It’s Not Over ’til It’s Over: How to Save a Failing Marriage
If your marriage is failing and either one or both of you have mentioned the D word, you might want to take time to step back and do something to fix the marriage. After all, you both made a promise to your family, friends, each other and maybe even God to love one another and stay together forever.
If you can remember how that day felt, and you feel sadness at the idea of finally ending the marriage, take a chance to try to save it.
You Can Only Control Your Own Behavior
One of the first things you have to realize, if you want your marriage to survive, is that you can only control your own behavior. You cannot control any aspect of your spouse’s behavior. However, if you learn how to react to various situations, you can influence your spouse’s behavior in a different direction by your different response.
For example, if your spouse enjoys pushing your buttons, you can stop allowing them to do that. Show a different response than they’re used to seeing, preferably one that doesn’t escalate an issue or problem.
Don’t Give Up
The marriage is not over until the judge says it’s over. You have time during the proceedings, if it’s your spouse that wants out, to do what needs to be done to try to turn things around. Tell your spouse your intentions, and then stick to it.
Sometimes even judges will, if one spouse asks, make you both go to counseling if needed. It might be a way to encourage communication, but it might also cause more problems. Only you can determine what will work with your spouse.
Don’t Beg or Cling
One thing you don’t’ want to do is appear weak. You want your marriage to work because you two made a promise to each other. Not because you cannot live without your spouse. You want to convey a strong personality that you don’t need them to live, but you do want to try to make it work due to the promise you both made back then.
If you poll people who got a divorce and got on their knees and cried and begged their spouse to not do it, this is the thing they regret doing the most and one of the hardest things to overcome self-esteem wise.
Work On Yourself
During this process don’t focus all your attention on the spouse. Instead, place a lot of focus on changing things about yourself that you would like to work on that you’ve neglected. While you can’t turn your spouse’s head with icing on the outside if they think it’s a trick or temporary, you can start feeling better about yourself when you do take care of the outside.
But also focus on the inside. Take a course, join an exercise class, or go on a weekend retreat. Do something just for you with no agenda other than improving yourself whether or not you stay married.
Don’t Allow Manipulation
Sometimes it can be hard to either start manipulating your spouse because you want to stay together, or to be manipulated. Don’t sink to trying to handle your spouse or their family or anything like that. You want to feel confident if you end divorce talks that your marriage will last and it won’t last due to manipulation.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
The key to setting appropriate boundaries is to identify your deal breakers, and don’t waiver on them. Saying no can be scary. Especially if you are fearful it will mean the end of your marriage. However, being weak now and backing out on your non-negotiable ideals will not impress your spouse. Instead it will make you look pitiful, desperate and it can actually backfire. Instead, stick to your guns on these issues.
Understand Your Needs
Both you and your spouse have needs. These needs encompass your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual life. Not only do you need to understand your own needs but understand your spouse’s needs. Try to identify how you have both failed to meet these needs in each other and devise a plan of action to fix that problem. Do remember your boundaries when making this plan.
Show Acceptance & Understanding
Outside of non-negotiable issues, there is a lot of leeway for acceptance and understanding. Plus, mistakes are made and it’s important for you to look at these mistakes realistically. If a mistake has nothing to do with your deal breakers, how bad is it really. So, they leave the toilet seat up. So, they’re super messy. That’s okay. This is who they are.
Accept your spouse for who they are and find other ways to deal with the issues that are bothersome but not deal breakers. For example, hire a house keeper, or a personal chef. (It’s a lot less expensive than you think)
Not only do you need to forgive yourself you must forgive your spouse. Even if cheating happened or some other serious issue that is technically a deal breaker, it is possible to move on from that if the behavior ends and the spouse gets that this cannot happen again. Everyone deserves, if they want it, one more chance to do what’s right.
The fact is, until the judge signs your divorce papers, you’re not divorced and there is always a chance to make it work. You have to be ready to really commit to the marriage, and understand how the other person feels. You have to be willing to work harder on both the relationship and yourself than you ever thought possible.
If only one spouse is trying to make the marriage work, sometimes it can still turn around, but most of the time it takes two. But, your marriage is worth the struggle and you’ll be glad and proud to say you gave it all you had.