hands wedding ring 88.
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Dear Dr. Batya,
Help! My marriage is in trouble. We have been married for 25 years and while it is supposed to be "until death do us part," I am thinking of leaving. My husband is no longer the man I thought I married and it feels as if over the years, we have begun to drift further and further apart. I thought we had similar values in our life with respect to the children, religion and our lives in general but now I am not so sure. Perhaps it is just too late but I am interested in hearing your suggestions if you have any. Thanks.
- A.H., London, England
Get help immediately! Go for counseling now while you're both still willing to work. Work first to save your marriage and only if all else fails, work to end your marriage amicably. This may be your last opportunity because the more you "fall out of love" the sooner you will seek legal advice, contemplate separation and ultimately file for divorce. Both of you are likely tired and have lots of anger towards each other. As this may be your only chance to restore a once hopeful relationship, please treat it very seriously.
You have asked many important questions. All marriages change over time. They can grow or they can become stale. No two people share all values but if you can work together in several areas that I highlight below, you can improve your relationship dramatically. Here are just a few of the questions I might ask you were you to come into my office:
1) Commitment - Commitment to the process of change and growth can turn a marriage around. Are you both willing to really work hard to save your marriage? This must be a very high priority or else you'll give up when the going gets tough. For the duration of the counseling can you ensure that you can set aside time and will emotionally commit yourself to the actual process of therapy, the homework assignments, dates with just the two of you and, most importantly, trying to make the marriage better? If you are both committed, you are already well ahead of the game. You'll need to talk about what you can give to your partner and not just focus on what you want to receive from him. Chances are pretty good that up until now, at least some of your expectations have been completely unreasonable!
You personally will have to be prepared to look within yourself and make real changes, and that too is scary. Are you the best you can be, and if not, what can you do to improve things? Can you work hard to see the positive in someone and really attempt to understand them? One ultimately has to work on their marriage 24 hours a day, seven days a week and not simply take a relationship for granted. Do you have what it takes?
2) Forgiveness - Are you able to let go of your anger and move on? If you have been hurt in the past, this is not easy and will take some real work. Ask yourself what benefit you derive from holding onto your anger and recognize that if you choose to hang onto it, it will be at a cost. This is true whether you have had a simple fight, been disappointed or you feel that your partner has hurt you greatly.
3) Communication - Approximately 95 percent of marital problems are due to poor communication. Are you able to communicate with each other? Can you listen to and hear what your partner has to say? These are not the same thing! Can you understand where your partner is coming from and what his needs are, and if not, can you invest the energy into this effort? Do you share any common goals? We all have things that drive us crazy about our partner. The secret is to learn not to make each one a big deal, but rather embrace these differences and appreciate each other for your uniqueness. Are you truly trying to understand your partner? This does not mean you agree with him.
4) Flexibility - Are you able to see things from your partner's perspective? Can you recognize that winning is not the name of the game but working together for a shared purpose is? Can you give in, give up, cooperate, negotiate and compromise to make it a win-win situation for both of you?
In a relationship that has slowly eroded over time, it is often very difficult to invest the energy needed to save the marriage. However, if you are at all motivated to "make it work," finding ways to create intimacy long after the honeymoon has ended can present a highly enjoyable challenge and a truly exciting goal. Good luck!
Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. Visit her Web site at http://go.to/drbatyaludman.