If your marriage is on the rocks, it is heartbreaking. It’s scary to be reduced to roommates or find out he’s cheating. If the man you fell in love with is unrecognizable or has retreated from you, it’s easy to feel hopeless.
Your emotions are probably all over the place. You might go from wanting to leave your husband to wondering whether there is still hope to figuring out how to save your marriage, all in the same day.
If the idea of becoming another statistic gives you pause, here are six questions to ask yourself before making this life-changing decision.
1. Have There Been Obvious Deal-Breakers?
It’s frustrating when he refuses to help with the dishes or doesn’t give you the affection you crave or spends more time with the TV than you. Whatever your pain point is, there’s usually that one thing that seems insurmountable.
So what are the signs your marriage is over?
If your husband is physically abusive, an addict or alcoholic who refuses to get help, a serial cheater, or part of a criminal organization or cult, you might feel those are legitimate deal-breakers.
Even in such situations, however, I’ve seen too many miracles–once a woman has the skills to turn things around–to say there’s no hope.
You are the expert on your life. Only you know what’s best for you. But it’s hard to see the possibilities yourself if it’s looked bleak for a long time, and in my experience there’s always a possibility that your marriage will improve.
For Lena, things got so bad that she had to take out a restraining order on her husband. But she realized she didn’t want to follow in her family’s footsteps as the next in line for divorce. She didn’t want her children to come from a broken home.
So she started practicing the 6 Intimacy Skills™, which empowered her to change the culture in her relationship. She and her husband reconciled two months later. He is not abusive; on the contrary, she is desired, cherished and adored.
Is the stress in your marriage coming from an outside source, like Lena’s was as an overworked mom? Are your kids, relatives, or critical friends creating Needless Emotional Turmoil for you?
Walk in your younger self’s footsteps. How did you handle disagreements back when your relationship started? You can get back that respectful communication–and intimacy.
2. Have You Given It Your Best Shot Yet?
Speaking of communication, what if your frustration is the result of a simple misunderstanding? You might be surprised how often that’s the case. Marital expectations can be murky.
You think he’s heard your pleas about who has to pay the bills or pick up the kids, when the reality is that he may have no idea. Even if you’ve tried to tell him, with the differences in male culture, it’s very possible he just can’t hear you.
That doesn’t mean you have to bottle your needs. But you might need to explore some new and better ways of expressing them.
In fact, one of the most popular posts on my blog is “My Husband Doesn’t Listen to Me”. This post gives you 4 ways to speak the language your husband can understand.
If you confide in friends on the verge of divorce or already divorced themselves, well, you can figure out where that tends to lead. Advocates for divorce are everywhere. Even well-meaning friends and family say things like “You deserve better” or “Enough’s enough,” which isn’t very helpful when you’re already struggling to make it work.
In Stella’s experience, that is the single biggest impediment to saving a marriage. She almost gave up from listening to such voices. But, even though her husband had moved out and was having an affair, she knew that, as the wife, she was the gatekeeper of her marriage.
She focused on herself and changing her thinking. She learned to take time away from the marriage to do the things she loved and to listen respectfully.
Before long, he started dating his wife again. The other woman disappeared, and he soon moved back in and declared his love and recommitment.
3. Is He a Wonderful Father?
Considering the psychological toll divorce has on the kids, every child is better off in a two-parent household. You don’t need me to tell you that.
It’s tempting to think your kids would be better off without a father who’s angry, isn’t present, or has creative notions of what constitutes parenting. Even if you were to find a man who would be more present with them, consider the struggles of blended families and having another woman in your children’s lives.
Parenthood means stress. To give your kids a home-court advantage, leave the kids behind every once in a while and find ways to reconnect with your man. Little things like handholding or going out like you used to can make a world of difference.
Applaud your husband’s skills. Is he a devoted father who goes all out to make sure the children feel loved? If so, let him know! Even if you end the marriage, he will always be your children’s dad and you have some influence to bring out his best.
Does he have a softer side around your children? That same side can be repurposed to rekindle your relationship.
4. Can Your Finances Take the Hit?
Do you really want to shell out money for lawyers when you can invest that into your retirement or kids’ future? Consider the payoff (literally) of resurrecting your marriage rather than burying your bank account.
Sure, there’s always alimony, but even that isn’t what it used to be now that courts are moving toward gender-neutral decisions.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent and reviving your career isn’t the wisest course of action or your paycheck is already stretched to capacity and you can’t afford the higher insurance, taxes, and new furniture post-divorce, give yourself a reality check.
Most divorced couples sell the house and move to much smaller apartments. How willing are you to adjust to a completely different life? There’s no shame in choosing your hope for your family instead of creating a financial struggle.
5. Is the Tradeoff Worth It?
He’s only human. Maybe what he lacks in communication skills, he makes up for in other ways. Work through his (and your) shortcomings together.
As stressful as things are, it could be a temporary situation. Maybe he’s stressed right now because he’s having a hard time at work. Maybe you’re snippy because of a recent health scare or you have too much on your plate to take care of yourself. Use this time to be proactive, not reactive.
What if the man you chose is still in there–and you could get that guy back? Take a walk down memory lane and remember what about him you fell in love with.
Are you really willing to lose the life you’ve built together?
What if you had the skills (or as some women call them, superpowers) to create a different outcome?
Jen says it’s hard to believe her marriage could be better than it ever was, when she was only hoping to avoid divorce. Her husband said he was no longer attracted to her. But once she got the superpowers to turn things around, he started spending devotional time with her AND sexy time too!
6. Do You Still Have Feelings for Him?
Here are some signs your marriage is worth going all in for:
- You find yourself defending your husband when your friends or relatives badmouth him.
- He’s still your go-to guy in times of crisis and celebration. You can’t imagine life without him.
- There’s a hint of that premarital spark. You can recall recent times when he was the man you fell in love with.
- He’s willing to put in the work to save your marriage. He still respects you, consults you about life decisions, and makes a genuine attempt to change when he sees you unhappy.
- You can’t stand him right now, but you want to give your kids the gift of a two-parent home.
I know it’s easy to fantasize that you’ll be better off with someone else or on your own, but chances are that your new life will be built on the quicksand of past mistakes. You alone have the power to save yourself from a lifetime of regret and what if’s.
If you had a magic wand, how would you change things? What if you could get him to respond to you so much better?
What if the reason you’re reading this post is because deep down you feel there is hope for your marriage to improve?
I see your hope, and I raise you that women like you, who value the marriage they’ve created with the imperfect man they have, make the world better.
Marriages are important. And the women who find a way to make their marriages happy and lasting are some of the most courageous women I know.
Of course, it’s not easy to fix a broken marriage. But in my experience, it is worth it not only to avoid divorce but to have the kind of marriage you dreamed you’d have.
By Laura Doyle, New York Times Bestselling Author