A healthy marriage takes work. There’s no questioning that. It requires balancing schedules, maintaining a home, and dividing and conquering whatever life throws your way. And when you add kids into the mix, dealing with all of that can become a full-time job. Maintaining your marriage can quickly slip into a need to save your marriage. Or at least, it feels quick. Like most things in life, we see most of the signs only in hindsight.
Even though a marriage takes work, when it feels like that’s all you ever do, it can start to feel like there is no hope for the two of you—and living in that place is another sort of scary. Surrendering to those feelings and giving up on your marriage may seem like the right thing to do. And in the end, it may be. But one last-ditch effort is almost always worth it.
After all, once you let go of the resentment and make room for true healing, there may still be a spark there. Will you regret exploring some ways to turn that spark into a flame? It’s pretty doubtful. Trying to save your marriage is well worth your time and energy.
Here are 7 common last-ditch efforts to save your marriage when divorce appears to be on the horizon.
1. Slow down
Stop talking about divorce, and focus on saving your marriage. In fact, go even further and try your best to stop thinking about divorce too. It’s like that saying about having your feet in two boats—you’re bound to fall into deep waters.
When things get bad in a marriage, couples tend to jump straight to talk about divorce. When your mindset is changed and you’re focused on how to save your marriage, your attention shifts to fixing the source of your problems instead of simply walking away from them.
2. Go to counseling
If you haven’t tried counseling, it’s worth giving it a go. The key is to find a counselor who both you and your husband* feel comfortable with. Otherwise, your sessions will feel one-sided.
Another crucial thing to remember about counseling is that you just don’t go to the sessions and leave with all of your problems solved. Counseling gives you the tools you need to work on your marriage outside of each session. You need to go into it with that understanding. If the two of you have been doing well with counseling, that’s a great sign that you can overcome whatever it is that you’re dealing with, but those results must eventually extend to your everyday life.
3. Acknowledge your partner’s dreams
A lot of marriages fall apart because one person feels like they are constantly making sacrifices. Find out what your husband really wants to achieve in life and help him go after it, or if it’s you who’s feeling this way, find a way to voice your wants and needs.
Whether it’s dreams of being a painter or building handmade furniture, help each other carve out some time and chase that dream. The alternative is a lot of anger and resentment. Make sure that’s not the case in your marriage. And if you find that you’re already there, work toward balancing the load.
4. A romantic getaway
Sometimes all you need is a romantic trip to reignite the flame in your marriage. It may seem like a quick fix, but the truth is that a change of perspective really can work wonders. That’s not to say that one trip can save your marriage, of course, but the time away from “the real world” can make problems that seemed too big to conquer less daunting. It can remind you that there are other ways to live, and it may not be your marriage that isn’t serving you.
5. Say anything session
A “say anything” session might be a great way to get all your cards out on the table. Simply set the ground rules—what you say at this session stays at this session. You must talk it through during the meeting and resolve it. After that, it all becomes water under the bridge.
Another important thing about say anything sessions—though you likely guessed this already—is that you can say whatever you want. You don’t have to hold back. While it’s good to be able to say what you’re thinking, be prepared to listen too. Really listening is vital because the end goal is to make changes that will benefit both of you.
Ideally, you will both learn to communicatively more effectively over time and no longer need these sessions, but in the meantime, they can help open up a dialogue between you and your husband.
6. Change the victim mindset
A lot of divorces occur because one partner continually feels like the victim of the other partner’s choices. Your husband has a gambling problem, for instance, or they’re addicted to video games. Or maybe you shop too much. One partner has chosen a career that’s led to financial setbacks or that takes too much time away from your relationship. (Money is typically a common reason for divorce and relationship problems in general.) Someone’s mother is around a lot or her say pulls too much weight in decisions.
Whatever it is, one important thing to remember in any relationship is that you are responsible for your own emotions. No one can make you feel a particular way. Your perspective is yours. And you can choose the way you frame your particular challenges in your mind and how you choose to tackle them, together.
7. A short break
Sometimes taking a week or so to sort through your feelings can be another excellent way to put things into perspective. But before you take a break, make sure you establish a realistic time frame. It’s not a separation—it’s just a short break, so it should only be a few days. And it should, ideally, end with some sort of epiphany. The goal is to take some time and sort through your feelings. It’s not about taking a vacation.
Marriage is hard work. But if you make the commitment, it’s because you loved your husband enough to spend the rest of your life with him. That also has to mean it’s worth your time and energy to explore ways to save your marriage and make it last.
Of course, if you find that you still can’t stop thinking about getting a divorced, maybe you really are overthinking leaving your husband and beyond saving your marriage. If that sounds like you, consider working with a divorce coach to help you make the decision that’s right for you and your family. Counseling, romantic getaways—sometime none of it is enough in the end, and we need to be around women who’ve been here, in this in-between place, before us to know which path to take on the journey ahead.
Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to support them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce.
SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women
*At SAS for Women, we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.