I often write articles that offer tips and advice to help people save their marriages. And, sometimes I allude to how I saved my own marriage in these articles, but never have I written about the specifics behind it, although I do get a lot of questions about how I did it. So, in this article, I’ll briefly go over how I was able to prevent my own divorce. Keep in mind that, at least in the beginning, I did not know what I know now. I sort of lucked up on a method that actually worked. But, in so many different ways, it could’ve gone the other way and ended very badly. So, I hope that sharing this helps someone out there is a similar situation.
What Went Wrong: If I had to put my finger on exactly what happened that nudged my husband toward seeking a divorce, if I had to define it in one word – I’d say neglect. Now, this was not on purpose. Shortly after I got married, my husband and I sat down and talked about our financial goals and what we wanted to accomplish in say, the next 5 years. We both wanted children, but we were in debt. And, I wanted to be able to take some time off and spend it with my child. So, I knew that in order for this to happen, I would need to get my Master’s Degree. I already had a counseling undergrad education, but the pay would’ve been vastly different had I obtained my Master’s.
I knew that I had to do this, but I refused to go in any more debt. So, I kept my job (and added more hours) but began night school. Well, obviously this was a recipe for us never spending any time together. I would see him in the morning before work and by the time I got home, it was late. He would stay up and wait for me, but usually when I got home we were too tired to really connect deeply.
This was no one’s fault. Both of our intentions were good. But, I could feel a shift in our relationship. Still, I quieted this little voice by telling myself that I was working so hard for us. And, I reassured myself that my husband knew all of this. He knew the sacraments I was making and he knew that I would love to spend more time with him if I could, but that I was taking one for the team, knowing that my doing this would allow us to start our family on good financial ground .
I should not have made these assumptions. I should’ve set him down, had an open conversation about how we were both feeling (or not feeling), and then delayed our plans or worked out an alternate schedule – something. Because I’ve learned without doubt that no matter how much you might love each other, both people are never going to be as happy as they should be if you do not put in the time and attention. No matter what your intentions, neglect will weaken and kill a marriage every single time.
How It All Fell Apart: My husband’s pulling away honestly beaten me. I wish I could say that small warning signs were not there. But, they were. However, I was too busy (or too much in denial) to notice or acknowledge them. Looking back, the little things that my husband used to love about me now bothered him. On the rare occasions where we actually could’ve been together, he took a pass – focusing instead on his own work or his own friends. He’d often look at me with this questioning look, as though he was asking himself internal questions, for which he did not have the answer (or for which he was just disappointed with the answer.)
There were not any knock down drag out fights. He never told me that things had to change or he’d seek a divorce. He never gave me ultimatums or laid out his unhappiness. I knew that things were not as hot and as heavy as they used to be, but I blamed it on school, on a lack of time, and on the stress that we were both under.
So, when he presented me with divorce papers, you could have knocked me over with a feather, and that embarrassed me. Here I had a background in counseling, but I had missed everything. I was so angry at myself, angry with him, and angry at the situation. I denied that I could fix this, if given the chance.
So, I started making a pest of myself. I wanted answers immediately. I confroned him as to why and how he could do this. Why was he not giving me a chance to fix things? But, his mind was made up. He had waited so long to say anything, that by the time I realized what was happening, it was seemingly too late. Even this did not deter me. I would show up at his work, present my devastated self to him every chance I got, and follow him pitifully around.
He could not stand to look at or address this, so when I was not home, he gathered this things and moved out, leaving a short little note. When I walked into my empty, quiet house, that’s when I knew I might actually lose him. And all this did was make me panic more. So, I stepped up my attempts to get his attention and this only made things worse. He would avoid me like the plaque and literally almost run when he saw me coming. After months of this, it became pretty obvious to me that I was at the end of the line.
Feeling: Eventually, I became so depressed that I decided to take a semester off of school. I decided that I would go home over the holidays and see old friends. I could not stand my empty house. While home, some of the angst that I was feeling did less for the first time in a long time. It was good to see folks who were actually happy to see me. I reconnected with a couple that used to be mutual friends and it was not as weird or awkward as I thought it would be. I invited them down to visit me and they accepted. This cave me something to look forward to, and for the first time in a long time, I did not cry myself to sleep every single night.
While away, I came up on a couple of books about saving marriages or relationships and both said that what I had been doing (following, engaging, becoming a pest) had been completely wrong. Well, duh. They both outlined different tactics than what I was using. Too late now, though. I wished that I had known this before. It may have changed things, but maybe not.
The Turning Tide: Once I got home, all the fight had left me. I just did not have it in me anymore to be redirected the way I had been. I laid low. And, guess what happened? As soon as I brave up, my husband began to wonder just why I was so silent. He actually showed up at my (our) house and wanted to know what had been up with me. I mentioned that our old friends were coming to visit soon and that I had gone home and taken a semester off of school. His reply? Dead silence. I had no idea why this news seemed to bother him. But, he did stay for a while and I just let it be. I did not ask a million questions or attempt to change his mind. We just had a bit of small talk and a few laughs. Well, that was something.
After a while, he started calling. Finally, it became clear what he really wanted – he wanted to get together with the friends who were coming to visit. At first, I did not think anything of this. Sure, I’d go along, but nothing was going to happen. But when I mentioned this to a friend, she replied “you dope, this is what you’ve been wanting all along.” It’s coming right to you.
So, I dusted off the books I’d found and I formulated a plan. But, this plan was entirely different. This plan was about letting him come to me and working on myself so that I could honestly display the qualities that he used to love about me. It was about relaxing and knowing that I would be OK either way. It was about not allowing my desperation to cloud and poison what just might be. And, you know what? Once, once I stopped holding on so very tight, it worked.