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Saving a Dysfuctional Marriage, Part 1

Saving a Dysfuctional Marriage, Part 2

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Saving a Dysfunctional Marriage, Part 3

By Marita Littauer with Chuck Noon, MA, LPCC
Guest Columnist -- Real maturity produces self-less-ness, not self-ish-ness.  While Elizabeth believes that she has spiritually out-grown her husband, her attitude of entitlement betrays her.  Instead of a license to pursue a "new and improved" relationship, true spiritual growth comes with the responsibility to demonstrate love in self-less ways.

In this segment, we'll see how learning to treat Ed with respect and honor will help Elizabeth accept and appreciate the marriage she has (rather than fretting about the marriage she wishes she had.)

If you have missed any prior segment, go back and read parts one and two before reading part three.

Respect and Honor

This brings us to the idea of respect and honor. Another peer advisor, Sylvia, offers this insight, "My husband of 39 years is also a Perfect Melancholy. Like Elizabeth, I am Popular Sanguine/Powerful Choleric. Through the years, I have learned several things. I've learned that my husband thrives on admiration and respect. If he senses he is not meeting my expectations, he withdraws. My expectations make him feel judged and cause an atmosphere that is not loving, creating a worsening cycle. Jesus tells me that my job is loving, not judging."

In their book Intimate Allies (Tyndale House, 1995), Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III spotlight this concept.  "Marriage requires a radical commitment to love our spouses as they are, while longing for them to be what they are not yet. Every marriage moves either toward enhancing one another's glory or toward degrading each other."

Pray For A Mentor

Lindsey encourages women in a similar situation to Elizabeth to pray for a "spiritual mother," a mature older woman with a solid marriage to whom she can go for help. Lindsey says,  "Once when I was irritated at my husband, I asked my spiritual mother what she did when she wanted to 'pop her husband in the chops.' She laughed and told me to pray and ask God to give me His love for my husband when I don't have any love of my own."

Lindsey knows from experience that God is faithful to answer this prayer!

Encourage, Don’t Try To Change

Another aspect of this situation is the couple’s personalities. Again, Elizabeth needs to take the lead. By nature, the Popular Sanguine is the most inclined to change. The Popular Sanguine wants everyone to be happy. She can make adjustments in herself if it will make the other person happy. I claim Romans 12:18 here: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” I believe that God added the beginning disclaimer because it is impossible to be at peace with all men. After all, we can only control our own behaviors—but we can control them! The second part of the verse puts the responsibility for peace in the relationship on us, not expecting the other person to change.

Sylvia says, "My husband is only going to read Consumer's Report, the Wall Street Journal, and our local newspaper. I am an avid reader and self-improver. I can make any changes I want in my own behavior, but have only the power to make my own decisions and choices."

Lindsay suggests that women like Elizabeth stop "fiddling" with trying to force changes on their husbands and leave the changing to the Holy Spirit. She says, "I have this image of my husband and the Holy Spirit on a football field. The Holy Spirit does not need me down on my husband's playing field, but in his grandstand. I hope I have the grace to cheer him on instead of booing him. I think it is deplorable when fans boo the home team!"

Chuck agrees with Lindsay's concept. He sees the need for Elizabeth to offer more encouragement and support to Ed, to compliment him frequently. His counsel to Elizabeth is to identify the strengths of the marriage. One strength is that the marriage has provided her with an environment conducive to personal growth. Perhaps she has overlooked that and attributes all of her growth to the self-help books.

Michelle Holman invites encouragement. "I would also encourage Elizabeth to begin creating a 'gratitude list' in a journal. Each day list at least three of Ed's qualities or actions that she observed for which she was grateful. As she begins to embrace an attitude of gratitude towards Ed, I suggest that she share these with him."

Sylvia talks about her own marriage:  "Sometimes we can focus on the negatives rather than the positives. When a negative about him begins to obsess my mind, I find stopping and making a list of all his wonderful attributes helps give me a better perspective. 'I' statements spoken in truth and love help release hurt feelings. I try to stay away from the 'you' or 'if you would only' statements which seem like a put down."

While it is much easier to say than actually to do, a woman in Elizabeth’s situation needs to lovingly submit to her husband, not because he deserves it, but because she is really submitting to the Lord when she honors and respects her husband.

What about you? Whether you are the husband or the wife, are there factors in common with Ed and Elizabeth's marriage and yours? What can you learn from their situation?

Elizabeth needs to recognize that no matter how excited she, as a Sanguine, gets over personal growth, "self-help" does not appeal to her Melancholy husband.  While Elizabeth has a personal growth agenda for Ed, what he really needs is to feel her respect and honor.

Next week, we'll feature the final installment of “Saving a Dysfunctional Marriage,” featuring “The Interactions” -- a “homework assignment,” much like what a counselor would suggest you do as a couple if you are in a similar situation to Ed and Elizabeth.


Read Marita's previous columns.

Marita LittauerMarita Littauer is a professional speaker with more than twenty-five years experience. She is the author of 17 books Including Personality Puzzle, Communication Plus, The Praying Wives Club, Tailor-Made Marriage—from which this column is derived, and her newest, Wired That Way. Marita is the President of CLASServices Inc., an organization that provides resources, training and promotion for speakers and authors. Marita and her husband Chuck Noon have been married since 1983. For more information on Marita and/or CLASS, please visit or call 800/433-6633.

Chuck Noon has worked as a professional counselor--licensed in two states. He holds a BA in Motion Picture Production from Brooks Institute and an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Diego. He has worked with hundreds of families and couples in many varieties of settings. Currently, Chuck is working in mental healthcare management. Chuck and Marita live in the mountains outside of Albuquerque.

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