Is your marriage in the process of getting derailed? Like a train-wreck about to explode onto the landscape of your already stressful life?
If so, I’m sure you’re feeling worried, scared (if not terrified), angry, threatened, sad, hopeless, and maybe even like a failure.
I’ve got some hope to share with you. So take a deep breath, and set your worries aside for a few minutes. I’m about to show you the emergency brake system (EBS) that will slow down this run-away, marital status-changing train and get your marriage back on a secure track.
Yes, you can a avoid the dreaded Facebook announcement that tells the world that you are now single.
If you’re ready to put in the work to engage the EBS, here are 7 steps that will show you how to save your marriage if divorce seems imminent:
1. Remember…you’re still married.
It ain’t over ‘til the Judge slams down the gavel and declares your marriage dissolved. The process of divorce takes time. Between the first threat of “I want a divorce” to the actual divorce court proceedings, lots can happen. So, if you’re still legally married, let yourself lean into the hope of resolution. Linger in the ah ha of “I’m still married!”
2. Go inward and reflect.
Take yourself on an inner vision quest. Carve out a couple of hours to sit alone so you can organize your own thoughts, feelings, and dreams without the pressure of anyone else’s presence.
Grab a journal and a pen. Then go to your favorite coffee shop, library nook, or a special place in nature.
Make yourself comfortable and do some journaling to get clarity about your marital situation. Write down your answers to the following questions in the order they appear, being as thoughtful, soulful, and thorough as possible:
- What are the current issues and problems in my marriage?
- How do I contribute to these problems?
- If a miracle were to happen, and I could have the ideal relationship with my spouse in the next few months, what would that look like?
- What would it mean to me if I could achieve this ideal relationship?
- How would this ideal relationship benefit the other people I love?
When you complete your journaling, give yourself a high five for creating the opportunity for this reflection and the insights you gleaned.
3. Make a decision to become the change you want to experience in your marriage.
Not a flimsy, I’m-probably-not-gonna-keep-it decision. Make an iron clad commitment that’s capable of starting to put the brakes on the runaway train of your marriage.
Then, go home and start embodying the change that you so desperately want to see in your marriage.
If you’re unsure where to start, your answer to Question B is your starting point. Make a promise within yourself to stop doing these negative things and start doing the opposite.
Here are a few examples to help you become the change you know is needed to save your marriage:
If you’ve been distant, give your spouse a big, warm embrace when you get home, and whisper “I’ve missed you!”
If you’ve been in battle mode for a while, wave the flag of friendliness and simply don’t fight tonight.
Or, if you’ve been focused on all things negative, tell your partner 3 things that he/she is doing right.
4. Act as if you already have your ideal relationship.
I’m not talking about the notion of “fake it ‘til you make it.” What I mean is to start doing those things that you’d naturally be doing if the current state of your relationship was already your ideal.
This is where your answer to Question C comes into play. Right now is when you can start acting as if those habits, qualities, and agreements are already present in your relationship.
So, if in your ideal marriage you have better communication, then ask your spouse some caring, open-ended questions tonight and really listen to the answers. Show empathy by letting them know that you care and understand (or at least really want to understand).
Then reciprocate by sharing openly and vulnerably about your day.
On the other hand, if what you crave is greater closeness and more physical intimacy in your relationship, then offer to give your spouse a back rub with no strings attached.
Enjoy the intimacy of soothing touch. Notice that your hands can’t give physical pleasure without experiencing enjoyment at the same time.
5. Have a discussion with your spouse.
Ask him/her to go out for coffee, a drink, or dinner so that you can have a chance to talk without distractions. Sit across from each other for this conversation. It’s important to be able to look into one another’s eyes and face. This will allow you to read each other’s expressions and body language which will naturally improve your communication.
Gently express your concerns about your marriage.
Talk about the things that you feel have gone wrong, and be sure to emphasize that it took both of you to create the mess you’re in. Don’t accuse or blame your spouse for the problems that have damaged your marriage. It took both of you to get to this place.
Invite your spouse to open up about his/her frustrations and concerns, too. Then listen without getting defensive or judgmental. If you have to bite your tongue, then do that.
Just don’t criticize or argue with your spouse if you want him/her to keep sharing.
6. Emphatically state your desire to stay in this marriage.
Make a clear, direct, and unwavering statement that you want to remain married. Be assertive and actually proclaim what it is that you want. What you most desire.
Don’t just wait to see what your spouse says or does in response.
Instead, do this: Take your spouse’s hand, look right into his/her eyes, and say “_________, I love you and I want to stay married to you.” (Put your spouse’s name in the blank.)
Then let your partner know that you completely understand that you both have a lot of work to do to make things good again.
Tell them that you’re willing to work hard to save your marriage.
Let your partner know that you’ve tapped into some hope for your marriage. And that you believe you can work together to find a solution and create a win-win outcome.
For now, ask your spouse what’s one thing you can do to make him/her feel more loved. Then do it! (As long as it doesn’t violate your integrity).
7. Learn the skills for a successful marriage.
This last step in how to save your marriage if divorce feels imminent is super important. It requires you to invest in your relationship by getting expert help.
Get busy finding the tools, strategies, and skills to fix your marriage problems.
Buy and read books, invest in marriage education courses, and/or find a good marriage therapist to work with.
Face it, you need to find some good resources that will teach you the skills to become a secure and happy couple. Sadly, most of us didn’t learn these skills in school or from our own parents.
It’s the lack of these skills that has gotten you to the point where your marriage is at risk of derailing.
To get you started, here are three books I highly recommend:
Wired For Love by Stan Tatkin, PhD
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, PhD
Just click on the title, invest a few bucks, and start learning how to keep your marriage from running off the rails.
If you’ve already read books about how to save your marriage and you know you need to find a good marriage therapist, I’d be happy to help. Call me at (719) 544-2016 and we can have a brief telephone conversation to come up with the best plan to engage the emergency brake system and put your marriage back on track.