How To Save Your Marriage
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Getting married (or beginning an intimate relationship) is, in a way, like starting a business you’ve always wanted to own or a university program you’ve always wanted to enter.
It may be relatively easy to begin but it is almost guaranteed to be very challenging to stay with it for the long-term and make it a success.
Which one do you think is harder? Being successful in your marriage? In your education? Or in your career?
They are all challenging to achieve for most of us. Yet they are also goals that most of us pursue or dream about. Not everybody wants to get married but most adults want to have some form of love relationship that feels good and is right for them. And the topics in this article apply to all intimate and significant relationships, not just marriages.
Indeed the drive to form and maintain a successful love relationship seems to be consistently strong in most adults. And I have observed this repeatedly in my work as individual and couples therapist.
At the same time our 50 % + divorce rate clearly communicates the message that making our love relationship last and flourish is difficult.
If we add to the high occurrences of divorce, the numerous unhappy marriages out there in which the partners feel hopelessly stuck my point becomes even more clear.
In my work as a mental health clinician I have seen marital and relationship discord often. And as a husband in an 11-year marriage I have felt the severe pains of marital crisis.
Along the way I have formed some wisdom on ways to understand, preserve, and improve your marriage. I teach these in a workshop called “All About Love” and will present them in this article. Also you can log onto my website at www.loveyoursoul.com for additional information.
Please keep in mind that most of the advice I am providing below apply and are suggested to both you and your partner even if I do not always mention him or her. However in the event that your significant other is not willing to follow this advice, I suggest that you do them on your own and invite your partner to join you as soon as possible.
1. EXPECT RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS
All or most marriages run into small and large problems eventually. Some marital problems can be anticipated and avoided. Others cannot be foreseen and must be faced, worked through, and resolved by both partners.
Marital crisis is often very painful to go through. But that does not mean that the marriage should be ended.
Conflicts are often tests of the strength of the love relationship. These are tests that both partners must take and pass before the marriage can graduate to a higher level of mutual satisfaction.
Your marital problem should tell you that there are some things that you have not understood about your partner and vice versa. You may also have lost hope for the relationship and neglected each other’s needs.
There is work to be done by each of you. It will probably be hard work but it is also required work to help resolve your marital conflict and for each of you to grow personally.
2. OBTAIN OUTSIDE HELP
The pain and complexity of marital crisis often handicap the couples’ ability to resolve the problem on their own. It is important that you start receiving couples counseling soon after the crisis begins because the longer you wait the more difficult it will be to save the marriage.
You should treat the crisis as a relationship emergency and act right away to get all the help you need.
It is important that you find a therapist who has the experience, knowledge, and motivation to treat marital problems. Also you and your partner should collaborate in order to choose a therapist who seems right for treating your marriage.
Also there are many organizations that provide relationship services. You can locate them through the internet, the phone book, your church, etc. I like the services advertised on the websites: imagorelationships.com and embracemarriage.com.
In addition you can request help from mature friends or relatives that you trust. Their help can be valuable and may include sharing their own experiences with marital problems, listening to you, or offering other support.
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR PARTNER
You must work hard to understand and change what is bothering your partner in the relationship. Chances are that even though your partner loves you there are significant and persistent problems he or she sees in you. And your partner may have lost hope for the relationship because of them.
You need to better understand your partner’s perception of these problems. It may be that your partner has a lot of dislike or fear for a certain problem. This fear was probably developed before you knew each other.
The persistence of these problems in you can be severely disappointing your partner even if they do not seem to be major issues to you.
For example your partner may have a large need for your time and affection because he/she was severely deprived of this in childhood and past relationships.
Your partner could be feeling hurt and disappointed in the relationship because this need has been misunderstood or neglected. The solution in this case would be for you (and your spouse) to become aware of the high importance of regular affection for him/her and to make sure the marriage takes care of this need.
If you identify these types of problems and work hard to resolve them, your loved one is likely to feel better about the relationship.
As usual this works both ways and you can ask your partner to do the same for you.
4. PRAY FOR THE MARRIAGE
Spirituality and regular prayer are powerful ways that can help you and your spouse heal your damaged relationship. It is important that you pray for your partner as well as for yourself. You can also ask God to help and heal your marriage.
There is a lot of variety and choice of spiritual practices. I suggest that you find and practice one that fits with your beliefs and feels right for you.
Spiritual strength could give you both the patience, peace of mind, understanding, love, and forgiveness that is often necessary to work your way out of marital trouble.
5. TOLERATE THE EMOTIONAL PAIN
Marital crises often involve severe emotional pain for both partners. You or your spouse may feel very depressed, angry, terrified, confused, hopeless, etc.
Many people end their marriages because they do not want to tolerate these pains or because they believe that the marital problems will never go away.
But the old saying: “No Pain, No Gain” often holds true for marriages and most marital problems can be solved if both partners are willing to put in the necessary work.
Counseling, spiritual practice, and if needed, medication can help relieve some of your emotional pain. But often much of the pain brought on by marital crisis must be tolerated until the marital wounds are healed.
You and your partner need to understand and accept that you are wounded emotionally and that the healing process may be slow and gradual.
Not all marriages or relationships deserve to be saved. And not all emotional pain associated with a relationship should be tolerated to preserve it.
Extreme situations for example when one partner is regularly physically abusing the other and is refusing to seek professional help may require divorce or a break-up to solve the problem.
But emotional injury caused by typical marital conflicts can often be treated and healed. However this process typically involves emotional pain and your ability to tolerate and live with this pain is a valuable skill.
I often tell my clients “Happiness is on the other side of the pain”.
In order to better understand and save your marriage you must work your way through and past the body of emotional pain that is blocking your way to marital happiness.
And if you do this work successfully your marriage will arrive at a new, higher grounds, where you can both feel free of pain and full of relationship joy, love, and appreciation of the meaning of marriage.