Most of the articles I write on the topic of marriage deal with cultivation, nurturing, and protection of the relationship. Indeed, especially with marriage, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.
Generally, good maintenance of your relationship is going to produce a healthy relationship with long lasting results. Unfortunately, some relationships are beyond the point of maintenance and those people are looking for either a cure or a way out.
Let’s discuss what we do when we are at the end of our rope.
1. Look at the Man in the Mirror
When Michael wrote, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to make a change,” he could have easily applied those words to marriages as much as to any aspect of our lives. More than half of my clients’ issues start with pointing the finger at their partner, but end with them pointing the finger at themselves.
For example, in every marriage, communication issues are bound to arise.
- Are you doing enough to understand how your partner communicates?
- Do you know their love language?
- If you know their love language, do you offer your best to “speak” their language?
Another challenge that can bring us to the end of our rope is deciding how to respond to things you don’t like in your marriage. Discuss the problem or issue and make a determination to work through these issues together.
Also, when looking at the man in the mirror, take responsibility for your faults and mistakes; but, take this a step further by not becoming a “repeat offender.” Many marriages that are on shaky ground could be given a second chance if we started looking internally at our problems, acknowledging them, and changing ourselves, rather than pointing the finger at someone else.
2. Go to Counseling
I have mentioned before the difference in coaching and counseling, is that coaching is looking at where you are and working to discover how to get where you want to be. Counseling is looking at the foundational issues that have damaged your relationship and working through those issues to become whole.
I let clients know a house can’t be built on a broken foundation. The same goes for a marriage. Some marriages, as well as individuals, have deep seeded issues which need to be worked through.
It’s important for both parties to be willing to participate in the process. The process is not easy. It’s going to bring up buried hurts and pain, sometimes past abuses, and possibly traumatic times in life.
It’s often necessary to dig up these old wounds to deal with the issues so we can become healthy individually and have healthy marriages. Marriage counseling specifically is necessary for every marriage that is in trouble. Marriage is meant to happen once and last forever or until death do you part.
If we believe this for our marriages, we need to take the steps where both parties can work with a trained professional who has your collective best interest at heart. Both people must be willing to commit to the difficult discussions and the work necessary for counseling to be an effective solution.
3. Consider a Legal Separation Before Divorcing
I’m a marriage proponent, yet I realize there may be times to make the difficult but necessary decision to separate for a while. I don’t look at separation as a precursor to divorce. I believe separation can be the time you need to look introspectively into whom you are and how you can be a better spouse.
Separation is not a time to be dating other people (that’s still cheating) and it’s not a waiting period for the inevitable.
This time should be used to work at becoming better individually and preparing to return better equipped for the long haul.
A friend made a good point on this topic: if you don’t have enough tools, it may be time to upgrade the tool box. Work on growing spiritually; work on putting others first in all things; work on becoming a better listener. These are a few things you can work on during this time that every spouse would be very grateful for.
My awesome wife told me, “Divorce is not an option.” I take those words to heart. If you take this position from the beginning in your marriage, you will find, in hindsight, that the “end of your rope” is actually a speed bump along the journey of a great marriage.
BMWK, have you reached the end of your rope but bounced back? How did you do it?