Setting new goals might help save marriage

Q: I am lost. I do not know what to do. I know that we need to work on our relationship, but unless he is willing to co-operate with me on this thing, not much is going to happen. I thought that counselling might help us, but that obviously is out of the question. So, what can we do?

A: Thank you for your letter. I can appreciate that you are discouraged. It is like you are the only one of the two of you who is taking responsibility to try to keep your marriage on track. It is not fair, but if that is the way it is, let’s see what we can do about it.

I think that people frequently forget that all relationships need goals toward which they can work.

I am not suggesting that you go into week-long retreats to contrive complicated rationalizations for you and your husband to be together. Marital goals can be simple. For many people, they just want to be married so that they can love, respect and care about each other. Others want to be married so that they can have fun together. That is valid too.

Some people want to pretend that they are living in castles in the sky: she is the princess, he is the charming guy. Others want to have children and others want to make money. The list of reasons for people to be together seems inexhaustible.

The problem that many people have, and this could be the case for you and your husband, is that the marital goals they had when they were younger do not work for them anymore.

Think of the couple who want to be parents. That is great as long as their children are younger, but it presents a problem when their children grow up and leave the farm, as many do. The couple then has no one to parent.

The same is true for couples who were determined to build farms together. It worked at one time, but after spending hours and hours of hard work and labour, they may find that they do not need to sweat blood just to survive. Then what are they supposed to do?

If the goals shared by you and your husband many years ago are no longer working, why not consider changing them?

That is not hard. You simply need to spend 20 or 30 minutes each night having a discussion about the day after tomorrow and fantasizing together over your five-year plan.

Of course, the talks work better if you have some fun with them — eating cookies, listening to music and laughing out loud at the foibles that cloud all of our personal beings.

The closer you get to redeveloping goals for your marriage, the better are the odds that a marriage counsellor can work with you.

Marriage counsellors are not good at setting goals for other people. That is not their job. But they can take the goals with which you and your husband are playing and help you achieve them. That is not a waste of time, as your husband might suggest. That is counselling at its finest, with all three of you working to make your marriage a success.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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