Millions of people today are living in marriages they claim are either sexless or loveless.
The most common advice sought by people stuck in these relationships is, "Should I leave?"
I desperately wish there was a blanket, standard list of "yes" and "no" questions I could offer but unfortunately, and quite obviously, people and circumstances are just too distinct.
Clearly, there are few decisions in life that impact us more than the decision to divorce. In some cases it is indeed the most productive and effective alternative for a failing relationship.
On the other hand, people are often too quick to imagine divorce as their only option, when there are many, many places they could take their minds first.
The single most important piece of advice I can offer a person who silently suffers in a lonely, difficult or contentious marriage is the reminder that where we stand in our lives is not sometimes, but always, a product of the choices we make to get ourselves there.
It is a lofty thought, but so true. Read it again.
Marriage, particularly over time, tends to entice a somewhat slacker attitude. We forget how we need to keep our minds and our behavior focused on our marriage's success.
Often our mindset is a quiet but growing sense of emotional defeat. We don't exactly know how to take hold of our problems, so we allow avoidance and complacency to decide what we feel is our fate.
Every single thing in our lives that has ever been great and rewarding has required hard work.
We can listen to someone say it a million times, and still never really hear it.
Good living takes hard work.
Yes, good marriage takes the kind of work that most of us, if we saw it ahead of us, might say, "I don't know, that looks like a little too much effort."
Yet, somehow, we expect that because we choose a day and profess our love in front of our friends and family, that somehow will be enough to keep us on track. So very often it's not.
The only guarantee we have in a relationship is the power we have to make the choices we make, period.
Wherever we stand, we all have the ability to move ourselves somewhere different, if we choose.
Some of us stay quiet until we feel so defeated and so far from reparation that it feels too difficult to find even a sliver of belief that we can salvage the love.
Others find a way to fight their way to discontent. Others look the other way, and on and on.
The connection to and faith in the person we once believed would be there for us "till death do we part," is a living organism and, if we ignore it, it will eventually die.
If you are struggling in your marriage, make a choice as soon as you can to actively move something inside yourself.
This will be the beginning of dealing with the reality of your emotionally broken marriage.
Find the place inside you where you need to go to make a conscious choice on the direction your relationship is headed.
Find it and stand there. Right or left, up or down, somehow, make a plan to move in any kind of way.
We can't get to therapy or begin a conversation or move our lives out of the dumps until we acknowledge to ourselves that something must change.
Unfortunately, this is not a case to be solved in three easy steps. Nothing can happen until you decide that something has to change.
Our spouses don't just get us wherever it is we are. They may appear to have sealed the fate and pattern of our lives, but they can't actually do that without our permission.
Look at the pattern and look at yourself. Then do something if, and only if, in your mind you decide to change it.
Life is short, and the older we become the shorter it appears.
If your marriage is in need of help or change, acknowledge it, at least within yourself.
Then pay attention to the value of the power you have to move your life where you want to move.