Most married couples have at least some issues. Sometimes, those issues grow so severe and so complicated it becomes apparent the marriage may no longer be able to last. Is it possible to save a failing marriage here? Or is all hope lost?
Important Actions to Take Initially
Before doing anything else, you should take the following actions:
- Evaluate your risk (and get help if you’re in danger). Take a moment to evaluate your potential risk. Has your spouse physically assaulted you in the past? Have they threatened any physical violence against you? Have they exhibited any emotionally abusive behaviors, such as frequently screaming at you or preventing you from contacting other important people in your life? If you feel threatened in any way, there are organizations that can help you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or seek another form of help immediately, and remove yourself from this situation.
- Acknowledge the possibility of divorce. Even if you like the idea of salvaging the relationship and eventually rebuilding it, you need to acknowledge divorce as a possibility. If you can’t work things out, you’ll need to contact a divorce attorney and talk about your options.
- Start collecting data and evidence. It’s also a good idea to start collecting data and evidence. For example, how much money do you have in your shared accounts? Has your spouse sent you any revealing communications, such as admitting to an affair or verbally abusing you? This information will be indispensable in your divorce proceedings, so the sooner you start collecting it, the better.
Saving a Failing Marriage
Let’s return to our optimistic viewpoint now. It is possible to save a failing marriage, as long as both parties want to.
- Initiate a serious conversation. The first step to “saving” a marriage is having a conversation. It won’t be an easy conversation, nor will it be a straightforward one, but both of you need to be open and honest about your thoughts and feelings. If you’re not used to openly communicating, or if one of you is emotionally underdeveloped, this may be exceptionally difficult.
- Be direct. Be direct with your thoughts, feelings, and needs. Explicitly express what your problems with the relationship are and what will need to change if you’re going to move forward with the relationship.
- Listen. Even if you imagine your spouse as being the root of all the relationship’s problems, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and their participation in this relationship. Accordingly, it’s important for you to sit back and listen to what they have to say as well.
- Identify what needs to be changed or fixed. Together, you should both acknowledge what needs to be changed or fixed in the relationship for it to be successful moving forward. What are your requirements and how can those requirements be met?
- Put together a plan. Finally, put together an action plan for how to make those changes. Most changes that can fix a relationship are complicated and take a long time to develop, so identify some milestones and smaller goals to hit along the way.
When Can a Failing Marriage No Longer Be Saved?
At what point can a failing marriage no longer be saved?
- When one party refuses to compromise. Good relationships are built on compromise. There are two people in this relationship, and those people come from very different backgrounds, have very different perspectives, and probably have different wants and needs. There’s no such thing as a relationship where both people are identical in these ways, so no matter what, both parties are going to have to compromise. If one party refuses to compromise or cooperate, there can be no path forward.
- When your values are totally and irreparably misaligned. Some failing marriages can’t be saved simply because the values of each party in that relationship are irreparably and totally misaligned. For example, if one partner wants a child and the other partner never wants children, it’s going to be practically impossible for both partners to be happy in this relationship moving forward.
- When one party pledges to change/improve, but doesn’t. A marriage may also fail if one party pledges to make changes or improvements, but neglects to follow through on that pledge. For example, they may vow to never cheat again, or stop drinking alcohol, or end their gambling habit – but revert back to their old habits in a matter of days.
Not every marriage is salvageable, but you also shouldn’t throw in the towel just because you’re having some significant disagreements. Most marriages can be saved if both parties are willing to work together and compromise to save them.
You should only give up if there aren’t any clear options forward for either one of you.