Can Any Marriage Be Saved?

This is my husband and our son, now ten years old, and me in 2005...We were extremely happy then...

I asked my husband a very difficult question a few days ago while we were discussing very calmly and maturely one day recently, whether or not our marriage is fixable. We both gave our opinions and then listened to the other as well. We have had an extraordinarily happy marriage for more than two-thirds of it, which was sixteen years December 13th, but began declining in 2008, after we opened a restaurant franchise with family and it destroyed our relationship with each member of my family (see my other very recent post: Never Go Into Business With Family, or How A Restaurant Irreparably Destroyed My Family) causing a lot of stress in our marriage and isolating me from my own family, making me resentful toward his family. We have been to hell and back since early 2010, and I never in a million years thought we would ever end up contemplating divorce. Because when until I married my husband, I didn’t think divorce was that big of a deal. But since we married, I decided I would do anything necessary to ensure our successful marriage. In 2009 we started marriage counseling but only completed one session. The first session ended with us fighting all the way home and all weekend; not long after that the therapist we saw moved his office more than thirty minutes away, so we just never ended up going again.

Which leads me to the tough question: can any marriage be saved? Is any marriage so damaged that its beyond repair, beyond improving, beyond rekindling that spark a marriage really needs to stay happy?

I asked my own counselor her opinion on this issue, and I was surprised to find that she feels the exact same way as me. I have a solid education in mental health, so perhaps this attitude goes along with being in the mental health field. But it is my strong belief that any marriage can be saved. Why? Because I strongly believe that as long as both parties genuinely want the marriage to work, they will both be willing, in most circumstances, to do whatever needs and/or can to be done to prevent the inevitable: divorce.

I never in a million years would have imagined that my husband would have been the one to not want to make our marriage work; I was crushed at first when he said that too much has happened and been said, we are in a different place now than we were three years ago. I now realize he was right; too many nasty comments have been made that can’t be taken back. I can think of ten things right off the top of my head that he has said which I will never forgive, and I can think of at least two or three comments I made just in the last few months which were the same way.  But on the same note, he has gone to bat for me, like defending me to haters, so many times. He has gotten into serious, long-term disagreements with his own two adult daughters over his feeling that they were being disrespectful to me, several times throughout our marriage. In fact, he has more than once gone over a year without speaking to one or both of them in a largely unsuccessful effort to get them to apologize. My husband has even defended me to my own parents.  But to be honest, I don’t like him as much the last few years as a woman should like her man. I love him, because he’s not only the father of my children but because we have been through more the last three years than most couples do who are married more than forty years. And you don’t give up easily on love that strong.

But we aren’t giving up easily. We have both changed. We have both become different people. You know what really made me realize this marriage is over? When he began talking negatively about me to people. That’s when I knew it was over for him, more or less. He used to put me up on such a pedestal. He would never let anyone say a single negative word about me.  To be honest, he now talks about me not much better than he talks about his ex-wife. That was one thing that hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember when he and I were first married, and his ex-wife would write a letter to me at Christmas or come around because of their daughters and he would talk crap to her, mostly in a joking kind of way (that’s how he is) and it would always embarrass me so I would tell him to knock it off but he would just laugh and take one last jab at her. When he recently started teasing me in the same sort of way in front of people, I thought of her, and wondered if she felt the same way I feel when he does that.

It is sad, don’t get me wrong..it is very sad when a marriage ends. But he and I are getting along pretty good right now so if it’s going to end, now is the best time, before either of us completely hates the other. In fact, both he and I have told the other “I hate you” at one time or another in the past two years and once you start telling each other that you hate each other, and it happens often enough that you’re unable to even come up with a number, its probably over, particularly if neither party wishes to work on repairing it.

The biggest thing that I have realized just in the last few days, is how much it’s clear my husband doens’t want to do any kind of work to make our marriage better. He has gotten to be so wrapped up in the restaurant business that it takes precedence, I feel, above anything and everything. That saddens me so much…there was a time nothing was more important to us both than each other. That’s how it should be, isn’t it?

Every once in a while I will come across an article or a book about marriage counseling or how to save a lost or damaged marriage, and I will think to myself, “maybe this is the info I need, maybe this will help my marriage”. Perhaps there is still some real, genuine love there, and if that’s the case, love will find a way. If we both should happen to change our minds and decide we want our marriage to work, then it will work. I truly believe that. And I’m not saying that if one party doesn’t want it to work but the other does, that it’s definitely going to work or definitely not going to work; it just depends on how strong the desire is of each party. But I believe love always finds a way, in the end. Love is a strong force, not to be reckoned with.

Mark Gungor, author of several books on relationships and marriage, said in his book Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage: “Marriage problems are relationship problems, they are the result of how two people interact with each other. You may abandon a troubled marriage, but you will still bring the way you interact with others along with you”…. in other words, fix it now, or fix it later. If you don’t fix it by making an honest attempt to fix the marriage now, then you will carry the same bad habits you had in the failed marriage, along with you in the next relationship. The problem is, so many people are so busy blaming the other person that they don’t stop and realize that with divorce, it’s never always one person’s fault.  Both parties are accountable in every situation, not always exactly 50/50, but to some degree.

It's clear in this photo I still adore him, but his feelings are less apparent...

And in the event you genuinely want your marriage to be saved, make a genuine attempt to let the other person know you want to save it, and if the other person agrees to give it another try, put your whole heart and soul in to fixing it. This is your last chance, so don’t waste it. Give it your all, and you may find that what you thought was impossible, is actually not impossible at all. That any marriage really can be saved…

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