Why Marriage Self Help Books May Not Help


Why Marriage Self Help Books May Not Help in Marriage Conversation

I’m sitting in Starbucks trying to concentrate while the place slowly fills up with women gathering for coffee. The topic of the morning seems to be husbands and the women for the most part aren’t happy with who they have. They aren’t saying they’re through though. They are joking about sports, drinking, little attention span for the children, messiness, and a kind of general cluelessness their guys exhibit.

Their jokes aren’t that funny to a guy listening. Probably not even accurate. These men, their husbands, live among you. They have jobs or businesses, they love their children, they may drink too much but if you had a partner joking with other women about your shortcomings you might drink too much also.

The clichés we use to soften our marital discomfort, the cynical jokes men and women use to maintain distance and a kind of self respect – are mostly counter productive relationally and often damaging. The problem is we don’t know how to talk about our real needs with each other. We don’t know how to have ‘the conversation.’

The shelves at Barnes and Nobles are heavy with self help books. How to fireproof your marriage against infidelity, how to hug more often, how to live while mating in captivity, how to build self esteem. Buy em, read em. There’s good stuff out there. However..

We just finished a workshop for couples last Saturday and I was impressed with two things. First the couples were open hearted and willing to talk about their challenges without shaming their partners. Second, they were, on the spot, integrating coaching other couples offered and coaching we offered. I wondered today if any of the women I listened to at Starbucks were at the workshop if they would have talked about their husbands differently.

The couples at the workshop valued each other. A big deal. To me it looks like we need the presence of others to articulate, shape, explore and mastermind many of the challenges we face in marriage. Reading about them is good. You may gather an insight, you may feel some inspiration. But change happens just like it happens in other areas of life – with lively interaction, coaching, trial and error, risking.

Change happens when all your senses are engaged. It might be a good idea to only talk about what’s missing in your marriage in the presence of the partner you love.

That brings us to the need for ‘a conversation.’ Every couple has at least one and most of us have several – challenges we avoid, challenges that easily turn to arguments, challenges that lead to stonewalling. These challenges need to be intentionally embraced. Whatever it is you are avoiding will not go away.

Next time – how to create an invitation for a difficult conversation. Stay tuned.

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