Each year, just in America alone, nearly 1 million marriages end in divorce. This really is an incredible number! Think about how many people are affected by that? It’s not just those who are married… It’s their children, their families, their friends… Everyone around you is impacted by separation and divorce.
The question that I constantly ask myself, as a Marriage Therapist, is how many of those marriages could have been saved if those involved had been given the right information, tools and resources? While some marriages, even if they try marriage counselling (working through relationship problems, or mediation), just can’t be saved! But I must say that I believe that the number of marriages that really can’t be saved is far far FAR FEWER than most people believe.
It’s easy to walk away from a marriage if it’s not working. And, unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many people walk away from marriages that I believe could have been helped and made into amazingly satisfying relationships if only they were given the right tools and strategies.
To leave a marriage is an enormous and difficult decision to make and it’s a very sad realisation to think you may be at this point in your relationship. And, if you are, I’m sure you’re thinking, “can my marriage be saved?”
While I can’t tell you for sure if your marriage can be saved (my crystal ball just isn’t working today), if I could answer that with no doubt and be right every time, I’d be a very wealthy man. But I can tell you this:
If your marriage is in trouble and you do nothing about it, then it is more likely to fail than if you actively do something about it!
And I can also give you four simple steps that you can start today… that will move you onto the path of saving your marriage! But while I say that the steps are “simple.” This doesn’t mean that they’ll be “easy.” These steps are not necessarily easy. They will take you out of your comfort zone and they may be hard for you to do… But often the important things in life take a little bit of work to achieve.
Here are the 4 steps:
1) Stop Playing the Blame Game
Stop blaming your spouse and also stop blaming yourself. This is the first step you need to take to start… because marriages get stuck into a constant repeating pattern of blame that often immobilizes any possibility of progress.
Blame is our way of avoiding seeing ourselves clearly. It takes our power away and stops us from being able to make changes. It’s much easier to point the finger somewhere else and say “It’s their fault”. But in marriage, you can just as easily turn that pointing finger on yourself and place the blame there, saying “it’s all my fault.”
Unfortunately, blame actually feels good in the short-term. We get to feel “right”. Or, if we’re pointing the finger at ourselves, we get to feel bad and take on a “poor me” mentality. In the long term, however, blame on any level prevents any shift or change. So, even if you can make a long list of why you or your spouse should be blamed, forget it. And even if there’s evidence of truth in that list, blaming will never help you put your marriage back together. Blame is absolutely the fuel of the fire that creates divorces.
2) Decide what you can do and take responsibility
Start by deciding that you CAN do something… Change always begins with one person! If you’re waiting for your spouse to change, then underneath that, you’re still playing the blame game! Remember, taking responsibility does not mean taking the blame. And being willing to do something to create the change also doesn’t mean that you’re the one who was at fault.
Instead, choose to say “I want to change… I can do things differently, and I’m starting right now!” A good start is to choose to catch yourself whenever you find yourself “reacting” when your spouse pushes your buttons… What buttons do you allow your spouse to push? What buttons do you push with your spouse? Decide not to allow those buttons to be pushed any more. And make a conscious effort to stop pushing your spouse’s buttons.
What constantly amazes me in my counselling sessions is that most people have an idea of what they should be doing or not doing. But when I ask them about it, they tell me that it’s just “too hard to change”. It sure is if you’re not willing to get out of your current comfort zone. Don’t be caught in that. Decide that you will take action.
The difference between blame and responsibility is this: if I am in a burning building, I can stand around trying to figure out who started the blaze, why it has spread so quickly, and who I am going to sue when it is over (blame), or I can get myself and anyone else I can out of that building (taking responsibility). When a marriage is in trouble, the house is on fire. How will you take action to save the marriage?
3) Get great resources from experts
In most situations, we’re too close to a situation to really solve it for ourselves. We need to build new skills that will help us to take different actions, rather than hoping that what we already know will some how fix our problems. Often a great solution requires a whole new level of thinking. And that’s what you can get from an outside expert; someone with a fresh perspective.
Do your research on local counsellors and relationship self-help books and resources and sort the wheat from the chaff. Be cautious about what’s available as there are some books and so-called experts out there that really won’t do much more than help you stay stuck in your problems or your situation.
When researching relationship tools, make sure you trust the source of the materials or you’ve been recommended the resources from a trusted person.
If you’re located in Brisbane, Australia you can experience face-to-face life-changing help with me. Book in to get amazing relationship help today!
Not in Brisbane, Australia? Then book into a Couples Counselling session via Skype with me. Book in online today!
One thing I also recommend is that if you go to a therapist to help your relationship and find after a few sessions that person just isn’t helping you or you’re not seeing much change or learning much about how to change your relationship, then don’t give up or assume therapy doesn’t work. You may have just not found the right therapist for you. Shop around for another therapist and try and speak with them directly so you can ask them how they work and what makes them different to other therapists.
4) Take action now!
It’s easy to be paralyzed by a situation… The longer we wait, the harder it is to change. Like taking any challenging action, such as jumping into a cold pool, the longer you wait, the more you think about it (without taking action) the harder it is to do it. More damage is done by doing nothing.
Sometimes, just doing something “different” will create an amazingly new and better situation.
It is not enough to simply understand what’s causing the problem. If I had a dime for every time a couple came into my office thinking that if they could understand where the problem came from, it would fix itself. Wrong! In fact, understanding where it came from is much much less important than taking action!
Will your marriage be saved? I can’t say yes or no right now… But if you follow the steps above and take actions towards what you want, rather than away from what you don’t like, you will have significantly more possibility to save your marriage than if you do nothing.
If there is one thing I urge you NOT to do is do nothing! Sitting there expecting it to get better on its own or expecting that your partner will fix it is extremely unlikely to work for you and your relationship. Take positive actions today so you can give your marriage the best chance possible to returning to that amazing relationship you so deserve.