Thinking back on the day that you married your spouse, it is unlikely that your vows included, “Until death, differences, or a change of heart do us part”. Most of us went into marriage with optimism and dreams of growing old together. We made promises to love our spouses and be there through the good and the bad times. So why has divorce become the go-to solution when problems arise?
At twenty years of age, I married my first husband with every intention of being with him forever. Years of watching too many princess movies had me believing that I had just hit the jackpot and was about to set off into the sunset with fairy dust in my hair and unicorns prancing out of my ass. He was my first love, the man I lost my virginity to, the one I had promised before God and all of my family that I would stand by until death. No matter how toxic our relationship was, the word “divorce” never entered my mind. I believed that any problem could be conquered and that divorce was not an option. My former husband did not share this sentiment, as a matter of fact, divorce was his favorite threat when times got rough.
When he finally filed for divorce after almost 6 years of marriage, I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. This couldn’t be the best decision. Were we really unable to salvage this marriage? Had we exhausted all other options? These questions no longer had significance, because he stood firm in his decision and I had no choice but to submit to his will one last time.
Thankfully, I can now say that divorce was exactly what we needed, but this does not mean that I’m an advocate of divorce. Don’t let the fact that I have experienced two divorces fool you into thinking I am pro-divorce. I still strongly believe that marriage should be for life. I take marriage very seriously and wish that I would have waited until later in life, when I knew who I was and what I needed, before making that kind of commitment to anyone. Divorce should be a last resort, not used as the easy way out because things are not as wonderful as they were in the beginning, or because you’ve hit a rough patch. Unless abuse or infidelity are involved, there are many options before calling it quits.
If you go into the wedding day with an idealized vision that marriage is going to be your own, happier version of “The Notebook”, then you are in for a rude awakening. Have you heard that marriage is work? Well, it is. Really hard work. Work where you go from feeling like your heart will burst one day because of all the love filling it, to the next day when you’re so annoyed with your spouse that the mere sound of his voice makes you want to belly flop off the balcony. Your spouse knows you better than anyone. They know how you take your coffee, just what to say to see you smile, and exactly what buttons to avoid pushing unless they want to see your head spin and flames to shoot from your eyes. Fights happen, people get sick, things change, love ebbs and flows, and you have to be willing to stand by your spouse through each difficult moment for the rest of your life.
So, how do we proactively work to keep our marriages alive and avoid divorce? We choose love. Maybe you’re not feeling very loving right now. You just had a giant fight and the thought of choosing love makes you want to puke. Or you’ve been struggling for years, complaining about the same problems that never seem to get resolved. Love has left the building. I get it, I’ve been there. This doesn’t mean that love is unattainable though, it just will take some time and patience.
After being with someone for so long, we tend to fall into unhealthy patterns with our communication. We nag, blame, bottle things up, and don’t effectively discuss what we need. Good communication is extremely important in a loving relationship. When problems arise or life becomes a mundane cycle of working, taking care of children, eating and sleeping, we sometimes forget how to communicate with our partner. The first thing you should do when things get hard is to look at this aspect of your life. Are you and your spouse discussing your problems with each other? Are you taking responsibility for your part in the issues, or just placing blame? Have you told your spouse what you need in order to be happy and have you heard what their needs are as well? No one can read your mind, so if you have an issue say it. If you need something, make it known. If you are feeling unhappy, ask for help.
Date Each Other Again
As we settle into years of being with someone it is easy to take them for granted. All of the things we once found to be funny or sexy are overshadowed by routine and annoyances. In order to have a successful marriage we have to make it our number one priority. Life gets busy , but it is so crucial to make time for each other. Get a babysitter once a month so that you can go out to dinner. Make a romantic meal at home or go on a picnic. Whatever you do, just set aside some time to spend talking and remembering why you chose to spend your life with this person. Pursue each other like you did in the beginning. If you start dating again, you may find that love can grow again and maybe divorce isn’t the right decision.
If you are finding it difficult to relate to or communicate with your spouse, then find someone who can professionally assist you. There is no shame in going to marital counseling, especially if it helps your marriage. It can be beneficial to have someone from the outside who can give an unbiased opinion and offer solutions. You may even have your eyes opened to issues within yourself that you hadn’t even realized were causing some underlying tensions.
Past wrongdoings can linger in the back of our minds, causing more issues in the future. If you are still bringing up the time that your husband forgot your anniversary five years ago, you are doing more harm than good. In order to progress and grow we must let go of the things that angered us in the past. It isn’t good for either of you when one person is still harboring resentment for something that was already apologized for. This may be world-shattering for some of you to hear, but you are not a perfect person. Sorry if I just destroyed Santa for you all over again. We are all human and make mistakes. Holding on to grudges causes our hearts to harden and leads us to become toxic, unhappy people. If the issue was bad enough that you seriously can’t let it go, then maybe you really do need to get out of the relationship. Otherwise, wipe the slate clean and don’t use past wrongs as weapons.
Focus on Yourself
This may sound counterproductive, but in order to truly love your spouse, you must first love yourself. If you are unhappy with who you are and what you are doing, then you can’t expect someone else to feel happy with you. Ask yourself why you don’t like yourself at the moment. Take some time to write down the things you would like to change about yourself and then work towards those goals. Find a personal therapist to discuss your childhood or previous relationship wounds. Go to yoga, meditate, pray, exercise, take a class, volunteer, start a hobby, do whatever it is that you believe will help you to connect to yourself. Once you feel content with who you are, you can then make a better decision about how to approach your marital issues. You may even find that it wasn’t ever your spouse whom you were unhappy with, it may have just been you all along.
We’re Bringing Sexy Back
We might as well face it, a lot of times our sex lives start to die down after being married for a few years. Sex is an important part of staying emotionally connected to our partners. When this isn’t as prevalent in our marriages it can have many causes: lack of time, low energy, less excitement, having children, etc. Each one of us wants to feel sexy and desired by the person we are with. Although not everyone has the need for sex as much as others, it is still a great way to bond with our spouses. Making love also relieves stress and releases the feel-good, love chemicals in our brains, called endorphins, which cause us to feel closer to our spouse. Try to make sex a goal in repairing your marriage. Find ways to make things romantic and interesting again. Sex can play a crucial role in the happiness you feel in your marriage, and may be an integral reason for your present discontent.
Have You Really Tried Everything?
Ideally, by taking the time to determine what has gone wrong in your marriage and proactively working towards healing it, you and your husband could fall in love all over again. You could get to the root of the problems and discover that you never stopped loving each other, you just forgot to make each other your number one priority. If you are both willing to put in the work, it just might save your marriage and have you on that path to happily growing old with the person you always believed would be with you in the end.
In other cases, you go down the list and realize that you have given your marriage everything you have and still feel unfulfilled. I’ve been there, I know that even when you try everything to recreate a spark or fix the underlying issues you may realize that you were never really meant to marry this person. Maybe you were too young and didn’t know who either of you were, or you moved too quickly into the relationship and were blinded by the excitement. Divorce is an extremely difficult decision to make and it takes a lot of courage to cut someone from your life who has been such an important part. Once you feel that you have made every effort to repair things, you can find comfort in the knowledge that you didn’t just give up and walk away. Whatever you decide, know that you aren’t alone and if you need comfort, support, or advice, Damsel Divorcée is here to help!
I truly hope that you find peace and happiness in whatever decision you feel is best for your situation!