Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Saving a Marriage or Love Relationship and Avoiding Divorce

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I'm definitely not the poster child for avoiding a breakup or divorce and saving a marriage. In many ways, divorce was a tool for my marriage to go from conflict to a growing relationship. I don't have any regrets and see that who I am now wouldn't have been possible without having chosen divorce.

Nevertheless, we didn't have any children, and I do believe that this factor may have added a whole new spin to my decision making. My parents have been together for over 50 years, and I have admired their ability to love each other, find compromise, and make personal sacrifices within a relationship. I believe a healthy, committed relationship has enormous value, and taking the time to evaluate and see if there are workable solutions that allow you to remain together seems like an important step in the process. 

I had two post-divorce experiences where the light bulb went off in my head. Times where I heard myself saying, "Wow, I wish I had read this book while I was still married."

One of those books was the The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. After reading this book, many of the conflicts within our marriage made total sense to me. I could see how I didn't completely understand what my husband needed to thrive; and more importantly, I realized how I didn't have the tools to express what I needed from others or myself to feel loved. It was like a lightening bolt hit me.

If you are separated or thinking about breaking up, I urge you to read The Five Languages of Love. If your partner is a willing to save your relationship, then hopefully they will want to read it too. You can download my brief summary of the different languages of love by clicking here. I guarantee that reading this brief summary of The Five Languages of Love will have a powerful impact on your thoughts about all types of relationships (e.g., parent-child, friends, lovers, coworkers, etc.)

The second "aha" moment came when I was engaging in Imago dialogue after my divorce. I had read a little bit about Imago relationships, but had never taken the time during my marriage to learn this technique. It's HUGE! I won't go into a lot of detail, but Imago is a canned conversation that allows partners to listen and empathize with each other in a safe and trusting environment. It's a disciplined practice, and it's very powerful. To read more about Imago click here. It's best to have a Imago coach or therapist help you and your partner learn and practice the dialogue, but if you want to see what the structure of the conversation looks like, click here to download the Imago Dialogue.

The idea of a canned conversation may sound silly, but the beauty of this practice is that it is not about finding solutions or fixing problems. Rather through the natural process of deeply hearing your partner and also having the space to truly express yourself, as a couple, you develop the key components of relationship: trust, safety, and compassion. What you begin to see is that many problems don't require solutions hashed out like demands on a battlefield of love, rather because you build this intense understanding and empathy for your partner giving comes naturally.

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saving a relationship

If you consider your relationship relatively healthy, but you are still thinking about separating, here are some other ideas to work through before you breakup or get a divorce:

  1. If you struggle to express your feelings and thoughts to your mate, write him or her a letter. 
  2. Consider the price tag of doing therapy and possibly ending up with a meaningful relationship over the cost of getting a divorce.
  3. Make sure you do an exhaustive self-inventory of why breaking up or divorce is the only option and how you have contributed to the current state of your relationship.
  4. Let go of the fantasy that the other person needs be perfect.
  5. Reconnect through touch. Many times the distance between two people can be bridged not through talking but through a simple touch such as holding hands.
  6. Spend time learning to see your mate through new eyes as if they were a mysterious stranger. Cultivate curiosity and make a list of all the things you value in your partner.
  7. Evaluate the affect your divorce might have on your children and if you are ready to embrace your spouse's new love interests as role models for your kids.