Question and Answer

As a counselor, have you ever been concerned that exercising the concept of "tough love" in a marital crisis could potentially kill the marriage?

First, you need to understand how I see my situation. My role is similar to that of a surgeon who tells a patient that he needs a coronary-artery-bypass operation. The man sits in his doctor's office, hearing the probabilities of success and failure. "If you undergo this operation," the doctor says, "research shows you'll have a 3 percent chance of not surviving the surgery." Wow! Three out of every hundred people who submit to the knife will die on the table! Why would anyone run that risk voluntarily? Because the chances of death are far greater without the surgery.

The "love must be tough" confrontations and ultimatum are like that. They may result in the sudden demise of a relationship. But without the crisis, there is a much higher probability of a lingering death. Instead of bringing the matter to a head while there is a chance for healing, the alternative is to stand by while the marriage dies with a whimper. I'd rather take my chances today, before further damage is done. A blowout is better than a slow leak.

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