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Ask the Toolman

In addition to regular maintenance, from time-to-time a marriage relationship will require repairs. For some, it could be a big repair--a real big one; like regaining trust after the trust has been all but destroyed. But even this can be repaired. There is never not a solution possible ("Where there's a will there's a way"). Big repairs just require big solutions. And here is a Q&A column to assist you with your solutions. First though, two reminders:
  • When we talk about repairing the 'relationship', we really mean repairing the two ingredients that go into the relationship, the individuals. Remember then, as you read through this drawer, keep your focus on the one ingredient you have control over.

  • As with everything in the Toolbox, the Toolman doesn't provide answers as such; he provides ideas that you can develop into answers. "What does this mean?" you ask. It means we don't profess to know what is right or wrong for you. We can only share thoughts and ideas which you will then read, think about, check out and try on for size. If one fits, "Bravo, you have created an answer for yourself". And what a powerful answer it will be.

Do you have questions about repairing your relationship? First read through the repairing-drawer and if you still have a question, feel free to Ask the Toolman.

ABUSE? If your relationship is in a crisis and/or there has been even the slightest abuse or violence, mentally, emotionally or physically (or the threat thereof), contact authorities in your city now. Please error on the side of calling and it turning out to have been not really needed, rather than not calling and it turning out to have been needed, okay?

The marriage toolbox gives you great tools for repairing marriage like our expert counseling! (2k)

QUESTION: Over the years my wife and I each had affairs a number of times. We have gone through a lot. Now we are ready to start marriage counseling but I am having a difficult time because her mood changes from day-to-day. One day she tells me she loves me and the next day she tells me she's attracted to someone else. My world feels like it is out of control. I am afraid she will go out on me again. I do love her and I want to make it work. Please help.

TOOLMAN: A lot of things have complicated your relationship for a long time. Some of it may need to be unraveled, untwisted and sorted out before you can move closer to each other. Some may just need to be forgiven and forgotten. For many couples this requires a good amount of time--perhaps many months. In the meantime, you need peace and stability from the past and from fearing another affair. Therefore, I suggest that you consider creating a written agreement called an Interim Marriage Agreement. In this agreement, each of you agrees to stay 'cool' and to hold off on any associations or outer actions whatsoever that could (probably would) jeopardize the relationship further. The thought here is to protect what you have (your love, courage and willingness to make it work even though it hurts) and to prevent anything from interfering with the process of healing.

Agree to put everything not essential to your marriage and family on hold so you have a fair chance to stand up and walk again. Once you each sign the agreement (but it's not about the paper but about your intention to heal your marriage), you should each begin feeling a little more comfortable. You may find that the process of discussing the agreement and putting it on paper is in itself healing. This is the beginning of rebuilding your trust. This is the beginning of moving through fear and anxiety regarding what happened.

    I suggest at least two parts: :

  • No outside relationships with anyone if it could even remotely complicate the relationship. Clearly this includes having a relationship with someone but may include lunch or coffee with someone (this is not forever; only until you recover to a certain point). Some relationships will not be black or white however. In that case, just discuss it and make the best and highest choice for you two. You may have to sacrifice a little good for the greater.

  • A commitment by each of you to work on your own personal growth: to take responsibility to learn about your patterns, perhaps your childhood, your needs and wants and about why you each chose to do what you did and what you learned or want to learn from it, etc. The thought here is for each of you to come to a place where you understand yourselves more.

    Note: This agreement will be worth no more than the depth of your commitment to it. You must both be in agreement. If one of you is not, remember: You cannot force a person to agree or to love. Acknowledge yourself for having done your best, call it a day and see what the next sunrise brings.

    Get a thorough understanding of forgiveness


    QUESTION: I have been married to my husband for almost 7 years. We were both first loves to each other. During our courtship there was a time when he decided that he needed to "see the world" and what was out there. I was very hurt but when he came back to me five months later. I took him back with open arms. We were married a short time later. As time went on he went out and continued to have many one-night stands. There have been nine other women. I decided that if he couldn't love me and pay attention to me then I was going to leave. I planned this for a long time and then became involved with another man. Things became very intense in my life and then I realized that what I was doing was completely wrong and went against everything I believed in. So I ended the relationship hoping to really work on my marriage. Then my husband was not sure that he wanted to. He said that he is convinced that what I have done in no way compares to what he did. I believe that neither one is better or worse and if we can just find some peace and begin to work on things, we can learn from our mistakes and we can make this marriage better then it has ever been. Am I realistic or dreaming?

    TOOLMAN: You are realistic and you are not dreaming, from your perspective. Do you realize that you answered your own question? You demonstrated how a person can answer an important question just be paying attention to their own words. Sometimes we need someone objective to have heard us and to point out what was said. You wrote: " If we can just find some peace and begin to work on things, we can learn from our mistakes, we can make this marriage better then it has ever been."

You took the words right out of my mouth. This parallels a phrase I use:


STOP everything, breathe and relax yourselves ("If we can just find some peace" ) .

LOOK AND LISTEN ("and begin to work on things, we can learn from our mistakes"). Be open. Allow space for new ideas to come in. Listen for them.

TRUST ("We can make this marriage better than it has ever been"). There is an inner-knowing that it CAN work. This is like in the Creating Marriage-drawer where it says "the sky is the limit for a marriage".

All you have to do now is apply your own words, right? And you will be a support for your partner in this as well.


QUESTION: I want to know if you think a couple that has lost all trust with each other can regain it again? Our behaviors have stopped but the distrust hasn't. We have had no intimacy together for a long time.

TOOLMAN: The answer is yes. A solution is always possible. But it will take the two of you to bring it back into the relationship and you must work on yourselves first before that can be done. Trust must first occur within oneself before it can be real on the outside. This is because, for the violation of trust to have occurred in the first place, it had to have already occurred within the violator.

[Sound a little complex? Well it is, but stay with it and give it time to soak in.]

What exactly was violated inside the violator?

If you accept the idea that each person is essentially "divine" and interconnected to the one universe and to everyone and everything within the universe, then it follows, that when a person is violated, all of the whole, including its parts, are violated too.

[Word Alert: If the word 'divine' is not a word you would use for the one essence we all are, please replace it with a word that represents it for you. This is not about words but the meaning behind the words.]

To say it another way: What we do to someone we do to ourselves, positive and negative.

Therefore it takes the person whose trust was violated to be willing to trust again. Not that they have to trust again. Just willing to. Willing means, open to the idea and to the possibility that opening up again could be a good thing and for the best. A willing person's heart is open-minded. This in no way means the person violated is open to condoning or approving what was done. It just means that humans error and that the divine forgives and forgets and moves on, all of which is a whole lot easier to say than to do.

But it is definitely doable because when you have two people that are open-minded and openhearted, you have a climate for healing. And there is nothing that cannot be healed in this climate. All things are possible in this climate. Lost trust and lost love can be completely regained in this climate.

Read about going back to Square One and how it will renew your marriage

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