“But marriage goes in waves. You’ve got to be patient. People bail and give up on their marriages way too early. They just don’t put the work and the effort into it. You’ve got to suck up your ego a lot of times, because that can be a big downfall.” ~Anna Benson
My husband and I have been together nearly 15 years, and we just celebrated our tenth anniversary.
I’m here to tell you that it ain’t all hearts and flowers. Marriage is HARD sometimes, especially when you’re in it for the long haul.
If you’re like me, you had some pretty unrealistic ideas of marriage in your head somewhere along the way.
While we all dream of hearts and flowers and awesomeness, the truth is that while you marriage can be the best thing that ever happened to you, there are times when you begin to wonder if you made the right choice.
I’m not going to give you all the standard divorce statistics, because I know you already know that more than half of marriages end in divorce these days. That’s not what you’re here for – you’re here because you are wondering whether or not you can save your marriage – you want to know if it’s possible to make your husband fall in love with you again. Or maybe you need to fall back in love yourself.
Or perhaps you’re just staring down the barrel of a divorce and you don’t know what to do.
Even when you’re married to a relatively decent person, unless you’re in the middle of it, it’s almost impossible to explain the extreme levels of stress that can happen in various situations over the years of a marriage.
An Example of a Divorce That Didn’t Need to Happen: Kate and the Would-Be Soulmate
A friend of mine, let’s call her Kate, has recently divorced from a man she spent most of her adult life searching for – one she once firmly believed was her soulmate.
Their situation isn’t unique, sadly, it’s all too familiar – a seemingly healthy, 10-year marriage that appears to suddenly end.
In this particular case, the odds were stacked against them early-on, thanks to several very serious family tragedies that occurred or were brought to light within the first two months of their marriage.
Literally as soon as they returned home from the honeymoon, they were bombarded with a life-changing tragedy.
Fast-forward a decade, and they’re completely separate on emotional levels, they no longer have sex and they just aren’t feeling it anymore. He says he wants a divorce; she suggests counseling.
When it’s all over, they go their separate ways, and their family is destroyed.
So what went wrong for Kate and her would-be soulmate?
- When the family tragedies came to light, they initially pulled together, and it seemed like they’d make it. But as the news grew grimmer, the couple’s resolve to stick together was challenged by their individual emotions and personal beliefs on the topic.
- As their ways of dealing with the issues varied, so did their needs for support. She needed to talk it out and see action be taken. She also had occasional emotional meltdowns that he didn’t know how to handle. This further pressed in the wedge that had already started to develop between them.
- They had money problems and differences in the way they handled money. She was frugal and thrifty, while he was more relaxed and less concerned with his credit. To her, he seemed careless and lazy; to him, she appeared rigid and controlling.
- He switched jobs often, and she felt this was bad for him and their financial situation. Sometimes he didn’t have a job. She felt that he needed to step it up and be a man.
- When she wanted to be heard and wanted to see him take action, she emasculated him, cut him down emotionally and generally felt dissatisfied with him. Her perception of him changed; she began to see him as a loser. He, of course, felt this and pulled away even more.
- This caused more tension, of course, and led to his seeking solace in other people – on a platonic level. These friends ultimately helped to solidify his plan to leave.
- Between the lack of physical and emotional intimacy and the tension in the house, the couple became more like business partners who barely spoke and weren’t even really friends anymore.
- Kate completely disengaged and looked for solace in her friends and support network. Her husband reached out on rare occasion, only to be met with coldness and/or her inability to let go of the issues.
- Despite the fact that they loved one another and once called each other soulmate, the two had become virtual strangers. The communication lines were completely closed while the two of them licked their wounds and tried to figure out what to do next.
- Finally he dug in his heels, refusing to bend any longer. She eventually saw that the marriage could be saved, but sadly, by the time she was ready to give a little and work with him to make the it work, he had already mentally left the relationship. Divorce was imminent.
While Kate’s story is just one example of a marriage that didn’t need to end, I wonder how many of us felt a little uncomfortable reading their story.
Did you recognize any of yourself there? Do you worry that your marriage could use a bit of “divorce-proofing” if your’e going to make it?
Let’s start with a little marital first aid.
Marital First Aid: Three Keys to Re-Igniting the Flame in Your Marriage
If you’ve been married more than a few months, you’ve probably wondered once or twice if you made the right choice.
And you’re not alone, my friend. We’ve all been there. We meet someone and, over time, grow to love him or her.
If we’re lucky and play our cards right, the object of our affection agrees to a blending of lives. But one day you wake up and your spouse blurts out that they no longer feel the same – and suddenly, you’re on a mission to reignite the flames in your marriage.
You are ready to stop divorce now, before it’s too late.
When Married Life Doesn’t Match Up to Your Expectations
Maybe your married life wasn’t what you expected it would be. Referring back to our friend Kate, we can recognize that a man who merely wants to live with the girl of his dreams doesn’t always think in terms of finance management differences, for example.
The woman may not realize how many weekends will be spent in front of team sports played out on an enormous television. Or maybe she has some idealized version of marriage in her head and she can’t seem to reconcile that with reality (been there, yo!).
Blah, blah, blah. Fast forward to your current predicament – you need to do an about-face and fast if you’re going to save your marriage.
Hack Your Marriage: 3 Ways to Stop Divorce Now
Here are three ways you can stop divorce now:
1.) Stop making an ASS out of U and ME. Don’t assume anything. No matter how long you’ve been married, and how much you think you know your spouse, ask! Talk it out. Listen for what is not being said. Does your spouse just defer to you in arguments? Perhaps they’ve given up in confronting you about their real needs.
2.) Try the old switcheroo. Be willing to swap hats in the relationship, if that’s what it takes. Maybe you’re used to handling the checkbook, but finances are at the root of your marriage woes. If keeping your marriage intact means letting him (or her) take over, consider giving them the reins for awhile, or at least sharing control.
3.) Be flexible, for real. Tell them how you’re willing to change. Don’t worry, change in one partner usually creates change in the other. But someone has to initiate the willingness – and if you’re desperate to stop your divorce, you’ll be the one making concessions first.
It’s time to take control of your own destiny, my friend.
If your marriage is basically decent and you’re not being abused, there is hope for you. Boring does not mean over. Arguments don’t have to be the end. As humans, we are changeable and adaptable – the change just must start WITHIN. And since like attracts like, your ability to change and adapt can directly affect that of your spouse.
Stopping a divorce once it’s underway can be more difficult than working on a relationship that’s festering with problems.
But it’s not impossible. As long as you initiate a step-by-step plan of action to show, not just tell, your spouse that you’re willing to work on saving your marriage, it can happen quickly.
Don’t just sit there drowning in sorrow, bad-mouthing your spouse and worrying about what life holds in store for you in the next chapter.
Stop your divorce now by implementing these three simple, yet powerful strategies that will shock your spouse into giving you another chance at repairing your relationship. Divorce is just a legality – your emotions and actions will be what salvages the connection you two have. You feel me?
Tell me what challenges you’re dealing with in your marriage right now. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.