Can I Save My Marriage?
Because I am a
woman, and I' have been through a divorce, I'm writing this for women.
Most of this article is based on my personal experience and knowledge gained from over five years of working with a divorce recovery group and with The Beginning Experience, and from therapy with various counselors and ministers. Some of it is based on personal experience with my divorce. A lot is based on stories from other women. Take what you need from this, but please don't think that I'm a trained counselor or an expert. This is not advice. I'm just writing this to share my knowledge and experience, and to try to help you get through a bad time.
Trying to Fix the Marriage
First, I would like to say that if a marriage can be saved, I am all for that happening. I wish there were some magic words a person could use to fix a marriage and heal the pain and make it as good as it was when it began (assuming it began with strong commitment and love). Unfortunately, things happen along the way in a marriage to sour it. People can go through rough times and survive, but only if both people are committed and love is still there.
If both people still love each other, are having trouble, and still want to try to keep the marriage together, there is hope. It may not be easy, but it can be done. Marriage counseling might be necessary, and both people will need to be willing to make changes concerning things that are causing problems. You can't play the Blame Game. You will have to be mature enough to admit your failures and wrong-doings. You will have to see your part in the marriage not working. Most of all, you will both need to embrace new behaviors and work together. Finally, you must be willing to forgive and forget.
Sometimes people think that nothing will save the marriage. Things may have gone so far downhill that they almost hate their life and the person they are married to. Just know that sometimes you think that "the grass is always greener" on the other side. It might not be. If you go to the other side and try it and it isn't greener, it may be too late to return. Think carefully about making that decision.
If both people still love each other, then PLEASE exhaust all possibilities before you stop trying and seek a divorce. Make a commitment to try to make it work unless there are horrible mitigating circumstances. By this I mean physical abuse, criminal actions, or a number of other things that make staying married to a person impossible such as drug or alcohol addiction. If it is just that you are unhappy, I would say try to fix the problems in your marriage and see if you can rekindle what you once had.
There are many avenues a couple can take if you want to try. First of all, I do recommend finding a good counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist. I recommend you both to go, at first together, then separately if the professional recommends it. I guarantee that changes will need to be made by one or both people if what you have been doing is not working. Many marriages that have gone sour can be healed with hard work, and especially with commitment. There may have to be a lot of forgiveness, especially if one has been having an affair. The person having the affair will have to make a personal commitment to find out why he or she sought out another person, and to realize that what they have done is wrong. The spouse must be able to trust that is will not happen again. They both must realize that adultery cannot be a part of their life if they want to be committed to their spouse.
If all avenues fail, then there comes a time during a bad marriage when you have to move out of denial and accept reality.
Please know that
most of the examples given below do not belong to me and my situation.
Many of them I was made aware of from other people going through divorces,
and from other people in the divorce groups that I facilitated with BE
and DRW. While every story is different, there are many similar situations
and incidences with divorce.
Hopefully everyone who goes into
a marriage believes it will last forever, else why bother ever getting
married. It is a shallow person who gets married and thinks, "Well,
if I get tired of him/her, I can justs leave." Most of us believe
in the fairy tale, at least once.
decided to write this page after finding
notes that I had taken years ago from (of all things) a soap opera! I
must confess that I've watched "General Hospital" for years.
I record it and watch it when I get in from work. This particular program
aired (so my notes say) on September 24, 1993, about a year and a half
after we separated and while I was still very much grieving and depressed.
It must have meant enough to me to have written down the dialogue. After
reading it again today, I realize that these words had a profound meaning
Text of a portion of "General Hospital":
Sutton (who later became Holly Scorpio) was talking to Richard Halifax
said,"You mean you would have preferred to have lived the rest of
your life wondering, "What if?"
End of Text.
Text of a portion of "Las Vegas"
Ed Deline (played
by James Caan) was talking to Danny McCoy (played by Josh Duhamel) on
a recent rerun (the series was canceled after the 2008 season, much to
my dismay) about his marriage ending. His wife, Jillian, was played by
Cheryl Ladd. She grew restless about the amount of time he spent on the
job, so she left him. Ed, a tough former Director of Counter Intelligence
for the CIA, was President of Operations at the Montecito Casino in Las
Vegas. It was one of my favorite TV shows, especially after Tom Sellick
took over as President when Ed left. This is the conversation that struck
a true cord:
End of Text
- End Prologue -
How do those above lines relate to the failure of a marriage?
It means that when things go really wrong, it is almost impossible to recapture the way it was. I say "almost" because if love is still present, it may not be totally impossible.
In a divorce, there is
the dumper (the one who wants out of the marriage and leaves their spouse)
and there is the dumpee (the one who has no thoughts of divorce and who
is devastated when the spouse tells her/him that he/she wants out). The
truth is that the person who wanted out of the marriage is very seldom
willing to come back and try to work on it again. They have most likely
been considering leaving for a long time, and finally came to the conclusion
that they can't go on. They have probably fallen out of love a some time
ago, while the other party is still in love and wants the marriage to
continue, oftentimes totally oblivious to how the other person really
feels. Sometimes the other person keeps pretending to love the spouse
that he/she wants to leave.
Now, from here on out,
lets just change this to the man being the dumper and the woman being
the dumpee for the remainder of the article to make the writing and reading
easier. However, if you are a man and were dumped, substitute He/Him for
She usually doesn't see it coming until it happens because she still loves and trusts her husband. She may know they have a few problems, but thinks that everything will work out if they keep trying. After all, don't most marriages have their ups and downs? Certainly all marriages have bad patches over the long haul. Her life is shattered when it happens, especially if they have been married for a long time. She had thought they would retire and grow old together. They had talked about it often. All of those plans have now fallen apart. He is moving on with someone else and she is left wondering what she will do with the rest of her life. At the moment, she feels that her life has ended.
the person who actually files for divorce is not the person who wanted
the marriage to end. The dumper is still the person who wants to marriage
to end, but it may seem like the dumpee is the dumper if they are the
one to finally file for the divorce. In certain cases, a person finds
himself or herself in a situation in which they have to file to save their
life or their sanity or their dignity. The person who files is not necessarily
the person who caused the end of the marriage and wants the divorce. They
just have to be the person who legally ends the marriage when the other
person has broken their vows and won't legally end it. They are not the
person who was responsible for ruining or ending the marriage.
this is the case, you have to recognize that the marriage is hopeless
and to stay in it would be destructive to you and your children, if you
have children. In ending the marriage, you are having to take the responsibility
for putting sanity back into your life.
Why it Sometimes Takes So Long
A woman who is dumped and
faced with a divorce usually wants her husband back.
She is exhibiting one of the basic stages of grief, called denial. She keeps thinking that he really isn't going to leave, that she can make him change his mind, come to his senses, start missing her, and ask for her back. While this can happen in rare cases, it isn't what usually happens. A lot of grieving time can be spent stuck in denial, but since everyone goes through that stage, don't think there is anything wrong with you for experiencing denial. It is human nature to need to have hope.
went through a long period of denial when my husband walked out of our
Men who want out of a marriage tend
to place all of the blame on the wife and make her feel that she isn't
what he wants because she doesn't meet his needs. He tells her that she
is too controlling, too selfish, too fat, too thin, too this, too that
(name the faults he piled upon you). In order to make it seem like he
is the reasonable one and because he can't accept responsibility for the
things he did in the marriage, he tends to try to make the wife feel like
the divorce is completely her fault. Not only is she dealing with the
loss, she is left dealing with what she thinks are terrible human failures
on her part in the marriage. Personal faults have been heaped on her by
him in order to make her think that she is the reason he is leaving. The
wife may take on all of the blame, and proceed to try to fix herself to
become what she thinks he wants. Often she will compromise her integrity
or self-esteem in order to try to do and be what he wants.
Before we go any further, I realize
that sometimes it is the wife who wants out of a marriage. That leaves
a hurt and dejected husband. I also realize that it takes two to make
a marriage, and the fault and blame is not totally one person's. Generally,
it is more one person's than the other, though. When it comes to
a mid-life crisis divorce, it is usually the man who wants out for very
selfish reasons, but it could be the wife who is unhappy.
Sometimes it really isn't more
one person's fault than another's. Sometimes two people get married who
aren't well-suited for each other, or they didn't get married for the
right reasons. They fall in love and things stay good for a time, but
they later find that there is no basis for a real lasting and committed
marriage. Instead of both agreeing to end the marriage, one or the other
will have an affair and start blaming and making accusations in order
to make the other want out, also. Most of the time it isn't pretty and
it isn't nice.
Eventually, once we are able to deal with it, we all need to find out what we did of didn't do that helped bring the marriage to an end in order to heal and not make the same mistakes again. But, this is a whole other topic.
In my case, I thought that if I would do everything that he wanted that I had been hesitant about doing in our marriage (including huge lifestyle changes like giving up our four-bedroom house and moving into a two-room hut so he could live on his boat and not have to take care of a house), if I had been a more giving person, if I were more loving, if I would give up my job (and thus retirement investment in this state) and move to where he was working on a temporary assignment, if I would sell the house and move into a smaller one so he could have a boat to sail around the world in and eventually live in, if, if, if... Which leads us into the bargaining stage.
later realized that it was his plan for me to sell the house and move
to Florida, where he would still have left me because he was in love with
the other woman. It was his plan to get half of the house sale money.
Then, I would have been stuck in Florida, away from friends and my job
with no home to live in. I would have lost my state retirement, and teachers
were being laid off all over the place at that time. I might have been
out of a job.
If you look for them,
you will see that they were there all along, but you were so committed
to the marriage and had so much trust in it and him that you never even
When he left, I tried to
get him to come back, genuinely meaning to give him everything he needed.
I had tried for ages to get him to go to counseling with me. He wouldn't
go because he didn't think he had a problem. Later I realized that he
didn't want to go because he didn't care to save the marriage. He pretended
to "try", all the while still keeping the woman with whom he
was having an affair in the other state. I heard lots of lies. You probably
have heard them, also. He never intended to come back - he just thought
it would be easier to say he would try. He later told me that was why
he pretended to try.
your husband is willing to work on your marriage as much as you are,
I tried to bargain with God. I kept asking Him to bring my husband back to me. I felt that our marriage vows were sacred, and believed that divorce was wrong. We had vowed to be married until death separated us. He had vowed that he would love me eternally and that we would grow old together. I told God that if He meant people to stay married, He should use His power to keep us together. I begged Him. I told Him that I would try to change and be a better person. Actually, R. did come back for a while from his temporary assignment. His temporary job ended after two straight years and two other partial years out of state, and he pretended that he would come back and try. He didn't want to move back into our home, but to an apartment "so (according to him) we could date get to know each other again." I was vulnerable enough to believe him. Now I know I was just plain stupid. He said he would probably come back, but he never gave up the other woman. He had no intentions to come back. He was merely making life easier for himself at my emotional expense. Once we were supplsed to go on a date, but somehow his "other" got wind of in and drove all the way from South Florida to see him. He called and made some excuse that he couldn't take me out, but something in his voice made me ask, "Is she there?" He said she was, and that she cared enough to drive all that far to be with him. While there she must have given him an ultimatum, because he never tried to see me again.
I learned that God did answer my prayers. He answered them in a way that
was the best in the long run for me. He loved me enough not to put me
back in that marriage in which a man cheated on me and lied to me and
didn't cherish me. It became very clear to me that God didn't bring R.
back to me because it wasn't what was best for me. Even as I accepted
it, it still took a long time to heal from the hurt.
Here is what happened in another woman's life:
my husband turned 50, his love disappeared almost overnight. He didnt
talk to me for nearly two years. When I begged him to stop ignoring me
he said he needed more time to decide if he wanted to be married to me
anymore. He said he needed me to be more fun, less talkative, less nagging,
more exciting, less exciting. He wanted me to do fun things, he wanted
to take separate vacations. He wanted me to categorize every single item
I bought (yes, toilet paper, groceries, dog food under pets, a pair of
socks at Wal-mart under clothing.) He wanted me to be submissive. He yelled
at me. He drove erratically to scare me. I went to a Christian counselor
who tried to teach me how to be submissive, thinking it would make him
happy. He had an affair because he said I just wasnt making him
feel like a man. I worked, cooked, cleaned, planted flowers, did laundry.
I stayed slim and healthy and had stylish haircuts. I didnt overspend.
I was affectionate. I discussed politics. I went on motorcycle rides with
him. I went camping and hiking. I really could not imagine that I could
have done anything else.
it seems that no matter what we do, if they have decided they no longer
want you, you are treated badly. This woman was treated so badly that
she had to leave to save her sanity. That made the good doctor,
her husband, look good because she left him even though he was probably
having an affair and trying to make her leave by treating her so badly.
I have said it before,
and I will say it again here. We were with our mate for however long it
lasted for a reason, and we should embrace whatever we got from that marriage
even if we never know what it was. We had to have learned things from
that marriage, even if it was that we could survive. We learned life lessons.
We gained insight about marriage and outselves. We grew and we matured.
We may have had wonderful children.
To Try or Not To Try?
I feel that you owe it
to your marriage to try if you can if you can do it without your health
or your mental stability being affected. Sometimes you can get the other
person to try. Sometimes he will pretend to try, or maybe really try the
best he can.
You still love him, but he has stopped loving you. You are the one who is falling apart, depressed, and crying all of the time. It doesn't seem to bother him. He acts like you are a stranger and shows no emotion towards you. You can't go back to the way things were because he no longer feels the way he did.
When will the real person appear?
One of the things
I learned from almost every counselor that spoke to every divorce recovery
group is that people don't really know each other until after they get
married. Almost immediately after a marriage, people will change in some
or many ways. Part of the courting ritual is to put your best foot forward
to impress the person you are interested in. A person rarely lets all
of their real self be known to the other before they are married. We are
always on our best behavior. It's human nature. Even when people live
together, something happens after the marriage ceremony. I've heard people
say that their spouse changed right after the ceremony. They usually say
they change for the worst.
We were both going to college when we got engaged. We had big plans for our lives. He quit college to go into an officer's program in the Air Force. He got kicked out of that program, served his time as an airman second class and never finished college. My husband didn't tell me until after we were married that he had dated someone while we were engaged. He was still in the Air Force, and I was finishing college at the time. I hadn't dated anyone after our engagement. Then, after going to church all of his life, right after we were married he said that he had gone to church enough in his life and didn't want to go anymore. I also found out after we were married that he really didn't want children, although we did eventually have two. I didn't see it at the time, but my peacock turned into a turkey early on. Love is blind.
Think about it. Aren't
there things that you learned about your spouse after you got married
that you never realized before that you weren't too happy about? Things
that he never revealed to you before you were married? Things that you
thought were one way but that you found out were different? You realized
you missed seeing them before marriage.
What Makes Us the Way We Are?
a person's youth and early adult years, they remain relatively unaffected
by childhood. We are either in denial, or have learned to function and
cope without feeling that the things we went though as a child and our
family of origin dynamics had any affect on us.
However, no matter who we are or what type of life we had (or think we
had), whether it be a happy childhood or a mediocre childhood or an extremely
rough childhood, we were affected by it. How we were raised, how we were
treated, what our parents were like are all factors in who we become and
what we are like.
When the time is
right and you are ready, you will realize that to keep trying to hold
a marriage together that is over is futile. You have to let go. You won't
start healing until you do let go. You won't be able to heal and move
on until the divorce is final.
it is time, if it is meant to be, you will find someone else to love and to love
Back to my Divorce Recovery Page.
and updated August 9, 2006, July 12, 2007, January 27, 2008,
April 2008,December 7, 2008 and Oct. 23, 2012.