Marriage on the Rocks: When to Throw in the Towel
In an ideal world, every marriage would last forever. Unfortunately, the world is rarely ideal, and sometimes marriages fall apart. Though traditional vows imply that only death could break the union between spouses, divorce statistics prove that sometimes the marriage dies before the people in it do. If you are worried that your marriage might be in trouble, now is the time to engage in some serious introspection about your unique situation so that you can determine the best course of action. No marriage is perfect, but if your marriage regularly lacks respect, connection and communication, it could be damaged beyond repair.
Lack of Respect
According to the Centers for Family Change, mutual respect is one of the pillars of a healthy marriage. A marriage without respect cannot thrive and is unlikely to survive long term. Mutual respect means speaking to each other kindly, consulting each other on big decisions and taking each other’s opinions into consideration. Speaking to each other rudely, calling each other names and belittling or insulting each other are all examples of ways in which couples sometimes disrespect each other. If you or your spouse frequently engage in any type of disrespectful behavior, it could be a sign that the marriage may be over.
Lack of Connection
Retired psychologist Kalman Heller, Ph.D., reminds us that physical and emotional intimacy is what sets a marriage apart from other close relationships you may have with others in your life. When a marriage is in trouble, intimacy begins to break down and sometimes even fades away altogether. Connecting with a spouse means putting in the effort required to maintain a certain level of physical and emotional closeness. It’s about caring if your spouse’s needs are being met both in the bedroom and beyond it. A sex life that has stalled or is otherwise unfulfilling and a failure to regularly hold hands, kiss or touch each other could spell trouble for your marriage. But a lack of connection can and often does affect more than just your sex life. If you are not engaging in meaningful conversation on a regular basis, checking in with each other’s feelings or doing little things for each other to show that you still care, your connection may be waning.
Lack of Communication
Communication is the heart of a healthy marriage and is a critical component of nurturing mutual respect and maintaining a strong connection with your spouse. According an article in Psych Central by Dr. Amy Bellows, Ph.D., a marriage without communication will inevitably break down. Unfortunately, it’s easy to take good communication for granted in a marriage. If you or your spouse frequently yell at each other or seem to fight about the same things over and over again without any resolution in sight, you are not communicating effectively and may be putting your marriage in jeopardy. The way that you and your spouse talk to each other and resolve your differences speaks volumes about the direction in which your marriage is headed.
Considering the Kids
Many couples stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage well past its expiration date for the sake of the children, but this decision rarely ends well for anybody including the children. If you suspect that your marriage may be over, you owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to investigate further and ultimately make a decision that is best for all parties involved. While there are certainly cases in which couples can resolve their problems and repair the marriage, there are also situations in which the best possible course of action is to move forward in separate directions and strive to create a new normal that is healthier and happier for everyone. Children caught in the crossfire of divorcing parents always fare best when their parents refrain from undue hostility towards each other. While it may be easier said than done, you should strive to co-parent effectively with your spouse in a way that puts the children’s needs first during and after the divorce. Never badmouth the other parent in front of your children, and never use your children as pawns to hurt each other.
Coping with the End of a Marriage
Before you throw in the towel on your marriage, ask yourself if you have done everything within your power to save it. If you feel like you have exhausted all avenues for reconciliation or your spouse is simply not doing his or her part to help you keep the marriage afloat, then it may be time to get the divorce ball rolling. The road ahead will inevitably be challenging, so set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with a support system that can help you through the rough patches. Consider seeking professional advice from a therapist and a lawyer who can help guide you through the process both emotionally and legally. Most importantly, be gentle and patient with yourself as you transition to a healthier and hopefully happier post-divorce life.
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Kristina Barroso is a middle school English teacher, published author and freelance writer with experience in a wide range of subjects. She loves writing about parenting, relationships, education and more for publications like The Classroom and WorkingMother.