Things look hopeless right now, but the good news is that you are even researching how to get help. Before you call your attorneys…try these last-ditch relationship strategies.
Relationships are difficult all on their own, but add in kids, a mortgage, and work, and two people can find themselves struggling to keep the till death do us part commitment alive. Whether it is a lack of communication, too much stress, or poor coping and fighting skills, being stuck in a marriage that is unhappy, is, well, a miserable way to live! If you have reached a point in your marriage where you are seriously considering saying “I don’t anymore,” there are things you might be able to do to turn things around.
According to the American Psychological Association, the current divorce rate in the United States is about 40 to 50 percent, so you are not alone. But before you throw in the towel and call your attorney, it might be worth one more try to breathe life back into your dissolving marriage before it all breaks apart. Try these seven last-ditch strategies before you file the paperwork.
1. Fix Your Own Issues
Sometimes when we have issues of our own, it is easy to meld them with troubles we might be having in our relationships. If you have an underlying problem that is contributing to your inability to find peace or happiness in your relationships, such as low self-esteem, anger management problems, or even a substance abuse one, stop focusing so much on how bad your relationship is and start focusing on making yourself better, stronger, and more stable.
That adage about not being able to love anyone if you don’t love yourself applies to married people too. Don’t attribute all your problems to your marriage if there are things in your individual life that you need to work on. If you aren’t strong on your own, you can’t stand strong with your mate.
2. Show Extra Care and Concern
Often when things in marriage begin to break down, people start to drift apart. If your marriage has had its fair share of hurts, and resentment has set in, it might be that you are putting up a front and disengaging from your partner. The more that you do, the more they will. And before you know it, you aren’t communicating, you are sleeping on opposite ends of the bed and there is little “warmth” between the two of you.
According to research done by the Gottman Institute, emotional disengagement happens easily when couples do nothing to create a positive environment in their relationship. As Carrie Cole, director of research insists, “When that [emotional disengagement] happens, people feel like they’re just moving further and further apart until they don’t even know each other anymore”.
Just like negativity breeds negativity, positivity breeds a more positive environment. Instead of holding back and trying to protect yourself from rejection or hurt, reach for your partner. Show more affection to them, hug them, even if it seems a little awkward or unusual, and start to really listen and engage in meaningful conversation.
If you are feeling detached, the chances are good that they are too. And two people pulling away is a recipe for the dissolution of a relationship. Before you decide it is over, try reconnecting instead of pulling away and you might see the bond begin to mend.
3. Evaluate if There is Any Reason to Stay Married
If you are reading this, then there is a good chance that you still want your relationship to work. But it is important to evaluate why you want it to work. Are you still in love? Do you feel a deep-seated commitment? Or, perhaps are you afraid of what it will do to your children if you split up? Once you identify why you want to try a last-ditch effort, then you can decide in your heart if it is worth putting in the energy or if it is time to say goodbye.
Only when you know if you are half in or half out can you truly give your decision your heart and go forward 100%. You need to figure out if it is worth trying to repair things or if attempting to move on is a better choice. There was something that you feel in love with, to begin with, and made you decide that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with your partner. Likely, that person is still inside. But is that first love enough to salvage what you have and do you even want to?
4. Try Marriage Counseling
When a relationship gets to the point where you are considering divorcing, there is probably a huge disconnect in the way that you relate and how you communicate with one another. Often, what people say, and what we hear, aren’t always the same. And if you are already having negative feelings about your relationship, then you might be hearing things with certain assumptions that may or may not be true. Research shows that communication style is more important than stressful life situations, personality styles or even commitment levels. Couples who have communication patterns that are negative, hostile or angry, have the highest risk of divorcing.
A marriage counselor can be similar to a mediator or even to a translator. They can often help to strip away the emotion and hurt feelings that might be stopping you and your mate from effectively talking to one another in a way that is understood and not misinterpreted. When you have a third party clarify what is being said, it is much easier to see the reality of a situation instead of what you think it is.
Also if the rules of fighting have broken down and you are both crossing boundaries that are unhealthy, a marriage counselor can help to provide you both with better ways to argue. That way your disagreements won’t lead to a shouting match where no one is listening. Or, worse yet, where you are both continually tearing open the wounds of the past. When you do that, it is like two people walking around feeling raw and hurt. And if you feel that way, a simple argument can get out of control really easily, which only creates a cyclical pattern.
5. Stop Comparing Your Marriage
Jealousy is a natural human emotion. And when things aren’t going exactly as you want them to it is easy to look to other people and compare what they have against what you think you do. The problem with comparing yourself with someone else is that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s world.
If you assume that everyone else has this amazing marriage that you don’t, then you don’t recognize what you do have. The grass truly is always greener on the other side. All those couples who you admire might not be as admirable as you think or even be what you want for your relationship. When you compare yourself to others, it only makes you feel negative about what you believe you don’t have, whether it is the truth or not.
6. Try to Have a Non-Defensive Conversation About Your Problems
Marriages that are in trouble have recurring themes or arguments that can make people feel as if they are on a rollercoaster that just keeps going around and around. The only way to get off the rollercoaster is to choose to exit. Whatever it is that you can’t seem to agree on, you either have to try to come to some understanding or accept that things are the way they are.
For example, if you are upset that your husband never seems to spend any time with you, your continual harping on his lack of time is probably pushing him away even further. Whatever the issue is, go to your partner and discuss how you feel in a non-defensive manner. When you approach it non-defensively, you are more likely to come to a compromise or resolution.
Use defensive language like “you aren’t ever home” or “you don’t care” is likely to shut your partner down immediately. And once they shut down, there is no room for negotiation. Once they have left the conversation emotionally, there is none. Approach the problem with a statement of how you feel, not what they are doing wrong. If you do, then it is more likely that you will reach a compromise.
And if you can’t find common ground, then it might be necessary to let it go, forgive and move past it. Forgiveness is the key to moving forward. And if you or your partner can’t forgive and let go, then there is no way to repair your relationship.
7. Accept Your Partner for Who They Are
Who wouldn’t like the perfect wife or husband? Unfortunately, there is no such thing. If you tend to focus only on the negative traits of your partner and try to “fix” them instead of accepting them, it is going to sound to your mate as if you want to change who they are. And, in case you don’t know, you can’t change other people. But your acceptance of them positively or negatively will have a bearing on your relationship.
If you learn to accept the imperfection in your mate, you might find a deeper understanding and not get so hurt or angry when they do something predictably “them”. After all, we are all creatures of habit. If you accept that your mate is going to do things that you don’t like, and it probably is not to make you mad or with the intent to upset you, accepting those things that we don’t like about them are much easier to accept.
When things aren’t going so well, negativity can breed negativity in a marriage. If you are looking for last-ditch ways to save your marriage, the first thing to do is evaluate what makes you want to. And if you decide that it is something you are willing to throw effort into saving, try these seven ways to turn things around.
Marriage is hard work, and it can become even harder when things aren’t going well. But instead of throwing in the towel, try one last time to be “all in” and to make those changes that might make the difference.
If you are reading this, then there is a good chance that something is holding you together, the key is to find the bond and strengthen it. If you feel as if you have tried everything and are at a loss, then it might be time to work with a marriage counselor to try to get things back on track and moving in a positive direction. A counselor might help you both to see things that you are incapable of right now. And they might be the very things that are keeping you at odds.