What I learned when my marriage broke down

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There was a time in my marriage when I needed relationship guidance. My marriage was in trouble and I was terrified; my husband was having a personal crisis, and it was having a huge impact on our relationship. I felt broken, so did he. We turned to therapists, but we could not find one who was helpful. I was a doctoral student and, believe it or not, my area of interest that I was studying was, you guessed it…..relationships. I was a couple’s counselor too. I felt like a hypocrite: I asked myself: How can I possibly help others when my own relationship is falling apart? And yet, I felt I was doing my best work ever. I think it was the profound empathy that I felt for people who were going through a difficult time. I understood it; I was experiencing it. Empathy is a great healer and I was learning about relationships at every level, school, work, and in my personal life.

I was fortunate to have a mentor who was extraordinarily helpful. He was able to support me and thereby indirectly support my husband, meaning I was the only one who spoke with him. But he helped me understand what my husband was going through while at the same time he validated the pain that I was enduring. I learned a lot about myself as well as the challenges that I brought to our relationship. (Read my blog post: Marriage & humble pie!) In an odd way, I am grateful for the experience that my husband and I went through, even though I can still remember the pain, and I’m sure that my husband can as well. I learned that relationships are susceptible to turmoil regardless of how much you love one another because you never know what life is going to throw your way.

In addition to the help of my mentor, I read everything that I could get my hands on. Some of it was helpful, and some of it made me feel awful. Here’s why: my relationship was in crisis, and nothing was going well. I read articles that addressed the necessary elements for a happy relationship. I read articles that addressed signs that you are in a bad relationship. Overall, we were not unhappy, we were unhappy in that moment in time. However, according to much of what I was reading, we fell into the category of an unhappy marriage. I could not find helpful information on how to repair a relationship that is in crisis or experiencing challenges. I felt that the message was that if your relationship is not working, it’s time to end it. I am not against ending an unhappy marriage, I am divorced from my first husband, I just did not know how to get through a crisis. I am convinced that if I had spoken to anyone other than my mentor, the advice would have been to end my marriage. Just the other day I read an article that described five elements for a good relationship. I agreed with the five elements but the article ended by stating that if you don’t have these five things in your relationship, it’s time to ditch your relationship. Wow! I was stunned. Ditch is the word the author used. How can someone so easily advise others to ditch their relationship based on five elements? I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell another to end his or her relationship. I understand that there are extreme circumstances, for example, abusive relationships. I realize that people can take it or leave it when it comes to advice. But when you are concerned, hurt and scared about your relationship, or it is in crisis, you feel vulnerable and more inclined to take any advice that is offered to you.

I think that when people care about you, and this can include some professionals, they feel your helplessness and hopelessness and they just want to see you relieved of that pain. Due to their feelings of helplessness and if they feel that they have nothing else they can offer they may suggest that you end your relationship. My mentor hung in there with me even during the times that I questioned if I should continue to work at our marriage. I am forever grateful to him that he did. My husband and I worked it out, and we are stronger for it. Of course, we still hit bumps, some small ones and some bigger ones – but we are stronger together.

I am scared now to be the one blogging about relationships. Now I am the one trying to help others through writing! I have resisted blogging for a long time, but many have continued to encourage me. I find it easier to work with an individual, or a couple, in person because I can understand the uniqueness of their relationship. However, it is my hope that you will read my blog and apply it to your unique relationship. Of course, I hope it will strengthen your relationship if that is what you are hoping to accomplish. And if you are trying to figure out whether or not to end it, sometimes knowing we have done everything we can gives us permission to end it. That being said, I do feel that we are a culture that is quick to encourage the end of a relationship. Again, please don’t misunderstand me, I divorced my first husband, so it is not that I am against the ending of a relationship. I just think that when we are faced with challenges, hard and painful challenges, we are quick to think that the best thing is to leave, and many will advise you to do so. We tend to forget that a relationship is an investment of many things, time, raising children, building a home together, the hard work that you put in to your relationship, building a network of friends, and so on. That investment is not easy to give up. My husband and I were together for almost twenty years when life threw us a major curve ball. We had built a life together, one that neither one of us were ready to easily give up despite that lack of help and the hopelessness that we felt.

So why did I write this post? In addition to wanting to share aspects of my story with you, I wanted to say something about relationship advice. I want you to know that all advice, guidance, and suggestions are most helpful when you decide if it applies to you and your unique relationship. For example, the article that I mentioned which suggested ditching your relationship if you don’t have the five things the author believes are essential –my thought is that maybe you have five other things that work well for you. Rather than ditch your relationship, maybe you can work toward the five tips that the author suggests. When you read my blog or any blog about relationships, decide if it is helpful to your unique relationship. Here is just one example, I had a client who works hard to be understanding, validating and empathetic in the relationship. One would suggest (me included) that those are necessary elements in a relationship. However, this client goes too far with understanding, validation and empathy, thereby accepting blame that is not theirs. If my client had read somewhere that one should be all of those things, this person would have worked even harder in these areas and that would not have been helpful to either of the people in the relationship! That’s what I mean when I say I hope that you decide if advice from whatever source is helpful and fitting to you and your unique relationship. Thanks for reading!

 If you would like more relationship guidance, go ahead and subscribe! I know, I am reluctant to give up my email as well. I hope you won’t regret it if you do! And I won’t bombard you with emails either, I hate that too! Oh and I’m working on a free eBook that you will receive soon if you subscribe! It’s called “Ten tips for your relationship and the number one rule that I never break in my relationship/marriage!”

What I learned when my marriage broke down
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What I learned when my marriage broke down
There was a time in my marriage when I needed relationship guidance. My marriage was in trouble and I was terrified. This is what I learned.

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  1. Alice  April 7, 2015

    Pam, What a brave, insightful, and generous offering for others! Well done and thank you. One rarely sees suggestions of this caliber. Brava! Alice

    • Pam Fullerton  April 8, 2015

      Thank you so much Alice! Your comment means so much to me and thank you for recognizing the vulnerability that it took for me to write this blog post!


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