We all know that 50% of US marriages end in divorce. Although your marriage may not be in trouble, now is an ideal time to divorce-proof your relationship so that sooner or later divorce doesn’t happen to you.
What initiatives should a committed husband or wife take now to strengthen marital ties? May I suggest the following three-stage process?
- Stage 1: Search for and identify early warning signs. Look for telltale signs that the two of you may be drifting apart. Before you can address the problem, you need to become aware of areas that need work.
- Stage 2: Recall the passion from early in your relationship. Precisely what bound the two of you together as one? How did your mate sweep you off your feet? What convinced you that he or she was the one? What drew him or her to you? Early on, in what ways did the two of you demonstrate your love?
- Stage 3: Reignite the fire and restore the sense of commitment you demonstrated years ago. Begin each day with your own positive attitude and agenda then make the day better for your spouse. Honor and build upon your mate’s strengths, admirable traits and favorable features.
Let us consider each of the three ” marriage restoration stages” in turn:
Stage 1: Early Warning Signs
Signs of trouble are never identical in every crumbling marriage, but here are a few common signs to look out for:
The two of you can’t get simple projects done around the house without argument.
You or your spouse view apologizing or giving in as a sign of weakness.
Your spouse tells you that he or she “gave up my life and ambitions” for you.
Although neither are happy with the status-quo, fear of change keeps both of you in a rut.
- Business trips out of town (heck, even a day at the office) provide a welcome separation from your spouse.
- Your most innocuous hobbies, interests or activities start to infuriate your spouse and your spouse’s hobbies bore or infuriate you.
- You lie about inconsequential things (little white lies) to avoid a dramatic scene.
- You stop looking for the good in your spouse but are quick to jump upon everything that you don’t care for.
- You cannot begin to agree upon how to guide or discipline your children.
- You can’t remember the last time when you complemented your spouse or when your spouse complemented you.
- Whenever something goes wrong, your spouse implies it’s all your fault and you respond, “no it’s yours!”
- Each of you keeps score.
- Your begin to replace morning goodbye kisses with a wave from across the room.
Do you recognize any of these warning signs in your marriage? They are but a few of the hundreds of big and little things that couples do or fail to do. When taken together, they can seriously weaken a marriage over time. Make out your own list, then begin working on your side of the equation. See if your marriage doesn’t begin to improve dramatically once you cut down on thoughtless slights and painful negative interactions with your mate.
Stage 2–Passion and Commitment From Early On
Sit back in your recliner, close your eyes and begin to recall what it was like when the two of you first met: your courtship, your honeymoon and the early years of your marriage. What personal attributes and personality traits attracted you to your mate? What consistently thoughtful, loving actions did you take to win your lover’s heart? What personal sacrifices were you willing to make to make him or her happy?
Here are a few examples of common “love strengthening initiatives” some of you may recall:
You celebrated your spouse’s accomplishments as much or more than your own.
- Both of you demonstrated love and gentleness, even in rough times; you faced the most difficult of challenges together.
- Both could express your innermost self-doubts, fears and struggles without fear of criticism, rejection or ridicule.
- You were always there to listen and understand, even when your mate’s message was hard or painful.
- Whenever apart, you tingled at the thought of your mate’s returning; you couldn’t wait to get him or her back in your arms and back into bed.
- There was always gentleness between you, even during the roughest of times. He/she was your greatest strength in times of trouble!
- The two of you came together as one but each found ways to enjoy your independence and respect the independence of the other. You shared common interests but had also solo hobbies, encouraging each other to pursue them.
- When the kids were young, you invariably parented as a unified team.
- Each offered the other loving, positive feedback, never nagging criticism!
Now comes the million dollar question, if you were able to demonstrate undying love and affection when courting and early on in your marriage, why can’t you now? Deep within, your spouse is the same wonderful, one-of-a-kind individual now that he or she was when you first fell in love. If over the years your spouse has grown cold, disinterested and unaffectionate, I wonder how he or she would react if you began routinely to demonstrate the same passion, understanding and loving affection that you did back then.
Stage 3–Restore the Commitment; Reignite the Fire
There is no single magic formula to restore mutual commitment and reignite the fire of passion in an established, midlife marriage but there is no lack of “expert” suggestions. Here are just a few:
Begin each day on the sunny side–no one wants to cohabitate with a perpetual grouch!
Stay in the present and walk in forgiveness. Neither you nor your spouse can go back now and correct mistakes from the past. The future is uncertain. Right now, your primary question should be, “What can I do to make things better for you today?”
- Get moving, get dancing. Throw yourself into an active, constructive daily routine and encourage your spouse to do the same.
- Never be loud and angry around your life partner. Talk issues out calmly without interrupting your spouse’s point of view. Avoid pointless “I win, you lose” confrontations as though they were the plague!
- Listen up! Be completely attentive when listening to your spouse and respond calmly and thoughtfully. Don’t interrupt or display scorn or anger.
- See if you can go an entire week without nagging or criticizing your spouse.
- Tonight, turn off the TV, computer and I-phone and make your spouse the only center of your attention. Better yet, watch a worthwhile TV program together and discuss what each of you got out of it when it is over.
- Here’s advice to all spouses: let him be him and her be her!
- Before he or she gets home, dress up and groom yourself to look your absolute best just for your spouse. Do it both for yourself and for your life partner. Doesn’t your mate deserve your best?
- Suggest taking up a new project, charitable cause or hobby together. Be open to alternative suggestions from your spouse.
- Go out (or stay at home alone under candlelight), just you two, on a ‘date night’ at least once a week. Certainly, you can find someone to watch the kids!
In some cases divorce may be for the best and your only good option, but please don’t give up your marriage without a fight. Take heart: many angry or passionless couples rediscover the joys of their marital partnership after years of feuding and neglect. In more cases than not, you’ll rediscover that the person best suited for you is standing right there in your own living room!
Want to learn more? Tune in to the October 21, 2013 installment of my weekly Internet radio program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.” (Google “middle age your best age”–our program link is at the top of page 1.) I interview both acclaimed author and motivational speaker Don Huntington PhD, who wrote ‘the’ book on divorce-proofing your marriage, and also the happily married couple Rick and Sarah Ruiz, two disheartened people who found each other after prior broken marriages. They have written a book on 365+ ways for married couples to break but also proven solutions to restore their marriage. Beginning October 21, you can listen at any time at your convenience.