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Internet Marriage

Letter #2

Dear Dr. Harley,

My husband and I have some serious problems. We are both from broken families and have created broken families of our own (he was previously married once, I twice). There are children involved as well.

We met off a local BBS one year ago and were married three months to the day...I realize it was not a bright idea for either of us, but it's done. We have slowly but surely begun to emotionally tear each other apart...we are both hot heads and can't hold our tongues. He now wants a divorce....I don't...I sat down and thought about why I married him and those things were still there, I took notice of what my issues where and saw that I was really just being petty because of simple frustrations over money. While he won't talk to me about it, I see that it is probably the same for him.

I have already told him with firm conviction that I will save this marriage myself and that he is just going to have to trust me one more time....he's iffy about it and is throwing up every excuse and road block he can think of, all of which I keep trying to overcome so we can move on with it.

I guess what my question is, I'm scared....I don't want to loose my show of strength and persistence going to pay off and restore our marriage or am I doomed to fail?


Dear J.D.,

One spouse cannot save a marriage, but one spouse can be such a good example, that eventually both work together to save the marriage.

You mentioned financial conflicts as the focus of some of your worst arguments. But you also recognize that the arguments themselves did your marriage more harm than the financial conflicts. That's very good insight, because it helps you see the path that will lead you out of this mess. A marriage is terrific, not because conflicts have been eliminated, but because conflicts are resolved in a caring way -- in a way that takes the feelings of both spouses into account.

It takes two to fight. If either you or your spouse refuse to fight, you will avoid the most important reason that your husband is considering divorce. You can make the decision not to ever fight with your husband again, and if you stick to it, the biggest threat to your marriage can be avoided.

Fighting is the worst way to try to solve a problem. It is worse than avoiding the problem entirely. Fighting not only fails to solve problems, but it also creates a new problem -- you become each other's enemies. Apparently, your husband is getting the worst of it, and predictably, he wants out.

There's another angle to this that you want to keep in mind. Read my Basic Concepts section entitled, "Negotiating in the Three States of Marriage." It points out how difficult it is to negotiate in marriage because of our ever-changing attitudes. Today, you want to save the marriage and are willing to make sacrifices -- your husband is withdrawn and distant. But tomorrow, the setting could be reversed: You may decide to throw in the towel and he is eager to work things out. This roller coaster ride tears solutions into shreds. An agreement today is abandoned tomorrow.

Whenever you and your husband face a conflict, you need guidelines that will help you smooth out the ride, that will keep you from having radical shifts in attitude. My Policy of Joint Agreement offers those guidelines to you. If you decide not to do anything without your husbands enthusiastic agreement, all of the obstacles to problem solving will be stripped away, because you will be negotiating with his feelings in mind. You will not even consider fighting, because a fight would never lead to his enthusiastic agreement about anything. Suddenly, you will be negotiating for compatibility rather than fighting.

If your conversations with your husband cannot be safe and enjoyable, don't have them. If that leaves you not speaking to each other, your first order of business is to learn how to talk with care and respect for each other.

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