Before You Divorce, Try These 5 Last-Ditch Things

Photo: Andrew Angelov / Shutterstock
sad married couple in counseling

Most couples come into couples counseling when their marriage is basically at its lowest point, from which there is often no return.

This is a shame, and I wish that more couples came in when they were just starting to struggle, so it would be easier to right the ship.

Unfortunately, time, effort, and finances are obstacles that often feel insurmountable until the moment of catastrophe.

Divorce doesn’t have to be a tragedy, and certainly, there are ways to buffer your kids through the process, as I discuss here. But, it is certainly tragic to think after the fact that you wish you would have tried harder to repair your marriage, which is a thought that plagues a fair number of divorced people.

RELATED: 8 Revealing Questions To Ask Yourself If You're Considering Divorce

If you are on the precipice of divorce, here are five last-ditch things to try before making this most significant of decisions:

1. Couples counseling and/or individual counseling 

Sometimes, couples counseling is better and sometimes individual counseling is better.

In counseling, I have seen many couples rebound from the edge of divorce, and some come back together after separation. Here are some signs that couples counseling might work for you, and here are some indicators to stop counseling.

If you are in individual therapy and realize you have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or anything else, there is zero shame in trying medication, and this can transform many marriages.

2. If counseling hasn’t worked for you, or your partner refuses, try reading books about marriage

For introverts and auto-didacts, reading can often prove much more helpful than couples counseling. Here is my list of favorite books, but if you need a specialized recommendation, reach out in the comments.

I encourage you to especially try reading books you think you won’t like; expanding your horizons and shifting your frame often lead to the kind of epiphanies that save marriages.

RELATED: 7 Unsexy Things You Must Do Before Asking Your Spouse For A Divorce

3. Change your worldview immediately about the relative importance of parenting vs couple time

If you are in a distant, disconnected marriage, and only focus on the children, you can try to reframe this significantly. If you think the kids would do better in an intact home with parents who go out together every Saturday night and have one weekend together a month while they are at their grandparents, then make this happen and see if you can reconnect as a couple.

4. Live your life

This means starting to hang out with friends, going to the gym, starting a hobby, and focusing on your career.

When people overfocus on their marriage it is as bad as overfocusing on your kids. Give yourself a break from thinking about the fate of your marriage and turn to other areas of your life.

Often, when you think your anger and frustration are solely due to your spouse and marriage, it is actually due to depression, low self-esteem, and a feeling of stuckness in your life as a whole. Therapy can help with this, and so can a conscious effort to train your lens on yourself and your life versus your relationship.

RELATED: 5 Hard-To-Admit Things I've Learned From 15+ Years Of Therapy

5. Open your marriage

I have seen this work for some people (not when they are on the immediate precipice of divorce but when it’s a vague thought in their minds) and fail for others.

If you’re on the verge of divorce, you do not have much to lose. In fact, opening your marriage prior to divorce can pre-emptively extinguish the sort of jealousy that makes divorce difficult, even when people openly dislike each other.

If opening your marriage makes both of you feel more alive and sexual, your spark, or at least your interest in one another, may re-ignite. Try this only if you are both sexually open, liberal people, because otherwise, it may just give you guys more ammunition against one another.

If you divorce, it is not the end of the world, and it can be handled with grace and acceptance. I know this from watching divorced clients move on to happy futures, and I know it personally from my own life.

But, of course, it should be a last resort, when you are sure that you cannot be happy within your marriage. Trying these five things can help you figure out if your marriage is salvageable, and if it can be rebuilt into a fulfilling relationship. 

RELATED: 8 Experts Reveal The Problems That Can't Be Fixed In Couple's Counseling

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.

This article was originally published at Dr. Psych Mom. Reprinted with permission from the author.