“I do not know when and how this happened. We’re just drifting apart. Love is just no longer there!”
All of us might have heard a statement like this from a loved one, relatives, friends, or co-workers. Or, perhaps this phrase isn’t theirs, but yours. Your feeling of being unloved, disappointment and anger are no longer bearable. You wonder if things would have a chance to get any better. Now, you see yourself standing at a crucial intersection of your life – pondering if there is any hope left for your marriage. "Is divorce my best option for me and my children?" you might ask yourself.
There is a variety of circumstances and reason why people choose to get a divorce. In some cases, divorce may be well justifiable and in fact, the wisest decision one can make. But unfortunately, in many cases, divorces are unnecessary and worse, poorly executed.
Every married couple has their fair share of relational challenges and difficulties. In fact, none is problem free or without hurt and disappointment. Married couples sometimes fail to treat each other with love and respect, and neglect meeting each other’s primary needs. Out of busy demands of life, or accumulated frustration and disappointment, many couples stop being intentional about their marriage. It is like a car without fuel, marriage dries up without thoughtfulness and kindness. Couple eventually becomes distant and indifference. As result, they seek love and fulfillment in the wrong places. The act of passive-aggressiveness, finding fault and blame against each other only make it worse. Instead of standing by each other as a unified team, they turn into a roommate at best, if not enemy. In a stressful and emotionally-charged situation like this, many believe that divorce is the only best option.
Is it too late now? How can a couple revive their troubled marriage and save their children from experiencing the unnecessary divorce? Here are a few practical guidelines to improve your relationship and increase the probability of preventing a divorce:
1. Accept Self-Responsibility
We all have blindpots. Both husband and wife normally contribute something to the deterioration of their marital relationship. It may not necessarily a 50-50 contribution. In some cases, a partner contributes a larger percentage of "wrong" in the relationship. However, as long as spouses keep pointing fingers at each other, they won’t find a satisfactory solution to their problems. Not even a divorce. Thus, stop the blame game. Accept self-responsibility. Acknowledge that each of you has blind spots, shortcoming and failures.
2. Accommodate Your Spouse’s Needs and Point of View
Each person has a valid need. In troubled marriage, spouses tend to invalidate each other’s needs and point of view – often unintentionally. They just don’t realize that they need to learn to put their feet on their spouse’s shoes from time to time so they can feel and understand the needs and the desire of the other. When we feel unheard and our needs are unmet, it could gradually turn frustration into a seed of resentment, bitterness and despair. Take a good look at what your spouse’s needs and point of view, and learn ways to validate them.
3. Be Assertive, Yet Sincerely Honest
Troubled couples frequently experience communication drought. They know less and less about the others - their thoughts, feelings, hopes, etc. Express your thought and desire with sincerity and honesty. The use of forceful threat and condescending tone normally do not resolve an issue. Your willingness to be clear, yet sincerely honest about your hurts, needs, wishes and hopes may open up opportunities to address the real issues – which is often overlooked by couple who is contemplating a divorce. Remember, communication is the lifeline of your relationship.
4. Reposition Your Stance
Rigidity is an impasse. To improve your situation, both you and your spouse must alter your stance. Studies show that “battle” stance is not beneficial for everyone. It complicates the matters and especially cruel for your children. Children are often the poor victim of their parents’ divorce battle. And sadly, the parents are completely oblivious about it. Put down your weapon. Learn to communicate and negotiate as rational adults. Learn to value mutual Interest, not just hold on to rigid Position.
5. Deal with Yourself
Do you have anything to deal with yourself? If so, you must deal with yourself first. Perhaps, your substance use habits, workaholism, selfish tendency, rude verbal or physical violent behaviors, or inability to manage your own emotion, like anger, that hurt your marriage. If so, you must make a decision to change yourself and your lifestyle. Divorce unfortunately does not change these things. But, you can! The truth is everyone CAN change and grow, if they so choose to!
6. Count Your Blessings
A popular adage says, "Grass always looks greener on the neighbor's lawn". The truth is each grass has weeds to deal with. Thus, if you like to change the direction of your marriage, refocus on the good things you already have in your marriage. Although your spouse is imperfect, s/he must have something good you can affirm and be thankful for. When hurts and disappointment abound, we often focus on the flaws and "don't have". Challenge yourself to rediscover it. Remember, no one is perfect - that includes you!
7. Implement Behavioral Changes
Change is not always easy and comfortable – but often is necessary! Anyone who refuses to change will likely be irrelevant and problematic soon or later. No matter where they go, they will likely encounter similar problems over and time again. Therefore, change for the better! Make your change efforts tangible. Your spouse should be able to see the changes in you in practical way. Show your spouse that you take him or her and your marriage seriously. When your spouse sees changes in you, it would motivate him/her to do the same.
8. Express Gratitude & Apology
The longer couples are married, the less they tend to say, "I am sorry", "Thank you" or "I love you". Some people think “words are cheap”. In actuality, it is NOT as long as it is accompanied with proper action and said with sincerity. Therefore, re-start telling your spouse “thank you for ...” “I am sorry for ...” “I am appreciative of you for…” , etc. Heartfelt words of gratitude and apology expressed with tangible actions can be a balm of healing for your relationship.
Don't wait till it's already too late.
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“If you expect perfection from people, your whole life is a series of disappointments, grumblings and complaints.”
~ Bruce Barton ~
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