On inspiration and saving marriage

I recently came across an interesting blog post by psychologist Jim Taylor for the San Francisco chronicle. The article isn’t directly about saving marriage, but bear with me—it will tie in later!

Jim takes a good, hard, fresh look at inspiration. What inspires us? Where does inspiration come from? How do we hold on to it?

Americans idolize inspirational thinkers, teachers, leaders and gurus. We look for inspiration everywhere but are often hoodwinked by the multi-billion dollar “Inspirational-industrial complex.” Yep, there’s a whole industry focused on making money by making you feel good for a little while. Inspiration speakers, books and movies…they leave us feeling charged with positive energy and ready to take on our challenges. At the same time, we are “hoodwinked” because this feeling is fleeting. As Jim points out, we often wake up the next day feeling empty and frustrated. Where did that glowing sense of inspiration go? We may even feel guilty for not acting on that sense of indignation or drive. We end up feeling worse, not better, and far from actually acting on the inspiration.


Jim then makes a great point: effective, lasting inspiration can only come from inside us. Outside forces cannot inject real inspiration into you. It doesn’t belong to you. Like a candle, it provides warmth and clarity from the outside, but as soon as that outside influence is gone, it’s warmth fades.

This doesn’t mean that all inspiration figures are bunk. Jim writes, “what makes the great inspirations so, well, inspirational is their ability to help others find their own personal inspiration every day.” A truly inspirational figure is someone who ignites the tinder of ideas, beliefs, and desires that are already inside you. This internal fire is self-sustaining and drives real action.

So what does this all have to do with saving marriage? Part of that multi-billion dollar “inspiration-industrial complex” is focused on broken relationships. Self-help gurus each claim that their workshops hold the key to saving marriage. Books claim to change your life and inspire you to new love. Maybe you just saw a movie that depicts a couple’s reconciliation, and you feel inspired to work on your own marriage.

All these outlets make money off of making you feel better. Of course, feeling better is a good thing! At the same time, you want to make sure that the change is permanent and sustainable—in Jim’s words, “truly inspirational.” A good resource for saving marriage should not just throw information, happy examples, and advice at you. It should work within you to make solid, recognizable changes in your behavior and outlook. When seeking out couples counseling, make sure that your therapist or program inspires and gives you clear steps for real change in your life. The power to change your marriage has to come from within—from a determination to change old habits and transform your relationship.

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