The Nothing In Your Marriage

When couples experience conflict, I often hear one of the spouses say, “I didn’t do anything,” or they might ask their spouse as you probably have, “What did I do this time?” This carries the idea that you actually have to DO something to be in trouble with your better half. Not so. There’s the absence of behavior that actually drives husbands and wives crazy.
Remember “The Nothing” in the movie, The Never Ending Story? It was eating away at an imaginative world called Fantasia. I remember as a child trying to grasp the idea of a Nothing; a black empty space that is after you. It was very terrifying to me at the time and is still pretty spooky. When a couple argues and resolves the issue there’s a peace that takes over. When nothing is happening, when there’s no spark, and when two supposedly loving people are void of anything meaningful, The Nothing is taking over, slowing devouring your relationship. This is most hurtful because it’s so hard to recognize. It’s nothing, remember? What is the nothing in your marriage?
“We do Nothing together.” You enjoyed doing things early in your marriage. Why has this changed? If it’s a lack of time you should look at moving some things around because time with your spouse is more important than anything else. Is it a money issue? Time spent together doesn’t have to be a weekend trip. It can simply be an hour or two (when the kids go to bed) at least every other night. The regular connections will make the biggest difference.
When your schedule does call for a weekend trip or evening on the town, what keeps you from this? Do you have different tastes? As a married couple we are supposed to do things with our spouse just because they enjoy it. This is a good time to compromise. If she picks the movie, he gets to pick the restaurant. It’s a win-win situation. Some couples can’t make it this far because, “she’ll just want to see a romance.” Well, if you’re saying this, you could probably learn something from the man in the story. Doing nothing didn’t win her. Have you forgotten? It’s about making her happy. Trust me, it’s your path to happiness too.
“He/She says Nothing to me.” Why? Does she talk all day to her co-workers? Humans have only so many words they use in a day and if they’ve been talking all day for work purposes, their brains are pretty spent by the evening. On the other hand, some people aren’t talkers and don’t enjoy it as much. In either case, your spouse is worth talking to. What should you talk about? You talk about your day. What you thought of the movie. What you’re going to do this weekend. You talk to your children about their day. You discuss your goals, hopes, dreams, and even frustrations. These conversations give us a window into the lives of our loved ones, enabling us to connect.
We’re separate from each other all day long and we want to know what happened. Don’t look at it like an ATM machine. Just because you ask, “what happened today” doesn’t mean a flood of answers is going to come out. Instead, the natural flow of conversation should allow thoughts and then words to surface during the course of the evening; particularly over dinner. If you’re not eating at the dinner table regularly, don’t expect conversation to be easy. If you’re looking at the TV or Facebook while wanting to connect with your spouse, it’s not going to happen. Come together at dinner and share these things. Finally, if you’re not interested, there may be some serious issues. You need to get interested in what happens during your family’s day.
“I feel Nothing for my spouse.” When we were first dating and even in the first few years of marriage, the feelings were intense. Everything was so new and the mere thought of that someone special sent us into a spin. What’s happened? Life has. Children, work, stress; all the blessings that come from life suddenly monopolize our time with a vengeance. As we tend to these important tasks, we slowly push out our spouses. An emotional void forms between us and with nothing to pull us closer, we are like two strangers seated side-by-side in a movie theater. You don’t know him but you know you don’t like him because he’s in your space.
What’s the answer? Don’t wait for the feeling to come. A tactic to get yourself to exercise is to promise yourself you’ll do it for ten minutes, and if you don’t feel like it after that, you can quit. What happens when you start? You feel like it. In marriage, we must act and then the feelings (that are really there) will come. Don’t look for the novelty in an affair because that will wear off too. Instead, look for the joy you can have with your spouse. That can start tonight by making a decision to do something rather than letting The Nothing take over your lives.

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BOOK REVIEW: Can My Marriage Be Saved; True Stories of Saved Marriages by Mae & Erika Chambers

I first met Mae when I was doing my radio show. Her book was unlike any I had heard of before. When I meet with couples, many are on the brink of divorce and don’t know if they can find their way back because of the hurt that has been caused. This book can effectively give them hope through the stories of others who have successfully survived marital trials. This book is great for counseling agencies, marriage ministries in your church, or if you need to get inspiration for your own struggling relationship.
“Can My Marriage be Saved?” is filled with more than twenty true stories of couples whose marriages were restored, even after being deemed “hopeless” by their friends, family, counselors—even pastors! Each of these couples overcame devastating circumstances such as adultery, sexual addiction, clinical depression, bankruptcy, substance abuse, and the loss of their children.
The true stories in this book offer hope for any troubled marriage. And the ministries listed at the end of each story can provide help for hurting couples in even the most desperate circumstances. Each story in this book is connected to a ministry with a focus on helping those in crisis marriages. The ministry’s contact information is listed at the end of each story and the back of the book contains a detailed marriage-help resource guide. 
Mae Chambers and her husband, John, have had a saved marriage since 1985. For years, they have seen the tremendous impact of sharing their own story of healing with hurting couples. Fascinated by the “power of a story,” Mae teamed up with her daughter, Erika, to publish a book FULL of saved marriage stories. With a shared passion to see broken families restored, Mae and Erika founded, which provides online access to some of the most effective marriage-saving resources available today.

Do Affairs Just Happen?

Extramarital affairs are devastating to everyone. The betrayed spouse, kids, immediate family, and even friends and coworkers bear the brunt of this earth-shattering event.

After the infidelity is discovered, the unfaithful often say, “We never intended for this to happen.” True. Most spouses don’t set out, when leaving for work, to come home having begun an inappropriate relationship. However, things like this don’t “just happen.” Many factors contribute.

There’s a commercial on television for the Plan B pill. It is a contraception that stops a pregnancy before it begins. Their slogan is, “Because the unexpected happens.” I’m sure the unexpected does, but I can’t help but think when I see this TV spot, “If you have unprotected sex, you could get pregnant. What did you think would happen? Were you sleeping in health class?” The same is true with affairs. While someone may never set out to have an affair, if you neglect your spouse and develop an attraction to someone else, what do you think is going to happen?

Another response is, “It just happened.” This statement, as well as the first, minimizes the events leading to the affair and also the hurtful ripple affect that will be felt for years. It’s like saying that September 11, “just happened.” Both statements give little credence to what has occurred and, for this reason, both are quite maddening to the betrayed.

Many marriages end when an affair takes place, but if you decide to work things out, there are some things that must occur. The cheater must grasp the extent of his or her behavior, and this understanding must be communicated to the hurting spouse. An empathic understanding is key.

In regards to the offended spouse, his/her part in this must be seen as well. Maybe he or she spent too much time doing something else. Oftentimes an affair can be the result of what both spouses have or have not done.

If you decide to work things out, keep in mind that it is a great deal of work. I have a slogan on my office wall that says, “Every true strength is gained through struggle.” Things can get better.


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Dale Sadler: Family Counseling Services

Thanks to lots of prayer, hard work, and some great support, I will begin my private practice February 15. This has been a dream of mine ever since I began the program at WKU. I would like to thank all of those who have encouraged me in so many ways; especially my wife, Malita.

For those in the area who are looking for counseling, particularly in the areas of marriage and men’s issues, give me a call at 615-285-0095 or send me an email
I’d like to also reach out to ministers. This job carries with it many responsibilities and those who work with churches in a leadership role don’t usually have a place to go to for counsel. I was a minister for several years and believe I can help this very important part of our community. 
Be sure to visit my website for more information and directions to my office. I will be available for sessions in the afternoons and evenings. Finally, I will be in the company of three very capable counselors and I am so glad that they have given me this opportunity.

Question: "What if my spouse won’t acknowledge his emotional affair?"

I received this question through a comment on my article “Emotional and/or Physical: Is It An Affair?”

“What should I do if my spouse refuses to acknowledge his emotional online affair? He says I’m overreacting. He stopped contacting her but not out of remorse or of wanting to do the right thing. He just wants me off his back. He refuses to go to counseling with me so I go by myself. Also, he won’t talk to anyone about this issue. I am afraid that without talking about our relationship, the same thing will happen again. He still plays regularly on the game site he met her on even though I have told him it makes me nervous. I caught him talking to her last month. I feel like a doormat. He is in a state of withdrawal and denial about what he has done. I have read that this is called an emotional divorce. I am trying to find out how I can meet his needs that I was not meeting before, even though he won’t tell me what they are, and I’m studying God’s word to give me strength. I believe God has brought me into a marriage covenant that He does not desire to be broken. My husband has built a wall around his heart that is very hard, and I believe he has allowed Satan to lie to him. I feel I need to win him back, but this is so backwards. I was the one betrayed, but he is the one who is full of anger and bitterness because I ‘took away his good friend.’”

Let’s take a look at what is going on. I speak to my female colleagues at work. We laugh and talk about our weekends, but I do not sit across from them and play chess while no one else is around. This would be very inappropriate and it is, in effect, what he is doing. In his mind, he has justified the behavior as harmless, but apparently, an emotional bond has been established and this is infidelity in its most deceptive form. His actions are very harmful, as an intimate connection has been made with someone other than you, his wife. He may believe he’s having harmless fun. If his conversations are not intimate, then he is, but he’s having harmless fun with a woman that is not you. This is a problem. There is a perception that when there’s no physical contact, there’s no affair. This is false. Well, how do you reach a spouse who does not acknowledge the extramarital relationship for what it is?

The issue must be discussed, but you pose a difficult predicament since he will not talk to anyone about it. Someone or something has to make him see what he’s done. Hopefully he’ll become remorseful, but even if he doesn’t, if he decides to stay off the game and talk about what is going on, the rebuilding of your marriage can begin. Otherwise, you will simply become “roommates.”

Here are some things that I think you should do. First, there is an emotional need that he is getting met from the game and from her. You mentioned that you haven’t met his needs in the past so he may be expecting you to act the way you did then. This may be difficult, but keep meeting his needs even while he is neglecting yours. If you start meeting his needs now, he will hopefully begin noticing the difference. “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Actions speak louder than words. Second, keep praying (especially when he’s on the computer) and trust in God’s timing. Ask your friends and relatives to pray at those particular times too.

What you don’t want to do is go at him aggressively and verbally attack him. This is what you want to do and may be what he deserves, but he will become defensive and not listen which is the opposite of what you want. So, third, I would recommend sitting him down and telling him exactly how you feel and what this has done to you emotionally and what you think it has done to your marriage. Make sure you do it from the standpoint of, “This is how I feel and what I think has happened” rather than “This is how you (husband) screwed up!!” Use “I” statements like, “It hurts me when we don’t spend time together.” Don’t say, “Why are you always on that computer with her?” “Why” questions make people defensive. If you were my clients, I would ask him, “For your life to be just like you want it, what would have to change?” Maybe you can do this. Maybe he’ll open up. Also, don’t do it every night. His wall must be torn down with the power of God not with repeated onslaughts.

Well, how long do you go until you say, “I’m through?” This is between you and God. Infidelity is cause for divorce (Matthew 5:32), however, with your son and with what you’ve already built, divorcing will have its own set of difficulties. You may trade one problem for another, but with the prospect of winning him back, you must decide how much you are willing to work. You’re trying to save your marriage, but there are souls involved here as well. Like I said, this is between you and God. Threatening with divorce may be what shakes him conscious, but I can’t be sure of that.

Satan does win some over but hopefully with prayer, your husband’s heart can be changed.

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"Looking for Greener Grass?"

Family Feud; what a great show. I watched it when I was a child and I catch it from time to time even now. My Sunday school teacher was actually on an episode once. If you pay attention, you can occasionally get a glimpse into societal trends; well, at least trends among 100 people.

A few weeks ago one of the questions was, “On a scale from one to ten (ten being the best) how happy is your marriage?” The number one answer? One. This broke my heart and struck my interest so I put a pole on my website, I posed the same question and the results were a little more promising.

I turned thirty-two this year and have discovered that some of my friends from high school are getting divorces. Not what I would wish upon anyone; even those I didn’t like in my American History class. There are many answers to marital difficulties and some, rightly so, turn to divorce. I wonder though if people turn to divorce too quickly sometimes. Now, I don’t want any part in dealing out guilt for past divorces. I am much more content being about the business of helping people deal with their current situations and their future. So, stopping divorces and improving current marriages (be they second or third) is more my game.

Greater than 50% of marriages end in divorce and a majority of those remarry. Statistics show that with each marriage, the percentage of divorce continues to rise. I’m not sure why this is not mentioned very often. I think it might actually make people reconsider their decision to separate causing them to work harder at making their current marriages work; saving a lot of heartache.

One explanation for this pattern of increasing divorce in subsequent marriages is that marital difficulties are often recreated when the issues that brought a couple to divorce are not dealt with. Different couple, same problem. If one spouse has a particular personality difficulty or marriage-ending habit, he or she may carry that into the next marriage unless major changes occur.

Also, some believe that they “fall out of love.” Love is not a hole you fall in so falling out is a strange notion. While dating we spend so much time making sure the other person is happy with us. However, as the years pass for a husband and wife the fire does seem to go out and one or both spouses start looking elsewhere for a match. You have to “make love” on a regular basis, and I’m not talking about the kind you’re thinking of. I’m talking about making love so that you will want to stay together.

When you act like you’re in love with someone who is lovable (a key component indeed), the feeling will often follow. If not, there may be something else going on. If you remarry and neglect correcting your mistakes, don’t expect things to be different. The unfulfilling pattern in your most important relationship this side of eternity continues.

A former professor of mine, the late Bill Greenwalt, often said this in regards to those who remarry. “The grass might be greener, but you still have to mow it.” Marriages have to be worked on, love has to be cultivated, and if these things do not happen in the first marriage, the chances may be slim that they will happen in the second.

"Being A Man’s Man"

One of my favorite movies is Hidalgo. It is about Frank Hopkins (pictured), a long distance horse rider born shortly after the Civil War. He became popular in America by winning over 400 races. His fame soon spread overseas to Arabia where a 3,000 mile race across the desert started with 100 horses but only finished with five. Frank won on his horse Hidalgo, thirty-three hours ahead of the second place finisher. The movie shows a much closer finish which adds to the excitement of this great piece of cinema.

This movie is a testament to the American spirit, but it also shows what a man should be about. Viggo Mortensen plays Frank Hopkins as a tough, committed, and honest man. This depiction is a great role model for men and boys of today.

Too many boys are left to figure out manhood on their own and too many “men” are still trying to figure it out. In a world where we are expected to be tough yet sensitive, how should a man act?

First, a man should take care of his business and be committed even when things change; like in a divorce. Divorce is a horrible thing, anyone would agree, but the pain is compounded when ex-spouses do not work together for the benefit of their children. Instead of trying to make the new family orientation work, some men make it worse by doing things like not paying child support. Some might get defensive and say “I shouldn’t have to pay because I don’t get to see my kid” Well, this isn’t a DVD rental we’re discussing. Just because you’re not seeing him or her does not relinquish your responsibility as a care-giver at some level. That child is still living and mom may be struggling. Hurt feelings and destroyed lives are just two results of a divorce. Don’t make it worse by withholding something that should be given to your child anyway.

Second, a man should be honest with his family so that they know who he is. Too many men lead a double life, and this can’t be done forever. Affairs and apathetic spouses lead to a home that no one would want to be a part of. Both spouses are often guilty of taking for granted what they have at home, so men, be honest about your family. What can you do to make it better?

Men should be honest with themselves too. Back to my example above. Why can’t you see your child after the divorce? Did she have a good lawyer or are you at fault for something? Children need their dads and you must ask yourself, “Am I the kind of dad that my son (or daughter) needs to see?” As important as a father’s example is, I have known some where the child was better off not seeing him. This is sad, but true.

All of the items mentioned above take a tough man to carry them out. In the movie, Hopkins had his shortcomings. He drank a lot and seemed perpetually miserable at the start of the movie. Once he agreed to the Arabian race, he found purpose again, and straightened his life out. If you have made a commitment to your family, carry it out at whatever place you might be in life. It will make you stronger as a man, and you’ll be forced to be honest which just might turn you into someone your children can be proud of.

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"Radio Show & Podcasts?"

On December 29, I will be appearing on 1270AM in Portland, TN from 4-5pm. The hosts of the show are friends of mine and they have asked that I come on as a regular guest. So, starting February 2, I will be appearing the first Monday of every month at the above time discussing marriage, parenting, and family issues. You can see an official schedule in the left column of this blog.

Don’t Stay Together for the Kids

It’s no surprise that the institution of marriage is in turmoil. Couples, at their marital breaking point, often choose divorce as a solution. I know that divorce is not always avoidable and many have good reasons for it. However, if you are considering divorce or are just unhappy in your marriage, I hope this article can offer some insight.

We must work on what we have before us rather than trading it in; especially in light of the fact that your chances of divorce increase with each subsequent marriage. The grass might be greener, but it still has to be mowed.

Divorce, under almost any circumstance, can be traumatic. Emotional devastation, added burdens, and the uncertainty of it all can send each spouse into a whirlwind taking months or even years to recover.

The children also suffer from divorce. Not to be misunderstood, many single parent and step-family homes do a wonderful job with their children because of healthy modeling of what a family can be. Whatever your family looks like, it must be a positive place for sons and daughters to learn their roles as spouses and parents.

Many couples, not wanting to hurt their children, stay together. This is terribly short-sighted. Spouses who don’t work on what is killing their relationship may only give their children a framework for what an unhealthy one looks like. “Just sweep it under the rug and everything will be fine.” How awful! You must do more than stay together. You must work on your marriage for your children and for yourselves. Dysfunction, the inability to handle family interactions constructively, is unhealthy whether you’re together or not.

One problem with a lot of marriages is that one or both spouses are not completely committed. Love is not a hole you fall in, yet some treat it that way. Couples who were once passionate are now stagnant because things like money, work, and even children have skewed their perspective. Love must be nurtured over time as each partner changes and develops as a person.

Robert Fulghum, author of Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, tells the story of a culture that believes when couples argue, they are making love. In this scenario you come to a better understanding and appreciation of one another as the conflict is resolved constructively. You are making love.

Some couples argue without resolution, and instead of growing together, they grow apart. The controversy must end positively for both parties, otherwise it will fester and the gloves will come out each time the subject is revisited.

If you and your spouse are at the brink of separation, you must reconnect. Send the kids to grandmas this weekend, attend a marriage seminar, or seek counseling. You must rediscover why you first fell in love with that person and why you should love them now. Marriage is not a license to give up on each other. It’s a license to have the deepest relationship possible with another human being.