An out of the blue statement by your spouse that he wants a divorce is anything but out of the blue. Rather, this seemingly shocking announcement is typically the result of months or years of a slow withering of love and trust. A slow withering that may have been avoided if the steps below were implemented. Of course, everything is easier said than done.
1. Be a safe harbor for one another
As a marriage counselor I can attest that a major reason many couples wind up on the shoals is because they treat each other’s confidences harshly and thus stop sharing things that leave them feeling vulnerable.
It is essential, then, for you and your partner to feel safe talking to one another when the topic is sensitive — for instance about sex no longer being exciting. If he/she says, “Lately it’s tougher for me to get turned on,” your response is, “Is there something you would like us to try?” versus, “Well, you’re not exactly a thrilling lover for me either!” And if he/she brings up feeling awful about not getting a raise at work, it’s not something you share at a cocktail party.
A general yardstick: Treat your partner’s insecurities the way you want him to treat yours.
2. A gratitude pronouncement a day
Remember the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” The same principle applies — expressing something to your spouse each day that he does that makes you happy — can keep the divorce lawyer at bay. Indeed, a recent study found that a key component of a happy marriage is regular expressions of spousal gratitude.
This doesn’t have to involve major contortions: Say, “Thank you so much, honey” when your partner walks the dog in the rain, and/or “That shirt looks terrific on you” and/or “How lucky I am to have a husband/wife who really cares about my happiness.”
3. Continually embark on small adventures
As the day-to-day chores and responsibilities of life go on, your relationship begins to feel routine and boring. To maintain a sense of connection, then, it is imperative to have ongoing couple adventures. It could be anything from building a bookcase to going whitewater rafting to cooking classes to ballroom dancing to volunteering together for a candidate (that’s providing you share the same politics!) to saving for a vacation.
Having ongoing goals keeps things fresh and exciting throughout your lives together. Plus, you are creating wonderful memories to look back on as the years roll on.
4. Learn to agree to disagree
In the course of your life together, obviously there are (many) times you will be on opposite sides of an issue. Thus it’s essential to stay on the triggering issue, say, why your spouse is continually late or your love of socializing versus your partner’s enjoyment of staying home. Stay on the topic — this means, don’t bring up past hurts and fights. Listen to your partner — he has a right to have a different viewpoint than you. Focus on problem solving versus blaming or playing victim.
If this seems difficult to do, keep reminding yourself that marriage means you are playing for the same team. The object is to play nicely together, not blow the other person out of the water!
5. Spend small pockets of quality time together every day
Have time together each day that is sacrosanct, meaning no one can interrupt it, barring an emergency. Perhaps your ‘couple bubble’ is first thing in the morning before you have to take showers, wake the kids and begin the daily grind. And/or before you fall asleep at night, spend time decompressing, hugging, sharing interesting thoughts and events and planning future activities and goals.
Couples that make the effort to share pockets of their day together will spend all their days together.