Can your marriage be saved?

My parents divorced when I was one so I had no memory of the two of them together.  What I did know was that my only set of grandparents had actually divorced and remarried after three years apart.  My grandfather was likely going through a midlife crisis and left my grandmother for another woman.  Back in the early 1960s, nobody divorced and my grandmother was left as a single mom with two children.  She faced the stigma of divorce and also the betrayal of the only man she’d ever loved.

When he came back, she accepted him and when they celebrated their “50th” Anniversary more than 20 years later, she jokingly referred to it as “fifty years with time off for ‘bad behavior'”.

My grandmother’s sense of humor but also the reality that love could be repaired and mistakes could be forgiven always stuck with me.  Fast forward almost 25 years and here I faced my own divorce.

Whenever anyone tells me they are going to divorce, I always ask them if they are sure.  I hold firmly to the belief that all romantic love fades away and it’s only after the love drugs wear off that we truly learn what it means “to love.”  They say love is a verb and now I understand why.

Statistics indicate that 50% of first marriages, 73% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages will end in divorce.  I’m no sociologist or psychologist but I’d say the likelihood is if we couldn’t work it out the first time, the chances are, we aren’t going to get it right the next time.  

When my “wusband” and I were in marital therapy, the therapist told us the only hope we had of saving our marriage was to not separate and stay together. Now, I understand why.  It is impossible to compare a marriage with any passing of time and especially one with children to a new and exciting relationship.  When you are married, you begin to take each other for granted, resentments build and the work involved to keep it together becomes too hard.  In our “throw it all out society”, it’s easier and a lot more fun to trade in the old model for something new and shiny.

If you find yourself contemplating divorce, you really need to take a serious moral inventory of yourself first and foremost and figure out whether or not saving your marriage is something you’d really want.   Of course, there are some “deal breakers” that simply are non-negotiable and in that case, mourning the loss, looking at your role and figuring out what attracted you to that person is important work to do.  If there are no “deal breakers,” it takes two partners open to the idea of working it out.  If there is only one willing to do the work, your best bet is to come to a place of acceptance.  I’ve learned that what you resist persists.  The best you can do is figure out how to accept what is and build a new life for yourself.  Being angry at your partner is like taking poison and expecting them to die.  You have to get to a place of forgiveness even though it may be the last thing you’ll want to do.  The plus side though is that having the decision out of your hands, frees you from guilt and allows you to take a look at your contributions to the decline of the marriage and figure out how to improve.  (I highly recommend the book Spiritual Divorce:  Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life by Debbie Ford.)

If you are uncertain or you have a partner who might be willing, first and foremost, throw your ego out the door.  This is not about your fear of rejection or “looking good.”  This is about putting it all on the line and living a life you can look back on and feel proud of. There should be no embarrassment in baring your soul and being vulnerable. (Link to Brenne Brown’s Ted Talk)  Through my work in Landmark Education, I discovered that I regretted far more what I didn’t do than what I did.   (I actually have a girlfriend who was divorced for seven years and remarried her husband after they’d both completed the work of Landmark.)

It’s human nature to want to feel connected and accepted. If you are living in resentment and waiting to feel loved to give love, you’re going to be caught in a vicious cycle.   Before my own separation,  a friend told me to read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  She felt that if she and her ex-husband had read it, they would have been able to keep their marriage together.  If you are in a space where the final nail is not in the coffin, consider giving yourself the emotional distance to work through your anger and honestly look at the part you’ve played. 

If you are contemplating separation, I recommend Second Saturday. There, you’ll hear from a therapist, a mediator, an attorney and a financial advisor.  Having the information is always helpful when making a big decision.

When children are involved,  whether or not you remain married, your ex-spouse is going to be in your life forever so getting to a place of peace is essential. If you do find yourself facing separation, having the support of others really eases the burden. The old saying is true, “misery really does love company.”  For me, I found solace in Meet ups with other single parents who understood what I was going through.

Jami Shapiro, is the founder of Silver Linings Transitions and the team works with a lot of divorcing couples and frequently hires people who are re-entering the job market during a divorce. Jami went through a divorce after starting the company and as a result of her experience, created content to help other people facing divorce and earned her divorce coaching certification.