Don’t Divorce On a Friday: 7 Ways to Save Your Marriage
- Dr. David B. Hawkins Director, The Marriage Recovery Center
- 2010 2 Jun
Your mate tells you they don't love you anymore, asking for time to "find" themselves. Maybe you've just traced the clues leading to finding your mate has been having an affair. Maybe you're well past an immediate crisis, and now face an impending court date legally ending your marriage.
Wait. Slow down. Unless you stop and consider everything, you may begin a downhill slide that can pull your marriage even further out of control. Even though your situation appears hopeless, and you feel incredibly helpless, there are things you can do to save your marriage.
While the stats may be alarming, many marriages can be saved. You don't need to stand by, helplessly riding an emotional roller coaster, bracing for the next brick wall. You can take control of your life.
I make this audacious statement because I've seen hundreds of marriages saved by taking certain identifiable actions, and likewise I've seen many make matters worse by taking equally identifiable actions. If you will take the time to learn these patterns, you place yourself in a powerful position to change the direction of your marriage.
So, the obvious question is, "What are those identifiable actions?" Even asking this question means you are ready to stop and consider where you are and how you got there. You are ready to allow this crisis to become an opportunity for growth, taking these powerful steps to save a marriage on the brink of divorce. No matter what stage of disrepair your marriage is in, these steps—one for every day of the week—are powerful. Take one, each day of the week, and repeat as needed.
Here we go...
Don't use ANY coercive actions, including arguments, persuasion, Scripture or other means, to talk your mate into staying in the marriage. Yes, this goes against natural inclinations. When threatened we want to browbeat our mate into staying in the marriage. We use statistics, persuasion, coercion and even Scripture to implore them to stay. However, this doesn't work and in fact turns our mate off and pushes them further away. They will run from such intense, harmful action.
Do offer your loving presence and accept it if your mate feels the need to leave the marriage. Be respectful, kind and gentle with them, perhaps even empathizing with their desire to leave. Be stable, predictable and safe as they wrestle with their feelings, occasionally letting them know your desire is to save your marriage and will take remediable action to do so.
Don't set boundaries you are not ready to enforce. Don't make idle threats. Don't tell them you will inform their family, employer and neighbors about their actions. Again, this only pushes them away. They will feel your manipulation and resent it. This "nasty," desperate side only gives them more reason to leave.
Do set boundaries. If your mate doesn't want to stay, encourage them to leave. You must feel their intent to heal your marriage, and if they cannot offer it, they must leave. Let them know you must be treated with dignity, and if they cannot do that, it is best that they do leave. This show of self-respect will make a powerful statement to your mate.
Don't enlist family members, friends or other acquaintances to take up an offense against your mate. This makes a powerful statement to your mate—that they are wrong and their actions shameful. If you really believe they are this ‘bad,' and gather others into your corner, they will want to be away from you all the more. Such actions only make reconciliation more difficult and breed resentment in your mate.
Do get support. Tell friends and family you need their love and support, but don't need them to become angry and resentful toward your mate. Find a few key people whom you can trust to share your innermost feelings.
Don't ask for reassurances. This shows neediness and excessive dependency. Don't talk about the future, again showing respect for your mate's choices.
Do make plans for your future as you learn to live for a time with uncertainty. Stay active in things that bring you strength and joy. Remain active in church, getting plenty of sleep, exercise and maintaining healthy nutrition. Convey to your mate that although you will miss them terribly, you will survive.
Don't sit around waiting for your spouse. Don't act as if your life depends completely on your mate. This gives your mate have an unhealthy sense of power.
Do keep yourself strong, attractive and outgoing. You want to put your best foot forward, using every opportunity to make a positive impression. Every situation counts. Every encounter, even if few and far between, makes an impression.
Don't get pulled into an argument. Don't respond or react to "story starters," where your mate talks negatively about you or your marriage. It takes two to fight, and if you refuse, they stand arguing with themselves.
Do acknowledge your mate's feelings while not conceding to their content. Do note that you don't see things the same as your mate, and leave it at that. Do seek opportunities to have positive conversations with them.
Don't give up. This is a marathon, not a sprint. While your situation may seem critical, you have plenty of time to turn things around. Do develop a Game Plan and stick with it. Day after day, situation after situation, you have many opportunities to make deposits into the Love Bank. Old memories of past challenges will be replaced by new memories. Step by step, "pulling weeds and planting seeds," you can grow a new, beautiful garden. When your mate looks back, you will be standing there in a position of self-respect.
These critical steps—one for each day of the week—in addition to some you may want to add yourself, are a powerful combination, leading to a corrective emotional experience. Used together, these actions convey a sense of self-restraint, self-confidence and optimism and have the power to keep your marriage far from Divorce Court.
Let me know how these strategies work, or share other ideas for ministering to your mate. Please feel free to email me at [email protected].
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.