No marriage is without its troubles, but when do the troubles outweigh the benefits? Your marriage is in crisis but is it beyond saving? How can you tell if too much damage has already been done? Is it too late?
The fact that you’re asking these questions about the state of your marriage and trying to save it is a good sign.
This is the first step towards improving your relationship with your spouse. You have taken your marriage off autopilot and started trying to actively make change.
This is the power of a positive mindset. If you wonder whether your marriage is worth saving, then you have a fighting chance.
If you’ve made up your mind that it is a total failure and a write off then you’re right.
But mindset can only get you so far. You need to do the work and ask yourself tough questions.
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
This is the first question you need to ask. Before you decide whether or not you should try to save your marriage, you need to determine if fixing your marriage is even possible.
Signs a marriage is in trouble
1. You’re sleeping in separate beds
Sharing a marital bed is a huge part of married life. Sleeping together is both a symbol of your commitment to the partnership and a way of building your bond. Not to mention, if you’re not sleeping in the same bed then your sex life is probably not where you’d like it to be. If you’re not sharing a bed anymore your marriage is in trouble.
2. You don’t live together
This is a tough one to deal with. Whether you’re separated due to work/school or you’ve actively made the choice to live in separate residences, this can put a huge strain on the relationship. Marriage is about sharing your life and if you can’t live in the same place, you’ll never be able to truly do that.
3. The spark is gone
When you picture your spouse what’s your first thought? You probably don’t get immediate butterflies like when you were first dating but if your stomach tightens, and you’re hit with a wave of anxiety or sadness, that’s a bad sign. Your marriage is supposed to make your life better, not worse.
4. You’re separated
If one or both of you decided that you needed to take a break from the marriage then your concerns about are definitely justified. Separation doesn’t necessarily mean divorce is coming but if you don’t take steps toward fixing things, it will be.
5. You don’t communicate
While your marriage may not be in dire straits just yet, lack of communication is the biggest predictor of divorce no matter what. I’ve seen marriages survive infidelity, separation, and all kinds of toxic conflict but those couples had to be willing to communicate to help right the ship.
If you or your spouse sweeps problems under the rug, leaves the room when faced with conflict, or won’t budge on any issue, this is going to take a lot of work.
None of these signs mean your marriage is doomed. If you’re committed to the process of bettering your marriage then these are only roadblocks. But should you keep heading in the same direction?
Should you even try to stop divorce?
Only you can decide if you want to stay together but if you’re reading this, I bet you do. If you committed to spending the rest of your life with this person, you did it for a reason and while you’ve been going through a rough patch, you have the foundation of love and support upon which a healthy, happy marriage can be built.
Looking at it practically, marriage brings so many benefits – health, longer life, happiness, financial improvements, friendship, security – that it is hard to recommend abandoning it except in extreme cases. Sure, marriage can be an ordeal, like running a marathon but the healthy choice is never the easy one.
Another bit of good news is that, contrary to popular belief, you can work on saving a troubled marriage even if your spouse is unwilling or oblivious. A marriage requires two partners but there are steps you can take right now to start the process of healing the marriage, even if your spouse is not willing to put the work in.
Most important of all is adjusting your attitude. Just changing your attitude to a more positive one will pay benefits throughout your relationship.
But let’s get back to the question at hand. You still have your doubts. You aren’t sure whether your marriage is worth saving. You want to be more certain before taking any action. How can you be sure?
One good way to decide is to take some time to think and write about your marriage. Take just five or ten minutes a day for a week or so and write down thoughts about your relationship.
Divide a paper into two columns and list the good and bad things about your marriage. You might put things like “fighting” or “arguing” in the negative column, while adding “love,” “support during illness” or “financial boost” in the positive column.
Write down anything that comes into your mind, no matter how silly or trivial it seems. No one is ever going to read this list but you. If your spouse takes out the trash, put that in the positive column. Making this kind of positive/negative list will help you see that your marriage is not all bad, that it has many positive aspects.
Marriage fixing techniques
Another exercise is to make what’s known as a “gratitude list” about your marriage. Just make a list every day of the things you are grateful for about your spouse and your relationship. List everything you can think of, large and small.
Do this every day for a week. You may find yourself listing the same things over and over every day, but there’s nothing the matter with that. Writing the same positive things over and over will help reinforce them in your mind.
You will, in the short span of a few days, become a more grateful minded person, someone who is inclined to notice and be grateful for all the positive things in your marriage. Perhaps you’re grateful for having someone to come home and talk to, or for the time your spouse came out to pick you up when you had car trouble, or from feeling safe at night with another person in your house. Try to list everything you can think of.
If you’re crippled by negative feelings – anger, outrage, betrayal, jealousy – writing is also a good way to tame them. Do what’s called “freewriting” – just scribble down a stream of consciousness, whatever comes into your head. “I am angry because …” is a good start. Then just go from there.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can spew out on paper in just five minutes of free, fast writing. Once you’ve written out some of your toxic feelings, destroy the bit of paper. This should help you have a bit of a clearer mind to evaluate the more positive aspects of your marriage.
All these exercises should give you a more focused idea about how important and valuable your marriage is. The most likely thing is that there are dozens of positive aspects to your marriage that you take for granted or don’t think about very often. Reminding yourself of them, getting them into the front of your mind, will help you see that your marriage, no matter how troubled, is probably worth trying to save.
Divorce is very tough. It is expensive – emotionally and financially. Its effects last the rest of your life. So it truly is a last resort. If you are asking questions about your troubled marriage, and wondering whether it is worth fighting for then your best course of action is to give it a real shot. Some of these exercises can help reinforce that decision and make you feel more comfortable and confident about what you are doing.
Does Your Spouse Need Help?
In the case of serious problems like a spouse who is an alcoholic or an addict, things may seem hopeless. But there are options. A therapist or marriage counsellor can recommend many solutions, even if your spouse is in denial.
So don’t exhaust yourself trying to reform your spouse and cure them of their addiction. Find support for yourself – a safe place to talk, vent your feelings, and strategize.
Often, just by working on your own attitude and feelings, you can change your marriage quite a bit.
There may be a few cases, such as serious and prolonged physical or emotional abuse, where you decide your marriage is not worth saving.
In those cases, protecting yourself is priority number one, so you should get help and protect yourself as quickly as possible.
Remember that as a rule of thumb, most marriages are worth saving.