Finding effective ways to prevent divorce can bring couples back from the precarious brink of divorce. When relationships are worth saving, hard work and perseverance go a long way toward mending the ties that once bound two lives. Before resorting to divorce, it's a good idea for couples to evaluate their situation carefully to ensure they aren't rushing into a permanent and life-changing decision. You just may be able to save your marriage.
12 Tips to Help Avoid Divorce
When love remains a major factor for both parties, it makes sense to save a marriage instead of calling it quits permanently. Millions of divorced couples across America have expressed remorse over having gone into divorce proceedings too soon and smothered the still-smoldering coals of their relationships. Fortunately, there are ways to heal a marriage on the rocks as well as keep it healthy and nurtured from day one.
1. Care for the Friendship
Too often marriage turns into an efficient partnership with fringe benefits after several years have passed. Don't let the friendship you once valued above all else slip away. Listening to each other, regarding each other's opinions as valid or important, and keeping the laughter alive will strengthen a flagging relationship. Soon, both parties will remember the things that once endeared them to each other. See Nurturing Friendship in Marriage by Stephen F. Duncan and Megan Northrup of Brigham Young University for more tips on maintaining friendship as a married couple.
2. Respect the Romance
With careers, kids, mortgages and bills, who has time to worry about romance in a relationship? Everyone does. As people look back on the most memorable parts of the courtship and early years of marriage, invariably the small, romantic things begin to stand out. In Making Marriage Work, Clinical Psychologist and Divorce Mediator Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus asserts that taking proactive steps to keeping romance alive in your marriage is a key to relationship success.
Romantic gestures don't have to involve events that consume hours of planning or hundreds of dollars. Reinvent your romance and rekindle the discovery of your relationship by doing sweet and spontaneous things for one another like love notes in lunch bags, no-strings-attached back rubs or a bottle of wine and take-out on a weeknight. Of all the ways to prevent divorce, this one provides the most fun and excitement.
3. Communicate Openly
Effective and open communication is critical to marriage success, a point made by Dr. Edward a Dreyfus in the Making Marriage Work article referenced above. If a divorce feels imminent, there's a better than good chance that communication has fallen completely apart in the relationship. Only by communicating, can the primary issues in a relationship reach a resolution that satisfies both parties. After a period of stagnation, it's often extremely difficult to reopen communication, but this sad tale can have a happy ending. It gets easier to communicate with one another through practice, patient listening and tolerance.
4. Show Consideration for Your Spouse
Unfortunately, it's far too easy to wallow in our own misfortunes and feelings of dissatisfaction. Throw anger into the mix and soon a volatile potion of discord is brewing on the coals of what was once a happy marriage. If both parties truly wish to find out how to stop a divorce, eventually one spouse has to take the first step, and acknowledge the other person's feelings. Acknowledging feelings is not the same thing as agreeing with them. Once you and your partner acknowledge each other's feelings, it becomes easier to start working together to save the relationship instead of focusing on different goals that undermine the marriage vows.
5. Remove Power Imbalance
Ideally, marriage is a mutually beneficial arrangement in which both parties share equally the love, the decision-making, the ups and the downs. When one spouse holds more power than the other does, it can cause a one-sided relationship to spin out of control. In a Yahoo! Voices interview, Clinical Psychologist Dr. Joe Lowrance states that power imbalances can lead to significant problems in marriages over time and urges couples to work toward overcoming them. Give each other the gift of sharing suggestions and giving each other's ideas a fair chance. No two people agree all the time, but an equal stake in the relationship promotes a spirit of compromise and cooperation.
6. Together Time
Dr. Dana Filmore, Clinical Psychologist and co-founder of StrongMarriageNow.com, asserts that spending time alone together as a couple is the most important key to marriage success. Marriages in which the couple creates reasons to spend time together typically last longer and are more satisfying to the partners. Outside of date nights and family vacations, make it a point to take an interest in each other's hobbies or activities. When free time runs short, hanging out together to watch a movie at night or enjoying a few moments of the sunset provides an acceptable substitute for fun outings away from home.
7. Stay Faithful
Take your marriage vows seriously and stay true to the person you married. In an article published at LDS.org, Professor Kenneth W. Matheson explains why fidelity, both physical and emotional, is so crucial to maintaining a marriage. Although many marriages do survive infidelity, it causes a lot of heartbreak and takes years of work to repair the damage. It's always better to resist temptation and face your future together with a clean slate. In the event a breach of trust does occur, divorce counseling or support from a therapist may help salvage the relationship.
8. Seek Professional Help
It is often advisable to work with a professional when you are trying to save your marriage. Consult your local clergy or even the family doctor for recommendations when you and your spouse face significant problems. However, avoid relying upon friends, family and co-workers. They are too invested in your personal happiness. Instead, search out counseling professionals or a divorce support group that can remain unbiased and independent. If you are having trouble finding a marriage counselor, you may be able to locate a local professional via the Family & Marriage Counseling Directory.
9. Work on Yourself
While spouses who are unhappy in their marriages often spend a lot of energy trying to fix the other person, time may be better spent looking internally and reflecting on your past. What you learn may open your eyes to some of the problems in your marriage, and help you figure out how to fix them. Additionally, according to a Wall Street Journal article on Couples Therapy for One, working on yourself and focusing on what might make you happy can help you get your relationship back on track
- Consider your childhood. Examine the relationships you witnessed as a child. These relationships teach you at a very young age how to deal with the opposite sex and handle conflict.
- Consider your earlier dating experiences. Reflect on your mistakes and make peace with your past.
- Examine your parents' relationship and learn from it. Be aware that while you may share many of the same strengths and weaknesses as your parents, you do have the power to make different decisions.
10. Look to Role Models
Look for positive role models. It is always a good idea to draw on the wisdom of others. Is there someone you know who has the kind of marriage that you admire? Maybe it's your in-laws, a friend or another relative. Observe how they communicate and deal with problems. Nearly every marriage faces financial problems, death, betrayal or dishonesty. However, not every single marriage ends in divorce. Find those couples that withstand such hardships. Listen and observe their strategies. If you need to look beyond your personal circle to find marriage role model examples, see the Legendary Role Models for Marriage feature on Tango.com as a source of inspiration.
11. Work with Your Spouse
Avoid labeling your spouse's actions or statements. Statements like "That doesn't make any sense!" or "Do I have to hear this again?" do nothing to foster trust and communication. They get you no further to stopping divorce. Instead, ask your spouse what he/she wants or needs and use, as recommended on RealHope.com, use "I" statements rather than using labels and placing blame. You cannot foster love in your relationship if you have no idea what your spouse truly desires. When your spouse gives you feedback or makes a remark, do not act defensively. Even if the remark feels nasty or is not constructive, try to learn from it. Examine your actions and words with a critical eye.
12. Be Open to Change
Even though it's obvious that marriages in trouble need some sort of change, people often resist the concept. However, change is inevitable in relationships - and learning how to effectively deal with, and manage change, is key to marriage success. Cultivate your adaptability and make sure you equip yourself to deal with emotional upheaval during the healing phase. See Weathering Change in Marriage for ideas on how to become more open to change.
When All Else Fails
Reconciliation requires the cooperation of both spouses. If your spouse does not want to reconcile, there may be no stopping divorce. By the time you have been served with the divorce papers, your spouse has probably consulted with a divorce attorney, paid a retainer, and filed a summons seeking a divorce in court. While legally you can file papers contesting the divorce, even if you prevail and the divorce is denied, you cannot force your spouse to live with you or love you. Your marriage will be in legal effect only.
If there is no stopping the divorce, it is important to understand that you have valuable legal tools to use during the divorce process. First, file the necessary papers to contest the divorce. A contested divorce is when your spouse disagrees with anything in the case, such as a division of property, or child custody arrangement. Because a contested divorce can be substantially more complicated than an uncontested divorce, it is best to consult with an attorney.