When couples decide to end their marriage, it is often based on a mistaken belief that they only have two options: stay in an unhappy marriage or get divorced.
However, for nearly all couples, there is a third option: to mend and improve their relationship through hard work, determination, and the help of Houston marriage counseling.
Struggling through a rough month, season, or year in your relationship can be emotionally exhausting and incredibly trying. But it’s important to remember that all relationships have both good and bad times, and reaching the good sometimes requires working past the bad.
Before making the enormously heavy decision to end your marriage, there are nine questions you and your partner should ask yourselves.
What do you want to change? You may recognize that you feel unhappy, angry, upset, or frustrated, but can you identify why? What would have to change in your relationship for you to feel happy again?
To help yourself answer the question, write a list of all the things that would need to happen for you to feel happy again in your marriage, such as—“I want to feel more respected. I need more space. I want to spend more time with my spouse. I want more financial stability. I want a more active sex life.” The more detailed and specific you can make your list, the better.
Have I told my spouse what I want to change? Even if both you and your spouse have acknowledged that you are unhappy in your marriage, you may not both know the other’s reasons why. But if neither fully understands the other’s dissatisfaction, it will be nearly impossible to improve your relationship as a whole.
After composing a list of things you want to change, arrange a time to talk with your spouse when neither of you are busy and both of you are calm. During this talk, speak honestly about your needs and concerns. Rather than making accusations, talk about your own feelings using “I” statements, such as “I want us to talk more” or “I really want to see you more often”.
Be open to your spouse’s feelings as well, and try to be receptive to their own thoughts and suggestions. Remember that even if you feel strongly about something, your spouse may see it entirely differently.
What changes can we make? After discussing what changes need to be made for you to be happy, determine which changes you have the power to make. Determine a set of changes to strive for, such as making an effort to have weekly dates or talk about your day after work. After introducing these changes, follow through with them for at least a month. You may be surprised to discover the power you have to improve your marriage.
What outside influences are harming my marriage? Often, outside influences can cause more harm to your marriage than you realize. While outside romantic interests and affairs can take your focus away from improving your marriage, they aren’t the only destructive distractions.
Well-meaning friends and family members can influence the way you think, coercing you into thinking, feeling, and making decisions that aren’t true to your own needs and wishes. Your career and other outside obligations can sap up your energy, keeping you from investing much needed time and energy into your relationship. When your marriage is in serious jeopardy, it’s important to remove outside distractions as much as possible so you can prioritize healing your relationship.
Have I already given up on my marriage? Neither you nor your partner’s attempts to change your marriage can work if you are not invested in changing. If you have already inwardly given up on your marriage, you are likely to scrutinize your spouse, interpreting every action or remark as a reason to leave.
In order for your relationship to heal, you’ll need to invest in change rather than seeking excuses to end it. Focus on the reasons you should try to keep your marriage rather than the reasons to leave.
Will things improve after a divorce? Even if you and your spouse have been going through hard times, divorce probably won’t solve your problems. Divorce promotes further conflict, disrupting your home, family, and personal life. Ending your marriage is also unlikely to get rid of financial problems, personal dissatisfactions, or obstacles keeping you from your goals. Before deciding to get a divorce, think about how life will be after ending your marriage and whether your expectations are realistic.
Have we sought professional help? Even the healthiest, happiest couples take advantage of marriage counseling, and it can do wonders for a marriage in jeopardy. A marriage counselor can help you explore your reasons for wanting to divorce, and develop effective strategies for reviving and healing your marriage.
Choosing a therapist to work with you and your partner might be one of the most important decisions of your lives. The wrong choice can harm rather than help. Many therapists say they handle couples or specialize in couples’ issues, but take the time to interview several on the phone with at least as much mindfulness as you would interview for an attorney, cardiologist, or oncologist.
Attending an Imago couples workshop in Houston or Galveston can also be a great first step. Through one intensive weekend of seminars, exercises, and group activities, you may be able to see lasting, extraordinary results for your marriage and determine if further work with that counselor in Houston marriage counseling will be beneficial.