So how was Christmas for you? Are you all misty-eyed from a wonderful and magical Christmas with your spouse or was it the most stressful and unhappy time you can remember and you’re desperate to put it behind you? If you were struggling with your marriage before the holiday season, January may have pushed emotions and feelings to breaking point. This is a very common time of year for couples to split, as a terrible Christmas followed by a New Year’s resolution of ‘never again’ can strike a double emotional blow to a troubled relationship.
However, breaking-up and getting divorced is an enormous step and one that it’s not wise to rush into. There may still be a lot of mileage in your relationship, if only you knew which route to take!
Here are a few tips to help you reflect on whether your marriage can be saved before you begin the divorce process:
- Seek professional help: Your marriage is not the first one or the only one to reach a crisis point and relationship professionals may have insights that can help you see things differently, or make necessary changes. It’s hard to see from the inside what these might be, and many couples find that they fall into old and unhelpful patterns during a crisis and may be so tired of this that a permanent split feels inevitable. Seeking relationship guidance or marriage counselling can be a massive help in bringing you back together. Whether it’s identifying the trouble spots, setting the rules for fair fighting, helping you recover your marital vision or giving you a new perspective on old issues, working with a professional can be just what you both need to start again, and get it right.
- Can you devote your time and energy as a couple to ‘rebalancing’ your marriage? Often separation occurs because the relationship has lost its balance. Successful marriages strike a healthy balance between ‘your own time’ and ‘together time.’ In other words, each of you need to be able to spend quality time with friends and family or pursue individual hobbies and enjoyable activities away from your partner. This ensures that both of you feel valued and fulfilled on your own terms and in ways that bring you both a high degree of personal satisfaction. However, this needs to be balanced with quality time together working on mutual interests and projects. These ‘couples’ activities draw you closer together and give you common experiences to share and remember.
- Are you both willing to make a pact to start over? The most important starting point if you are giving it one more try is to agree as a couple to intentionally start again. A pact takes two people. You can’t agree with yourself to start over. You’ve heard the expression, “It takes two to tango.” That’s because it does! You’ll look foolish dancing by yourself! Both of you need to be able to articulate that you are starting over fresh. Remember when you were dating, or when you first fell in love? Choose to ‘see’ your marriage from a new perspective.
- Agree not to keep track of your spouse’s past wrongs: A very important aspect of your pact if you’re both willing ‘to give it one more try’ is to ‘forgive and forget’ the past. This may be the hardest thing to achieve, but it is probably the most important things to work on. In marriages where there has been infidelity, deceit or addiction, it can be devastating. Forgiving doesn’t mean that the bad behaviour is condoned, or that it will be acceptable if repeated. The key to success is to discuss the problems of the past, and decide as a couple how to avoid repeating them. Take responsibility for your own part in your partner’s wrongs too, as hard as that may seem. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Taking some time to step back and see if there’s anything you can do to save your marriage will prevent you making a rash decision that you might later regret. Knowing that you gave it your ‘best shot’ will be of some comfort in years to come.
Regrettably though, sometimes divorce is the only option. It might be that it’s your spouse’s decision and they’re not prepared to consider reconciliation. If and when you reach that decision, it’s really important to make sure that you take legal advice and don’t bury your head in the sand. In addition to taking legal advice, it’s also very important to consider how you’re going to manage the emotional and practical side of divorce. Have a look at my site www.haveapositivedivorce.com for free articles and advice from everything from co-parenting to dating after divorce, and wherever you’re at right now with your situation, remember that you’re not alone and there is help at hand.
Janet Murray BA, DipM Master Prac NLP is a Master NLP practitioner and coach who’s passionate about helping fulfill their potential personally and professionally. The author of two books on divorce and relationship strategies, she established www.haveapositivedivorce.com to help people through the emotional and practical side of divorce.