Did you know January is the most popular month of the year for Divorce filings according to a story by Huffington post last month? Most couples seem to want to get through Christmas (for the kids). So they plan on filing for divorce in January unless someone or something intervenes. The stress of the holidays often reinforces the hopelessness and the feeling that “there’s just nothing that can be done to save this marriage.” Many couples are in such pain that they feel the only way to deal with this pain is to end the marriage. Their pain often overrides their ability to remember the good times of early days, how this will affect their kids, their faith and values and the economic devastation that divorce reeks on their finances.

Yes, some divorces are inevitable even for Christians, yet research shows that divorce is not typically the answer to most marriage pain and problems. A report, issued by the Institute for American Values suggests that on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. The data suggests that if a couple is unhappy, the chances of their being happily married five years later are 64% if they remain together- but only 19% if they divorce and remarry. Even more dramatically, the researchers also found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later.

So if this research is accurate, which it is no doubt is, what does a couple do when they are in pain? Some go to counseling but often that it didn’t work for them mainly because traditional counseling is designed to work with couples for one hour a week or every other week. When couples are already in deep crisis, ready to walk out, they need an “emergency room approach” that provides quick restoration of hope. Sometimes they just need a tiny light at the end of the tunnel, not necessary a huge beam. Others do something a little non-traditional- they attend a “boot camp” of sorts for Couples in a “911 marriage.”

Over the past decade these types of programs for couples in crisis have been cropping up and they are proving successful. Over 80% of couples who attend a 3-5 day “intensive type” / group focused workshop walk away committing to save their marriage and several years later they have.

As a therapist, author and former Director of Marriage for Focus on the Family for numerous years, I saw the incredible impact these programs were having on struggling marriages. Drawing from the success of other programs, we felt led to develop a similar program called Marriage Turnaround Workshops based on the top selling book: The Marriage Turnaround. There are other great programs out there who offer similar results but our goal was to offer a program which was more affordable, shorter in duration (3 days) and one where as many as 20 couples could be helped at one time.

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At these workshops couples come together from all over the world thinking “this is probably a waste of time and most likely will not work”. But a vast majority walks away with their attitudes, hearts, minds and marriages completely turned around. Instead of going through with the pain, cost and lifelong effects of ending their marriage in divorce (not to mention the damaging lifelong effects on children), they start investing energy they have been using on fighting and planning their exit strategy back into rebuilding their marriage and in turn become stronger than ever imagined. This is even true for couples who have had affairs, currently in affair or are in some other crisis. Yet even couples who have not had affairs or in a deep crisis benefit from the experience and tools they gain from these workshops.

Below are just a few marriage changing principles couples come to realize at Turnaround workshop type of events (but principles that can help you even if you are not in a crisis):

Love is a verb, not just a feeling. Everyday life rips away at the “feel good side of marriage.” Emotions like happiness, hope and satisfaction will fluctuate. But real love is based on a couple’s level of commitment – when it feels good and when it doesn’t. Commitment holds us in place until the “feel good” emotions come back.
If you do what you always do, you will get same result – which is the definition of stupidity right? Yet how many of us including yours truly have lived this unwise reality out in our marriages over and over. Relationally intelligent couples have learned that you have to approach problems differently to get more desirable results. Often it’s the minor changes in approach, attitude and actions that make the biggest difference in marriage.
Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears not winning the battle on the “argument field.” Successful couples have learned to resist holding grudges, bringing up the past, and remembering that they married an imperfect person – and so did your spouse.
Change your mind, change your marriage. How couples think and what they believe about their spouse affects how they perceive the other. What they expect and how they treat their spouse matters greatly. Changing behavior is important, but so is changing attitudes. Bad attitudes often drive bad feelings and actions.
You can change your marriage by changing yourself. Veteran couples have learned that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope – almost impossible. Often the only person we can change in our marriage is ourselves. When we change, that change often has a strong positive effect on the other partner. They see, observe and learn to appreciate your changes and inspires them to want to do the same.
A bad marriage is not like fruit that has gone bad, once it goes bad it stays bad. Thousands of marriages are saved each year and they never go down the divorce road.
Successful couples discover the value in just showing up. When things get tough and couples don’t know what to do, they need to hang in there and be there for their spouse. Time has a way of helping couples work things out by providing opportunities to even out stress and work out challenges.
A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over. Marriage crisis are like thunder storms when you are driving in a car: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a thunder storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. Marriage pain and crisis can actually be a stepping stone to lead couples to “the best years of their lives.” It’s often out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.
Happiness is not the most important thing in marriage. Sure it’s important and everyone wants to be happy, but happiness will come and go in life, in parenting, with our jobs and marriage. Successful couples however learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when “life” pulls it away. Strong, healthier marriages provide greater more enduring things like: contentment, security, deep intimacy, vision, shared faith and the satisfaction of honoring our vows: “for better for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part.”

Copyright © 2013 Mitch Temple. Used with permission.

Have you tried traditional counseling; is your marriage in crisis and you want out? Don’t give up. Checkout Intensives at mitchtempleonline.com. Do you know of a family, church member, friend or co-worker who is heading toward divorce? Send them to a workshop like The Marriage Turnaround. themarriageturnaround.com.

Be part of saving and restoring a marriage, a home and family in 2013. One of the most impacting things you could ever do.