When things are at their worst, you might feel hopeless. You might feel like there isn’t anything left to be done – but even when you feel like you’re at the end of the rope, there are still a few steps you can take to avoid succumbing to divorce.
Before you throw in the towel, follow these five steps and make every effort possible to get your marriage back on track:
1. Get Your Spouse to Communicate
When couples are truly considering divorce, it can be difficult to even be in the same room, much less communicating effectively. Saving your marriage, however, depends completely on both you facing up to difficulty and having some tough conversations.
For this to work, you have to remain calm. This can’t be a shouting match, or a blaming session, or just a conversation dredging up all of the past hurt and problems. It has to be a productive conversation because, as harsh as it might sound, it might be your last chance.
2. Ask What Needs to Change
A big part of the conversation is going to be about what has to be different to make the relationship work. Talk about hypothetical scenarios – what does the happy, functional version of your marriage look like?
Again, this conversation has to remain calm and productive. It will likely take effort on your part – but so will saving your marriage, and this is the very beginning of the process. You’re going to have to face up to what you’ve been doing wrong, and be willing to hear suggestions for how your behavior could be different.
At this point, you’re not asking your spouse to agree to stay married – doing so may just push them further away. Instead, ask them to put these ideas about divorce on pause. Make it clear that you understand how bad things have been, and that while you can’t change the past, you can both shape the future into a much healthier marriage.
Now, you might receive some tough answers if you start asking about what needs to change because, well, from your spouse’s point of view, it’s likely you that needs to change. Don’t get defensive – just listen. This isn’t the time to argue, it’s your chance to find out what your spouse is truly looking for.
Lastly, ask how they will know that a change has happened. What “evidence” are they looking for? How will they be convinced?
After you know the answers to these questions, end the conversation, thank them for taking the time to talk to you, thank them for remaining calm, and move on with the next step.
3. Make A Plan
Now that you know what your spouse wants to be different, it’s time to get to work.
Start forming a detailed plan for how you can change for the better, how you can approach your marriage differently, and how you can make those changes stick.
This needs to a researched, detailed plan, not just something you talk about or put on the back burner. For example, if your spouse says your temper is a problem, enroll in anger management classes. If finances are the issue, start studying money management and get help making a budget. If there are problems in the bedroom, start taking the steps to understand why they happen and what to do about it…
This is your chance to tackle an issue (or multiple issues) in your life. Fixing your marriage may the incentive, but it won’t be the only reward for having the courage and determination to face up to your shortcomings and take steps to improve. Regardless of how this immediately affects your marriage, these steps toward becoming a better, happier you will absolutely make an improvement in your life.
The pieces of your plan will, of course, be totally unique to your specific scenario, but there’s always something that can be done. Maybe it’s booking a therapy session, maybe it’s finding ways to better show your feelings, maybe it’s a matter of changing your schedule to spend more time together – it may even be a combination of these steps and others. Whatever it is, invest yourself in it completely – your marriage likely hangs in the balance.
4. Tell Your Spouse The Steps You Plan to Take
Once you’ve identified what it is you need to do, let your spouse know! This isn’t an opportunity to brag about what you plan to do, but rather a chance to illustrate just how serious you are about saving the relationship and becoming the spouse they want. Ideally, you will have already begun to take the steps of your plan, and you can share precisely what steps you still plan to take.
Remember, you asked your spouse to put divorce plans on hold while you carried out your plan. Sharing the plan isn’t asking them to dive back into the marriage, it isn’t asking for promises – it’s more of an update to let them know that agreeing to pause the divorce was the right decision, that you are putting your best efforts toward improving, and to show them that change is possible.
These changes are ultimately good for you, whether or not your spouse decides to continue the marriage – and letting them see that is part of the point. It may even inspire them to also work on themselves. You can even let your spouse know that you’re going to follow through with your plan regardless of what they decide about the marriage. Your personal issues are going to affect this relationship or your next – there’s no reason not to tackle the problem now.
5. Be Patient
Stay the course with your plan, continue to grow on your own, continue to become the best version of yourself you can be, and be patient for your spouse to come around. This is definitely the hardest step because once you’re working on your plan, you likely just want things to get to some kind of resolution, but that can take time. You may be tempted to beg and cling, but that will likely make matters worse and just push your spouse away. If you’ve agreed to put any divorce plans on hold, they will remain on hold – and that’s ok.
You don’t need to force things, and you shouldn’t. Change takes time, resolution takes time, and even if you’re both taking great strides toward self-improvement, there will still be elements of your marriage that need work. This is a long process, and really, one that you should continue working on for the rest of your life – especially if you get your marriage back on track!
Maintaining a strong relationship, and even developing healthy habits of your own, is a constant work in progress, but the results will speak for themselves. Improvement IS possible and hard work will be rewarded. Stay dedicated to being your best self, and no matter what happens, you’ll ultimately be ok.
This may not seem like the resolution you were looking for, but this is a realistic view of how such things unfold. There’s no magic cure, there’s no perfect thing to say or switch to flip to get your marriage back on track. The best you can do is ask what your spouse expects, take that information to heart, and do everything in your power to work on yourself.
Be patient, be calm, and walk the walk. Your actions will speak for themselves and your spouse will see how important the marriage is to you. Let them know you’re working to save the relationship and leave it at that – you can stay the course and let your spouse come back to you. Remember, be the best you, and things will ultimately be ok.