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This month I want to raise a toast to everyone who has stepped up this year to take the tiger by the tail.

The particular tiger I’m talking about is a relationship—a love relationship that somewhere along the way became a source of pain instead of a source of joy.

You have to call upon a lot of courage to jump into the ring with that tiger.

Because there are so many fears you have to go eye to eye with.

First, you have to stop telling yourself everything is really fine. You have to take a long, honest look at your own unhappiness. Yes, it really is that bad. A lot of people feel a sense of failure at this point.

After all, everyone else seems to be handling this marriage thing O.K.

Of course, if you could see inside the people around you, you’d see they look a lot like you, struggling with the same frustrations.

Next, you have to get your partner on board.

You have to have a conversation about “us.”

Now THAT takes courage. Maybe he won’t take you seriously. Maybe she won’t have any idea there’s a problem and then you’ll feel even more disconnected. Or maybe you’ll lapse into one of those “quicksand conversations” that are one of the problems.

But you persisted and it worked. You both agree you need to do something. Now, what kind of help do you need? A book? A workshop? A therapist?

If you decide to find a counselor, you consult Google or Bing, according to your preference, and you find yourself in an unfamiliar, multi-layered world. Do we need a psychologist or a family therapist? What exactly is the difference, anyway? Who seems credible? Trustworthy? Kind?

It REALLY takes courage to pick up the phone and start talking to a stranger about your most personal concerns.

But people do it! That’s the amazing thing. Every day thousands of people face down these fears and clear all these hurdles because they love their partners that much. And I’m privileged to know a few of them.

This past year I’ve seen couples lay down their verbal weapons and become compassionate listeners.

I’ve seen couples break the ice of their own personal cold war, reach out for each other and start communicating again. Some couples have faced up to the fiercest tiger of them all, infidelity, and have come out the other side more solid than they were before.

I confess that sometimes I take these miracles too much for granted. After all, I see them every day. Maybe you spend your days writing code, balancing books, or teaching kids. I work on marriages. So it’s only natural that people facing down their relationship demons can get to seem routine.

But from time to time, I stop and take a look from the 10,000-foot level. And I really think about what it takes. So much love. So much belief in marriage. So much desire to feel close.

And yes, so much courage. And that’s really something to celebrate.

By Claire Hatch