Fixing Your Crappy Marriage (The Upside Of Commitment)

This is another common scenario. A person is in crappy marriage but struggles to move from awareness of such to actually solving the problem. They get caught in a depression or a power struggle or whatever. To a client:

“…For example, my husband and I got married, understanding our vow was for real. This meant that when there was a conflict we HAD to work it out. We’re stuck with each other, see?  You and your husband are also stuck with each other.  My husband and I do not want to be miserable. It’s not acceptable to us. WE CAN’T LEAVE and so we fix the problems when they come up.”


“…You wish this and you wish that that but deeper down, you realize this is not going to get you anywhere. If you focus “X” and use that as a reason to fail, then the die is cast here. But if you will embrace fact you really are BOUND, then maybe you can get back to getting along.

What if you were on a desert island? Could you get along then? How about it your happiness depends on getting along with this person?  Would that make you see things differently?”

This frame has been very productive in my marriage. Since we can’t get out, we may as well fix problems that come up, the best we can, as fast as we can. If there were less a commitment; open doors all around, it would cause more problems then it would solve.

What do you think of this?

31 thoughts on “Fixing Your Crappy Marriage (The Upside Of Commitment)”

  1. I could not agree more — I don’t think you can behave like you have one foot out the door or some other option when you’re in a committed partnership and expect the relationship to grow in any kind of constructive way.

  2. When I asked my Grandma, just after she and my Grandfather’s 50th wedding anniversary, “What is the secret to staying married for so many years?”

    Her answer was, “Because divorce back then just wasn’t an option. You HAD to make it work.”

  3. CArRiE, that reflects a level of maturity to me. I think if you’re not going to do this, there is no sense being married. Why be together and make each other miserable?

    My husband and I are both very stubborn. This did us in when we were teenagers but we’ve grown up since then. Not that it isn’t agonizing at times, to give in to the partner which we both do.

    If you can’t agree not to make each other miserable and to try to make each other happy, why be married? You’re in the thing together and if the boats filling up with water, if you have any sense at all, you’ll both start bailing, yes?

  4. I’m stating the obvious, but this only works when both people respect their marriage vows. One person can’t make this happen. In my case, I should have left a hell of a lot earlier than I was able to.

  5. Avatar


    You’re either married or you’re not. Married means you work this stuff out.

    I’ve argued that the legal changes we’ve seen in the last 50 years have made divorce easy and the mindset has changed. (and NO I do not condone staying married “for the children” etc. when there is emotional abuse, physical abuse, drug use, etc.)

    So either the mindset needs to swing back towards “divorce is only an option in extreme cases and you need to work it out” or the law will change because right now what we have is an awful mess for the children and the parents. (and no, I don’t think divorce now days is easy – it’s messy, painful etc. but compared to 1920 divorce is EASY today)

    I think there is an intermediate level that would give a higher value to marriage and encourage the mindset that divorce is only an option in extremely bad cases.

    Sidenote: when the divorce laws were first liberalised the murder rate dropped as did the suicide rate almost exactly in proportion to the number of divorces being granted.

  6. This gives me (and my Saturn) great comfort. As freedom-loving as I am.. I know deep down the best kind of freedom springs from the discipline of commitment. Once you get over the hard slog, you start to see and feel possibilities where none existed. Something I’m learning big time now.

  7. Totally, totally agree. If both parties buy in, it works and it brings about a lot of amazing “fruit.” I feel like through great travail comes great rewards. If it’s travail against addiction and abuse and apathy, that’s one thing. If it’s working through annoying habits, passing laziness, misunderstandings? That’s workable, I have learned. And I’m glad to have learned it. I wish for my children to have that experience. I don’t care if they ever have a traditional wedding ceremony, I just want them to work through life with other humans 🙂 It’s good for the soul.

  8. Well, I’m a Libra. The problem I always had in my marriages was that I wanted to work this stuff out, negotiate, work for a common solution and all that stuff I’m so good at — with people who *did not want to do this.*

    What I learned about this tactic from both men was that refusing to negotiate meant that they did not have to concede a single inch no matter what as long as they avoided the discussion. So I would slowly start to give up and realize that I had two choices — either I would have absolutely no control or vote in how my life, relationship and destiny was going; or I would — but that would mean leaving the relationship.

    Got to this place twice in my life. Left both times.

  9. Eva, I understand this. I was living with a man at one time who had no control over his drinking. I realized that if I stayed he would be in effect controlling me by his fuck-up and rages and self-pity.

    Sometimes you need to head for the door to save yourself and your sanity. Life is short.

  10. I agree. Once you’re in, you’re in. There is no “one foot in and one foot out” scenario when you are married.

    However, if there are dealbreakers such as abuse, infidelity, etc. and the other party won’t get help then I agree that it’s best to leave.

  11. I probably shouldn’t have been married, but in my defense? He wasn’t like that before the wedding, and I stayed married to an abusive man for nearly five years trying to work it out. When he refused professional help and started getting *really* violent (as opposed to moderately violent), I left.

    (Before anyone gets all trigger happy: I know, and I don’t think anyone here would actively advocate staying married to an abuser. I shared my story to make a point, that’s all. 🙂 )

    But I agree with you Elsa – if you make a commitment, you make it and you stick to it as best you can. I admire you and your Rhino for this, quite a bit.

    What this means for me is that I generally don’t make commitments. I don’t think I like what that says about my personality.

  12. I am hoping and have faith that my upcoming marriage will be my only marriage. My partner feels the same–we only want to do it once. We both have Venus/Saturn.

  13. I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I look at marriage as much more than “just a piece of paper”. It’s a promise, a commitment, and yes, that means we work out things that might have broken us apart if we weren’t so serious about this. It’s one of the things I really love about being married.

  14. Back to add more from my Grandma (comment #2).

    She told me about a time when she and my Grandpa were really pissed off at each other (funny, when she told me this story, she couldn’t even remember why they were so pissed off) that they didn’t speak to each other for a year!! A YEAR!! But, they had four little girls and ‘divorce wasn’t an option.’

    She said that when they finally got over that wall (that’s how she described the ‘silent year’), they were more bonded than ever. Said that they felt that if they could overcome that, that they could overcome anything.

  15. Carrie, that is such a touching story. I can’t even imagine living with someone for a year and not talking to them. It truly makes me believe that things can work out. A whole year!

    I am so glad when I see, hear or meet people who are married and are healthy, “working out the tough spots” and not walking away from each other, resulting in lasting relationships. Younger single people like me really do need role-models like that to show that it can work.

  16. Shannon – Don’t feel bad because I stayed way longer than you did, both times. It’s confusing because I took my vows so seriously, I thought that if I worked hard enough and gave them a stable home, they would appreciate it enough to fix their problems and preserve what we were building together. (Problems I discovered after we were wed.)

    The problem with that thinking is that I was the only one ever building anything, both times. I’m freaking worn out! I still don’t understand their mindsets of “Hey, I have a happy home – I think I’ll do everything in my power to destroy it!”

    It’s when you go through tough times together that you make your bond even more solid. Unfortunately, I’ve wasted most of my life with two immature losers who deserved a kick in the face instead of a loyal wife.

    I just hope I have the strength to try this one more time.

  17. I agree with it as a useful frame of mind to problem solving, but in reality if the two people have deep incompatibilities and cannot get along without one person having to give up a tremendous amount of things that they should not have to – then it may be time to call it quits. Yes, plenty of people in times past have managed to make things work, but with severe consequences personally and with their children. Make the effort to overcome problems, but there are times when it is evident the two do not fit together without considerable damage to each, or one.

  18. I don’t advocate staying in a marriage you don’t want to be in. What I am saying is that if you DO choose to stay in a marriage, it makes sense to paddle the boat WITH your partner so as to not go in circles.

  19. Thanks, Isernia. I don’t feel bad – I feel like I did the best I could do, and am happy with that.

    Elsa – yep. Still agree with ya.

  20. This was a really helpful post for me today.


    The thing is, suddenly once Neptune hit Pisces I could take a very long view of my whole life. I’m having some weird Chirotic moment where I don’t feel sorry for myself anymore.

    How is this relevant? Well, the thing is, you don’t wallow in shit because you like to do it. You do it because you believe there is something worthwhile in it. And you might not be wrong.

  21. I started out after reading the all of the posts about commitment, feeling kind of ashamed of myself. I married a psychologist, who refused to look at any of the problems in our 24 year marriage as anything but my fault. Through many years of prayer, individual therapy and many, many unsuccessful attempts at marriage therapy I could not go on. It was always viewed by my former husband as a problem that I had to fix (my ex–Taurus/Virgo). I felt dead inside for many, many years.

    At the beginning of 2008, I didn’t even have the will to try to challenge him to meet me half-way. He would argue and yell and I would retreat. I knew if I left I would be leaving with nothing and would have to stand on my own. I was laid off in Feb of ’07, and didn’t work full time again until May of 2009. My husband left me, broke in February of 2008. I didn’t try to make him stay even though I was afraid–I felt he deserved to be happy and find love again & who was I to hold him back out of my own fear?

    I have had moments where I thought that I should have never let him go, but I know the situation was helpless. We went through SO much in 24 years… financial hardship, illnesses of our children, step family issues, an ex-wife from hell . He is very bitter and still paints me to be this awful person who f’d up his life.

    My perspective is different…. we all are here to learn life lessons. If we are in a relationship that does not support spiritual growth, if we are in a relationship that presents a public face that is false, we teach our children that they should accept a relationship on any terms.

    I am working hard with my 21 year-old daughter who has suffered through a couple of disturbingly unhealthy relationships. I blame this on her modeling of parents who lived as strangers in order to be able to co-exist. We were trapped in a bad financial situation with ill children and parents to take care of.

    I am not wallowing in any crap from my marriage. I have let that go, but I have to admit that I resent his attitude towards my daughter–he has always viewed her as my responsibility and tends to ignore her. This is difficult, as she has two older half-siblings that he is enmeshed with.

    I would gladly enter into committed relationship. I want that so much. I would gladly work through issues and would love to be that loving partner (Venus/Taurus in the 7th–perhaps this is why I stayed so long?)… I am hoping that Jupiter is going to shine its love light on me soon…. I really do.

  22. “I’m stating the obvious, but this only works when both people respect their marriage vows. One person can’t make this happen.”

    To true, and at some point my husband just stopped doing this – it was quite sudden. Once that happened, it was a pretty speedy downward spiral and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it: his Aqua had kicked in and he jut didn’t want to be married any more – and refused to discuss it.

    I absolutely agree though, that marriage if it’s to mean anything needs constant accommodations, compromises, work, and nurturing. If you’re not prepared to do this full time, then don’t get married

  23. I agree with this. I am definitely a person who commits to a relationship and will stand there through thick and thin – Saturn in the 7th.

  24. Although I agree 100% that commitment, effort, and compromises are called for to make a marriage work, I unfortunately think I’m in a relationship more like eva, puttycake and the others where we’ve come to realize that one person alone can not make it work, no matter the level of effort or commitment. I’ve found that there are some people out there that stay in relationships with you, but will intentionally row the opposite direction of you no matter which way you row, will constantly berate you for how you row, or will even just turn around and bop you on the head with the oar while you’re trying to row for the both of you. I think Elsa’s right and that a marriage only makes sense if you’re both willing to put in the hard work and row together.

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