If you have reached this article, is it fair to assume that either you or a friend of yours is experiencing marriage difficulties and are looking for marriage advice. You feel the marriage is crisis. Maybe even you are asking yourself the question: how to stop a divorce?
This may or may not be comforting to you but rest assured that it is quite normal. Scientific research overwhelmingly demonstrates that, on average, satisfaction with married life declines quite quickly after the wedding. Interestingly, it declines faster for the wife than for the husband.
In the US, for example, 43% of marriages end in divorce and another 10% end through legal separation. I assume that you are not there yet but, maybe, your spouse has mentioned the dreaded word “divorce” and you feel that your world is now spinning out of control.
You want to save the marriage, you want to prevent divorce.
If you are at the point where your spouse has asked for a divorce, what can you do? First of all, take a deep breath. You can save your marriage.
You must realize first that, YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE, you can be your marriage savior. Often, when confronted by a crisis, we find ourselves backed into a corner thinking we have no choice in the matter. How can we change the situation when it involves another person’s feelings or decisions? While we cannot, MUST NOT and IN NO WAY manipulate, blackmail or threaten our partner into changing their mind, we can actually control how we react to the situation. If anything, you must realize that you still have control over yourself. You have the opportunity to look inward and take responsibility for your own feelings and actions and even have the chance to take personal inventory of what your partner is trying to tell you. Are there points in your marriage that must be changed? If so, respond appropriately and proactively.
Here’s the thing. You can choose to wallow in pain and anger or you can choose to become even more positive and loving towards your spouse. You can choose to blame and shame your partner or you can choose to take stock, be accountable for where your marriage is and move on towards a more fulfilling, happy you. Yes, you heard me. You can choose to be fulfilled and happy in the midst of crisis.
First work on yourself
Even if your spouse is stubborn and unresponsive, you can still change yourself and become as engaging, positive and proactive as you were when you first fell in love. Usually, at the struggling stage of a relationship, one or both couples would look back and miss the good old days where it was easy to be together. You can capture those days again ‘ and even add to them with your own current maturity and growth. After all, you did not spend those years after the wedding for nothing. You and your spouse have made a huge investment into this partnership and your intention to stay in the marriage through positive loving actions, through open communication and strengthened commitment can help your spouse refocus his view on what you once committed to.
Become a loving person again by caring for your spouse in the little everyday things. Be there for him or her when before you may have been too much of a workaholic. Set aside intimate time just for your partner alone whereas previously, you may have let the kids take up too much of your time.
Second, start communicating
Then, when the time comes that you are able to open communication with your spouse and actually sit down and discuss the crisis you’re in ‘ask him or her if he or she realizes just how much effort a divorce could entail? Does your spouse actually realize that a divorce has emotional, financial, logistical and physical consequences? A divorce brings CHANGE and it is definitely not to be taken lightly. If your spouse wants a divorce, is he or she prepared to embrace this change?
I have found that an ancient traditional technique called “Clearing”, works like magic to restore a relationship to mutual respect and empathy. I works so well that I periodically use it with my spouse. You won’t believe how well it will work to deepen intimacy in your marriage. You can find it explained here.
Third, seek marriage help
Finally, you also have the option to involve a third party or mediator to help you and your spouse through this situation. If the situation is truly serious then by all means, get help. This is not the time to let your pride get in the way. A professional counselor, trusted elder or neutral friend can help in putting things into perspective between you and your partner and may even help unlock deep seated concerns or issues. For all you know, it may be as simple as your partner wanting more attention or more ways to open up to you.
“Divorce” has not been mentioned but you feel the marriage is in crisis
We all know of married couples who have been together for 20, 30 even 50 years and are still going strong, so how do they do it?
Here again and first of all, some degree of confrontation in the marriage could be normal, even desirable. Couple do go through a series of adjustments in life. These adjustments are milestones toward a deeper, more trusting and intimate relationship. You may find this extremely short video by John Gottman interesting.
After the first few years of marriage other events will trigger the need for further re-adjustments. A big one is the birth of a child. Some interesting research by Doss et all. (2009) conducted over 8 years with 132 couples, clearly shows that, from the time of birth of the first child:
- Relationship satisfaction falls, especially for the wife
- Negative observed communication increases, for both husband and wife
- The wife struggles to manage conflict and her confidence in the relationship decreases markedly
- Dedication to the relationship falls for both, recovers for the husband but not for the wife.
There are other factors that affect the risk of marriage breakdown, for example: when the husband is significantly happier than the wife (Guven et al. 2012), financial problems, affairs, addictions, …
As a general rule and this is particularly true if you are the husband, if everything seems peaceful and organised in your marriage, beware! You could well have fallen asleep and you are due for a rude awakening. Your wife may be bottling up, trying to cope with her challenges or be slowly getting bored out of her wits.
Remember, the majority of divorces are filed by the wife, between 70% and 90% in the US. Checking out on her might be a good idea.
It might also be a good idea for you to ask yourself if you are still the leader she saw in you when she committed to you. If the answer is an honest no, you might be interested in reading this post.
But before you do that, watch this.
Wives, you may have to take the initiative to save your marriage
If you are reading this and the word “divorce” has not been pronounced in your couple, there is chance you might be a woman. Women are less likely to be satisfied in their marriage and more importantly are less likely to confront their husband before crisis point, or when they have made the decision that the marriage just does not work for them.
If that is the case, you might need to think about taking responsibility for restoring the authenticity of your marriage. The Clearing technique discussed above could work for you.
If your marriage feels like the ending of the movie Melancholia, then you must take action before it is too late. It could be that your man has abdicated his responsibilities as a leader in your life and in your family. And this could be your fault too.