No one enters into marriage expecting a divorce. However we do not live in an ideal world. Breakdowns in marriages are real. The best way to deal with a broken marriage is to pre-empt it because once a marriage is broken it is very difficult to restore. Since prevention is better than cure, it’s important that you recognize symptoms of possible marriage breakdown.
Symptoms of Marriage Breakdown
A marriage is on the way to becoming broken when one or a combination of these things happen:
1. There is very little communication between you and your partner other than formal communication.
2. You disagree more than agree on most matters whether or not it leads to arguments.
3. There are too many arguments with or without physical abuse.
4. You and your partner have very few things in common other than things pertaining to your children.
5. You don’t love your partner anymore; you only ‘like’ him or her.
6. You allow a third party person to speak your love language to you more than your partner does. That person is able to make you feel good better than your partner can or does.
7. One or both partners love someone else more than the other and spend more time with that third party than at home. You feel more emotionally attached to that person than to your partner.
8. You hardly do the things that you both enjoyed anymore. And even when you do, it does not bring the same enjoyment as it once did.
9. You increasingly prefer to be apart from your partner than together with one another. You don’t enjoy each other’s company the way you did before.
10. You are just going through the motions (usually only for the sake of the children). You don’t look forward to anything in your marriage relationship. Nothing excites you about the relationship anymore.
11. You are not happy and do not feel fulfilled in your marriage relationship.
12. You focus on the flaws of your partner more than his or her good attributes and become increasingly disgruntled with it
Steps to Save a Broken Marriage
Although the list looks tragic, I believe that even when your marriage shows these symptoms, it is still possible to save it. How?
Firstly, change yourself. This has to come first. Anything that goes wrong in a marriage is often the result of neglect or wrong-doing on the part of BOTH partners, and that includes you. Wrong attitudes of self-centeredness, impatience, stubbornness, bossiness, jealousy, pride, bigotry, short-temperedness, untruthfulness etc. are attitudes that need to be changed. Do not look at the flaw(s) in your partner but ignore your own. Sincerely ask your partner what areas of attitude, behavior and lifestyle he or she would like you to change. Humble yourself and listen to your partner with an open mind. Do not think about what your partner should do or the changes he or she should make. Focus on changing yourself first. If you need help in changing yourself, seek help from close friends and from your partner. Be accountable to a small group of trusted friends if need be. Here’s the second step.
Adopt positive attitudes towards your partner and family. Your positive attitudes will rub off on your partner and children. Love, commitment, faithfulness, compromise (give and take), gratitude, patience, optimism etc. are noble attitudes to adopt and cultivate. Once your partner and children see the changes in your attitudes and actions, they will start to change, too.
Thirdly, talk to your partner. Listen to his or her feelings, dissatisfactions, complaints, hurts, resentments, regrets, misgivings, qualms etc. Do not become defensive or blame-shift. Accept responsibility over your contribution towards the rift. Remember, focus on yourself first. Discuss ways of resolving or coming to a compromise. Put these steps into action. If necessary, be accountable to another trusted couple by asking them to keep tabs on your progress. However, when you talk, do not focus on the negatives only. Instead, tell one another how to make each other happy. You each have your own love language through which you give & receive love. Tell your partner how to speak your love language back to you. Make conscious efforts to make each other feel good.
Fourthly, take steps to rebuild the joys and passion of your relationship. Do things, go places, re-enact situations or re-live moments that used to bring you joy and laughter. Look back at old photos, videos or any paraphernalia that bring back fond memories. Laugh over past occasions. Take time to be alone with your partner. Ask some close friends to mind the children.
Fifthly, if there has been a third party involved (whether an affair has or has not started), radical steps must be taken to sever the relationship. Do so immediately. Do not gradually taper down or wind down the relationship. Take measures to immediately cut off all communication and ties with the third party. Ask close friends of the same sex as the third party to come between you and him or her. But you can do this only when both of you are willing and agreeable.
However, if your partner is not willing to sever the relationship with the third party, it is more difficult to solve but not impossible. In such a case, the first thing to do is to make a firm commitment to yourself to treat yourself well no matter what your partner does. Do not become depressed, feel helpless, be filled with self-pity or lose control of yourself. That will not do you any good. And here’s another crucial thing to do.
Do not condemn your wayward partner. The best approach would be to win back his or her affections. Your erring partner has allowed his affections to wander off to another person so do whatever it takes to win your lost lover’s heart back. The objective is to cause him or her to break the relationship willingly. Opposing or accusing the third party often does not work. On the contrary, it might backfire and make your partner become more defensive. Also do not start an affair of your own. Two wrongs do not make one right. Thus take the positive approach. Start building a fresh relationship with your partner rather than focus on the problems. Try new things together even if you don’t feel like it. Be excited, passionate, enthusiastic and positive. Act the way you want to feel and the feelings will eventually follow.
Pray that God will change your partner’s heart. Be faithful to him or her even though for now it is not reciprocated. With persistent efforts in this direction, you will turn your partner around and the illicit relationship will be broken.
Saving a broken marriage takes courage, commitment, patience and determination. But with God’s help and your fervent efforts, it IS possible to rebuild what has been broken in your marriage and see it becoming even better than before.
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