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If you learned you had cancer, would you seek out professional advice and counsel to help you beat this threat to your health and wellbeing? Sounds like a pretty simple question to me. Suppose you had a toothache that gave no signs of abating on its own. Would you seek out a dentist to bring you relief from the pain? Again, a question that likely requires little thought to answer.

If you answered no to either of these questions, I'm afraid you might have more serious problems than we can address in this column. But for those of you who answered yes, let me ask you another question. When your marriage experiences pain and a threat to its overall health and wellbeing, do you seek out professional help? Unfortunately, the answer is often "no." There are likely several reasons for this phenomenon, but I doubt many of them are good ones.

Today's guest columnists, Joe and Michelle Williams, know what it is like to be in a terribly strained marriage. They also know what it is like to get help and regain the joy they shared when they first said "I do." They now spend much of their lives helping other couples to repair and improve their marriage.

You'll want to set your alarm to listen in to "TWOgether as ONE," my radio program at 6 p.m. Monday on KLJH 107.1FM. Michelle will be my guest as we discuss a new online program where people can get help for their marriage from the comfort of their own living room. Lori Swanson will also join us as she has been instrumental in bringing this new program to life.

We'll also be speaking about how individuals can help others to improve their marriage. They have a program in place that equips non-marriage experts to be able to spare their friends and loved ones from the grief and despair of divorce.

Getting help before it's too late

One day happy, the next day filing for divorce. It happens often. A couple seems to be perfectly happy and in love, and then, out of nowhere — or so it seems — the announcement comes that they are getting a divorce. We see this scenario with celebrities all the time. Smiling photos one day, and divorce headlines the next, with details of how bad things have been for a long time.

Marriage problems are like a terminal illness that, if treated early, have a much better survival rate. To suffer silently usually means death to the marriage. So, why do some couples in crisis get the help they need before it's too late, and others quietly hide behind fake smiles? We see three main reasons.

Fear of being judged

It takes strength and courage to admit a marriage needs help. Many couples fear being ostracized or judged by others. This is especially true for couples who are viewed by others in their church, community or peer group as the "perfect couple."

Loss of the marriage

When one person in the marriage is unhappy but has not admitted it to their spouse, the thought of "opening up a can of worms" can be overwhelming. Counting the cost of being honest at the expense of having the marriage end if their spouse overreacts can often be enough to continue stuffing emotions.

Hopelessness

If one person wants to work on their marriage but his or her spouse refuses to do their part, this often results in hopelessness. When the spouse trying to save the marriage alone finally gets the courage to call a counselor or pastor, or register for a marriage seminar, the requirement for both spouses to participate ends with a familiar argument followed by frustration of being alone in the marriage — again.

We have been helping couples and individuals whose marriages are in crisis for more than 20 years. We also understand what it's like to suffer in silence since we experienced it prior to our own two-year separation in the 1980s. That's why the faith-based, nonprofit organization we co-founded in 1999 provides help and hope for couples — even with an unwilling spouse. The fear of being judged, the loss of the marriage and hopelessness requires resources and a support system that can meet the needs of those suffering.

Beginning this fall, we will add to our current resources by offering online classes that people can take in the privacy of their own home. Since the online courses will be same-gender (men's groups and women's groups), individuals will have the help they need, regardless of whether or not their spouse participates. It may take two to save the marriage, but it only takes one to begin the process.

Please pass the information about our upcoming online classes along to other couples — even the happy ones.

More about Joe and Michelle Williams

I'm back, and I so appreciate the advice we just received. I invite you to check out Joe and Michelle's website www.marriage911Godsway. There, you'll find helpful resources, including several testimonies of saved marriages. You can also get information about their book, "Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Save." Please don't hesitate to reach out for help if your marriage is struggling. There is absolutely no shame in that as just about every marriage will experience down moments at times.

I have absolute faith in Joe and Michelle Williams and their desire to help people win in marriage. And I am not alone. Bill and Pam Farrel, best-selling authors of "Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti" state, "We know Joe and Michelle Williams, and if anyone knows how to save a marriage, it's Joe and Michelle! Even marriages that look or feel 'too far gone' don't have to be, thanks to their advice."

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.

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