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I was skimming channels one day while eating lunch, and I came across that show Supernanny, which chronicles Professional Nanny Jo Frost helping families that seem hopelessly out of control.
Whether you’ve heard of the show or not, you get the premise, I’m sure.
Nanny Jo has steadfast confidence and genuine heart as she equips parents (and kids) to make it through a day (and a childhood) without killing each other. In some circles, I would say she’s pretty ballsy—the way she steps in, calls it like she’s sees it, squares her shoulders and holds their hands.
But you know what? None of that happens if the couple doesn’t first reach out for help by contacting the show and saying, “What we are doing isn’t working. We need Nanny Jo.”
The ship is taking on water rapidly. But no mayday calls are going out. Can you relate? If so, see if you find your why in any of the below reasons. This list isn’t comprehensive, but some may sound painfully familiar.
None of us like the feeling of not having a handle on things, especially if we feel like we totally should have a handle on things. If you feel embarrassed by your marriage problems, trust me—you wouldn’t be the first couple to feel that way. Embarrassment is a valid emotion, but it becomes a huge stumbling block if it compels you to shut down.
I get it. You’re embarrassed that the two of you are having struggles. And maybe these struggles are deeply intimate and embarrassing, and you believe other people would look down on you or laugh if you even admitted to what’s happening behind closed doors.
Embarrassment may be the reason you are not asking for marriage help.
Tip: Ask for help discreetly. The two of you can take at least some initial steps to seek counseling, which is private and confidential. You also could search out other resources privately, such as reliable books and websites. Asking for marriage help doesn’t mean you have to become transparent with anyone you know. This isn’t Supernanny. You don’t have to go on a show.
A marriage is an intimate covenant bond. You don’t have to let embarrassment stop you from finding ways to strengthen, protect and nurture that bond.
Pride is embarrassment’s fraternal twin, because it’s calling cards are somewhat similar. In fact, I would say embarrassment and pride keep close company when there are marriage problems brewing.
What can exacerbate this even more is that as a Christian couple, you sense there is a firm expectation that Christians should know better than anyone how to do marriage well. You possibly even have gone to great lengths to give the impression to the outside world that you have this marriage gig mastered.
You know what makes this even more cumbersome? There is the perception (often fueled by Christians) that Christian couples are spared the intensity of challenges that are common to nearly all marriages. Finances. Communication. Sex. In-laws. Kids. Careers. Full calendars. Stress.
It’s easy to get prideful, isn’t it? Maybe a lot of people see you and/or your spouse as people who “have it all together,” whether it be at work or in volunteer activities or in your neighborhood.
Pride may be the reason you are not asking for marriage help.
Tip: Well, the Bible says pride comes before the fall, so we should heed that warning and recognize that staying prideful won’t improve a marriage. If anything, it likely will make things monumentally worse.
A better approach? Loosen the grip on your pride and grow in your humility and authenticity about your marriage struggles. A nice bonus of doing this is that if you allow others in your tribe to see your growth, in an unspoken way you encourage them to grow as well. I’m not saying this should be your motivation, but the truth is that we all would do marriage in general a world of good if we would stop pretending it’s trouble free.
“Marriage problems? What marriage problems?” Some people have cat-like reflexes when it comes to denial. If you find yourself rationalizing and downplaying what are actually serious tribulations in your relationship, you may be in denial.
Sometimes we do this out of sense of self preservation. It takes a lot of energy and effort to acknowledge marriage problems, let alone do something about them. It can feel scary and full of uncertainty. You and your spouse may even tiptoe around your issues, never shedding light on what is causing distance between the two of you.
Denial becomes a comfortable default. Ignore the situation and it will just go away. But it never really does. The chasm just becomes wider. Denial is a lot like novocaine. It may feel good in the moment, but it has no lasting effect.
Denial may be the reason you are not asking for marriage help.
Tip: Ask yourself if you are better off living in denial? At some point, you have to count the costs. Is the quality of your relationship right now the best you can do? Or with some baby steps, could you together climb off the shaky ledge of denial and find some solid ground? It’s worth finding out.
If you and your spouse are wondering if your marriage struggles are really that serious, consider talking to a mature Christian you both know and trust. I’m not saying their opinion is the only thing that matters, but they have some distance from the issue and may have a wise perspective worth considering.
There possibly is no lonelier place than in a marriage where only one spouse recognizes there are cracks in the foundation. Maybe you haven’t asked for marriage help because you’re the only one who thinks there is a problem. “What’s the point?” you think. “My spouse isn’t going to do anything to change, so what’s the point of getting some help?”
If this describes your situation, I am genuinely sad with you. I can understand that loneliness may be the reason you are not asking for marriage help.
Tip: While you cannot control your spouse, you can take care of you. Consider going to counseling on your own. Professional counselors are wise listeners, trained to offer healthy coping strategies for difficult situations.
Also make sure you are building mature relationships with other Christians who will encourage you and hold you accountable to good self care. Men should have male confidantes and women should have female confidantes. And strive to make healthy choices, including getting enough rest, eating well and getting at least some light exercise.
Sometimes when one spouse makes positive changes individually, the resistant spouse notices and is inspired to make some changes as well that benefit the relationship overall. But even if they don’t, it is still a good decision to take care of yourself. It may not erase the loneliness, but it will lessen it’s effect on your life.
Not surprisingly (and especially if marriage problems have gone on for quite awhile), you may feel quite hopeless that anything can improve. The two of you have been stuck in some bad patterns for a long time, and untangling that mess feels like untangling 100 strings of Christmas lights. Impossible, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. But the problem with feeling hopeless is that hopelessness feeds on itself. It can become a bit of a spiral that will cloud your vision on all of life, not just your marriage. It’s not a good place to take up residency.
A feeling of hopelessness may be the reason you are not asking for marriage help.
Tip: There is a ton to be said for baby steps. I know we want instant fixes—our fast-paced society even leads us to believe these are the only fixes out there. A better approach is to get good at little improvements before taking on bigger improvements. You build confidence and feel less hopeless when you succeed in small ways initially.
Maybe financial issues are what are sabotaging your marriage. Consider working through Dave Ramsey’s program or getting an online budgeting and expense tracking tool like You Need a Budget. If communication is your big struggle, consider reading a book together on marriage communication. If sex is a struggle, consider perusing through the posts on my website or my Better Sex in Your Marriage video series.
The only way out of hopelessness is to believe in your ability to make positive changes in your marriage, one baby step at a time.
Okay, so let’s say you recognize there are problems. But you feel paralyzed in what to do about them. Where do we turn? Who do we ask? How do we even start?!!
Feeling paralyzed may be the reason you are not asking for marriage help.
Tip: The incredibly good news nowadays is that there are so many avenues and resources. In the comfort of your home or a coffee shop equipped with WiFi, you can read reviews on books that could be helpful and you can browse websites and blog posts. Many authors and speakers offer free and paid resources, such as webinars, video series, seminars, downloadable PDFs and more.
Through the internet and/or trusted friends, you could find a counselor in your area. If counseling is financially out of reach for you, consider the ideas in my post 3 Ideas if You Can’t Afford Professional Marriage Counseling.
The best way out of paralysis relationally is to do something. Do something.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that bathing everything in prayer is always a good choice, too. As Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in us. Thank God! Whatever struggles you are facing as a couple, drawing close to God in prayer and study of His Word will bring reassurance amidst pain, fear and heartache.
And I have a 5 video series available on building better sex in your marriage. Great way to invest in your marriage! You can find out all about it at this link: Better Sex in Your Christian Marriage.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.