6 Reasons NOT to “Work on the Marriage”

Remember, in my last two Newsletters I talked about how “polarized couples” (one wants to ‘talk it through’ and the other hopes it ‘goes away’) find their marriage grinding to a halt when they believe they must “work on the relationship?’If you need a refresher, go back two issues and the last issue.

Here are some difficulties typically experienced when a couple commits to “working on the relationship:”

  1. “Working on the relationship” often implies that each “should or must” act, feel and think particular ways to make their efforts successful.A “should” sets one up for failure and disappointment, for no one ever fully acts, thinks for feels as they “should.” An atmosphere of effort and grinding it out permeates the couple. And, each holds his/her breath, as they both believe that failure follows the next interaction.Talk about pressure! I assume you want a different environment created in your relationship.
  2. “Working on the relationship” for a huge percentage of the couples I encounter means being “nice,” accommodating the other and being on your best behavior.Conflict is seen as a catastrophe. Such a strategy, in essence, obscures and clouds the truth. The truth, which sets a couple free, is relegated to the background and buried under the surface.
  3. “Working on the Relationship” often means trying to find a “middle ground.”There must be “something in common” that holds the couple together and make it better.Well, maybe there isn’t any “common ground!” And, just maybe that is good.Perhaps the differences, the extremes, give the couple fire and passion and create, together, that which each, at one level, is looking for.
  4. “Working on the relationship?? often means working hard to meet the needs of the other. I “sacrifice” my needs, or at least put them on the back burner, and intentionally go about “making my partner happy” by attending to his/her needs.This may work for a period of time but resentment at some point emerges since one or both believe that the need meeting is not being reciprocated to the degree he/she would like.
  5. “Working on the relationship” often is thwarted because there is not enough depth.Individual differences are not pursued with a curiosity and intensity that allows for maximum growth of the individual and therefore couple. “Issues” are not torn apart, looked at, marveled at, appreciated and seen as a resource for further self exploration and self disclosure.
  6. “Working on the relationship” often comes up short because a couple easily reverts to old patterns. They begin to “swirl” in the old communication patterns and ways of thinking, feeling and acting.When lacking adequate exploration of differences and avoiding conflict the couple easily slides back into that which was familiar, not pleasant or comfortable, but certainly known territory.I’m assuming you don’t merely want to “work on” the relationship, but you want a total overhaul.After all, the infidelity crisis does provide a great opportunity to recreate and redesign the relationship, now that you are wiser. I sometimes use the phrase, “Gold is refined through intense heat.”

As I mentioned in the last issue, I’m working on material that helps a marriage move to another level of intimacy, depth and power without the drudgery of “working on it.”

It soon will be here, in E-book format. It will be called: “Infidelity Recovery – Marriage Makeover.”

I will be sending out special mailings. I’m offering “Marriage Makeover” FREE to our coaching clients and giving a huge discount to those of you who have purchased “Break Free From the Affair.”

Stay tuned. Keep your eyes peeled on your e-mail box. It’s coming…….


  1. I think this is very very true. I am the betrayed partner, and I am now the guilty one for trying to “work on the marriage”. My husband has sort of been himself, and not “work on the marriage” as per your description. He keeps on saying “let it be. things are okay. we are okay. let’s move on and not bring up the past constantly”. I have to admit it that when I am not consciously trying to “work on the marriage”, expecting him to behave a certain way etc, things are actually fine.

  2. I lost a part of my innocence with the affair. I don’t feel I can ever completely trust this person again. Things are fine on the surface, but not in my heart.

  3. Working on the marriage, pushed him right back to her….. once I stopped trying to do that and began to employ my new skills then things began to happen…. we have started to relate to each other in new ways and I have only just begun…

  4. After his first affair, we came back into the marriage. I thought I could ‘work on the marriage’, however I was a bit reserved, not 100% trusting, and it sometimes affected our sex. Probably that’s what drove him to his present affair.

  5. There has to be intellegence, common sense, and
    comprehension. Beleive me that has been very difficult
    to get in every aspect of my life! I’m no genius, just
    a moral human being. Beleive me I have had to revert to
    the dictionary many times. I have had to take care of
    many lives. My family, my friends. My family comes first,
    but,these aspect of life are overwelming.

  6. I disagree with this.

    You must work on it and confront the issues head on.
    Just leaving them “be” is no way to get closure on the issue.

    You must address your feelings and ask them to do them same.
    It is tough for the injured because we want to talk about it and understand what, when, where and WHY? You will never probably get that but if you want it to work out you deserve a heart-felt apology and the cheater must learn to be transparent and communicate to rebuild trust again. Remember you have not done anything wrong they did and don’t let them call any shots…they must be willing to make it up to you and swhow you they can and will be worthy of your love, trust and respect.

    Don’t let them off easy…they will think okay I got away with it and will plan better next time. Cheaters have a flawed character that they will use to justify their actions. You must ensure they understand that although I am giving this one more try. That is all you will ever get…next time GoodBye!

  7. I have been in two marriages. I was cheated on in both. I have blamed myself many times. See the thing is I was younger than who they cheated with. My first husband we were 13 years difference and the second is 10yrs. I understand my first husband doing this because I was told he was a player but thought somehow I would be different. I truly felt with him he was my solemate. We were married 9yrs. It was so devasting I really didn’t think I was going to make it through everything. I cried many nights and felt so alone. I didn’t want to let him go but eventually I got through it. The second marriage I am still in. This man I would have bet my life he would never have it in him to do what he did. I was told he was a good man, caring and a hard worker. Those things I fell in love with. He knew of my past relationship and still he broke my heart. I don’t understand what I did so wrong in my life that I deserve this emotional heartbreak twice. The first husband didn’t ever want to confess to his mistake but my second husband did. He wants us to work out and I am trying so hard. Sometimes I am not always sure I will be able to make it. I still have bad moments when I am alone thinking of him being with that other person and it kills me. Curious on thoughts of why? I still don’t understand.

  8. Its really difficult to focus on yourself after the shock of an affair, but it’s like an alarm clock that goes off every morning to remind you that you are alive and can and “do” deserve a good happy life. This is your chance to re-create you. This is a great time to look at your life and say..if I didn’t have this story to dwell on ..who would I be and what would I be doing?” This was my awakening, and it took me almost two years to finallly come out of the depression that set in after I found out about both affairs. Man, i can’t ever imagine I would have survived if you were talking to me last year, but I did, I got the courage to look at my life instead of his, and just became like a nice neighbour to him, and after many lonely moments of crying, I trusted myself and knew I would be ok. We grew closer, as I became more myself he became less interested in the OP. I hated the advice..You have to work on yourself, and not the marriage” I was so negative, but it turned out to be the best advice because, I am happy with my life the way it has turned out, including the relationship we re-created as a result of it.
    Be sad, stay strong, and never forget, never forget, but always love you and your life that god has given you, because you are worthy of the type of relationship marriage you dream of. Big hug.

  9. Thank you Fran. Your last sentance has me bawling right now, but you made me realize what is truly important for me to remember. I am a month into finding out of his “infidility” and I am a basket case. This too shall pass. Thank you all for the insite. God Bless

  10. Thanks for those words Fran they bring hope

  11. Kim – how did you find out about his affair? I found my husband’s online cellphone bill. Has it ended? Does he want to work on your marriage right now?

  12. I completely agree with BJ. I think the cheater needs to live up to the situation they’ve placed the entire family through. It’s the least he can do to make up for his low-life choice of infedelity. I was cheated on and it’s all still fresh. I’m still very angry. So yeah, he should should be the one to take initiative, it’s not going to be me doing all the work in the relationship and absolutely no compromising on my part anymore.

  13. I feel so betrayed by the woman that I loved so dearly. I tried like mad to save the marriage. I went to counseling, am on meds, and have tried my hardest to remain calm when she launches into yet another rendition of “It’s all your fault.” I feel like such a fool that she was able to carry on the affair under my nose with someone from the workplace. I laugh now when I think back to her making fun of the people we work with (and there are many) who have cheated on their spouses. I just don’t think that she sees that she is no different than them. I have accepted my part in the failure of the marriage, but I will not and cannot accept full responsibility, nor will I continue to be the only one who is willing to save my marriage. When I first found out about the affair I had a sixth sense that as soon as I left the house the Other man was going to show up so I rolled around the block and guess what? Ten minutes later there he is strolling up my driveway like he owned the place. I wanted to rip him out of his car and smash his face into the curb. Now I know these feelings are primal and based on raw emotion and so contrary, or at least I thought, to my character. The thing that made me the angriest was the fact that she had this stranger in the house while my toddler was asleep. I am not a cheater and being cheated on by someone I love is so foreign to me, and as more time passes I can barely look into her face without feeling disgust and pity. I am fairly certain that once they make their affair public, if indeed they ever do, and his wife and three kids find out about them the crap is going to hit the fan. I won’t shed a solitary tear for either of them. They have made their bed and they can sleep in it. I am sure that with time they will get bored with each other and maybe, but highly doubtful, they will feel some of the pain that I have been through. Can this marriage be saved? Not a chance infidelity is something I cant overlook, and also I cannot forgive her for making it necessary for me to get a full panel STD blood test thanks to her betrayel.

  14. Desperate Housewife Swept Away (My Bad) says

    Hi all you hurt spouses,
    I am the desperate housewife who has swept away, like a feather in the wind, by another man’s attention. The term is called “emotional affair” and I am the “victimizer” but let me tell you, although I take full responsibility for my actions, confessed them and came out of the closet out of my own volition in complete fear, the story is 10 years in the making. My husband travelled full time for 3 years for his 6-figure job, I was alone going crazy, and when he was home on the weekends I was still alone, cuz life was all about the kids and busy with our activities, family life with extended family, and not about us. We both didnt take care of the marriage, we both f*$%&’d it up. The marriage was weak for 10 years or more. I takes two. He was all work work work and video games for fun, plus porn every now and then, and then after 10 years of that, screaming at him to stop, going to counselling, and nothing worked, I guess I gave up on him. Nothing made him change his self-centred ways. My “emotional needs” were not met. It’s not to blame, but just to give the back story. A woman can scream, cry, threaten, beg, plead, threaten that another man will be there if he won’t, beg him to go to counselling cuz she’s done her due diligence, and nothing works. So what’s there to do? Nothing but give up, “be less needy” be “more emotionally independent.” So I went to the gym, took some classes, built friendships with girls… tried to fill the void. But for a young woman, and for everyone, there’s a void that nothing but intimacy and romance can fill. So there I was, walking along, and every day there was someone nice in my path: the Catholic school schoolyard! Not your average pick-up joint, obviously! And then one day I noticed he adores me, so I went to have the confidential conversation (my bad) in a coffee shop, which was wierd for the lineup of people ordering coffee to hear a woman saying to a man “no I’m not going to have an affair” and the man saying “I’m lonely with my wife, you’re lonely with your husband, let’s just be friends and be together sometime” and then we relocating this Jerry Springer-style conversation to a more private location.. the park. My bad again. But it was getting hot and claustrophobic in that coffee shop, people were looking at us weird. So in the park, I’m sitting with my eyes closed, massaging my headache, and then BOOM before I saw it coming, there’s a kiss planted on my lips. Then, my peace and values, self-control, self-image, Catholic faith, pride, marriage, all of it is shattered like a piece of glass. I was like, um, hooked, like a person who’d tried cocaine. Deprived romance, love, admiration for a long time, and there it was…. dangled like a carrot before me, something I wanted more than anything, something I couldn’t have. I started crying for weeks, stopped sleeping, stopped eating, and the only thing that relieved my guilt, my crisis, was a 1-hour coffee meeting with that guy. There were 5 or so more, to talk about my feelings, that was my self-indulgence, plus one more kiss “goodbye” supposedly and some emails for a few weeks following, to talk about my feelings and hear his– how he adored me, etc. etc.. I felt like I was spinning out of control, but I was just a desperate housewife, pathetic, weak, and destroyed in my attempts to be good. I have 2 beautiful healthy children, 3 and 7, they take the lifeblood from me everyday, but I love them more than anything, and I have a husband of 12 years now that I’d like to stay with. I have higher education up to my eyeballs, years and years of church attendance, and used to laugh at the likes of Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards, Bill Clinton, etc., etc., those who should be “above” this temptation, those who have “so much to lose” ….and I’m just the same as they are. I never had any problems being “good,” I was never seduced, and made it to the age of 22 before every sleeping with anyone, including long-term boyfriends in high school and college while always remaining chaste and faithful. There you have it: my “moral resume.” God has shown me how prideful I was, and now I’ve been humiliated beyond belief to my husband, family, in-laws, and the priests who hear my confession. I’ve ended this emotional affair, which was like an addiction , but I’m still broken-hearted. I’ve lost loving relationships with my husband, who thankfully forgives me, with my parents who expressed their disappointment in our failures for destroying each other, my brothers who act like I’m some kind of slut, and my children don’t know why i’m crying all the time. Who broke my heart? First me, when I acted against my beliefs; prior to that my husband, with 10 years of what’s supposedly “neglect” plus the rejection of the porn surfing, and constant preference for on-line games and anything that kept him away from our bed, movies, TV, work, etc. We’re in counselling now and maybe things will be ok. We, the “victimizers” and “betrayers” need mercy, we were searching for something in the wrong place. We found a quick fix for pain, for low self-esteem, in someone else. But it hurt us more, like a drug user with the needle. We need mercy and forgiveness. Thank you for hearing this odd perspective. I hope we can all find healing. I just want to love and to right the wrongs I’ve done…. Desperate Housewife Swept Away.

  15. to Desperate housewife,
    no matter how you look at it : you deserve MORE INTENSE PAIN… I really, really really hope the OP in our marriage is feeling as bad (hopefully even worse). I have always gone ‘the extra mile’ in my marriage and now that he is financially stable I discovered that he has been having an affair with someone at work. I always regarded him as a ‘man of honour’ but after 30 years of being together he has ruined my admiration for him. I have NO plan B. I doubt if I can make a new start. I am 50 years old! My children are young adults and need to make their own lives without looking out for me. At this stage I don’t expect much from him – he has tried to assure me that he does not want a divorce and that its over with the OP. I offered for him to move in with her to see that living with her might not be as fantastic. I just wish I can wake up one morning without this obsessive HATE for her. If I did not look after myself (grooming to look good, reading to expand interests, caring for HIS family etc) it would still explain his infedelity. I have always made it top priority to be attractive, attentive, hard-working etc. I am probably aiming much of my anger at you, Desperate housewife but NO affair is ever justified. It does not just happen. YOU made a decision to have this affair and you deserve to suffer. NO MERCY from me, sorry!!

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