Ask anyone who ever got married, and they’ll tell you everything started out just great. Each spouse paid special attention to the other, and both felt loved, appreciated, and fulfilled.
Skip ahead ten years and for many married couples it’s a different story. Women feel ignored, men feel like their wives have given up, and nobody feels that special feeling that comes with young love.
But does that mean a marriage is over?
Everyone wants a happy marriage that lasts forever. In fact, a poll taken just a few years ago states that among young people (18-29), a hugely optimistic viewpoint exists when it comes to marriage. That poll revealed that a whopping 86% of this age group expects their marriages to last forever.
Of course most if not all married people run into the occasional snag here and there, making them question their happiness. But before most get to the point where they’re entering divorce proceedings, they try and fix things.
The truth on divorce
Nobody plans for divorce, and most would choose to avoid it if they could…and they can, in most cases.
Nevertheless, people still get divorced…but not as often as we might think, luckily. The divorce rate in the US isn’t as high as it used to be, and it’s not as high as some would have you believe.
It’s certainly not 50% and climbing, as most people still believe. That oft-quoted myth is stubbornly persistent in our culture, even though the rate of divorce has been falling for 30 years.
As more couples discover that it may not be all that wise to throw out the baby with the bath water when things go awry in a marriage, divorce rates are coming down. That might due in part to smarter ways of thinking about saving marriages.
What is takes to save a marriage…
For couples who manage to save their marriages, what’s their secret? How do they know their marriages were worth saving in the first place? After all, there are indeed some unions which never should have happened…just ask Henry VIII!
What you need is an honest evaluation of your own marriage, an honest-to-goodness deep look at your life, your spouse, and where you ultimately want to be. That takes courage, strength, and patience plus a good dose of reality.
Beware the fantasy of divorce
Surprisingly, an honest evaluation of your marriage also means ridding yourself of the fantasies of divorce. Divorce fantasies are like those “magic pill” weight loss solutions that always turn out to be too good to be true. When divorce is seen as the magic pill that’s going to fix everything, be on alert that you’re not viewing things from a clear perspective.
Do you dream about yourself as a footloose and fancy free divorcee, enjoying life and completely content now that the one obstacle to your happiness (your spouse) is gone forever? Send up the red flags! This is a clear sign that you’ve taken a detour from the path of reality and somewhere along the line diverted onto a route that leads to fantasy land.
That’s because you’re basing that premise on the fact that your happiness is something your spouse controls. That’s wrong-headed thinking, because only you are responsible for your own happiness. In fact, most psychologists would tell you that many of life’s major problems come from blaming your unhappiness on other people.
It destroys marriages of course, and also wrecks careers, dissolves friendships, and even tears apart families.
Here are some questions to ask yourself
It shouldn’t be hard to tell whether your marriage is worth saving if you can easily answer the following questions. They’re based on what psychologists and marriage counselors consider to be the fundamental elements of a good marriage.
1. Can I remember a time when the marriage was good? Chances are, you can pull from the depths of your memory what it was that made you marry someone in the first place. That’s telling you right there that your marriage was originally built on something good. And a good foundation is sometimes all you need to know your marriage is worth saving.
2. Do I have inner happiness? If you don’t have that then no marriage will work for you, no matter how accommodating your spouse may be. When you don’t have inner happiness, which is a form of independence and inner peace, you’re going to be relying on your spouse for that happiness, and that’s a sure-fire recipe for failure.
To be a confident partner, you must achieve your own happiness that’s independent from your spouse. Marriage is not a substitute for self-fulfillment.
3. Can you identify a specific reason for your unhappiness, that’s outside your marriage? It may not be your marriage at all, but rather your job, your family, your finances…the list of stresses is endless. Don’t transfer your unhappiness with certain parts of your life onto your marriage.
In fact, the American Psychological Association cites that in good marriages, couples view the marriage as a haven from outside pressures. They use the strength of the marital bond to face adversity together.
4. Do you still respect your spouse in some tiny way? If you can see through your anger, sadness, or whatever other emotions you’re having that led you to consider divorce, and still feel respect for your spouse, then your marriage is definitely worth saving. Respect is cited by psychologists as the most crucial element in a good marriage.
5. Do both of you feel at least a little bit committed to saving the marriage? Because that’s all it takes…just a smidge of interest from both parties in staying together, and together you can build on that to save your marriage.
So keep in mind that although you and your spouse may experience some bumps in the road, it’s really about how you deal with those bumps together. Don’t be tricked into thinking marriage is perfect. It just starts out that way!
How about you? If your marriage is seeing some low points, are you “guilty” of fantasizing about divorce? Do you see it as the cure-all to your life’s goals and ambitions? After reading this, do you see things differently?