I used Amazon to peruse Dr. Harley's new Effective Marriage Counseling book a couple of weeks ago, and saw a distinction made that helps me. Dr. Harley talks about two kinds of resentment. One type of resentment comes from a spouse's thoughtless behavior: when your spouse does something without your enthusiastic agreement, you feel resentment because of their thoughtlessness.

The other type of resentment actually arises during the adoption of the policy of joint agreement. This is the resentment that comes from the POJA's "default policy." The default policy of the POJA is what you do when you are unable to come to agreement: nothing. For example, if you can't agree enthusiastically on anything to do for Christmas, you do nothing.

This is likely to leave one spouse or both feeling resentful that they aren't getting to do what they dreamed of for Christmas. But, there is a major difference in this type of resentment and the other. Primarily, this resentment is potentially temporary. Once you are further along the road to building romantic love, once you are further down the path of negotiation (including understanding each other's point of view and brainstorming), it becomes possible to come to enthusiastic agreement, and the cause of the resentment is over. Meanwhile, you passed through the crisis without engaging in love busters!

I believe Dr. Harley also highlighted some other differences in the two types of resentment, but that is what stuck out for me.

If you are stuck with the POJA's default policy on a particular issue (do nothing) and can't even imagine the possibility of an agreement that could one day resolve the issue in a way both of you are enthusiastic about, then you are in a Creative Wilderness:

The creative wilderness represents the typical inability of couples in marital crisis to create solutions to their problems. In the books I've written, many solutions are suggested but they're only the tip of the iceberg. Many marital problems require solutions that are unique to certain circumstances. In this site, I put more emphasis on the process you should follow to solve marital problems than I do on the specific strategy you should use. That's because there are too many situations that require unique strategies.

A good marriage counselor is a good strategy resource. While you can, and should, also think of ways to solve your marital problems, a marriage counselor should know how to solve problems like yours. That's what you pay him/her to do! And his strategy should make sense to you. In fact, his strategy should encourage you in the belief that your problems will be over soon. Counselors often obtain special training for many common marital problems, such as sexual incompatibility and financial conflicts. These counselors can document a high rate of success in finding solutions to those problems.


Perhaps in your marriage you never encounter such creative wildernesses. I know, though, that they have been a huge problem for me, and I think I would be correct to say my wife has felt the same way. I can't count the number of times I've sobbed to myself saying "I don't know what to do" or told a trusted friend "I've tried everything." It's really soul-crushing to feel like there are no other ideas to try. I think that's why my wife so often has felt like there is no hope for our marriage. When Dr. Harley talks about a wilderness, he's describing a life and death struggle alone with no food, water, shelter, or amenities FOR MONTHS OR YEARS; not a pleasant camping trip and back to nature experience!!

If you find yourself in a creative wilderness, I recommend you not spend years there. I recommend you get help from a guide and navigator who can lead you out, someone with lots of experience and creativity.


You can be the judge whether or not you need a coach for your marriage. I have created a plan for your marriage that will work if you both follow it. But if one or both of you are not willing to follow the plan, then you may need a coach to achieve what will be one of the most important objectives of your life -- to have a fulfilling marriage.

In the last newsletter, my article was entitled, "How to create your own plan to resolve conflicts and restore love to your marriage." I encourage you to read that article and create that plan. Then try to follow the plan until you and your spouse are in love with each other. But if you cannot agree on a plan, or if you can't motivate yourselves to follow the plan, then you may need a coach to help you do what you don't feel like doing.


I've found that the majority of couples do not need a marriage coach. They can learn to resolve their conflicts and restore love to their marriages without any outside help as long as they have a plan that works and motivation to follow the plan. I've provided you with that plan, now all you need is the motivation. But if either you or your spouse lack that motivation, don't go through the rest or your life with a loveless marriage, or worse yet, end it with divorce. Instead, get the help you need to do the right thing when you don't feel like doing it.

If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 19 years. Father of 8.
Attended Marriage Builders weekend in May 2010

If your wife is not on board with MB, some of my posts to other men might help you.