There’s one phrase you should never say when you are desperately trying to save your marriage.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Yeah, right.”

Let me preface it with this: I never said that this phrase contains the magic words that you need to save your marriage. I never said that not saying these words would stop a divorce from happening.

But I will say by not saying this phrase, you will put yourself leaps and bounds ahead of where you are now in trying to fix your marriage.

How It All Started

I was lying in bed last night, unable to sleep, thinking about all the people I interacted with that day on our private Save My Marriage Facebook group and through the massive amount of emails of people pouring out their heart about what they are going through in their marriage. As I usually do, I sit there thinking, “How can we help more people?”

Yesterday, I had also been reading an article by a successful businessman on his interaction with aspiring entrepreneurs he meets. The article was titled, “I’m not the kind of person who can…” Fill in the blank. He expounded on how the majority of people he meets want so desperately to start their own businesses, but they seem to constantly explain how “they aren’t the kind of person that can _____” or they “can’t do XYZ.”

This all ties in, I promise.

So as I was lying in bed, the two of these moments in my day melded together, and it hit me.

So many times I hear or see people say:

  • I can’t set boundaries with my husband. It would make him mad.
  • I can’t get my wife to seek marriage help. There’s no way she would come, why even ask.
  • I can’t get a hold of my emotions. My world is falling down around me, and I’m terrified.
  • I can’t lose/gain weight to be a healthy size again.
  • I can’t… fill in the blank. The list goes on.

The Phrase that Kills Your Self-Esteem

I can’t.

Here’s the thing: All of those things in the bullet point list above are extremely hard to do. 

Yes, it is absolutely gut-wrenching to know that your husband’s anger is out of control, and he has made your home an emotionally abusive place. He threatened divorce 3 times, and you had set a boundary that if he did it once more, you were leaving for a week as a consequence to the unacceptable behavior. Packing your bags and walking out of the house calmly in the midst of his yelling, wondering if you’ll ever actually be coming back, is hard.

Yes, it is heart breaking when your wife is so much in love with another man that she wants nothing to do with you anymore. She has walked out on you, your children, and even the dog. She doesn’t seem to care at all about who she hurts or what she does because she has “never been in love like this before” (and she absolutely can’t stand you anymore). You really don’t want to approach her and ask her to seek marriage help with you anymore because, honestly, you don’t want to hurt anymore than you are hurting now. That’s hard.

Yes, it is the worst kind of emotional roller-coaster when the person that you loved, that you vowed to spend every day for the rest of your life with, begins to waiver in the marriage commitment. Living in the same house is loveless, lifeless, and hopeless. Every interaction reminds you that things are not the way they once were, and the fear of living like this for the rest of your life is enough to send you into a 24/7 panic attack. Trying to control your emotions when there’s a tornado of fear, doubt, and shame spinning around you is hard.

Yes, the last thing you want to think about right now is your weight. The stress and anxiety has either packed the pounds on or dwindled you down to bare bones. You know that the one thing you should be able to control right now is yourself, but that constant reminder of the scale that you still aren’t good enough is a thought you don’t even want to come close to right now. Just getting up and picking out clothes for the day is hard.

It’s all hard.

Every minute of every day is uncharted territory that is terrifying and overwhelming, and facing it is extremely hard.

So…we don’t.

We don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want to hurt even more than we are hurting right now.

“I can’t.”

That is how we overcome the doubt, the fear, the shame. We tell ourselves the lie that we can’t do it.

Because if we lie to ourselves and begin to believe that we can’t do it, then we won’t do it. And we won’t feel bad about not doing it, because we can’t. It’s impossible. 

That’s what it means to say you can’t do something. You are telling yourself that the act of doing whatever the particular thing is, would literally be impossible to do.

And honestly, the majority of the time, it’s not true.

It’s not that you can’t do it – you can do it.

You are choosing not to for whatever reason.

Fear of failing.

Fear of hurting.

Fear of rejection.

By telling yourself that you can’t do something, fear wins.

And nobody wants fear to win…

So what can you do?

First of all – take a deep breath. 

Understand that you are not alone in what you are going through. We have an extremely positive and encouraging group of people in a private Facebook group called Save My Marriage.

Second, remove the word ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary.

Take note of all the times throughout the day when you tell yourself (or someone else) that you can’t do something. Most of the time, you actually can do it, but choose not to. When it comes to the things you need to do to try and save your marriage, stop telling yourself that you can’t do it. Tell yourself you CAN do it … but there’s a second part of that which is vitally important.

Third, and most importantly, do this.

Instead of saying, “I can’t do that”, ask yourself, “How can I do that?”

Saying you can’t do something leaves you powerless.

Asking yourself, “Okay, how CAN I make that happen?” gives you back the power and control that you need in order to revitalize your self-esteem.

So, for example:

  • How can I set boundaries with my husband in a way to make him least angry?
  • How can I best ask my spouse to seek marriage help with me (like the Marriage Helper 911 workshop)?
  • How can I regain control of my emotions on a daily basis so that I can be strong in front of my spouse?
  • How can I start to be in the best physical shape I can be?

Remember, no one is asking you to do everything at one time. You can’t lose 20 pounds in a day (or even a month). Literally. You physically can’t (at least not in a healthy and sustainable manner). Know that some of these things take time, but asking yourself, “how CAN I?” allows you to make a plan that will work moving forward.

But most importantly, you can realize the strength that you had deep inside all along.