When you got married, you probably never thought about the possibility of it ending. Why would you? You’re on a high, marrying the person you love, and life couldn’t be better.
But the harsh reality is that, in the U.S., about 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. They are sobering statistics that reveal the challenges many married couples face today. However, the good news is, with a little effort and careful attention on your relationship, you can protect it from the stresses and challenges married life presents today.
In the U.S. today, divorce costs taxpayers over $28 billion a year. That’s an astronomical number that doesn’t include the emotional impact on children and extended family. So the question is, what are the different ways to protect your marriage so it doesn’t become another statistic?
Experts can agree on one thing: there are many things you can do long before you end up in a divorce court. Thanks to the Internet, there is unlimited access to communication and conflict resolution training and skills at your fingertips. When you consider the average divorce costs $100,000, then the cost of a self-help book looks like incredible value. Make sure you prioritize your relationship at all times and constantly nurture and feed your emotional and physical connection. “Small and often” is the key here; the accumulation of good will can help your marriage enormously.
If divorce is looming for you on the horizon, it’s likely you’re already both carrying a lot of hurt and pain from the past. Once you’re at this point, it can be much harder to turn your relationship around and get back on track. The best strategy to avoid getting to this point is to address disagreements and issues early on. Sadly, there is still some stigma for people seeking couple counseling. The myth is that only couples in crisis need professional help. But the truth is, when you seek counseling early on, you will get much better outcomes and avoid more relationship problems in the future. Think of your marriage like a car. It requires regular maintenance and tune-ups. Learning communication and conflict resolution skills in counseling is a prevention strategy that could be the best decision you ever make.
A relationship can only be as healthy as the two individuals in it. Even if your spouse is reluctant to participate in therapy, you can still help your relationship by going alone. Taking responsibility for your part in your "relationship dance" can help stop the negative patterns of relating that have become entrenched over time. And your efforts to change your side of the dynamic can have a positive impact on your partner. The important thing here is not to abandon the idea of attending therapy if your partner is not willing to come. You can still achieve good outcomes and make positive changes in your marriage.
Even with the best efforts, not every marriage can survive. For some couples, a divorce is simply the only option. But an amicable divorce can mean avoiding the loss of thousands of dollars and ongoing hurt and pain for your children and extended family. In my practice, I see how divorce hurts everyone involved. But it is possible to separate consciously and with dignity, which is why I usually suggest mediation before involving lawyers. Mediation offers an opportunity to come to reasonable and fair decisions about your finances and family and find some closure, without adding unnecessary resentments, bitterness, and financial strain.
Marriages are living, breathing entities. A strong and healthy relationship is one that is regularly nourished. Early intervention is the difference between taking antibiotics for an infection or ignoring the problem until it requires a full amputation. Make it a priority to deal with the little things in your relationship before they have a chance to become big things.