In my psychology practice, I see many types of people and treat all sorts of issues. There are, however, some common trends. For example, I've noticed that we humans often feel like helpless victims, while, in fact, we may have an active role in creating our own dilemmas. This is particularly true in the case of marriage. To illustrate this notion, let's look at the case of a gentleman who came to my office the other day. He told me about his marriage problems and his plan to solve them. "My wife and I have no relationship," the man said. "I want a divorce."

"We don't talk," he explained. "We don't spend any time together. We go our separate ways."

I acknowledged how lonely that must be and asked how things got so bad. "I don't know. Everything was fine at first," he admitted. "But then she got busy with the kids, I got busy at work. We didn't have time for each other. And now, to be perfectly honest, we have nothing in common. If I met her today, I would definitely not marry her. We've grown apart."

The course of this man's marriage is the course of all too many marriages. When marriage is neglected, it dies – just like a plant that isn't watered. Yet people blame "the marriage" for falling apart or blame their partner for being inattentive. Very few ever ask themselves: "what have I done to create this mess? And what have I done to prevent it?"

Marriage is a verb, something that we do. We can do it poorly or well – that is up to us.

Difficult Spouses

Obviously, it is easier to "do" marriage when we're married to a pleasant, easy-going, appreciative spouse. Many of us, however, are married to difficult partners and the task is more difficult. Either way, we still have to work on our marriages, just the way a parent raises a child, despite the child's difficult or easy nature. The Talmud states: "Good things are brought about through the agency of a good person" (Shabbos 32a). In other words, even a good person must do something in order to bring down the blessing of good results.

Marriages fall apart due to neglect, but they can be brought back to life by careful nurturing and rehabilitation. The cure for "not spending time together" is… to spend time together. Start with a few minutes a day. Go out for an hour or two at least once a week. If there is "nothing to talk about," read something before going out so you'll have some interesting topics prepared for discussion. If the "romance is gone," get it back by doing something spontaneously romantic. If you no longer have anything in common, create something in common by inviting your spouse to do an activity with you (learn something new, play something together, get into a hobby, do a project around the house together). If there are too many arguments, stop arguing. If your spouse is cold, warm things up with friendliness. Be cheery. Joke. Buy treats. Be nice. And be patient. It can take time to turn things around.

Marriage can start with a bang and end with a fizzle if you don't continuously invest in it. It doesn't disappear by itself. So keep your marriage healthy by consciously working on it. Prevent problems, maintain happiness and lay a solid foundation for the future by nurturing your marriage daily.