Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

Marriage Counseling

It Takes a Breakdown to Have a Break Through

“My husband is NEVER going to change! He keeps promising things will be different, but words are all I hear.”

I cannot even begin to tell you how often I hear this from women calling or emailing the Marriage Recovery Center.  Countless women continue to struggle in dysfunctional marriages because they feel completely hopeless to change the problems in their relationship.

The problem I find is that couples are content to be comfortably miserable in their relationship.  They are not happy at all BUT the man continues to function in his same old patterns, despite constant reminders that he must change, and the woman just gives in believing that “this is as good as it gets. I must get use to life this way.”

So you may ask…why don’t things change in dysfunctional relationships?


Here are some of the reasons why:

Non-existent boundaries – The most common problem I see is not putting boundaries around unacceptable behavior.  Therefore, nothing ever changes.  Words may be full of promises, but commitments are never kept.  Frankly if boundaries are not put in place…why should he change??

Inconsistent consequences – If boundaries are created and implemented, then the next breakdown I see is consequences are not enforced or not enforced consistently.  Women often feel mean as if they are “punishing” their husband with a consequence.  Therefore, the husband quickly realizes that his wife really is not serious about these boundaries.

Here is what I see as the solution:

Very clear request for action – Your husband must know exactly what you are asking for him to change.  You can begin with collaborating with him about what you are asking for.  Hopefully through this process you can both come to an agreement and hold him accountable to these changes.

Boundaries – if his commitment and his actions are not in alignment, then a boundary may need to be set in place.  A boundary around anger would sound like “I cannot tolerate being yelled at or being spoken to disrespectfully. If you choose to behave like that, I will be removing myself from your presence until you are able to communicate with kindness and respect.”

Serious consequences – Consequences are always applicable to the boundary and typically progressive.   The first time the boundary is broken surrounding yelling, the consequence may sound like “I cannot continue to engage with you in your anger, I will be disengaging from you until we are both calm.”  The 2nd time becomes more serious: “I cannot tolerate being spoken to in anger, I must have you leave for the night.”  The 3rd step is not for the faint at heart: “You have broken my boundary around anger, and I have no choice but to ask you to move out until you show you can learn to work through your anger.”

This last consequence is where I start to feel some pushback from women I am counseling.

Yes, you may think it is odd to hear a Christian counselor suggesting separation as a consequence, but often there is nothing more powerful to create change.  In most marriages, I found that just communicating this last consequence to a spouse was enough to create an immediate change in anger.  It really does work!  At the Marriage Recovery Center we often hear from incredibly desperate men who were just asked to leave their homes.  They always want to know “what do I need to do to get my wife back.” I know there may be tremendous fear of loss surrounding this extreme consequence, but please be assured that 99% of the marriages that we see result in a separation have a happy ending.  We see a separation as a purpose for reconciliation.  Honestly, it takes a breakdown to have a breakthrough in your marriage. Your spouse may need to experience life without you for a while to realize just how much he values you and your marriage.  At this point he will do anything he can to create change in himself so reconciliation is a possibility.

If you find yourself struggling with the same old dysfunctional patterns without any hope for change, please reach out to us at The Marriage Recovery Center.  We can help guide you in a plan for change.  We offer Skype, phone or intensive counseling to serve you.


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