The New Intimacy


Can Our Marriage Work, if I Just Work on Myself?

Dear Judith & Jim,

My husband and I were married almost 7 years ago. We have had our share of troubles, even before marriage. We also both come from dysfunctional backgrounds, mine more so than his, I would say. Several months ago, I filed for divorce. The reasons I did so dealt with physical violence (I have hit him too), lack of respect and understanding, his need to blame me for ALL his faults, different views on financial matters, and his never ending wrong choices in regard to different things. After filing for divorce, I was with another man sexually a couple of times. I told my husband this, only mentioning one of the times, but he doesn't believe me (or he doesn't want to bring himself to believe me). We've gone back and forth as to if we want to try to work on our marriage or not, and have tried a little counseling; that didn't last long for various reasons. He later started seeing someone also, on more occasions than I (not that that matters). Anyhow, after I found out he had been seeing someone, I could not handle it at all. I realized that I still care for him more than I thought. (At least that is what I am telling myself). I asked him to go to counseling again with me, and he said yes at first, and then he said he wants to stay with me, but doesn't want the counseling. I really think we both need counseling, personal and marriage counseling, but I agreed hesitantly to try and make it work without him getting any.

I am still getting personal counseling for myself. I always told myself I would not stay with any man, just for the sake of the children (my mom did that), but now I am questioning that. Should I stay with him even if he doesn't get counseling (he really needs it!), or can I really make our marriage work, if I just work on myself, changing the dysfunction that I learned as a child, and incorporating those changes into our marriage?

Dear Should I,

Yes it is possible for one partner to change a marriage through counseling even if the other does not participate. But both have to seriously want the marriage to work. And both have to assume and accept responsibility for contributing to the difficulties. One partner can take the lead and become the other's teacher but that can only last for a while. Partners can be teachers only when that is reciprocal. So, getting counseling and carrying the entire load while he refuses generally ends up in more resentment and a divorce in the long run.

But please continue the therapy for you because you are repeating a deeply established pattern--swearing not to repeat your mother's marriage and then doing it anyway. That pattern is ingrained in your psyche but it can be uprooted so you don't have to do it again.

Also, we're sure you are aware of the work you need to do to heal what happened in your childhood. That's having an effect here not only in what you do but whom you've chosen.

We wish you well.

© 2005, The New Intimacy

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Intimacy is spelled "in to me you see". - Stan Dale

I have always made a distinction between my friends and my confidants. I enjoy the conversation of the former; from the latter I hide nothing. - Edith Piaf


Husband and wife psychology team, Judith Sherven and Jim Sniechowski, are the bestselling authors of "The New Intimacy" and "Opening to Love 365 Days a Year." Their latest book is Be Loved for Who You Really Are: How the differences between men and women can be turned into the source of the very best romance you'll ever know. They provide corporate trainings on breaking through resistance to success and relationship workshops about The Magic of Differences--romance based on respect and value for each other's unique ways. As guest experts they've been on over 600 television and radio shows including Oprah, The O'Reilly Factor, 48 Hours, Canada AM, and The View. Visit their website at

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