The main reason why Rivka and I started The Marriage Restoration Project was so that children would not have to go through what she experienced as a little girl caught in the middle of her parent’s bitter divorce. This is still a motivator for us, to help create happy, loving families.

So it becomes quite personal and painful to hear stories of couples who once fell in love, are currently struggling, and on the road to calling it quits. While some may think divorce is a better option, I can already foresee the nightmare ensuing for all involved any my heart breaks for the kids.

What makes it particularly troubling is that I see a common denominator in the ultimate destruction of relationships that were struggling for years but managed to chug along. I wrote about this almost a decade ago in my book 5 steps to a happy and healthy marriage, and I still can smell it from a mile away.

It’s what I call infidelity. We aren’t just talking about a physical affair, but any outside influence where one is not being loyal to their spouse.

This means they are under the influence of someone else, almost spellbound. It could be a friend, a therapist, a clergyman, a friend of the opposite sex. Even if they are well-meaning, if they are egging them on or demonizing their spouse, especially while they are getting therapy and trying to recover, whatever efforts being made will often be for naught.

When I see a couple making progress, coming to new realizations about their relationship, but then all of the sudden seem “possessed”, like someone else is speaking through them, like this is not the same person who saw things so clearly last week, I have an inkling that someone else is in the picture. It explains why no matter what we try to do, that one spouse can’t move forward.

They don’t even want to make the effort.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and misery loves company. Hanging around with other divorced friends is not a good idea. Getting self-empowerment through personal work and then coming home and cursing out your spouse shows that there is something not right with this picture.

All potential influencers in a relationship need to be cognizant that this friend, client, etc… is part of a marriage, connected to someone who is not here. It is ok to be there and validate but to take sides without hearing the other or embolden them is not in their best interests because once a person gets married and has children, their decisions do not only impact themselves, but many others lives for generations to come.

When couples explore their childhood pain and connect it to their current marriage conflict, it pains me to see how so much of this could be prevented. Do you want your kids in therapy?

So my request is: if your marriage is struggling and you really want to give it an honest effort, make an informed choice in the best interest of yourself and everyone else involved, seal the exits. Stop talking to everyone else and focus on your marriage.

Don’t listen to the toxic advice, stay away from people who are preying on you and trying to lure you away, and give it a chance. If you still feel like you want to move on, at least you were honest with yourself.

But as long as someone else is in the picture, your vision will be clouded and you are only fooling yourself, ignoring your own baggage you bring to the table, which you will transfer to your next relationship.


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Shlomo & Rivka Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is an Imago relationship therapist and certified (master level) Imago workshop presenter with over 20 years of experience hosting couples therapy retreats in-person and online. Contact or