March 14, 2014

It is easy to lose hope when you are fighting for your marriage.

Your spouse is telling you he/she isn’t in love with you.  They are clear in stating their desire for divorce or separation.  Your emotions are on a roller coaster and you have not seen any signs of softening in your spouse.  It is completely normal to lose focus and momentum.  You may even have family and friends who think you should walk away.  But there are a few things you should know before you make that permanent decision.

  1. Your spouse is also feeling hopeless.  He/she is viewing everything from a very negative lens.  But your spouse is most likely making a major decision based on emotions and feelings.  The problem with this is that feelings and emotions change…and they can change quickly. When you married, you both had hope and positive feelings.  Over time, hope was lost and feelings changed.  What your spouse doesn’t realize or believe is that their feelings can change again.  But it’s true!  I know because I lived it.  I was once in a place where I thought I would never again feel love and passion for my husband.  Feelings change depending on our environment and that is good news for you because you do many things to change the environment.
  2. Your spouse is trying to convince you to quit because he/she is tired of the struggling.  They want you to make this easy and you may be tempted to quit just so you too can get some relief.  But you need to know that you are going to have a really difficult year whether you divorce or whether you end up working it out.  If you divorce, you have to grieve all that was lost.  You have to start over and make financial adjustments.  You may have to share custody and help your children grieve the loss of their family unit.  You have to learn to be alone again.  On the other hand, if you stay, you have to continue this battle and stay focused on your goal.  You have to live in a situation that feels awkward and uncomfortable as you try and get your spouse re-engaged.  You have to manage your anxiety and deal with hurtful things your spouse is doing. There is no immediate relief.  Divorce seems the easy way out, but it isn’t.  It’s the beginning of a long period of grief, loneliness, fear and doubt.
  3. Don’t let anyone fool you…divorce is devastating with much collateral damage.  It affects everyone including your kids, your future grandchildren, your parents, your in-laws and friends.  There are lots of articles and books trying to convince you that divorce isn’t as bad as you fear it will be.  There are even therapists who will minimize the damage but more often than not…this is more about their personal situation than about yours.  Divorce is the death of a family unit and it is traumatic even to adult children.  It takes a psychological toll on you as well.
  4. The statistics can’t be ignored.  Your first marriage has a 50% survival rate.  Second marriages only have a 25% chance of making it.  Third marriages even less.  It seems logical to believe we would learn something from the first mistake and have higher chances of success with each attempt.  But marriage is an emotional choice for most people and our emotions and feelings change.  You increase your odds for happiness by learning and growing in THIS marriage.  A loving relationship is often more about learning how to love the one we are with than finding someone we can love.  People who stay married rely more on their commitment than their feelings.
  5. You may be trying to convince yourself you would be happier alone but that usually isn’t true.  I have no doubt you would be happier in a relationship where there was less stress and conflict but you were made to crave connection.  That’s why you married in the first place.  You want someone to grow old with and feel close to.  You want someone who knows your flaws yet loves you anyway.  You feel safe with that kind of intimacy.  When you feel safe and secure in your relationship, you are physically and emotionally healthier than when you are alone. Two really is better than one.

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Marriage is hard because it requires us to think and act differently than we have done in any prior relationship. You absolutely must put more into your marriage than you put into anything else or your marriage will suffer.  You may have jobs, kids, friends and all of those require a vast amount of energy and time.  But to have the relationship you crave and that will last for a lifetime, you have to put your spouse above everything else. Now may be a good time to figure out what adjustments you need to make so that your marriage takes priority.

Use this time to work on your own issues so you bring your best self to the marriage. Even more important than time and energy is vulnerability.  Your spouse won’t feel loved if you aren’t able to express yourself in a way that allows your spouse to feel connected to you.  Our counselors are trained to help you do that.  It may be the most important investment you make.  Even if your marriage doesn’t survive, you need to make sure you don’t find yourself in this same situation again.  Let us show you how a better YOU means a better marriage.  

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