All marriages require a great deal of work to make them satisfying. Romantic relationships are an exercise in compromise and attempting to accommodate conflicting schedules, moods, needs, and expectations. When you can make all of this work for you, your relationship can be a source of great happiness and security. When the relationship seems to be more of a source of conflict or unhappiness, you may start thinking about ending the relationship.
The first thing you should consider is whether the relationship is worth saving. Especially if you have enjoyed happier times in the past, it could be worth the effort to try to save your marrige. Next you must ask yourself if you are willing to make the relationship work. If you want to make it work, you probably can. Some of it depends on your partner’s willingness. Often times, the initial stage of marriage counseling is to see if the hopelessness in the relationship can be neutralized. When couples think that their marriage will be impossible to make satisfying, they give up. Marriage counselors are trained to restore the optimism and hope that makes working out the problems possible.
Why Do Marriages End?
The most common reason marriages end is when one of the partners is unfaithful to the other. Couples with poor communication and conflict resolution skills is the next most common problem, followed by “basic incompatibility”, emotional/physical abuse, addiction, financial problems, and when one spouse is a workaholic.
Another frequent problem is when one spouse has unrealistic expectations and becomes disillusioned with their attempt to “change” their partner. Many times expectations were the result of growing up in dysfunctional homes with poor role models. We all have our own ideas of what a perfect relationship should look like – ideas that are tested by the realities of living together. When you first fell in love with someone, it’s natural to anticipate never-ending joy, but love means more than this. It also means accepting the best and worst in your spouse. It means supporting and encouraging each other through the bad times as well as the good times.
Deciding on Divorce
Positive signs that you might be able to save your marriage:
- at least one of you is willing to seek help through relationship workshops, reading books, or seeing a marriage counselor
- you both recognize that disagreements are a normal part of any marriage
- you are both open to learning how to communicate openly and honestly, without accusing or blaming each other
- you are willing to accept responsibility and apologize for the damage you’ve done to your spouse and to your marriage
- you are willing and able to devote time and effort to improving your relationship
- you both believe the marriage is worth trying to save
Negative signs that divorce might be the best choice:
- there is a pattern of abuse, addiction, or repeated infidelity
- neither of you is willing to change or adapt
- neither of you is able to forgive past wrongs or make amends
- you are committed to seeing yourself as 100% innocent and your spouse as 100% guilty regarding the problems in your relationship
- you believe the marriage isn’t worth trying to save
- one of you has declared a new sexual orientation
Trying to Save your Marriage
Bad relationships rarely get better by them self. Most couples can successfully restore the health and vitality of their relationship by successfully learning how to communicate, work as a team, compromise, resolve conflicts, and adjust to life’s changing circumstances.
Most couples get married without any prior education or training, other than watching others. They need to develop and learn the necessary skills in a class or from a trained professional. Is it expensive/ worth it? Most couples spend more money on a yearly vacation then they would going to see a marriage counselor. Making your marriage good again is worth it, and a lot cheaper than getting divorced.
Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago. Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance. He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”