I can’t stop.  I miss her/him too much.”

“I’m so lucky s/he puts up with me.  It’s the least I can do to ______ for him/her.”

“Its no trouble at all.” (When actually, it’s a giant amount of trouble for you).

Of course perfectly healthy people, who also happen to be nice people will find themselves saying these phrases or similar from time to time.  But I’ve met so many people whose entire identities were tied to sacrifice of the self in service to another.

What About Moms!?

But what about mothers?  What about professional caregivers? 

Again and again, I say the difference between unhealthy and healthy service to others is that the unhealthy version can leave a person feeling empty, drained, exhausted.  I’ve often heard it likened to drowning or feeling invisible.  The healthy or balanced version often creates the exact opposite feeling.  People report feeling energized, rejuvenated or peaceful. 

Healthy Individuals Create Healthy Marriages

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of couples counseling lately.  But that’s not say I haven’t been working with clients on their relationships.  I truly believe that people need to be healthy individuals first and foremost in order to be healthy partners involved in healthy marriages.

If you’ve read this article and think that your self-worth may be wrapped up a little too tightly in service towards others, maybe its time to work on shifting that belief a little. If your relationship is healthy enough, ask your partner to help you see that they love you for being part of their life— not solely for what you do for them.    

And lastly, if you’re interested in learning more about the types of ‘bids for connection’ you tend to use, I stumbled across this free “quiz” from The University of San Diego that utilizes the Gottman research.   

Are you or your spouse a people pleaser?

My Deep Dark Secret that I Have to Share

By E.J. Smith | Help

In the year and a half or so that I’ve been writing for EM, I feel like there’s been this secret I’ve been keeping from you all.  

And simply, it’s got to go.  It’s not something that I particularly intended to keep from you all, but rather, I didn’t quite know how to address this particular topic on this particular website.  The more I thought about it, however, I recognized that the shame I was carrying regarding this thing— is tied wholly to my faith-based upbringing. 

I am trusting that some folks will be able to relate, and I hope the rest will hear me out.

I’m divorced.

And there you have it.  My scarlet letter. 

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I am currently married to Greg and we have an amazing, loving, wonderful marriage.  He is truly my partner in life, and in love.  Our home and our marriage are testaments to the endless effort and attention we give to them.

But before Greg, there was someone else.  We’ll call him Mark. (Judas, would be a little over-dramatic, don’t ya think?)

As paradoxical as it may seem, I feel like part of the reason my current marriage is so healthy and happy is due in large part to how much of an epic catastrophe #1 turned out to be.

And please don’t think I’m going to spend the next 500+ words bashing Mark.  The marriage was short (only 18 months).  Despite that short timeline, we were able to make a ton of mistakes— very hurtful and sometimes permanent ones.    

4  Things I Learned by Getting Divorced

1) Hiding your problems doesn’t make them go away.  It just befuddles everyone in your support network (friends, family, coworkers even) when the pieces finally come crashing down.

Raised in a family where loyalty was king, I felt very alone and isolated when things weren’t seeming quite right.  But everyone was so happy for me.  I couldn’t let them down!  And I also didn’t want to air my dirty laundry.  When I reached out to a few select folks, I got a lot of “the first year is the hardest…” or “Well, it’s a done deal now— make it work.” 

2) Just because you can’t see bruises, doesn’t make it not abusive.

Mark was not physically abusive.  He never hit me.  True, I can’t hear as well in my left ear as in my right because he screamed into it one time— apparently loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss— but that is not the type of thing that would get me a Lifetime movie.  But there were other types of abusive patterns on both our parts that I don’t think anyone should tolerate. 

  • Verbal Abuse — Name calling, Labeling, Non-constructive criticisms and other personal attacks are the most common forms.  Sometimes the abuse is more subtle, “You know a good wife would _________.”
  • Financial Abuse — Does one person have complete and total control over the finances? Is one partner “barred” or “banned” from working— even if s/he really wants to? Does one partner verbally abuse the other for spending money? (I’m not talking about racking up $30k in credit card debt, but say— buying a new pair of jeans?)
  • Emotional Abuse — Withholding love or affection from your partner as “punishment”, allowing others to verbally or otherwise attack your partner unfairly without seeming to care, expressing indifference towards your partner.
  • Sexual Abuse – Despite long held beliefs to the contrary, spousal rape is a real thing.  This wasn’t something I experienced in my marriage, but I want to put it in here because it’s such a widely held myth that vows some how give complete ownership over one’s body do another.  That’s not marriage. That’s slavery.

3) Pre-Marriage Counseling is Worthless…

Got your attention, didn’t I?

So hear me out— I have been through pre-marriage counseling twice now.  Once through my local Catholic church’s Pre-Canaa and once with a chaplain (Christian). I much preferred the Pre-Cana program to the other.  I loved the topics the couples who facilitated each session brought up for the most part — I’m still slightly scarred from the word viscosity being used with respect to intercourse. 

The problem is that I feel like the whole experience was framed as some necessary “check in the box”.  Other than a “You need to be honest.” at the beginning, there really wasn’t an emphasis on why that honesty was so important for this process.

And at least in my group, there was no real attention to the fact that some people who go through Pre-Cana correctly will (and should) actually come to realization that they should not get married. And then, there was nothing there to support people who would come to that decision— how to handle calling up a reception venue and inform them you’re canceling.  How to have the conversation with your mother or maid of honor.  What to do with this person that was going to be your spouse, but now isn’t even your boyfriend. 

4) The miracle of Life is more precious than the Sacrament of Marriage.

After what felt like an eternity, but was actually less than 3 years between moving to Maryland and our separation— the emotional, verbal, and financial abuse had worn me down to a state where I was almost completely unrecognizable — even to myself. 

I became severely depressed.

A former social butterfly and lover of people, I was isolated, withdrawn and even developed a fear of other people.  I became paranoid that they were judging me— ashamed for them to see the terrible, awful, failure of a person I’d  become. 

Mark, although I can empathize with some of his frustration, was all too willing to reinforce these beliefs.  He reminded me time and time again that this (me) was not the wife he signed up for.  Friends constantly posted on Facebook how much they loved being married— whereas I couldn’t understand why people would willingly do this to themselves.     

An Honest Question

One day, Mark walked up to me— I was sitting curled up in an overstuffed chair (one of the few things I still miss from that time in my life) — and asked me if I was going to kill myself.  Just like that.  I swear I heard the tiniest bit of hope in his voice.

I looked at him, and I said what was true for me in that moment:  “Why bother, I’m already dead.”  I was serious.  I never thought of killing myself.  Too much effort.  Not worth the end result.

Several months later, I started experiencing odd symptoms that started out as food allergies and the progressed into what I can only describe as biological chaos.  They thought I had celiac, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis— possibly M.S.  After having a panic attack in the specialist’s office—the doctor finally said to me, “I think this is all due to chronic stress.  Whatever it is that is causing this stress— it needs to go.  Because it’s actually destroying your body.  If you don’t get rid of it, you’re looking at a future of autoimmune disease.

And that was my permission slip— my sign, if you will — to get out. 

Choosing Life

I have tears in my eyes as I write this because I remember thinking, “I know God loves marriage… but He loves me too.” And so within a few weeks— the separation papers were signed.

I know I wasn’t perfect in my marriage and that my lack of ownership for my thoughts, feelings and beliefs at the beginning of our relationship allowed certain circumstances to fester— whereas now, I doubt I would stick around long enough from the beginning. 

I have experienced judgement and harsh criticism from fellow Catholics and other Believers.   But the truth is — I know God created me for some Purpose— and being sick, depressed and isolated was not it.  I believe that the current health and the current life, and the current relationships that I enjoy with both God and my husband, Greg,  are directly related to the fact that divorce is part of my history.

So while I don’t want to sounds like I’m advocating for divorce,  I do want readers to understand that getting divorced is not some horrible death sentence in every single case.

Sound Off — Can you connect? Does this relate?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. 

Do You Like Your Spouse?

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-10034280A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a conference where Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former criminal investigator and FBI agent from the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), was the keynote speaker.  Yes, fellow Criminal Minds fans, the BAU is a real unit.  Although she was there to speak about criminals and the personalities that often accompany those who would seek to do us harm, she offered an anecdote about marriage that stuck with me.

Essentially, she said that by our early 30’s, the personality was solidly formed.  While there are some who would argue that change is always possible, Mary Ellen shared that in her experience, unless dire circumstances presented themselves, the personality of a person remained consistent from that point onward. 

Stuck Like Glue

Breaking from her discussion of psychopathy and criminology, she shared that this solidifying of the personality was why when couples complained of how their spouse had “changed” over the years — thus leading them to have an unsatisfied marriage– she was rarely convinced.  Rather than the personality changing, O’Toole suggested that the personality remained consistent (truly for better or for worse) and that it was life stages and contexts around the couple that shifted instead.

Simply put, she warned us that we’d better really LIKE the person we were married to— Because they probably weren’t changing: 

The person who showers us with attention while we’re dating, years later may be spoken of as “clingy” when they insist on accompanying us even in the most inane activities. 

The person who gives attention to every little detail of the wedding, might years down the road be called “nit-picky” when she insists on organizing the home in a certain manner. 

Admiration as a Marriage Preserver

In keeping with the FBI Profiler’s insights as to personality, John M. Gottman (of the world famous Gottman Institute) in his NY Times Bestseller The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work wrote simply that couples who like and admire each other’s transcendent qualities— such as the aforementioned devotion to family, or attention to detail— will tend to have a happier, longer marriages. 

Yes, I do realize this statement is far from earth shattering.    

But consider the following:  If the above statement is so mind numbingly simple, then why— WHY— do couples flow through the doors of counselors’ offices across the country insisting they want to save their marriages, but at the same time project such profound contempt for the person they are trying to stay married to?

Please note that I’m not talking about being angry with someone because they hurt your feelings, or feeling betrayed and needing time to heal.  That’s injury.  It’s also (hopefully) temporary. 

I’m talking about are hand-wringing levels of disgust, deep-seated resentment, or maybe even pervasive numbness that poison or skew the lens through which one even begins to consider their spouse.

How can love for another thrive in the presence of intolerance and contempt for that same person? As far as I know it can’t. 

Do You Like Your Spouse?

Recently, I’ve been seeing more couples and families for sessions.  When a patient discharges from the hospital, we like to bring in some significant members of their support networks. Typically, these are parents/guardians or spouses.

Considering the acuity of the work at the facility, this is a time when we frequently see people (patients and family) at their most emotionally vulnerable.  And it can be both inspiring, and heart-shattering to see the reactions of family members to their loved ones— especially spouses.

What I’ve learned is that there are an abundance of married folks walking around who say they love their husbands or their wives, but they don’t particularly like them.

So ask yourself right now— even if there are parts of my marriage that I’m not happy with— in general, do I like my spouse?

Would I like my spouse if I weren’t married to him/her?

Like Over Love

I think part of the problem is that we’ve sold ourselves on the idea that love is the ultimate end of human emotion.  And maybe it is.  However, when it comes to marriage and building a relationship that will span decades or even a lifetime— even the ultimate in human emotion— just simply isn’t enough because emotions change. 

As one of my Theology professors so eloquently put it, “50-year marriages aren’t built on emotion.”  He went on to say that they were built 25% on emotion and 75% on choice.  Maybe that’s true, but I also see a lot of people choosing to be 75% miserable.

Sometimes, and especially during rough patches in relationships, I think it’s helpful to take a step back and think of your spouse not so much as a spouse or lover, but like anyone else with whom you share time.

There’s a tendency to fall into the trap of thinking of our spouse as “someone who does stuff for me,” and we forget that our spouse is a person.  And while I understand that remembering all the reasons you liked your spouse in the first place during an argument might be really REALLY difficult, I’m going to assume there was something about them that you liked.  And maybe just trying to remember that is enough.

“Somewhere, there is something I liked about this person enough to marry him/her.  I can’t feel it right now.  Heck, I can’t even remember what it IS right now.  And, I know it’s there.  So I’m going to trust that for now.”

The Weirdest Person in the Room

Sound absurd?  I get “accused” (lovingly) of saying “weird stuff” a lot.  One client comes to mind, “Seriously, who walks around saying this stuff… besides you.”

One reason is because I don’t think a whole lot of people have trained their ears, heart, mind and mouth to identify and speak their truth on a regular basis.  And secondly, a mentor friend from when I was teaching once advised me to “be the weirdest person in the room” when working with my students at the beginning of a school year.  She said, “It’ll show them that being unique is safe.  And it’ll really take the pressure off.”

So there it is.  Come up with your own version of this stuff, and you won’t sound nearly as weird as me!  (haha!)  The truth is that Marriage itself, working on your marriage, and especially working through the grit that sometimes leaves us chaffed or chapped from time to time in our marriages doesn’t have to sound smooth, or pretty, or worthy of a Hallmark card. It just needs to be real.

Try this:

Think about the people that you genuinely enjoy being around who you don’t necessarily love in a romantic way?  Do you appreciate friends who are interesting, funny, charitable, maybe even a little bit of a hot mess from time to time?  Do you have someone that you respect or admire for their professionalism or thoughtful advice?

Who are these people?  Does your husband/wife share any of those likable attributes?

Again, I know this seems simple.  And yet, it’s important. 

When we focus too much on simply loving our spouses because they’re our spouses and forget to LIKE them as people, we miss huge opportunities to see them for the dynamic, imperfect, beings that the rest of the world gets to enjoy. 

Furthermore, when we can create, safe accepting space for our spouses to be truly their quirky selves, we get to witness a level of authenticity that the outside world can’t even begin to imagine.

Your Turn

What are some of the attributes your spouse/partner possesses that you absolutely admire, value or like about them?

Let me know in the comments— and even more importantly— let your spouse know what you like about them, what you appreciate about them and what you value in them.

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The Gift of Hope: A Message of Possibility for Marriages

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-10040285_zps2ca9762dDear Reader,

Last night I found myself strolling the familiar aisles of my local Barnes & Noble.  The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time to peruse the shelves, as so many of the items on display offer beautiful snow-scape covers, and themes of warmth, of miracles and of togetherness. I was thinking— half meditation and half prayer— of what I would say to all of you this month. 

I recalled my article from last December which, as per usual with this column, dealt with some pretty hefty doses of reality. 

This year, I would like to do something different.

This year, I want to bring you a message of Hope.

The truth is that I have no idea what the unique challenges are that you and your spouse are facing in this moment, have faced in the past or will face down the road.  I have no idea if your biggest marital concern this holiday season is the size of your gift-giving budget, or how to keep the lights on.  I don’t even know if you or your spouse have been faithful to each other in thought, word or deed. 

What I do know is that Christmas is a time of miracles, and miracles are manifested out of hope. 

Hope.  Isn’t that what this season is all about? 

Now “hope” might sound like a really fluffy term… And yet I will argue it is not.  Hope is so important, in fact, that I will say that the absence of hope isn’t merely hopelessness— but death. 

Day in and day out, I work with people who have been at the edges of their sanity— often contemplating ending their own lives.  I’ve working with individuals coping with physical death and loss of loved ones.  And I’ve worked with people who thought their marriage and life as they knew it were coming to a close. 

All of these cases shared a common theme:  Hope was no where to be found.

The Miracle of Hope

In my work, I have found this to be true:

If you want to save your marriage, your faith, your livelihood and even your life— you must— MUST have Hope. 

Hope is the acknowledgement of possibility

Christmas is a time of Hope because Christians believe that Jesus came to bring salvation to God’s people.  His birth, His life, and eventually His death all served to open up for us the possibility of Heaven. 

The possibility of something beyond death.

Of course the choice remains largely our own to make use of the possibilities that lay before us: 

To believe, or not. 

To accept, or not. 

To be faithful, or not. 

To fight for things you think are worth fighting for… or not.

Back when I first started writing for EngagedMarriage.com, I shared the story of a couple who asked if they were beyond help.  I think today, if someone asked me that question, my response would be, “Well, you tell me— Are you beyond Hope?”

I Said Possibility, Not a Guarantee

“But EJ—“ I can already hear someone saying, “I can have all the hope in the world and things might not work out!”

Yes.  That is true.  Hope is the gateway of possibility.  It is not a guarantee of any outcome. 

Hopelessness, however, almost assuredly is a guarantee. 

Because if you’re truly hopeless, you’ve already given up.  You’ve already resigned yourself to the death of whatever.

Having hope means that despite the possibility that things might not work out, it might be worth it to another try.  It acknowledges that, even in some pretty troublesome times there remains an alternative possibility. 

It Takes Two

Of course the complicated part with marriages is that both parties need to get on board— and that might not happen right away, or ever.

Even the best marriages are tough from time to time. 

But being in a healthy marriage with someone who truly does not want to be married to you?  Well, I don’t even know if that’s possible! 

As my mother, who is currently visiting, so aptly stated, “There’s more to marriage than not getting divorced.”  (Isn’t she great?

At the same time, sometimes one person needs to hold that hope for a while, until the other person can see.  Even better if you’re in the kind of relationship where you’re still able to communicate and show the other person why there’s still Hope to be had! 

Christmas Wish

So wherever you are this Christmas and Holiday Season, my wish for you is that you and your spouse will rediscover the will to consider endless possibilities for your relationship, and not just focus on the possible end.

Have Hope.  Do the work. And remember that the love that is supposed to exist between couples is supposed to be a reflection of God’s love for us, and at work within us. 

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