A marriage in trouble

This is a sensitive topic, one that I don’t enjoy talking about. Mostly because I never want to say anything that gives anyone reason or license to do something they will regret later.

But I know marriages are suffering, so if the following post can help even ONE marriage, maybe it will be worth it. My hope is that the things I write and the answers I give will be solid, gospel-based, and founded on true principles. From there, each person must discern for themselves how to apply the principles in his or her own life.

Note: I’m not a relationship expert, but in 26 years of marriage, my husband and I have had to work through some pretty awful problems (not just financial). So I have some strong opinions about how to solve relationship issues, but usually keep them to myself.


Here’s a question I received from a Mindset Mastery program participant about living the principles when a marriage is in trouble. (Details have been changed for anonymity.)

Leslie, I need some advice. I’m trying to write and imagine my ideal life, but I’m struggling with one part:

My husband has been texting/sexting other women. Looking back it’s been going on for years. We’ve been married for nearly 20 years and there’s been fishy things going on since the beginning. I finally realized he has an addiction. He also has chronic pain so he takes prescription painkillers daily – sometimes going through 90 pills in two weeks. He works as a fitness trainer doing group personal training, which (initially) I thought would be perfect for him, because he wouldn’t be working one on one.

However, many of the women in his class are more than happy to give and receive attention, and he’s a prime candidate. There is a woman going now who sent him a picture of herself in lingerie. I politely emailed and asked her to respectfully stop attending his classes and she agreed. But then she started going to his classes again. It makes me sick. I try to control my emotions but it is a struggle.

My question is, as I create my goal statement, how do I work around this? Here are some examples of what I’ve been praying/writing:

~ I am so thankful now that my marriage is honest and faithful. It feels safe and joyful. Together, we are better.
~ I am so thankful for my honest and faithful husband. It feels so good to know that my husband is fiercely loyal to me and that he respects our marriage.
My marriage is honor and faithfulness. Since we honor our marriage, we attract people into our lives who also honor our marriage.
I am so thankful that the people who attend my husbands classes honor and respect our marriage.

[Leslie here inserting a note for my readers – lest you don’t read the whole post, I don’t recommend using these examples as they are. I’ll explain why below.]

She continues:

I know that I can’t control other people, so I’m trying to be creative with how I word these things. I guess I’m not sure if I’m doing it right since she’s coming back to his classes. Or maybe there is something else coming – like a new job. He works several nights a week and it makes it hard for us to spend time together, so really, a different job would be ideal.

I have a lot of feelings towards my husband that I am trying to sort through. I just started Wife For Life, which I think will be very helpful in me owning my part of our marriage. What I’m finding is that it’s hard to reach my financial goals when I’m in turmoil with myself over my marriage. Sometimes I’m not even sure that I want to be married to him anymore.

Hopefully this makes sense, I just wanted to run it by you before I write everything out for the midterm assignment. And I just needed your input. I highly value your advice.

I replied:

Before I answer, what does your husband think about all of this? What does he want?

She replied:

Well, that’s a great question. He’s admitted, in his humble moments, that he as a problem and needs help. He says that he hates this girl coming to his class. And he also says that he wants what I want – an eternal marriage, peace, happiness, freedom. However, he is often dishonest. I provide a comfortable living for him and he knows if we were to divorce he wouldn’t have that. 

He is a great husband. He leaves love notes for me almost every morning, sends me sweet texts,  wants to snuggle every night and spend time together. So I think he really does want what I want, but I don’t know if he’s ready to make those changes right now. When he’s humble he says he’s ready but as soon as the spirit leaves he gets very defensive.

I asked:

Do you have children? What do they know about the situation? Has divorce ever been a spoken topic between you and him? Or is your comment about the comfortable living just because you know how he thinks?

She replied:

We have two children, one in middle school, one in high school. We’ve talked about divorce for years. He’s explosive, so any time I tell him that I know he’s been texting another woman he blows up and says he’s done and wants a divorce. Then after a few days he acts like everything is normal again. The kids see his explosive behavior all the time. He yells for anything and is very demeaning. Then a few seconds later he fine again. His expectations for the kids are crazy – totally unrealistic for their ages. Then I feel like I have to compensate and be extra nice because he yells so often. 

He’s never said that I provide a comfortable life for him, but he for years refused to work. Also, once we saw a counselor, and his opinion was that my husband was using me. Of course that was the counselors opinion, but it’s always stuck with me.

I wrote:

I’ve had similar questions from others before. When you envision the way you want your life to go, think of it from the perspective of how you want to think and feel as you look BACK on your life, as though it’s already over. Past tense becomes even more powerful than present tense in that context.

Describe your relationship in terms of how you feel about how it went. What you accomplished together, how you felt about your husband (how you want to be able to feel about him, as though you do), how grateful you are that you were inspired in ways that created the right conditions that inspired him and your children to become all they can be.

(Focus on what YOU did – you were inspired in ways that created the right conditions for the best possible outcomes. It’s not about what he or anyone else did, it’s about you doing your part, so that you were not the limiting factor in what was possible.)

As you describe it, talk about your husband without using his name. If you picture it, you may or may not want to picture a blank face, because he may or may not choose to step into that possibility. But it does not prevent you from visualizing and moving toward the ideal that God has for all of us. Doing this can prepare you for the inspired guidance, which may lead you to speak your mind in an uncomfortable situation, or it may lead you to hold your tongue in a pivotal moment. It might inspire you to nurture and forgive, or it might inspire you unleash righteous indignation, or some of both, at different times. But the one constant you hold to, will be your vision for your future, and the vision for your family whether it’s is a vision for the here and now, or whether it’s a vision of it for the eternities. Regardless of when it happens, you choose now where YOU will end up and don’t settle for anything less.

Sometimes we make mistakes in how we handle situations in the heat of the moment because we are too focused on the short term. Like, we don’t want contention, so we overcompensate with niceness. If our eternal perspective and vision is clear, we might be more naturally inclined to do or say something uncomfortable in the heat of the moment because we’re more focused on the longer term results. Don’t be afraid to zoom out and think long term.

Her response:

Oh my gosh, so helpful! Thank you so much, this has been something I’ve been struggling with for several months. I super appreciate you taking time to help me!!


Related: It’s not just about Money, it’s about Marriages, too

Related: My Unsolicited Marriage Advice

Related: Dealing with Fear in Relationships

Related: Third Option

Leslie Householder
Latest posts by Leslie Householder (see all)

5 Responses

  1. <3, thank you, all, for your input… My marriage "died" about 5 years ago…maybe much sooner, but we got the 'death' certificate (divorce) at that time…. I'm not sure if I will seek another relationship…but I hope to be a better communicator…both what I expect from my partner…and what I hope to do for/with my partner.

  2. My heart aches to hear this woman lament about an unfaithful husband who, apparently, does not support his family financially. I appreciate and believe in your philosophy of visualization and that can lead to saying and doing the right things, as you said. But, I feel badly in this politically-correct world that we fear to stand up for what is right. A man who won’t make an adequate living for his family and is sexting with other women needs an ultimatum. He needs to choose and this woman is facilitating his bad behavior. My daughter found herself in a similar situation minus the women problem. He was fine having my daughter work while he tinkered at real estate and played video games. I counseled her to quit work and let him fulfill his God-given responsibilities. In short, it has worked. Maybe this woman will be inspired to make the right moves and things will get better for her. I would like to see you bringing in more gospel principles in your counsel.

    1. Hi Barbara, thank you so much for your input. On many levels, I completely agree with you. Let me explain why I answered the way I did for this post.

      I’m not sure how familiar you are with the focus of my work, but the reason I replied as I did was because there are two primary approaches to facing challenges: One is to do what others have done, or what they tell you to do. The other is to get crystal clear on your desired outcome, which then compels you instinctively to DO the necessary thing. The right thing becomes your instinctive reaction, instead of an uncertain or frightful suggestion.

      I certainly do not know every aspect of this sweet woman’s situation. I only know one sliver of a glimpse of a peek into her life and relationship. I do not know her history, and I do not know his. Even with my personal life experiences and opinions, it would be irresponsible of me to advise her on specific actions to take (AND especially to make that advice public), for several reasons:

      1) As I said before, I am not a relationship expert. I am a Mindset trainer and goal achievement coach. In other words, although it could make for great blog reading, I’m not professionally qualified to advise a stranger after such a brief, written interaction.

      2) Resolving marital conflicts falls outside of the scope of my work. It fits, insofar as I can help a person get clarity on what they want, teach them how to initiate and trust their instinct, and motivate them to inspired action. These problem-solving processes can apply to all dilemmas, and so it is only in that context that I take an advisory role.

      3) It seems to me that you might be underestimating the power of this approach. The fact is, no action is ever taken without a thought. No goal is ever achieved without first a decision. My role is to help my clients at that initial step, right there at the beginning of whatever life-change they desire. I get them oriented and pointed in the right direction. We set the trajectory together, and then they use their God-given compass to get them from where they are, to where they want to be. So yes, as she follows this counsel, she WILL be inspired to make the right moves, and things WILL get better for her. I have no doubt, because it is founded in true and proven principles.

      Another main reason I avoid giving direct advice is explained in the Preface of The Jackrabbit Factor. Have you read it? Specifically I refer to the analogy of the sidewalk and picnic. Also, the analogy of jumping and barking vs. spotting a rabbit and chasing it.

      Lastly, the gospel principles that apply to this situation are extensive, and there are an abundance of articles and resources already available, especially at LDS.org In fact, I never planned to write an article on this topic. This post was simply to make public our brief email interaction, in case it might inspire another person to pause and imagine how they could improve their own marriage. Again, never underestimate the power of the “pause”. Things shift. Hearts soften. People change. Circumstances improve… sometimes with nothing more than that intentional pause and envisioning.

      When I asked if she would mind if I share our conversation, to her credit, she responded:

      “You are more than welcome to use it!! I think it’s definitely something that is not discussed enough and many women are suffering in silence. Can’t wait to read it! Thank you!”

      I’ve discovered that no matter how distraught or in pain my clients are, the minute they consider how their experience might actually HELP someone else, their pain begins to lessen. They begin to feel stronger, and more courageous. This alone can lend to the strength they may need to make difficult decisions. This is one reason why I love it when my clients agree to share their experiences. Suddenly they begin thinking about their problem from a different perspective and even the pain begins to take on purpose and meaning.

      Anyway, truth fits. I love the principles of Rare Faith, and I love the principles of the gospel. My contribution here is only a tiny drop in the bucket of knowledge, so I invite you and other readers to reply to this post with any additional resources (articles, gospel-related perspectives, etc.) that may help her, and other readers in the future.

      Thanks again!


      1. I love this reply! It so clearly and lovingly explains what we are learning in Mindset Mastery and Genius Bootcamp. These ideas are applicable to all situations. Although we cannot change anyone else we can certainly take responsibility for our Own happiness and our Own actions to create the future that we want and give others the freedom to do the same. Once we figure that out we can let go of the hows and when’s and just trust enough to take one inspired step at a time.

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