Have you ever thought or said these words?
I just can’t take it anymore... We’ve grown apart... I love you as a friend, but I’m not in love with you anymore... You aren’t the person I married... Things change.
The crazy thing is, many happily married people also experience some of these feelings. It's true. Sometimes you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Other times you may feel distant to your spouse. Over time, mates do change.
But do all these things have to shake the very foundation of your marriage? The answer is NO.
What makes it possible for first-time marriages to survive?
Marriage experts have found that couples who make their marriage work decide up front that divorce is not an option. Although many couples who choose to divorce have challenges, their marriage probably could have been saved and in the long run been a happy one. Their fatal error in the relationship was leaving their options open. If the going got too tough, in their mind, divorce was always a way out.
You might be surprised to find this out, but research shows that divorce does not make you happier.
Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages, conducted by the Institute for American Values, found that:
Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married.
Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses.
Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships.
2 out of 3 unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.
The bottom line is, you have to make a decision to stay at the table and be committed to making the marriage work. Here are some things to help you keep the vow: "until death do us part.”
Learn skills to help keep your marriage on track. Research continues to show that couples who learn how to talk to each other, resolve conflict, manage their money, have appropriate expectations of the marriage, and build intimacy are significantly more likely to keep their marriage on track over time.
Understand that the grass may look greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it. On the surface someone may look better than the one you are with, but in truth, even beautiful sod eventually has onions, crabgrass and clover if you don't properly care for it. In most cases, people who have jumped the fence will testify that the grass is not greener, just different.
Learn how to resolve conflict without threatening to leave the marriage. All couples have spats. Some yell; others talk things through. The common denominator for couples who keep their marriage on track is learning how to disagree with the best of them, but leaving the marriage is never an option.
Stop using divorce as a crutch. Instead of throwing in the towel when the going gets tough, consider it a challenge to learn as much as you can about your mate and how you can effectively deal with adversity. Intentionally choose to love the one you're with.
Keep the big picture perspective. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. One woman described her 65-year marriage to a group of young people. She shared about seven years throughout the 65-year span that were really bad due to work conditions, children, lack of time together, the husband's out of town job for a couple of years, etc. In the end, she asked herself, “Would I really want to trade 58 good years for seven bad years?” The answer was a resounding "No!" All marriages experience trials and tough moments. Don’t trade years of history for a couple of bad months or tough years.
Make a plan for your marriage. Going into marriage without a plan is like playing a football game without memorizing the playbook. If you want to win, you'll have team meetings, set goals, learn and relearn skills, learn how to lead and follow, and share responsibilities. And, you both need a copy of the playbook.
If you want a “til death do us part” marriage, you must learn the plays so you can execute them correctly and prepare to adapt in different situations. That takes time. When you understanding that there will be occasional setbacks, you can move toward the goal line and even score a few touchdowns. Teammates block for each other, throw the ball to one another, help each other up, and encourage perseverance when the going gets tough.
It has been said that individuals win games, but teamwork wins championships. So, make it your goal to have a championship marriage.