Have you ever felt like your marriage was on the brink of divorce? I've been on the brink of divorce myself and I had no clue what to do to save my marriage. Fortunately, my wife and I worked through it and we recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. I'm writing this post to share seven ways to step back from the brink of divorce, in hopes of helping just one couple begin to save their marriage.
Here we go:
1) Stop blaming your spouse.
I would often say to myself, "when" my wife changes, "then" our marriage would be better. This was killing my marriage because I was focusing more on her behavior than my own. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church recently talked about the trap of a "when, then" line of thinking in his current "The Habits of Happiness" series.
2) Start doing what is yours to do.
Focusing only on my spouse's behavior kept me from focusing on the one thing I could control which was my behavior. Over time I stopped making excuses and began to makes changes in my behavior, like being more present in the moments I spent with my wife and my daughters instead of staring at my iPhone for dear life.
3) Give yourself a neck up check up.
When I was on the brink of divorce, frankly, my attitude sucked. I was sad and afraid and this showed up in my daily interactions with my wife (and my children). As soon as I began to think and act more positively, my wife would do the same. Being positive brings hope.
4) Don't compare your marriage to others.
I'd notice friends and other married couples having fun together and wonder how come my marriage wasn't like theirs. I remember watching an episode of Oprah where she made a point that I'll always remember, "While a house may look great on the outside you never know what's really going on inside."
5) Go talk with a professional.
Family and friends were a good source of support, but I saw real growth when I worked with a professional therapist. My therapist listened but held me accountable. She also helped me see the role that I was playing in the downward spiral of my marriage. Even if you've tried therapy and it didn't work, some therapists are better for you than others. Keep trying. Choose a therapist who both you and your spouse respect. A good resource for locating a therapist is the Gottman Institute.
6) Remember the best moments.
I married my wife because she had many great qualities that I loved and respected. As the years flipped by, I forgot about her awesome attributes. I took for granted what made me fall in love with my wife, and all the wonderful moments we shared together. I decided to recall the many good times we had together and it made me appreciate her more.
7) Forgive yourself.
I've made quite a few mistakes in my marriage. I often used to beat myself up about it. I love The Avengers but I realize I'm no superhero. I'm going to make mistakes and I do my best to learn from them. I have forgiven myself because I believe that marriage is mostly about growth and growth requires change and change often comes with pain.
These seven things helped me step back from the brink of divorce. I truly hope that this helps you, too.
Good luck. You can do this.
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