Considering divorce? It's possible your marriage could still be saved.
How do you know when a marriage is past the point of saving?
Alisa Bowman — marriage expert, YourTango Experts member and author of Project: Happily Ever After — was sure she'd reached that point. In fact, she'd actually begun to daydream about planning her husband's funeral. While there was no infidelity or abuse in their relationship, it was clear to Bowman that her marriage was hopelessly broken.
Especially when, upon getting pregnant, her husband decided to exacerbate issues by starting his own business. As the family breadwinner — and with a child to take care of — Bowman was dumbfounded at the lack of interest her husband was taking in his wife and child.
As he spent more and more time at his new bike shop, Bowman began to feel like a single mother. She also felt unappreciated, unloved and abandoned. Aside from planning her husband's funeral, she began to seriously consider divorce.
With the advent of no-fault divorces in the 1970s, it became especially easy for couples to escape their unhappy marriages, despite there being no clear breach of the marital contract. After all, who wants to languish in a loveless marriage when one's true love may still be out there, waiting? Poor communication? Lack of respect? Absence of support? Diminished intimacy? Why deal with it!?
The thing is, that initial happy-go-lucky honeymoon period doesn't last forever, and problems with respect and intimacy can easily crop up, no matter how much you care for each other. Healthy relationships take work that most people don't expect. Despite what the Hollywood rom-coms would have us believe, love isn't necessarily easy.
There's no doubt that Bowman's marriage had gone off the rails but—as she eventually realized, after making a renewed commitment to fixing her marriage — things weren't necessarily hopeless. In fact, by the end of Project: Happily Ever After, Bowman and her husband had gone from barely communicating to renewing their vows.
Bowman fixed her marriage by digging through a slew of self-help books and drawing up a plan. So, how can you create your own Better Marriage Project? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Find fulfillment in yourself. Problems can crop up in any relationship, when we begin relying on our partner for fulfillment. This Love Buzzer experienced problems in her marriage when she began working from home full-time, and looking to her husband as her sole social outlet.
It was only when I began building my career, doing yoga and hoop dancing, and making plans with others that I felt balance and fulfillment, and realized that my husband wasn't necessarily the problem (though not entirely blameless, either). It's healthier to build a fulfilling life in addition to your partner than to look to him to be your everything.
2. Pinpoint the problems in your marriage. Striving for independence can work wonders on your marriage immediately, but it can't fix everything. Once you've found personal fulfillment, take a close look at your relationship and define what the true problems are. This will make it easier to go about fixing them.
3. Remember why you fell in love. Once you've pinpointed those problems, think back to the first time you met... the happy moments you shared... the instant you knew you were in love... the reasons you married him. It's these memories that will help you to realize that your marriage is worth saving. Because — deep down — don't you still love him?
4. Talk to your spouse about your feelings and plans. Get him on board. Sit your spouse down and let him know how you've been feeling lately. Don't attack your partner or place blame. Rather, concentrate on your feelings, and where you feel they stem from. Then assure him that you love him, that he's important to you and that you want to make this work.
Tell him that you want to fix your relationship, and talk to him about how the two of you could possibly do that. This plan will look different for every couple, depending upon the things they're struggling with. If you're struggling with intimacy, you may need to schedule sex. If you're feeling unsupported, you may need to have a chat about what you need from each other. If you feel that communication is the issue, you may need to sit down on a regular basis and practice reflective listening.
No matter what your issues are, you should develop a plan, with clear action steps and measurable goals, and confirm that your partner is willing to work on things with you. As Bowman advises in the book, before you give up on a relationship ask yourself: have I tried everything? is my partner willing to try everything with me? If he's not, you might be right in walking away. A marriage can only be fixed if both parties are willing to work at it.