Minor disagreements are an inevitable part of any marriage – after all two different personalities sharing a home and life are bound to disagree on some issue or other. However major and repeatedly unresolved quarrels could have the potential to develop into a permanent breach. So if you find that your marriage is no longer working, here are a few things to keep in mind.
The first step to deal with a marriage that isn’t working is to consider what you want. Do you wish to salvage the relationship or do you want to call it quits. In case it is the latter and you have exhausted all options to save the marriage or your spouse is determined to seek a divorce, the only way to go forward is to consult a divorce lawyer so that your interests are best protected.
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On the other hand if there is even a shadow of a chance that things can be worked out, you need to commit yourself to saving the marriage. Understand that this will take time and effort and the way to start is by acknowledging that there is a conflict and there are issues that need to be sorted out as early as possible. Very often either partner believes that as long as the conflict is not out in the open, the marriage can limp along somehow. It is this fear of rocking the boat that prevents a couple from taking early corrective measures until it is too late and the boat has capsized. So take your courage in both hands and broach the matter with your spouse.
Practice effective communication
If you feel your marriage isn’t working, it is obvious that there are certain issues that need to be addressed by both of you. Discuss what is troubling your marriage and explore the reasons which may have led to the present situation. However even as both of you discuss your relationship, agree to follow certain rules. Take turns to speak and do not interrupt when it is your partner’s chance to express his or her thoughts. Stick to finding out the primary source of the present conflict and do not drag up incidents from the past or bring in comparisons with other couples. There is nothing as frustrating as being bogged down by the inessentials while the most important matter at hand remains unresolved.
Effective communication though is an ongoing process – even after you may have thrashed out issues in your marriage, don’t stop talking to each other. Many couples who have been married for a while may someday realize that they hardly ever talk to each other anymore. A dangerous fall-out of such a situation may be that both partners begin to drift away from each other, eventually leading to the end of their marriage. The secret to effective communication with your spouse is an equable exchange of thoughts and feelings and thus it means much more than airing grievances or having difficult discussions about money. Simple things such as asking your spouse how was his/her day or showing interest in his/her plans will go a long way in opening and maintaining the channels of communication. Write notes if you are uncomfortable verbalizing your thoughts and make use of non-verbal cues like hugs, eye-contact or sending flowers to let your partner know how much you love him/her.
Once you have identified the source of conflict in your marriage, work towards finding solutions. This is however easier said than but not impossible to work out. Keep in mind that a resolution will entail some amount of responsibility for both the spouses. Discuss what each of you can do to improve the relationship but since you have no control over your spouse’s actions, begin by striving to change some of your own actions. Each will have to give a little in terms of time and effort. Either partner will need to make some changes in his or her priorities and principles if the marriage is to be saved. Here, more than anywhere, mutual co-operation is a must especially since the stakes is so high.
During the time that you are working to put your marriage back on track, it is important to Keep doing things together; sleep in the same bed, and find time to pursue hobbies which you have fun doing with each other in the early days. Very often this will keep your heart from wandering. Also make time for love. It is a fallacy to imagine that love should happen on its own. Sometimes love needs a bit of help in the form of advance planning – especially when two people are struggling to juggle a home, career and kids. So make it a point to have some “us” time with your spouse on a regular basis – it could mean going out on a ‘date’ once a week or even something as simple as taking a walk in the neighborhood park after dinner. If you have very young kids, try to get hold of a good babysitter once a week or fortnight while you both go out for a movie or dinner. Instead of worrying about the expenses, try to see it as an investment into your marriage.
Don’t forget to have fun
Granted that it takes time and effort to make relationships work, but that does not mean you have to take it extra seriously. Set aside some time when you can simply have fun and not get bogged down by meanings and implications of each other’s words or actions. Try to remember all that you enjoyed about each other during the heady days of your early love and see if you can bring back those aspects into your life. If it was your carefree and social nature which first attracted your spouse to you, make an attempt to enjoy life more so that once again you are fun to be around. Take a day out at a circus or amusement park where you both can go back to being carefree children and freak out like them.
Once you start putting in effort to make your marriage work, it is only natural to expect immediate results. But relationships simply don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. So have patience and remain committed to problem-solving methods. In the meantime, keep reminding yourself that these seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage.
In the end if despite your best efforts, you seem to be no nearer to making your marriage work, seek professional help. A marriage counselor can work wonders for troubled marriages and no couple should head for divorce lawyers without first going to a counselor. This is because a marriage counselor is trained to identify accurately and objectively the source of conflict. Moreover unlike family and friends who may be closer to either partner, a counselor will take an impartial view while trying to resolve the conflict. But best of all, a counselor will also come up with practical strategies to help your marriage survive the crisis.