Listen to this definition of discouragement: “Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust for the future.”
That hit the mark for me because that is precisely what the discouragement in my marriage felt like. And it is a feeling many couples go through as they work on their marriage. A husband and wife can begin improving their marriage, taking steps to work things out, and still get discouraged. I see this all the time. I heard someone say the other day, “I just don’t know if it’s worth it.” That’s discouragement in a nutshell. In other words, the pain is too much.
When my clients get discouraged, I understand it. Yes, they all show up discouraged, but no one expects to get discouraged as they take steps forward. But it happens, and it is natural.
Let me tell you part of my personal experience seeking professional help for my marriage. After our first session, we were so angry we drove home in silence and remained that way for the rest of the evening. After a repeat of it at the second session, we decided it was better to go separately in the future.
It felt like the more we plowed the ground of our marriage, the angrier we got. Ironically, do you know, we rarely fought in my marriage? We both bottled everything up. So, in counseling, we dug all that stuff up. So many times, we were both discouraged and frustrated.
We were learning new ways to build our communication and connection. We were learning to be vulnerable with our feelings. And then, we’d fall back into old patterns. Discouragement would whisper, “It will always be this way. It is never going to get better. You’ll always be unhappy” So many times, I thought the pain wasn’t worth it. Progress was so slow. I wanted it all better now!
Looking back, I wish I’d known what I know now. It would have made the times of discouragement easier. But, that experience has taught me how to help my clients through discouragement.
Discouragement is a part of life. And it is part of growth. Ask anyone who has worked hard to reach a goal if they ever felt discouraged in the process. The answer will be a resounding “of course.” It is part of the journey to the next level.
Make Discouragement Your Friend
This is a big one. Discouragement comes from setbacks or failures. Listen, these setbacks and failures mean you are doing something. They only happen if you are in motion, and that’s a good thing. There is a gift in discouragement. If you see it as a gift, you will say, “Okay, what can I learn here. What’s the lesson?” Take time to use the discouragement to up your game. Setbacks and failures can move you to the next level if you choose to learn from them, or they can be your excuse to quit.
I’ve been reading a book my son recommended called You Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. David is an American ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, and public speaker. He is also a retired navy seal who had to go through hell week three times because he kept getting injured. I can tell you now that this guy had nothing easy in his life. The cards were all stacked against him. He continued to face challenge after challenge (most of which we will never have to meet) and developed the mental toughness not to let discouragement deter him from reaching his goals. Here is a quote from his book. “The bottom line is that life is one big mind game. The only person you are playing against is yourself.”
Don’t lose sight of the vision.
A saying I heard growing up was don’t miss the forest for the trees. Keep the end game in mind. Don’t get sidetracked, and don’t miss the big picture. Each hurdle is closer to the finish line.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient with yourself and your spouse. Having a great marriage doesn’t happen naturally, and it doesn’t happen overnight. That is just in books and the movies. It is small steps taken consistently.
Talk about Your Discouragement
If you are discouraged, if your spouse seems discouraged, don’t avoid talking about it. You might find you both feel the same. Discuss your feelings and brainstorm a solution together.
Remember me telling you how my husband and I had to ride in separate cars when we went to see our counselor. Well, that changed. As we worked through these things, saw improvement, faced discouragement, and kept going, It got so much better. We tasted the fruit of our labors. We even started riding together, talking on the way, and talking all the way home. We could have quit at least 100 times because of discouragement, but we refused. The pain of a broken marriage was worse than the discouragements along the path to something better.
Be an Encourager
Encourage yourself and your spouse. Celebrate progress. Encourage your spouse’s attempts and affirm your own. Heck, if you both are all in, you are ahead of many couples who wade through their marriage marking time. Tell each other what you appreciate about the work you are doing. Don’t let great work go unnoticed.
Let me tell you from experience that it will get better if you both keep moving forward toward your vision.
- Accept it
- Use discouragement as your friend
- Don’t lose sight of the vision.
- Be Patient
- Talk about your discouragement
- Be an encourager
Maybe you are discouraged because you know your marriage needs help, and you aren’t sure where to start. You might be on the brink of throwing in the towel. In my Midlife Marriage Breakthrough Program, I work with couples for six months to revive their marriages. We tackle the most troubling parts of marriage and learn new skills to create a healthy marriage. You can find out more about my program at There is also a place to schedule a free one-hour discovery call to discuss where your marriage is and see if I’m the person who can help you. Take the time to check it out.
You have a choice. Move through it or give up. Don’t Give Up!