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Unhappy Marriage = Unhappy Life

I used to do marriage counseling. When I was a busy family practice physician in Ohio, and I discovered that a patient was on the edge of divorce, I'd schedule them for marriage counseling with my now-ex-wife on our couch. We had a six week series we designed to help keep marriages together.

Interestingly, we never went through the entire six-part series with any of the dozens of marriages we counseled with. Why?

Because they only saw us when they were in crisis. So we never really got past Lesson 1 of the six lessons! When they had crisis, they were more than willing to get the help they needed. But when all was relatively well, they didn't have the time or inclination to invest in their marriage.

Kind of like people who ignore their health problems and their family history until they have a heart attack, or a stroke, or are anemic from their cancer. Kind of like people who ignore the engine light on their car's dash board until the car stops working. Or people who ignore their financial problems until they have a tax bill they can't afford. People who wait for a crisis to finally begin to work on the problem are more likely to have a catastrophic result. Your health and your car and your nest egg are worth proactively investing in to maximize longevity. So much more so is your marriage!

It's actually MORE true for your marriage in many ways. I've had a busted car and was happy because I was with the woman I loved. I've been in the hospital but happy because I was with the woman I loved. I've been broke but happy because I was with the woman I loved. Nothing beats the joy of coming home from work and a handful of kids run to the door with "Daddy's home!" and I'm flooded with hugs and affection. Those days are a distant memory for me thanks to separation and divorce. When your marriage sours and your divorce court hearings and custody battles begin in earnest, and half your kids hate you for it, and you fall asleep alone and wake up alone and eat alone, believe me, happiness will never be more elusive.

Take it from someone who's greatest failure in life has been in marriage. INVEST in it. Don't wait for a crisis!

* Get a baby-sitter and go on Date Night. It's as important as church on Sunday morning.

* Stay off your phones when you eat out. Learn how to talk to each other again. Learn how to listen. Phones have spoiled the art of conversation.

* Pray together and go to church together. God completes you.

* Men, read Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Best book out there to help men overcome sexual temptation. (Besides the Bible, of course.) Also available in audio for guys who don't read much.

* Read together. I recommend Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs which deals with the most common reasons a man and woman fall out of love with each other. Or get it on DVD and listen to it while driving on Date Night, pausing it to talk about it after every chapter.

* Buy Couple Conversation Cards for meaningful conversations before bedtime or whenever you two have some time to talk. They also have conversation cards for families with children to engage your children more at the dinner table.

* "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:15. In trials and hard times, remember to call on Jesus' name. He promises to be our help in times of trouble if we trust Him. No books or counseling or lawyers can do what Jesus does. He loves us and He hears our prayers. He hates divorce and broken families.

Take it from me. Invest in your marriage. Besides your relationship with God, it's the most important relationship in your life. Your happiness depends on it. The last half of your life can be enjoyable or miserable depending on whether you invest in your marriage while you still can. The white-haired days yet to come and be full of joy and honor coming from your posterity, or your children and grandchildren can avoid you and leave you to celebrate holidays and vacations alone, depending on whether you invest in your marriage while you still can.

Your children's white-haired days yet to come can be full of joy and honor coming from their posterity, or they can spend the sunset days of their lives alone, depending on whether you invest in your marriage while you still can. After all, don't we get our parents diseases, more or less? Don't we follow their examples in life, more or less? Divorce goes back in my mother and my father's side for generations (parents, grandparents, uncles, etc.)! It's like a family curse for so many of us! But Jesus became a "curse" for us when he hung on our cross, so we can break the power of those devilish curses on our lives in His name (Galatians 3:13).

And if it's too late for you, I'm so sorry. You ignored the light on your dashboard too long to save the car. You ignored your health symptoms too long to defeat the cancer. And you ignored all the warning signs of a spouse that's falling out of love with you for too long. At least there is forgiveness for our stupidity. :-)

"If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:8

Forgiveness and obedience to God might not change the past, but it can re-direct our future.

Who knows, with God's help and God's unique gift of spectacularly redeeming losers, our best days might be yet to come!

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

Thank you for taking to read this. It was written from my heart, and not without a few tears I have to say. I pray that your marriages and your children's marriages can thrive in His light.

James P. Johnston, D.O.,

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