Marriage Over? It Doesn't Have to Be
Most divorces happen while the marriage could still be saved. Be sure it's really the right thing to do before you say "goodbye."
Anyone who has worked with me knows that I don't give up on relationships--ever.
If I did, I couldn't look in the mirror and call myself a relationship coach. But, just as a medical doctor who only works to heal the injured knows when life has ended, I also can recognize a dead relationship. The reason why this article is important for you is because you need to recognize when your marriage still has life. You need to know if your marriage still has hope.
In some ways, all relationships are like movies. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Even in the best and longest kept relationships, there comes an end by death. It seems sad and we don't like to think about it, but being aware of it helps us to keep the right perspective. And to value what we have. If you have lost other people in your life who were dear to you, you know how true this is. One way or another your relationship will end someday. What you do now will influence how long it goes on and how much you enjoy it. There is nothing more sad than a life, or a relationship wasted. Because relationships are what give life meaning.
Sometimes, things don't go as planned and your relationship gets hit by a cannonball on a clear blue day.
The course of our marriage can come to an abrupt end when we thought it was just the middle, or the beginning. With a movie, the projector can fail, the film can break, the power can go out, or the theater can burn down. Usually such things can be repaired, or rebuilt, and the story can continue. But sometimes they can't. And, with our marriages, a severe accident or illness can happen, news of an affair, and even natural disasters can deal a crushing blow. For some people, these signal the end. For others a new beginning. What you choose to do at these times will make all the difference for your marriage.
When the lights go out on our relationship, we have to wrestle with our temptations.
Temptations always are strongest when we are weakest. The sinister temptations of the modern age are not to eat chocolate or find another lover. Because we are deceived into thinking the relationship is over when it's not, we are tempted to give up on it. That's right--the great temptation is to give up too soon. That temptation stops more people than actual failure does. The winners are the ones who push through and see it out. They never decide when to quit or give up. They make every effort they can and let the outcome make the decision. As long as there is something left to try in your marriage, it doesn't have to be over.
Like a pulse, the vital sign of our relationships is contact.
When your husband or wife will no longer speak to you or interact with you at all you no longer have a relationship. Although you may be legally married, the marriage is over. That would mean that you were not living together, and not having any contact by telephone or email. And, this means that when you contact your spouse, there is no response at all. This is when you know your relationship is over. At this point, there is nothing that I can do to help people save their marriage.
Anger is a sign that there is still hope for the marriage
Anger doesn't signal the end of a relationship--far from it. Anger is usually just a layer of protection skimmed over a well of pain. Pain at losing a relationship signals a desire to keep it. But indifference, true indifference, comes from a husband or wife with no more interest in you. Starting a new relationship is possible, but the one you have has ended. Indifference takes a long time to achieve, so the problems went on far too long without proper help. Saving a relationship where a spouse is indifferent is like starting a fire with wet wood on a windy day. Since indifference and lack of contact go hand in hand, it is usually pretty clear when a marriage is over. In other words, if you are in doubt, then it's not over yet.
Knowing this vital sign, contact, we can see when a relationship is NOT over:
- When you and your husband or wife are still living together, even if it feels like you are just roommates.
- When you and your husband or wife exchange any words at all, even if they are just informational or negative.
- When your husband or wife makes some response to you, even if it is only a grunt.
These are signs of a sick relationship--not a dead one. This is the time of battling temptations to give up. This is the time of regrets and blame. But, it can also be a time of healing. It can be a time to say, "Enough is enough, I'm going to fight for my relationship. If it dies, it dies, but I am not going to be the one to kill it. And I am not going to just stand by and let it die."
If you can overcome your temptation to end the relationship or run away from it, you can be the one to start the healing process.
If the theater (your marriage) is on fire, either you or your spouse have to be the one to pull the fire alarm or to shout "fire!" If your husband or wife is overcome by the smoke or is just too scared (or too angry), you need to be the one to pull him or her out. But, you don't just run out by yourself. Regardless of how the fire got started, the one responsible for saving you both is the one who can. It may not seem fair, especially if your husband or wife started the fire. If he/she started the fire, caused the damage, understand it as a sign of your husband's or wife's ineffectiveness, not his or her desire to hurt you.
If your husband or wife can overcome the temptation to run away from problems or to blame you for all of them, then get help together.
If the emotional climate is very high or tense, a counselor will help you both calm down enough to work together. If you both are calm, but at a loss as to how to make your relationship better, or restore intimacy, get a relationship coach. What you choose needs to be appropriate for your situation, because every failed attempt will decrease your husband's or wife's desire to try again.
If your husband or wife has no interest in working on the relationship, you can still save it with a relationship coach.
A relationship coach is a better choice in this situation because you will need to learn skills that motivate your partner. Most of the time, one spouse is ready to work on the relationship before the other regardless of the situation. It's true for making commitments, buying a house, having children, and for leaving a relationship. Someone is always ready first. It is predictable. It is by no means a sign that your relationship can't be helped. Because of their emotional sensitivity, wives are often ready to work on a relationship long before a husband, but not always. Sometimes wives use some sort of denial with their emotions until things get to the point where the husband recognizes the need for help with the relationship.
In relationship coaching, you get the tools to make your relationship better.
Tools for increasing respect, trust, intimacy, and love. Ineffective responses to your spouse create disrespect, encourages lying, decreases intimacy, and creates emotional distance. If these are present in your marriage, it doesn't mean its over, but it does mean it's time to try a different approach.