Although our first three years of marriage were wonderful, time has drawn my wife and I apart. We have been seeing a qualified marital therapist for several weeks now and while, in the initial stages, we enjoyed a definite boost to our marriage, we seem to be at an all-time low now. We both find the situation very distressing. Is this normal?


We've all hit that setback, when we feel like we've taken one step forward only to move two steps back. In the beginning, when inspiration runs high, change seems to come more easily. However, this initial surge of motivation can seldom, if ever, hold for too long and the process of change and growth may seem like a drudge.

At times like these, it's tempting to throw in the towel and give into despair. Nevertheless, it's important to remain objective, to step back and take an earnest look at the whole picture.

The low period that you're now experiencing is a setback not from your original struggles, but from the good times that followed. Look for the tiny seeds of change that have been sprouting in the past few weeks. Tap into feelings of gratitude for the nice times you've shared and keep reaching for your very worthwhile goals. With persistence, you will achieve them.

Setbacks are part of progress. This idea is expressed by the Baal Shem Tov with the analogy of a young child learning to walk. In the beginning, a parent will hold the child's hand while walking backward to both encourage the child to walk toward him/her and support the child so that he doesn't fall. To really learn to walk, however, the child will have to let go of his parent's hands and walk forward on his own two feet. He'll probably fall at first, but eventually will succeed.

The same is true of any change, growth or improvement we seek. When we resolve to work on ourselves, G‑d holds our hand and helps us succeed. Eventually, G‑d lets go and steps back. That is when we need to do some work on our own. These ups and downs are an inevitable part of the process, and necessary for us to truly grow. Here are some tips to ease the way along:

  • Take responsibility where it is due, without placing blame on others.
  • Take care of yourself. Lack of sleep, insufficient nutrition and overexertion are often big factors behind minor setbacks.
  • Practice patience and be kind to yourself. Problems don't disappear overnight. Acknowledge the fact that change is a process that happens step by step.
  • Take heart from past setbacks that you've successfully surmounted. Write them down and keep them as encouraging reminders that this, too, shall pass and that you will get back on track.

So hang in there. Setbacks are inevitable, but the more we practice getting up when we're down, the easier it becomes.