The best way to get through divorce is to avoid it altogether.
Sometimes, divorce is inevitable. But if you’re still in love and in a committed relationship, then the divorce card is the last one you’ll want to play. Saving a marriage is far and away a better play, especially when you have some idea of how to do it.
When things start to go bad, they can really steamroll unless you and your spouse consciously make changes to turn things around.
So, how do you avoid divorce and save a failing marriage?
Here are some proven ways to do just that.
13 Ways to Save Your Failing Marriage
1 | Take responsibility.
Marriage is a partnership that both of you entered into, and that means you agreed to be responsible for your actions as part of that union. At times, when the going gets tough, one spouse or the other will find it easier to point the finger of blame at someone else, instead of pointing the finger of blame at the person in the mirror.
If you are in the marriage, you are responsible for much of what goes on, good and bad, from the day you say “I do” until the marriage ends. If you are being honest with yourself then you must to accept what your part has been in making things worse. You don’t need to beat yourself up, you just need to not lie to yourself before you can start to make things better.
2 | Be quiet and listen.
There’s a reason why we were given two ears and one mouth. In some cases, the more you talk, the more it’s like adding gasoline to an open fire. Remove the source of combustion, and the flame will die down, giving both of you a chance to regroup and rethink how you want to approach your problems.
Spouses who are angry or scared will lash out and have a tendency to make sure their point of view is heard loud and clear. Other times, all they want to do is vent and that will make them feel better. One way to solve problems is to let the other spouse do the talking and verbally work things out while you remain silent and attentive.
Of course, the trick is to remain attentive.
It’s one thing to be quiet and listen, but quite another to tune someone out while they’re pouring their heart out. That’s when trying to do the right thing becomes doing the wrong thing because you didn’t put enough effort into it.
And if you’re worried about being drowned out in a one-sided conversation, don’t be. Keep in mind that the fewer words you use, the more weight that each one will carry. You’ll get a chance at some point to express your point of view. If you don’t, then your marriage may already be over, and you may not have figured it out yet.
3 | Be around people in healthy relationships.
You are who you associate with. If you or your spouse hang out with nothing but other divorced people or those in rocky relationships, then guess what? You’re going to be bombarded with biased and negative messages about married life, some of it angry and intentional, and some of it sad and unintentional.
Your friends and happily married family members can lift you up and provide support, helping you to model how your own married life can be. You’ll see a positive functioning example that you can glean from. You’re also more likely to walk away feeling good about the state of marriage in general than if you soak in a bunch of Debbie downer talk.
4 | Rediscover compromise again.
When married couples fight, it can quickly turn into every person for themselves. If you get a sense your marriage is headed for the exit doors, why wouldn’t you take steps to take everything with you that you could. It’s a downward spiral that only contributes to a bad ending more often than not.
If you want to turn things around, you’re going to have to do a better job of compromising. It can start with the little things too (she wants Mexican for dinner, you want Chinese…. let her have Mexican!). With enough small compromises, the veneer of desperation should soon start to melt away. You’ll find that middle ground is a lot better place to be than out on the street.
Will you be entirely happy when you compromise? Absolutely not. That’s the nature of compromise. But half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all, right?
Pick and choose what’s really important to you. Listen to what’s really important to your spouse. And then engage in give and take.
Putting your spouse’s happiness above your own in life matters won’t go unnoticed either. Making that effort to compromise is one of the biggest keys to saving your marriage.
5 | Get counseling.
This is an easy step for some couples, and not so easy for others. Laying your problems out in the open in front of a neutral third party is intimidating to some people, especially if they’re feeling guilty or at fault for much of the breakdown of the marriage.
But there’s a reason why so many couples seek marriage counseling. More often than not, it works.
Counseling is a process and a way to break up the emotional logjams that you might not have even been aware of in your marriage. There are things you do that your spouse absolutely hates that you have no clue about. The same surely applies to you.
Counseling can reveal those nasty edges of a marriage. Even more important, a therapist can unearth these things is a non-threatening way and give you strategies to start to fix what may be broken.
The thing about counseling is that you have to be committed to the process and be willing to put in the work. If you go in there with the attitude that “I’m only reluctantly doing this because my spouse is making me,” then why bother going.
Therapy can be a surprising experience, helping you to put labels and meanings to destructive behaviors. Once identified, it’s much easier to work on them and change those behaviors for the better.
And if you’re balking about therapy because of the cost, take a step back and consider what the financial cost of a divorce will be.
Online couples counseling is a great option to consider. Regain is my #1 recommendation for marriage counseling. With prices starting at $60 per week, you can choose from thousands of licensed therapists, and connect wherever and whenever it’s convenient for you by phone, video chat or text. Check out Regain now and get 10% off >>
Therapy may not save every marriage, but it is an effective tool that you need to strongly consider if you have any glimmer of hope in saving your marriage.
6 | Reshuffle your priorities.
If you want to save your marriage when it’s in trouble, it needs to be the number one priority in your life. This includes placing it above your children, your job, or anything else that sucks up your attention.
This is not to say that you need to shut everything else out, because that will only breed marital resentment, you just need to place your relationship at the top of the heap of all the layers in your life.
Instead of going out with the girls on a Saturday night, instead of hooking up with the guys to watch yet another game, instead of shopping, disappearing for the day running errands or whatever it is you do with your time, commit to spending time on your marriage instead.
No need to go overboard, but you need to do it to the extent that your spouse fully sees that they have become the primary focus of your life again.
The other benefit of doing this when you have kids is that it sends a strong message to them that their parents love each other and those actions ease their stress as well.
7 | Quit being a jerk.
You know what we’re talking about. It’s all those little interactions that make up a marriage that by themselves won’t doom you, but when taken together they can breed some serious resentment.
Sniping little comments about the other person’s looks or attitude, not remembering to buy the right stuff at the grocery store, pushing the kids off on your significant other when you know you should be part of whatever it is that’s going on, purposely not answering your phone, criticizing his or her cooking, too much sarcasm, inappropriate jokes or joking, calling your spouse fat, and so on and so on and so on.
This is rooted a lot of times in selfish or mean behavior instead of the level of unconditional love that is the keystone of healthy marriages.
A certain amount of criticism is inevitable, but pick your spots and learn to do it the right way and only when its warranted. Don’t play the MIA card unless it’s for a good reason. Communicate early and often.
If you’re having a bad day, don’t take it out on the one person who is supposed to be your best ally. Instead, let them know you’re in a funk or what’s bothering you. Ask for some help. And when the shoe is on the other foot, you need to step up too. Give as much, if not more, than you take.
8 | Exit any argument too early rather than too late.
When you get a sense that a discussion is about to go nuclear, take a step back and either de-escalate or put things off until you’re both in a better frame of mind. You can never take back anything said in the heat of battle, and in the heat of battle, your spouse has a tendency to remember everything with abnormal amounts of detail and clarity.
Sure, you’re going to have disagreements. But you’ve got to agree on how to disagree. Acknowledge the other person’s anger, listen attentively, keep your own emotions in check and if you sense a battle is brewing, find a way to gracefully exit.
Anger is ugly. Anger is destructive. Anger not dealt with constructively is a fast path to divorce.
Remember that everyone gets dirty when the mudslinging starts.
9 | Get your addictions under control.
So many people turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of a relationship that’s in trouble. If you’re going to do some drowning of your sorrows, do it in moderation.
If one spouse has a particularly bad addiction problem they can’t control, this can quickly undermine even the strongest marriage. If that spouse is you, decide if you want to keep dancing with those demons or go back to what attracted you to your spouse in the first place.
Keep in mind that if drugs or alcohol are part of the reason you ultimately divorce, those addictions can be used against you in many states. They can have a big impact on a division of assets, alimony, and child visitation issues. If your addiction is bad enough, you might only see children with supervised visits or in some cases, not at all.
There are other destructive addictions that can ruin your marriage as well. Being a shopaholic or having a porn addiction can drive damaging wedges into a marriage too.
If you have an addictive personality, get help before it destroys not only your marriage but your entire life.
10 | Is your outside world triggering your inside world?
There are so many external pressures on people these days that many times, what’s going on at work or in your social life can transfer itself onto your marriage. You need to take a step back and decide if you’re coming home in a foul mood from work every day, and if so, how that might be affecting your relationship. If you come home looking to unload, you could be misdirecting your anger at a person who does not deserve it.
The same also applies for family relationships. Rather than be a joy, there are situations where family gatherings can put a big load on a marriage that may be under a minor strain already. If you’ve got a relative that drinks too much, espouses far from center political views or tries to convert everyone they meet to their way of thinking about religion, these could be triggers that will put a couple in a grumpy mood.
You can’t always escape these gatherings, but the sooner you recognize them as a source of possible conflict that is dropping in on your marriage, the sooner you can carve that nasty part of your life out and make it separate from your own issues.
11 | Reframe your mindset from divorce to one of saving your marriage.
If divorce keeps pushing into your brain, that’s what you’re going to focus on as a course of action. If you want to save your marriage, that’s how you need to view your mission. Put things in a positive and constructive light.
Start looking for ways to save your marriage instead of keeping score on the things that will be used as a rationalization for divorce.
When you chat with well-intentioned friends, ask for advice on how they would work toward a positive outcome, instead of what needs to be done legally and financially to protect against a possible divorce.
The more you talk and think about it, the more likely it is to happen. That applies to both divorce and saving your marriage.
Perspective is everything.
12 | Working on small steps vs. the big “a-ha” moment.
It was a series of small things that snowballed into your current unhappy situation and it will be a series of small and positive steps moving forward to put your marriage in a better place. There is no single magic wand you can wave, no “a-ha” moment where you are transported to a new and fully repaired relationship.
Marriage is hard work. And hard work is code for doing thousands of small things the best way that you can to build up a body of trust between you and your mate.
Real life is not a Hallmark movie. It can be full of unexpected pleasures and perilous decisions that can set you back in so many ways. You need to be mindful every day of what you are doing and how it impacts your marriage, both good and bad.
Eventually, any bad behaviors will be replaced by positive behaviors and decisions that you make. So crawl before you walk. Walk before you run. Run before you fly. Don’t leave out all the details and the minutiae it takes to make a marriage healthier. That’s where the battles are won.
13 | Make your marriage more grounded by understanding the concept of space.
Couples who are together 24/7 run the risk of relationship burnout. Every person needs person time and space to recharge and process the world’s events.
When you smother your spouse, either because you are needy or you don’t trust them, sooner or later there’s going to be a buildup of resentment. Resentment puts all kinds of bad emotions in play, undermining what might otherwise be a healthy marriage.
Every couple is different and so the amount of time away from each other is going to be different as well. You may have a handle already on how much personal time you need and the kind of outlets you need to keep your marriage as an important, but not exclusive, part of your life.
The flip side of this is that when you ask for or grant time away from each other, don’t abuse the privilege. Don’t go and do stupid things, like getting drunk at a club and making a fool of yourself, or going on a spending binge with money you don’t have.
Use the time away constructively. Catch up with friends. Pursue a hobby. Volunteer with a charity. Do things that make you feel good. That positive buzz you get will carry over into your home life.
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