Marriage can be hard and for some couples it can seem ridiculously difficult as you can tell by the 50% divorce rate. Subsequently, many couples struggle with deciding when enough is enough. Some continue to try for years while others seemingly don’t try at all. So what’s the right balance? For me, the answer isn’t about a time frame, but rather about actions. My belief about marriage is that people should do whatever they can to make it work. My particular bias is that when it comes to children it is even more imperative that couples do absolutely all they can to make it work. I believe that if people want out of a marriage, they have to earn their way out. You earn your way out by doing everything in your power to make it work. If, after they have done everything, it still isn’t good, then I believe it’s time to call it a day.
Doing everything you can to make your marriage work means:
• Working your side. Too many people defiantly point a finger at their partner demanding that they change. Working your marriage requires that you stop pointing at your partner and start looking at you. We all have our human imperfections. Work yours.
• Getting professional help and actively participating in the work. If things are so bad that you‘re thinking of leaving a marriage—get professional help. The chances of you being able to create the change you need is slim without help. Once you are receiving help, you need to do more than just show up. Do the work. In fact, do the work even if your partner isn’t. This is the best gift you can give your children.
• Warming up to your partner. If your partner is doing their part to change things, you need to warm up and let their change in. It’s not okay to endlessly throw their past mistakes in their face. It’s also not okay for you to be cold, stoic or mean because of the past. If you can’t forgive them, stop pretending you’re trying to make it work. Tell them you can’t get past it and let them go. Otherwise, you do the work needed with a good spirit.
• Being honest. Now is not the time to sugarcoat the truth. Your marriage is on the line and you owe it to yourself and your partner to be honest about what is and is not working for you. Too many people (women especially) say things are fine when they’re not. They distort the truth because they don’t want to be mean. But it’s mean to lie. Stop trying to be nice and, instead, be authentic. It’s the only way to create a great relationship.
• Being accountable. You need to listen to what your partner doesn’t like about you and be accountable for those behaviors. If you make mistakes—own them. Don’t get dismissive or defensive every time your partner complains about something, but then expect him/her to be receptive and accountable when you complain about something.
If you’re struggling in your marriage and not sure what to do–try to fix it. Follow all the steps above before making a decision. Once you have done everything to make it work, you will be in a better position to make a healthier long-term decision.
CHALLENGE: If your marriage is on the rocks, do everything in your power to make it work. Earn your way out; don’t just escape.