For all the advice and information we provide, not every couple makes a diligent effort to practice the principles that will strengthen their marriage. Even for some couples who do put our advice into practice, they still face obstacles they can’t conquer, have trouble forming new habits, or simply can’t find it in themselves to rebuild lost trust or affection.
Even when couples work on their marriages, that dreaded moment can still happen – when one of you asks for a divorce.
But if you truly want to save your marriage, such obstacles – even the prospect of divorce – can’t stop you. See, even if you still have problems in your marriage after working out others, or are struggling to work your way through our system, still fighting after counseling, still having trouble in the bedroom, etc., you ARE making progress simply by virtue of effort and awareness.
If your spouse tells you they want a divorce, it doesn’t mean that the battle to save your marriage is over – it means that the time to make big strides in improving the relationship is RIGHT NOW.
Even if you’re partner is totally checked out, you can still work on the marriage on your own, and communicate with them in ways that will help them see the importance of the marriage – and the possibility of getting it back on track.
Before we get into some of these methods, it’s important to remember not to cling, beg, or beat your spouse over the head with your efforts to improve the marriage.
Include them by all means, but by clinging, we generally end up pushing people further away. We like to describe the ideal approach as “standing still with your arms open.” You aren’t chasing them, you are simply welcoming them back with a ready embrace. You aren’t forcing the marriage on them (forcing leads to resistance), you are letting them know that you are present and available, ready to forgive and move forward with a new and improved marriage with the one you already married!
If you’re working on the marriage on your own, your top priority is working on yourself. What can you do to be the ideal spouse? Do you have bad habits you could be working to resolve? Could you be in better shape? Could you make more time for family? Could you find ways to manage stress and mood to be happier? Could you contribute more around the house?
Take a good look at what you might be doing to contribute to the problems in the marriage, and tackle those things first! If you’re being the best “you” you can be, it builds confidence, makes you more attractive, and let’s you be free of self-blame, knowing that you’re putting in the effort to uphold your half of the relationship.
Once you’ve begun your own path of self-improvement, try to spend some time together on neutral ground, without delving into your relationship’s problems – just spending causal, enjoyable time together. Get a sense for why you fell in love in the first place. Enjoy each other’s company without all the pressures of your past problems, without expectations, without dredging up the past.
And here’s the most important part: you have to agree with your spouse that you don’t want your existing marriage either…
Agree with your spouse that things are not going the way you want them to, and that you aren’t happy either. Agree that your current marriage isn’t a relationship you want to be a part of, but explain to them that you DO want to build a new marriage with the person you’re already married to.
When you can agree that the marriage of the past wasn’t healthy for either of you, you can put it behind you and begin to focus on the future – a new marriage where you don’t make the same mistakes, where you’re both committed to each other and the relationship, and focused on building the marriage you’ve always wanted.
Even in the face of divorce, you CAN bring your marriage back on track. Don’t lose hope.