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Saving Your Marriage

→  You will succeed in saving your marriage when both of you are willing to commit to the process learning and growth.

→  You will succeed in saving your marriage when you each stop blaming the other and start taking responsibility for how you contribute to the challenges.

The 3 vital ingredients to saving your marriage:

  1. You are each willing to change and learn new skills
  2. You are each fully committed to the relationship
  3. You are each open to receiving professional counseling help

What is a healthy relationship?

  • absent of verbal, physical, or emotional  violence/abuse
  • respect for spouse's perspective and experience, even if its different than your own
  • respect for your partner's freedom to choose
  • honesty about any addiction problems and promptly addressing them
  • ability to draw clear boundaries when being treated poorly
  • feeling emotionally safe to express with vulnerability what's on your mind and heart
  • ability to enjoy the giving and receiving of affection
  • have a solid support network that is separate from the marriage
  • freedom to say 'no' to sexual connection as well as freedom to ask for sexual connection

Start here: Tips for saving your marriage

Start here: Tips for saving your marriage

Stop comparing

You might feel shocked that your marriage feels shaky.  You might be scared and worried.  You might feel embarrassed when it somehow looks like all the other marriages around you are doing great. Sometimes, it might seem like the worse you feel in your marriage, the better others suddenly look to you. Like they somehow have it all figured out.

Marriage problems can come in all shapes and sizes. At our center, we're always amazed by relationships that look great to others on the outside but are ridden with challenges and pain on the inside.  The old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover" is important to remember here.

You can't judge a relationship from the outside.  And more importantly for you, you cannot compare your relationship to others. You never know what it looks like under the hood. The most beautiful car could have an engine that's barley working.  So when you're marriage feels troubled, the first step is to stop comparing your marriage to others.

Don't act impulsively on your panic

Don't make any immediate decisions that you might regret later, like getting a divorce or even having an affair.  Your relationship may have had a lot of troubles over the years that just got buried for different reasons. Maybe it was easier to just move on rather than rehashing old and painful stuff. Maybe you had kids and didn't have the time or the energy to deal with the difficulties that were coming up.

Over time, things we swept under the rug.  And suddenly it reaches a tipping point where you can't take any more. There's just too much history and too much pain. It's overwhelming. And intolerable. And you just want to feel better because being at home is nearly unbearable. You want the pain to go away. And you are frustrated and saddened because when you try to talk about it, things gets worse not better.  Until it doesn't even feel safe to talk about the problem.  And it's tempting to just want out.

All of these feelings and impulses are normal given your circumstance. And it all activates your nervous system into a state of flight, where you panic and want to get out. And fast. While it is natural to feel panic, it is important to not act impulsively.  When people take drastic action like divorce or infidelity, nothing good comes from it. It usually leads to more damage and pain, causing the relationship to be more difficult to save. 

A healthy way to honor that panic and the urge to take off is to take some space with a trial separation.  This buys you both some time to help you calm down, get perspective, and find some clarity about how to move forward.

Try separation before divorce

It's easier to want to just cut your losses and be done and move on. It seems easiest to just get a divorce.  Your despair tells you your marriage is beyond repair so you might as well just end it.  However, divorce is far from easy.  And it doesn't necessarily fix everything.  If there are kids involved, it just compounds the complexity, the pain, and the cost. Divorce is expensive not only financially but also emotionally. Consider a trial separation for a set amount of time during which you are actively working on your marriage in regular couples counseling.

Many people go to divorce when things get difficult in their marriage.  Because they don't have the tools, knowledge, and help that they need to work through their challenges, they choose to end their marriage.  Later, they find themselves in another relationship with a different person but all the same problems. This is called, "same game; different players."  This mean that the problems you faced in one relationship will often show up in your next relationship. While you are with a different person, you are having to face the same problems.

You cannot outrun your problems. You cannot skirt around your problems.  There is no other way than through them.  This is because your problems are asking for you to learn and grow as a person.  And they will keep showing up again and again until you learn what they are asking you to learn.  When you learn what they are teaching you, then they go away.

Long story short: if you get a divorce without trying hard first, there's a good chance the same problems that caused you to leave your marriage in the first place, will show up again later.  So, moral of the story: deal with your problems in this relationship.

NOTE: if you are actively experiencing domestic violence, you need to immediately leave your situation in order to find safety. Contact the Domestic Violence Resource Center for further support 503-469-8620.

Get help

Most couples wait until things are really bad before they seek professional counseling.  Don't wait. If your relationship is feeling challenged, get help immediately. That doesn't mean that you are crazy and it's not a sign that your relationship is flawed or doomed to failure.  That's like saying your house is going to fall apart because there's some plumbing issues and you have to call the plumber.

Listen to the whispers of trouble in your marriage; don't wait for the shouts. Don't wait until the water is leaking through the walls because you neglected to call the plumper when the pipes were making odd noises.  But if you are the place where your marriage is in rough shape and you are seeking help, remember that it took many, many years for your marriage to get to where it is, so there is not going to be a quick fix. Be prepared to commit to the process of change. Find a marriage therapist who you both trust to help you and then commit to the process of therapy.


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