The sound you’re hearing is me opening up a can of worms. Sorry. Well, not really; this discussion needs to happen.Recently I worked with a married couple who came to see me as a last ditch effort to stave off divorce. They each had strayed from the marriage but wanted to work through the betrayals and stay together.

Before we started our intensive nine hours of therapy sessions together, I challenged them with this question, “Are you wanting to work through this and stay together because it’s the best thing to do for your kids, or are you wanting to stay together because you want to be with your spouse?”

Their answer to this question will largely influence how the marriage progresses.

There are definitely times when it’s easier to do things for the sake of the kids — give up a career to stay home, sacrifice sleep in order to care for their needs, among many other things.

But the simple fact is this: any marriage that remains alive solely for the sake of the kids is only delaying separation until the kids are out of the house.

To me, there is a fundamental truth:

Your marriage is a prototype for the marriage your children will have.

This may hit you like a punch in the gut, but it’s true.

So What Does Your Marriage Teach Your Children?

You’re left with two possible courses of action:

1. Work harder to portray a loving, vibrant marriage that isn’t really existent.

2. Do what’s necessary to actually live in a loving and vibrant marriage.

Now you may be thinking, How do I do this when there is no way my husband would ever seek professional help, let alone be willing to talk about the gulf between us? My response — seek out help on your own. There are some tremendous benefits from therapy and help, even when you’re alone in the process.

If you’re unsure how to even begin this process on your own, here’s a couple of guides that will help:

If professional help isn’t what you’re looking for, pick up some books on relationships. Read blogs (you could start with Simple Marriage, wink, wink). Talk to a good friend.

The point is, DO SOMETHING!

Expecting things to change without any effort on your part is the epitome of insanity — doing the same things over and over while expecting different results.

Let’s say you don’t want to take too drastic a step. Here are a couple of other things you can do that will influence your life and marriage.

Declutter.

As odd as it sounds, cleaning up the world around you really will impact your mood and feelings. Spend some time and clear out the clutter. Tsh has several guides already written on this. Start small, say a drawer, closet, or a shelf. I’ll bet that once you get started, you’ll want to keep going.

Talk.

This may seem like common sense, but talk with your spouse. This doesn’t have to be a deep, heart-to-heart conversation. Just talk. About the kids, work, your day, vacations. The goal is laying a better foundation for future conversations that may be tougher.

Walk and talk.

This is a great strategy for any marriage tension. Rather than having to sit face-to-face and look each other in the eye, walk and talk. Be sure the walk is at least 20 minutes, and walk side by side.

Face-to-face conversation can be threatening, intimidating, or it can shut down communication, depending on the intensity. A walk dissipates the anxious energy that is part and parcel of talking about things that matter with people that matter.

Say “I’m sorry.”

The phrases “I’m sorry,” “I apologize,” and “Forgive me” are so easily said that they’ve lost their meaning. Ever get an apology that left you wondering whether or not the person apologizing had a clue about what hurt your feelings?

Rather than taking ownership of everything in the relationship (i.e., sacrificing yourself for the sake of the relationship), own up to what’s yours and let your partner own up to what’s theirs.

You do not need to plead for your partner to restore your sense of self by either asking (begging) for forgiveness or to accept your apology. You don’t have to continually apologize for past mistakes. Say it, take responsibility for yourself going forward, and let your actions show you mean what you say.

I once heard someone say their marriage wasn’t worth fighting for. The response I heard in return was, “That’s because you haven’t fought for it. Something’s only worth fighting for after it’s been fought for.”

What do you think? Is your marriage worth fighting for?

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