Your Marriage: How to Move from Pain to Peace


I have mentioned Mort Fertel before. Mort is a marriage educator who has a pretty unique approach. I came across his website a few months ago and immediately signed up to receive his email updates, since that’s a great way for me to come to understand a person’s approach to helping marriages.

Today’s post is from one of Mort’s email updates. These updates contain some of the most solid marriage guidance I have ever seen, and I recommend that every person reading this who needs marriage help sign up for the updates at Though there are no miracle cures when it comes to healing marriages, Mort consistently offers some of the most practical and excellent insights I have seen, and I commend his approach wholeheartedly to you.

Hi David,

When it comes to your emotions, there’s a big difference between being in pain and true suffering. What’s the difference? And how does this relate to your marriage? Let me illustrate with a story.

There once was a man who was sentenced to 25 years of backbreaking labor. His wrists were tied to the handle of a huge wheel that was inlaid in the wall. His job was to turn the wheel 10 hours a day.

For years, day in and day out, the prisoner would wonder what he was doing with this wheel. What was the meaning of his work? What was on the other side of this wall?

Was he grinding grain? Pulling up water? Moving some sort of conveyor belt?

For 25 years he contemplated the meaning of his work, and for 25 years he spun that wheel. It was grueling, but he survived.

When his sentence was complete he was released from prison. The first thing he did was run to the other side of the wall to see what he had been doing all this time.

What did he see?


There was nothing attached to the wheel. For 25 years, 10 hours a day, he was spinning a wheel for absolutely no purpose. When the man realized his true sentence, he collapsed and died.

The prisoner was able to survive 25 years of backbreaking labor, but when he realized that it was all for nothing, he couldn’t survive for another moment.

So what’s the difference between pain and suffering?

Pain has a purpose.

Suffering is true torture because it has no meaning.

Pain is bearable. Suffering for no reason is devastating.

Ask any woman about child labor. How was it? Would you do it again? Most women will answer: It was painful, but I didn’t suffer. I would do it again.

This is the key to surviving marital problems and making it through to a new love and peace with your spouse.

If you think there’s no purpose to your emotional hurt, you’ll just want out. You’ll run from your kids, your responsibility, your vows…you’ll run from it all just to get relief from an unbearable suffering.

But if you can come to understand why you’re in this situation, then you’ll succeed to make it through like a woman in child labor.

Why is this happening to you? What are you supposed to be learning from all of this? Can you see how your marital problems are really an opportunity for you and your spouse?

I remember when my wife and I were going through what seemed to be unbearable emotional pain as a result of the loss of our 3 children and our marriage problems. But now I see it all differently. Yes, we were in pain, but we didn’t suffer. And although I might script things differently if I were God, my wife and I now feel a sense of peace and happiness that we wouldn’t trade for anything. Yes, we lost a lot, but we gained each other and forged a marriage that has become a wellspring of joy in our life.

Since those painful times, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead thousands of people who are suffering in their marriage to a new peace and happiness with their spouse. I’ve found a way to do it even with the most difficult and unusual situations.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mort in any way. I am not selling his products, nor do I receive commissions from people who buy his products from my referrals to his website. I have nothing to gain in commending him to you, other than believing I am directing you towards someone who really gets it and who will, from all appearances, be able to lead you along right paths. As always, your results may vary, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The Role of Anger in the Spiral of Violence


From Rage game, developed by id software.

Right now in politics, as it usually is in relationships (both personal and international), it’s not about seeking truth, and it’s not even so much about being right. It’s about the other guy being wrong. Tempers flare and people go to greater and greater lengths to convince the other guy he’s wrong. It starts with dismissal of the other person, then moves into exaggerating his/her offenses, then moves into lying, shouting and anger, then into pushing and shoving. From there it moves to throwing punches, and eventually to murder. That’s the progression (the spiral of violence) and whether it goes as far as murder or not, its starting point is false. Preoccupation with the wrongdoing of others, instead of honesty with ourselves ourselves about our own role in the word’s badness can never lead to a true place. The root is bad, so you can count on the tree being bad.

The mere presence of strong emotion (intensity, anger, outrage, bitterness, profound frustration, wanting to commit violence) is a sign that a person has “identified” with their emotion. They now see the emotion as part of their identity. (This strong identification with negative emotions and thoughts) is what religion and Carl Jung have called “the false self.”) They have a “right” to it because they have been so wronged. They clinch it tightly to their chest and refuse to let go. They justify it, defend it, nurture it, protect it, excuse it. They spend time feeding it daily. They become angrier and angrier at those who disagree with them because their attachment to their opinion, rightness, worldview, and perceptions is so powerful that it actually owns them. They think they have this anger, but the anger has them. They no longer know who they would be without it, and they deeply fear anyone, anything, and any idea that threatens to remove from them this great love.

From this position, a person is almost incapable of seeing clearly. While it seems obvious that the person who angrily points out someone else’s anger is part of the problem with anger in the world, it feels completely justified to the one who feels it. The hardest thing we ever have to do in this world is realize that those strong emotions and our tendency to embrace them, feed them, make love to them, even to baptize them in religion, is what is most deeply wrong with the world. I have those tendencies. Everyone does. Until I see that fact clearly in myself and learn to identify it and start separating from those strong emotions, so that they no longer control me, I am what is wrong with the world. What’s even worse is that until I learn to identify myself as the source of what is wrong with the world, I will identify you as that source. And you probably won’t appreciate that.

What’s On Your List?


Image courtesy of Paul Gorbould, licensed under Creative Commons

After church recently I was introduced to a first-time guest who spent about 40 minutes gently (that’s not sarcasm, he was very kind and low-key) informing me how inadequate the church was “for him.” At the end of our conversation, that man got to the point. He said, “Again, all of this is just me and my perceptions. Maybe I need to consider why it is that I haven’t been able to settle down in a church over the last year.” Bulls-eye. The issue for that man was not my church, or any other church. It is something in him that is agitated and irritated. He can’t be still. I don’t know why that is, and it’s not my job to figure it out. It is, however, one of the most important opportunities in this man’s life. He will grow closer to God finding an answer to what that’s all about than by finding a church that’s doing everything right.

The knowledge that I was not this man’s problem, of course, does not absolve me of the responsibility I carry to make the best decisions I can with regard to the church I lead. But that’s me. That’s on my task-list for each week, and those are my great opportunities.

Jesus said, do not worry about things you cannot control. Let today’s trouble be enough for today. One of the ways I gave up worrying was by getting up each morning for a few weeks and writing at the top of a piece of paper, “Today’s Trouble.” I would then list the things I needed to do that day. They were usually pretty small, mostly doable. Pick up milk. Make some phone calls. Follow up on some things. Make some decisions. Fix the car. I soon realized my problem was that I was worrying about stuff on other people’s “Today’s Trouble” list.

For example, what would Barack Obama’s “Today’s Trouble” list look like? Figure out what to do with Iran. Fix the economy. Find out what’s going on with Israel and Palestine.

I’m glad those are not my troubles.They are not on my list. They are certainly on someone’s, beginning with the president and his advisors and administration. Most of my troubles and worries come because I worry about things that shouldn’t be on my list. The man I spoke to Sunday has things on his “Today’s Trouble” list that are not his concern. He doesn’t have to worry about those things and there are many days I would envy him for that. When he realized he needed to look not at me and my church, but at himself, he got the right list in front of him. That one he can do something about.

Lesson: Don’t spend time fretting about things that belong on someone else’s list.

Looking for “My People”


Image courtesy of James Cridland, licensed under Creative Commons

The blog is doing well. Thanks to those of you who have supported my work, whether on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or whatever. The blog was only for me for the first year or so, when it was more personal journal than anything else. Now it is for you. It is to help you with your marriage, your fears, your dreams, your spirituality, and whatever else I can help you with.

A few weeks ago someone new began following me on Twitter. When I thanked her for the follow, she said she had checked out my Twitter profile, and that “it feels good to find my people.” That has stuck with me since (thanks, Donna), and that is what I am looking for, every post, every tweet, every day — I am looking for my people. It seems my people may have some of the following characteristics:  

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Achieving Work-Family Balance, prt. 2


Image courtesy of Steven Bowler, licensed under Creative Commons

In my last post I dealt with the fact that achieving work-family balance is a problem for both men and women. Today I want to deal with specifically how to achieve this balance.

Men and women both begin achieving work-family balance by listening to their spouses.

If you married a person of good will, your spouse is not a bad person and isn’t telling you you are out of balance just to make you feel bad. In fact, your spouse is telling you your work-family balance is off because he/she is feeling bad! Your spouse loves you and wants to have you around. This is a good thing. After all, don’t you want to be wanted? If your spouse is complaining that you are not available to your family, chances are good that in some critical way you’re not. This means that listening, not arguing or defending, is what is called for. What is it that your spouse is seeing in you that you’re not seeing in yourself? If you’re the complaining spouse, be gentle. If you are receiving the complaints, do your best to listen non-defensively. The more open and gentle you can both be, the better. This is difficult work, but it is connecting work — the most important work you do in relationships.  

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