Marriage, in its ideal state, is that exclusive union whose intimacy has the power to heal age-old wounds and save your faith in love. But what happens when that link to hope itself needs hope? What are some of the signs your marriage can be saved when you’re viewing your closeness in a rear-view mirror?
When your marriage feels more like day-after-day gray skies in the middle of spring, you need at least a glimpse of hope. Here are 10 rays of sunshine to help you recognize – and hang onto – a good thing.
You are both able to acknowledge your own imperfections and contributions to your marriage’s struggles.
This ability – and willingness – is no small feat. The tendency to blame your partner for your dissatisfactions can be cumulatively sabotaging.
“I’m not happy because you do/don’t (fill in the blank). You always/never (fill in the blank). I always/never (fill in the blank.)”
The problem with blame, aside from the slippery slope into untruth, is that it renders the blamer, and not just the relationship, powerless.
If you don’t feel loved because your spouse isn’t doing something you want or expect, you could linger in lovelessness indefinitely. After all, you have handed over the power behind your perceptions to someone else’s behavior.
Learning to communicate with vulnerability and to listen with intention to learn and grow is a huge sign your marriage can be saved.
That willingness to be present to another’s reality, knowing that you may be contributing negatively to it, takes courage.
It’s also a building block of true intimacy to be able to acknowledge that your moods, words, and behaviors may need a tune-up, too.
Learning how to gift your spouse and marriage with a genuine expression of “enlightened compassion” and a sincere apology can move mountains.
The grass still looks greener on your side of the fence.
You’re not necessarily headed for divorce if you ponder its “what if?”If you find yourself fantasizing about life with someone else or even on your own, your marriage may need emergency care.
On the other hand, if thinking about leaving your marriage or living without your spouse stresses you out, take heart.
The message you should be taking away is “This is where we belong. I can’t imagine life without him/her. But we need help knowing how to revive our marriage.”And asking for help in an area for which life provides no road map just makes perfect sense.
You still share the same core values.
Think back to when you and your spouse were dating. Think about how you came to the conclusion that this was the person with whom you wanted to spend your life.
At some point, after the initial infatuation and flooding of physical attraction, you got down to the business of authentic revelation.
Who are you? What are your values? What’s your faith and how do you practice it? What do you believe about raising children? What are your attitudes about money? How have you dealt with challenges in your life? What kind of responsibility do you believe you have to your community and the world?
These questions are at the heart of building true intimacy. And the alignment of your answers to them is perhaps the most critical, telling component of marital satisfaction and success.
Your relationship isn’t necessarily the problem.
What you logically know with your head doesn’t always matter when your heart longs to feel a certain way.
Sure, you know from the start that no one is perfect and every couple has disagreements and tough times.
You also know that marriage isn’t always going to be hot sex and globetrotting. Or so you’ve heard.
But prescience isn’t always enough to squelch your doubts when boredom, frustration, and disappointment infiltrate your marriage.
Demanding careers, raising children, and keeping up with the Joneses all take their toll.
Toss in any number of other unpredictabilities – caring for an elderly parent, a chronic illness, loss of income – and wham! Suddenly your marriage isn’t guiding your life; your life is bulldozing your marriage.
One of the hopeful signs your marriage can be saved is your ability to recognize the influences drawing energy away from your relationship.
That’s the first step to taking actions that will bring your marriage back to center.
You still enjoy one another’s company.
You may squabble, shout, stomp, and sulk. But if, in your heart’s “honesty corner,” your spouse is still the person you love spending time with, well….To enjoy someone’s company, especially during the mundane moments of life, is a reflection of genuine friendship.
And, while marriage may be its own version of “friends with benefits,” that friendship is essential to deep emotional intimacy.
If you can still play, laugh, talk, travel, work, and just “be” together, your relationship has a great foundation.
You still respect one another.
When trying to predict the salvageability or demise of a marriage, therapists look for signs of “no return.”When criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and/or stonewalling is present, one relationship-binding component is missing: respect.
By the time couples are pulling out these weapons, they’re essentially running with scissors.
And they’re not just going after the behaviors they dislike in one another.
They’re cutting at the very character, spirit, and personhood of one another. There is no regard for the scarring of scathing words and hateful body language.
The dislike of certain expressions and behaviors simmers its way into a full boil of disdain and disrespect for the actual person.
If the mere imagining of that corruption of your marriage opens the floodgates of love for your partner, there’s hope!
No relationship can survive or thrive without respect. If you still have it, don’t throw in the towel.
You still hold onto the happy memories.
The fact that you’re looking for signs your marriage can be saved is a sign in itself.
What you’re really looking for is a way to connect to the happy memories of the past by creating new ones.
When the past is the only storehouse of happy memories, it’s easy to lose hope for the future.
But, if your marriage were beyond repair, you wouldn’t even look back to those happy memories. You may not even remember them because the damage to your marriage would have damaged your memory of them.
If you’re still basking in old photos and stories that warm your heart, you have a solid foundation worth preserving. You simply need a little reflection, inspiration, and guidance to help you build on it.
You’ve lost that “spark,” but believe it’s still in there.
You may no longer feel hormonally crazed every time you enter your spouse’s air space.
But, if you know there’s still a spark that draws you to one another, don’t let it die out.
If you were an island castaway, you would guard even the tiniest ember with your life.
That ember can be worked into a flame. And that flame can toast your s’mores, keep you warm, and light your way.
You still trust one another.
No relationship can survive without trust.
If, despite your frustrations and disappointed dreams, you would still trust your partner with your life, things aren’t so grim. Preserve that cornerstone of marriage.
And prepare to do the work to restore the trust of your most vulnerable feelings, needs, and dreams.
You’re both willing to do the work.
So many marriages needlessly implode because only one (or neither) partner is willing to do the work.
Pride, blame, hurt, fear – any number of reasons can let the ember die. And how tragic it is when that happens.If you and your spouse are both willing to do what’s necessary to save your marriage, count your blessings. You’re already on the road with a full tank of gas.
Go the distance!
Despite the numerous foreboding predictors of a marriage’s demise, there are far more signs your marriage can be saved.
If you can unequivocally say, “My marriage is worth saving,” then you’ve done the tough part. You’ve weeded through the ugly, painful, and discouraging prognosticators to the conviction that what you have is worth preserving…
…even if you have to find it again.
Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, schedule a ½ hour complimentary consultation.