11/15/2010 09:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Marriage Does Not Work

So in the first few marital posts, I wrote about the behavioral approaches and techniques involved in both preventing and fixing marital problems. But what do you do if the person to whom you're married decides that they are no longer in love with you and are absolutely not willing to make the effort? To complicate things further, imagine that there are children involved and a long family history of infidelity in your spouse's family.

To make any technique in a marriage functionally coherent, there must first exist the requisite love, desire, good character, and an old-fashioned sense of knowing right from wrong. Marital discord can be even more pronounced when one spouse now places the blame for his or her inadequacies on the other spouse and subsequently rewrites the history of the marriage based on those inadequacies. This means that the spouse who is willing to do the work finds him or herself in a position where no matter what he or she does, the marriage simply cannot be saved.

It always takes two people to make a marriage work for the long haul. And while it is true that we can, from time to time, prop up our partners through the frequent highs and lows that are characteristic of every marriage, ultimately both people must be present in order for any marriage to be truly functional.

How then, can the techniques I described in other posts help you when your partner has essentially checked out? The answer is this: a spouse going through separation or divorce can, even after all the disappointments, still practice the behavioral approach to marriage by using the techniques that are the core elements to all communication: Language, Behavior, Solution, Outcome. We can't fix or change our partner -- no matter how many times we beg, email, text, cry, talk, scream, or hope -- but we can accept his or her limitations and approach the profound feelings of loss that come about in the wake of a broken marriage as a pragmatic, not an emotional issue.

Think: all the emotions you felt didn't change or help save your marriage, so using the functional, behavioral approach can at least guarantee that, for the sake of the kids, you can at least get to a place of civility. You might even realize that even though you were technically married, you might really have been emotionally single all long.

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