Can you save your marriage?
Frankly, only you can answer this question for yourself.
Once a marriage graduates from the honeymoon phase and you two get down to the business of life as a team, all sorts of problems can crop up that have nothing to do with the quality of your relationship.
On the other hand, living together and making a life together can also expose unfixable fissures in your relationship.
Here are ten questions to contemplate and answer to help you make your decision from the office of a noted Philadelphia divorce lawyer.
Are You Both Willing to Put In the Work Needed to Save the Marriage?
This question is first because if you are unable to discuss what is going on with your spouse, or they are unwilling to do what is necessary to solve the problems you are having, your answers to the remaining questions do not matter.
A marriage takes work from both of you in order to succeed. Many, if not most, problems can be worked through or a compromise found, but only if both are willing and able to put the time, energy, and consideration into acknowledging there is a problem, identifying what the problem is, and determining a solution to the problem as a team.
If your spouse is unable or unwilling to take these steps, then your marriage may not be worth saving.
Do You Still Feel Respected by Your Spouse?
If you feel your spouse respects and considers you despite any problems you are having, that is an excellent start. Unfortunately, couples in a disagreement are often careless with their language and say things that irreparably harm their relationship.
What is said cannot be unsaid. If you are still respectful to and of one another, that is excellent groundwork for other improvements. All marriages need tweaks now and then.
Do You Still Feel Loved by Your Spouse?
Respect and love are two different things, and love has many aspects. While the physical aspects of love may wax and wane throughout your marriage, other elements should not. You should feel cherished, and your spouse should feel cherished by you.
This does not have to take the form of saying “I love you” incessantly. Love is shown more in the little things you do for one another.
Your spouse brought your favorite take-out home after you had a rough day. You did your spouse’s laundry when they had to work on the weekend. You both carve out time in your day to check in with one another.
Problems that have nothing to do with how much you love one another can and will arise throughout your marriage.
Think about whether you can separate the problem you are having from whether you still love one another. That will give you your answer.
Do You Still Enjoy Spending Time with Your Spouse?
While we all lead busy lives, it is not unreasonable to expect your spouse to prioritize spending what little downtime you have with you and vice versa.
Do you regularly engage in activities you both enjoy? Do you set aside time to be together, even just reading the Sunday paper over breakfast?
Often together-time takes a back seat in our busy lives. Work, household maintenance, and parenting all vie for our limited time, energy, and attention.
Could the problem you are having stem from neglecting to carve out some together-time?
Can You Picture Yourself Living Apart from Your Spouse?
Try to imagine what your life would be like without your spouse. You might be living alone or with a roommate, and your time is your own to schedule as you see fit.
You might be living with your kids with primary responsibility for parenting them. You might only be able to have your kids with you occasionally, and your spouse is the primary parent.
How do these scenarios make you feel? Try to inhabit them and determine how the prospect of living that way feels to you.
Do You Feel Ambivalent about Leaving Your Spouse?
Ambivalence means to be of two minds about something. If you waffle back and forth over whether to leave your marriage or not, something is preventing you from leaving.
Is it fear? If so, you can overcome that. But if, deep down, you believe there is something redeemable in your marriage, that too may cause ambivalence.
Can Your Difficulties Be Attributed to Money Problems or Disagreements?
Disagreements or stress about finances is one of the primary causes of divorce. If you and your spouse think differently about money, that can cause a huge rift.
Married couples must be able to sit down and discuss their finances as a team without being accusatory or getting defensive. Easier said than done, right?
But if you can figure out a way to talk about your money problems and you are successful in agreeing on an approach, even if that approach is agreeing to disagree and keeping finances separate, that will go a long way towards being able to assess the quality of your marriage without the static caused by money arguments.
Can Your Difficulties Be Attributed to Parenting Disagreements?
Similarly, married couples should strive to work as a team to craft a parenting plan and techniques that are consistent with each parent. Otherwise, not only does your marriage become dysfunctional, but your children will suffer.
Do You Think You Can Learn to Work as a Team?
If working as a team is not even on your radar as a couple, perhaps you need to examine why together. Presumably, you have a joint household to maintain and a joint lifestyle to craft.
You may also have children that you equally parent and care for. How can you NOT be a functional team?
For many couples, it is a matter of communication. Often, married couples pattern their behavior in their marriage on that of their parents, often to disastrous results.
Opening lines of communication in a non-threatening way is what you need in this case. This can be done with the help of a third-party neutral professional, such as a marriage counselor.
A marriage counselor can help each of you identify why you married, what you each saw in one another when you decided to get married, and how you want your married life to look.
Once you can agree on the goals of your marriage, you can work on creating strategies for achieving those goals.
Do You Feel Safe with Your Spouse?
This last question might well be first due to how important it is; however, know that if you do not feel physically safe with your spouse, that trumps any positives the other nine questions uncovered.
You deserve to be and feel safe, and so much more. Do not under any circumstances settle for less.
About the Author
Roni Davis is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted divorce attorney.