Are you unhappy in your marriage? Are you waiting for your spouse to change from being uncaring, inattentive, undemonstrative and angry into someone who is attentive, loving, affectionate and peaceful? How long have you been waiting for that to happen? When was the last time you truly felt loved and appreciated by your spouse? When was the last time you felt love and appreciation toward him or her? If you could transport yourself into the future, 1 year, 3 years, 10 years or further, how do you imagine your life will be, if the dynamics with your spouse stay as they are?
Quite often, unhappy spouses tell me they know they should get a divorce, but instead, they are going to give their partner “one more chance”. Their spouse may have been disrespectful, abusive, impatient or indifferent toward them for months or in some cases, years… but still, some people feel a need to give the relationship one more chance. In past relationships, I’ve done the same thing, but ultimately, I realized it was just a stalling tactic that I used to avoid facing the truth.
If you decide to give your partner one more chance, there are some questions you might want to ask yourself first… What measurable, consistent changes have you seen in your spouse that lead you to believe he or she is making an effort to improve the quality of his or her relationship with you? Is he seeing a psychotherapist on a weekly basis? Is she genuinely listening to you when you talk and earnestly working with you to improve the way you communicate with each other? As a couple, are you getting support from a marriage counselor or coach on a regular basis? Are you able to discuss important issues with your partner in a calm and rational manner? Has he or she expressed a willingness to change?
Too often, we get seduced by our own imaginings about who our spouse really is. We create a fantasy in our minds that one day, our partner is going to morph into Prince Charming or Snow White. But, there are a few flaws in our thinking… For one, your spouse may believe he is perfect as he is, so there is no need for him to change. Or, maybe your spouse thinks you are the one with the issues so she believes you are the one who needs to change. If each spouse thinks they are okay and the other person is the one who needs to change, the marriage goes into a holding pattern that can last for years.
Some spouses have even given their partners what I call an “engraved invitation to leave”. Have you ever heard this come out of your spouse’s mouth? “I am fine, you are the one with the problem! If you don’t like the way I am, you can go find someone else!” Even when they are miserable in their marriage and their spouse invites them to leave, many people stay in the marriage. Instead, they give him or her one more chance.
Why do we feel a need to give our partner one more chance? In my personal experience and in talking with clients, I find the most common reason people stay in unhappy marriages, is fear. The reason they keep giving their partner one more chance, is fear.
- Fear of facing the truth that their marriage is over.
- Fear of looking like a fool.
- Fear of feeling like a failure.
- Fear of causing pain to their spouse.
- Fear of being alone.
- Fear of being criticized.
- Fear of being without financial resources.
- Fear of causing emotional damage to the children.
- Fear of being too old, unqualified, etc… to get a job.
- Fear of going back to work.
- Fear of repercussions from God.
- Fear of never finding love again.
There are many more reasons, but they all boil down to some type of fear. Most fears, don’t really stand up to scrutiny. Upon close examination, you may discover that those fears are actually made up of half-truths and speculations about the future, with no real data to back them up. I want to encourage you to look your fears, whatever they may be, squarely in the eyes. Look for the weak points in the stories you tell yourself about what could happen if you change the way you approach your life and your marriage. Think about a time in the past when you successfully faced a challenge. Research some of the ways you could overcome the obstacles you fear. Work with a coach or counselor who will support you as you develop a strategy and take steps to create a happier life for yourself.
You deserve to have a marriage that is based on mutual love, respect and honesty. If your spouse is willing to work together with you to build a relationship that is honoring to both of you, then make that your goal. On the other hand, if mutual love, respect and trust do not exist within the relationship and there is no mutual agreement to work together to improve the situation, it may be time to let it go.