I sometimes hear from people who aren’t sure which direction they want to take their marriage. Often, on the one hand, they realize that things have gotten bad. They often wonder if things are so bad that nothing they say or do is going to make a difference. And a tiny part of them wonders if they are going to be happier remaining married or if things would be better if they would just let go. This is tough call, since you don’t know what to expect when you venture out on your own. Will you be lonely and less happy alone? Or will it be a relief to let go?
I recently heard from a wife who said: “for the last six months, I have been moving further and further away from my husband. Our marriage had been struggling for some time. I didn’t intend or consciously decide that we should start living separate lives. It just kind of happened. I started going out with my friends more. I became active on Facebook. I started staying late after work and socializing. And I’m finding that there is a part of me that is embracing my new life. However, the other day, my husband saw where someone had tagged a photo of me out with my friends on Facebook. My husband saw it and it really hurt him. He sat me down and asked me if I wanted out of our marriage. I didn’t know how to respond. My husband is very direct about wanting to save our marriage. But I am not sure if I feel the same. I can’t help but notice how much I am enjoying the little bit of freedom that I’ve begun to demand. But at the same time, every time I think about ending my marriage, I start to get flooded of memories of when we were happy. I miss those times. I still have loving feelings toward my husband sometimes. But when I think of saving my marriage, I think about the end of my new life and I am torn. So how do I know what I really feel? How do I know for sure if I want to save my marriage?”
I actually hear from a lot of people who have conflicting feelings about saving their marriages. Sometimes, these conflicting feelings are at least partly due to conceptions that they have about the process of saving their marriage (and these conceptions often turn out to be untrue.) Sometimes, these folks just aren’t sure if they will be happier in their marriage or more content alone. While I can’t answer these questions for you, I can give you some things to think about, which I will do below.
The Fact That You Have Having Some Conflicting Thoughts About Saving Your Marriage Can Be Important: I have to tell you that people who have ended their marriage in decisive and healthy ways generally do not have this type of indecision. For many people, it is completely obvious and clear that their marriage is over and that even though they did everything in their power to save it, they have now come to the end game. They typically are quite at peace with this decision because they know that they saw it through until there were no more paths to pursue.
Because there isn’t nearly as much confusion, there often isn’t much anger, jealousy, or sadness either. It’s a pretty cut and dried process when you’re sure that your marriage has come to a natural end.
But, if you have not yet reached this point, then perhaps you want to ask yourself why. Do you still have loving feelings for your spouse that you just can’t turn off? Do you worry that you didn’t yet try everything that you could to save it including counseling, or being honest with yourself, or saying the things that you want to say without fearing rejection? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then perhaps exploring these issues would give you peace of mind.
My rule of thumb is always that if you aren’t sure if your marriage is over, then it likely isn’t. Because if you were at the final phase of your marriage, you would likely know it. But questions usually mean that there are some issues with which you haven’t yet achieved closure. And sometimes, addressing those same issues could transform or save your marriage.
Examine The Conceptions You Have About Saving Your Marriage And Ask Yourself If They Could Be Incorrect: Many people who aren’t sure if they want to save their marriage have some of the doubts that they are experiencing because they are reluctant about the reconciliation or marriage saving process.
If you asked these folks to describe what saving their marriage would entail, they will often tell you they are afraid that they will have to undergo painful counseling, or embarrassing conversations, or concessions so unfair that they strip your individuality and ideals. None of these things need to be true. The wife in this situation was so afraid that saving her marriage meant she had to just give up her new found happiness and social life. It most certainly did not. She could continue to see her friends on her own if she liked, as long as she also made time for her husband. And there was always the option of including him. Quite frankly, having your own life, your own friends, and your own hobbies can actually improve your marriage because you come into it as more happy and complete person.
If this perception is keeping you from trying to save your marriage, ask yourself if it would be worth it to see the process for yourself rather than assuming the worst case scenario. You might be pleasantly surprised. Many people actually tell me that they are glad that they took a chance and didn’t give up on their marriage. Because they actually find that saving it ended up being the right choice for them because they are happier than they suspected and the process turned out to be not quite as hard as they had feared.