Believe it or not, many couples are just trying to make it through the holidays before filing for divorce. Nothing they have tried is working, so they assume divorce is the answer.
Most people believe it takes two dedicated partners to salvage a troubled marriage. Michele Weiner-Davis, internationally-known relationship expert and author of the best-selling book Divorce Busting, disagrees. If just one partner is willing to change, she believes there is hope for the marriage.
“Many marriages currently headed down the road to divorce can be saved,” says Weiner-Davis. “Even marriages where only one person is really invested in saving the marriage and the other person is out the door, having an affair or emotionally gone, there is hope.
“Research shows that the primary complaints leading to divorce are not physical abuse or addiction, but rather, lack of communication, lack of affection, and nagging. I’ve grown increasingly convinced that most marriages are worth saving simply because most problems are solvable.”
Weiner-Davis explains that many individuals want their spouse to change but don’t realize that changing their own actions can transform the relationship.
“Based on what I have experienced with couples on the verge of divorce, if just one person in the relationship will work on recognizing and changing their behavior, the dynamics surrounding the relationship change and there is a good chance the relationship can work,” she says.
- Describe your goal without focusing on what your spouse is doing wrong. When problem-solving efforts fail, stop and reassess the situation. Instead of recognizing that a particular problem-solving method isn’t working, spouses often assume they were unclear and intensify the same strategy. In a heated situation, ask yourself, “What is the goal here?” Then ask, “Will what I am about to do bring me closer to the goal?” If not, change your strategy. For example, instead of talking, try writing it down.
- Identify what works and focus on that. While you may not agree with or be exactly like your spouse, you should understand your spouse’s needs. Give what he/she needs whether you like it or not.
- Celebrate small changes in behavior and attitude.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest for the trees. Choose a marriage-friendly counselor.
- Forgive and try to laugh. Harboring anger leads to bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness and laughter can encourage healing in individuals and couples.
"If things are truly on the brink, one of the most common things people who want to save their marriages do is to beg, plead, cry, argue, threaten - all of which is doomed to fail,” Weiner-Davis says. “The first thing you have to do to increase the odds that your marriage will last beyond New Year's is to STOP CHASING. Stop debating. Stop begging. Take a deep breath and focus on ways to calm yourself. The more you chase, the more your spouse will withdraw."
Marriage is not always easy, but don’t lose hope. Many despondent marriages have survived because of one partner’s commitment. It may take a long time, but studies show that the benefits are worth the wait – even if one partner has to work a little harder to save the relationship.