Di­vorce buster

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ch­eryl Wet­zstein

“I love you, but I’m not in love with you any­more.”

“We got mar­ried for all the wrong rea­sons.”

“I’m not at­tracted to you any­more.”

“Why can’t you ad­mit that we just made a mis­take?”

“I never re­ally loved you in the first place.”

“It’s time to tell the kids it’s over.”

“Does any of this sound familiar? If so, my heart goes out to you,” Michele Weiner-Davis writes in her 2001 book, “The Di­vorce Rem­edy: The Proven 7-Step Pro­gram for Sav­ing Your Mar­riage.”

But Mrs. Weiner-Davis, who re­ceived The Wash­ing­ton Times’ Found­ing Spirit Award at the news­pa­per’s 25th an­niver­sary gala on May 17, is not ready to let state­ments like th­ese be a mar­i­tal death sen­tence for cou­ples.

Mrs. Weiner-Davis is into com­bat­ing di­vorce: She has writ­ten six books, three of which are about sav­ing mar­riages — in­clud­ing “sexs­tarved” ones — and coun­seled thou­sands of dis­tressed cou­ples.

Her core mes­sage is that even the most dam­aged mar­riages of­ten can be re­vi­tal­ized and there are so­lu­tionori­ented strate­gies to re­cover from se­vere prob­lems such as in­fi­delity, In­ter­net ob­ses­sions, de­pres­sion, sex­ual prob­lems and midlife crises.

The vast ma­jor­ity of trou­bled mar­riages can be­come happy, says Mrs. Weiner-Davis, mar­ried for 30 years. Al­though not ev­ery mar­riage can or should be saved, she says, as many as 80 per­cent to 85 per­cent of the peo­ple she sees “are able to turn it around.”

“In my mind,” she says, “all prob­lems are solv­able un­til proven oth­er­wise.”

Mrs. Weiner-Davis’ mes­sage has been called an an­ti­dote to Amer­ica’s di­vorce-prone cul­ture.

Be­tween the 1940s and early 1970s, Amer­ica’s di­vorce rate was rel­a­tively low, rang­ing be­tween 2.0 and 2.9 di­vorces per 1,000 pop­u­la­tion. But it be­gan ris­ing in 1969 and peaked in 1981 with 5.3 di­vorces per 1,000 pop­u­la­tion.

Since then, the di­vorce rate has fallen slowly and by 2005 was at 3.6 di­vorces per 1,000 pop­u­la­tion, near the 1970 level.

The de­clin­ing di­vorce rate is partly the re­sult of a lower mar­riage rate. But it also means that the savey­our-mar­riage mes­sage is catch­ing on: The fed­eral gov­ern­ment now es­ti­mates that 43 per­cent — not half — of first mar­riages are ex­pected to end in sep­a­ra­tion or di­vorce within 15 years.

Re­search also sug­gests that di­vorce is less likely for cou­ples who at­tended col­lege, mar­ried in their mid-20s, had their first child af­ter mar­ry­ing, have a re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion and grew up with par­ents who didn’t di­vorce.

Mrs. Weiner-Davis says that years ago, when she was be­gin­ning her ca­reer as a li­censed mar­riage ther­a­pist and re­la­tion­ship coun­selor, she thought like many oth­ers that “if peo­ple were un­happy in their mar­riages, they should just get out.”

“Af­ter all, I told my­self, life is short and we all have the right to be happy,” she wrote in “Di­vorce Rem­edy.” “But I soon learned the truth about di­vorce. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily bring hap­pi­ness. In fact, in most cases, di­vorce cre­ates more prob­lems than it solves.”

“Once I fig­ured this out and truly took it to heart,” she writes, “I stopped be­ing neu­tral about the ben­e­fits of work­ing things out.”

In 1992, Mrs. Weiner-Davis, who is also the mother of two, wrote “Di­vorce Bust­ing: A Step-By-Step Approach to Mak­ing Your Mar­riage Lov­ing Again” and cre­ated the trade­marked “Di­vorce Bust­ing” pro­gram.

Her strate­gies are clear, prac­ti­cal and heavy on “time, prac­tice and pa­tience.” Re­pair­ing a mar­riage is “hard work,” she writes. “The hard­est parts of this pro­gram are not the skills you will learn — they are amaz­ingly sim­ple — it’s the ap­pli­ca­tion of those skills.” Emo­tions will “am­bush you” from time to time, she warns, but in time, cou­ples can learn to “man­age their in­tense feel­ings” and stop let­ting their neg­a­tive feel­ings “have a life of their own.”

In 2003, Mrs. Weiner-Davis tack­led the prob­lem of mar­i­tal sex with her book, “The Sex-Starved Mar­riage: A Cou­ple’s Guide for Boost­ing Their Mar­riage Li­bido.”

“It is es­ti­mated that one of ev­ery three mar­ried cou­ples strug­gles with prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with mis­matched sex­ual de­sire,” she writes. “I can tell you with­out a shadow of a doubt that a mar­riage void of sex­u­al­ity and in­ti­macy is a mar­riage doomed to fail.”

She re­views phys­i­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors, as well as un­re­solved re­la­tion­ship is­sues as un­der­ly­ing is­sues in a sex-starved union, and of­fers prag­matic sug­ges­tions on how cou­ples can re­build a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship. “For cou­ples strug­gling with sex­ual prob­lems, and most do so from time to time, this is the first book I rec­om­mend,” mar­riage re­searcher Howard J. Mark­man, co-au­thor of “Fight­ing for Your Mar­riage,” wrote of Mrs. Weiner-Davis’ 2003 book.

Her sev­enth book, called “The Sex-Starved Wife: What to Do When He’s Lost De­sire,” is due out in Jan­uary.

Mrs. Weiner-Davis, whose of­fices are in Boul­der, Colo., and Wood­stock, Ill., is a pop­u­lar pub­lic speaker and will ap­pear next month at the Smart Mar­riages con­fer­ence, spon­sored by the Coali­tion for Mar­riage, Fam­ily and Cou­ples Ed­u­ca­tion, in Den­ver. Her work has been fea­tured in dozens of me­dia out­lets and she has re­ceived the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Mar­riage and Ther­apy’s “Out­stand­ing Con­tri­bu­tion to the Field of Mar­riage and Ther­apy” award and Smart Mar­riages “Im­pact” award.

Michele Weiner-Davis

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