If you want to save your marriage, there are a few things you can try. These are only very basic suggestions.
Talk to Your Spouse. Choose the right time (not when your spouse is trying to unwind after a day at work, or is trying to quiet a screaming baby), and talk about your problems. Try to establish a few ground rules for the discussion such as:
— Talk about how you feel, instead of making accusations that may start an argument.
— Each person listens while the other speaks (no interrupting).
— Each person must say something that he or she likes about the other, and about the relationship.
As you talk you may want to discuss such things as where you’d like relationship to go, how it has changed since you got married, and what can be done to bring you closer together.
Change Your Thinking. Many people get divorced because they won’t change something about their outlook or their lifestyle. Then, once they get divorced, they find they’ve made the same changes they resisted for so long.
For example, George and Wendy were unhappy in their marriage. They didn’t seem to share the same lifestyle. George felt overburdened with responsibility and bored. He wanted Wendy to be more independent and outgoing, to meet new people, to handle the household budget and to go out with him more often. But Wendy was more shy and reserved, wasn’t confident in her ability to find a job and succeed in the business world, and preferred to stay home. Wendy wanted George to give up some of his frequent nights “out with the guys,” to help with the cooking and laundry, to stop leaving messes for her to clean up, and to stop bothering her about going out all the time. But neither would try to change, and eventually all of the little things built up into a divorce.
After the divorce, Wendy was forced to get a job to support herself. Now she’s made friends at work, she goes out with them two or three nights a week, she’s successful and happy at her job, and she’s quite competent at managing her own budget. George now has his own apartment, and has to cook his own meals (something he finds he enjoys), and do his own laundry. He’s also found it necessary to clean up his own messes and keep the place neat, especially if he’s going to entertain guests.
Both George and Wendy have changed in exactly the way the other had wanted. It’s just too bad they didn’t make these changes before they got divorced. If you think some change may help, give it a try. You can always go back to a divorce if things don’t work.
Counseling. Counseling is not the same as giving advice. A counselor should not be telling you what to do. A counselor’s job is to assist you in figuring out what you really want to do. A counselor’s job is mostly to ask you questions that help you think through your marital issues.
Actually, just talking things out with your spouse is a form of self-counseling. The only problem is that it’s difficult to remain objective and non-judgmental. You both need to be able to calmly analyze what the problems are and discuss possible solutions. Very few couples seem to be able to do so successfully, which is why there are professional marriage counselors. As with doctors and lawyers, good marriage counselors are best discovered by word of mouth. You may have friends who can direct you to someone who helped them. You can also check with your family doctor or your clergyman for a referral. You can see a counselor either alone or with your spouse. It may be a good idea to see a counselor even if you are going through with the divorce.
Another form or individual counseling is talking to a close friend. Just remember the difference between counseling and giving advice. Don’t let your friends tell you what you should do.
Trial Separation. Before going through the time, expense and trouble of getting a divorce, you and your spouse may want to try just getting away from each other for a while. This can be as simple as taking separate vacations, or as complex as actually separating into separate households for an indefinite period of time. This may give each of you a chance to think about how you’ll like living alone, how important or trivial your problems are, and how you really feel about each other.
Photo Credit: Visual Hunt