Here is my Top 10 Ways to NOT Save Your Marriage! This is a partial list of the mistakes I see people make when they want to save their marriage. Sometimes, it is best to learn from others’ mistakes, rather than make it yourself.
10) Do nothing! Don’t worry, the crisis (problem, situation, incident, threat, etc.) will pass!
Ah, the old “bury your head in the sand approach!” The reality is, it is very unlikely that the crisis will simply pass. Let’s be honest: over time, this strategy builds up more and more resentment, then finally, everything falls apart. You can act surprised at that point, but you will know, deep down inside, that you ignored things way too long.
It is a cumulative effect, a marriage crisis. Rarely is there one “precipitating event” that suddenly ends the marriage. Instead, it is the problem ignored that adds to all the other problems ignored, which finally creates so much frustration that the “house of cards” falls.
So, the first useless strategy, just do nothing!
9) Refuse to get any outside help. Who needs it? You can do this yourself!
When you are in the middle of a marriage crisis, it is not time to “figure it out!” One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein, “the same level of thinking that created the problem will not solve the problem.” In other words, when we only use the thought processes that led us into trouble, we will not find a way out of the problem.
We all get stuck in our thought patterns. Once we establish them, we don’t change much. Think about it: don’t all of your spousal arguments basically follow the same pattern. Doesn’t your daily routine pretty much go the same? We like “sameness,” and change is a bit of a threat. Even the painful sameness is better than the unknown — at least that’s what we tend to believe.
Problem is, we find ourselves stuck, and without outside help and information, nothing will change, even if you want it to.
8) Grab some “free advice!” Hey, free is good, right?
Almost always, free advice is worth about that — nothing! When you are injured, do you seek out some “free advice” on that injury? Or when you need some legal advice, do you just get some “free advice?”
So why, when your most important relationship is on the line, would you just try to use some free advice? Look, we live in a “transaction society.” We make trades and transactions to get what we don’t have. And knowledge is no different. People who give away advice are rarely giving away anything worthwhile.
The real question, if free is your goal, is how much do you REALLY treasure your relationship? If I told you how to save $20,000 instantly, would you pay for it? Well, that is the minimal cash value of your failed marriage. In other words, a divorce in the U.S. averages $20K. Save your marriage, save $20K.
And what about having a wonderful, loving, peaceful marriage? What is the worth of that? Really, what price would you put on that? I ask because I know of plenty of people who think nothing of grabbing a $4 coffee drink every day, a couple of $3 packs of cigarettes every day, a $30 bottle of wine on the weekend, subscribe to a $100 cable system, blah, blah, blah. Then, when they go looking for advice to save their marriage, want to find some free advice.
It is always about value, and the value you place on your marriage. Free advice? Probably more costly than you can ever realize in the long run.
7) Get some good books, then leave them on the bookstand. Maybe your spouse will at least think you are doing something!
We authors don’t like to admit this, but statistics show that upwards of 80% of self-help books that are bought are never read. Imagine that! The answer may be right there! You took the time to get a resource, either because the cover looked nice, somebody recommended it, or because you were desperate.
Then, onto the bedside stand it goes, underneath the magazines, the daily paper, that good novel. . . then suddenly, it is lost.
The very bit of information that could save your marriage, stuck at the bottom of a stack, never to be read. Sound familiar? If so, time to dust off the information and give it a read! At least give it a chance. You’ve already invested your money in it. Why not give it a test drive?
6) Read the information, but then don’t do anything! It won’t work in your situation, anyway!
OK, so you dusted off that information, and even read it. . . but then you took no action! Maybe the information seemed impossible, far-fetched, too easy, too complicated, or just dead wrong! Now you do need to use your better judgement, but perhaps it is worth a try!
What you’ve been doing has clearly not gotten the results you wanted. So, perhaps it is time to try something new. Sometimes, new thinking seems foreign, unnatural. But it is really like anything new: repetition builds skill. What seems awkward begins to feel more natural. Suddenly, what seemed impossible seems elementary.
Again, remember Einstein’s quote. Doing what you’ve done hasn’t gotten you what you want. What’s the risk of trying something different?
5) Get bad information from unqualified sources. Hey, any information is better than no information. . . right?
As you have already discovered, there are lots of “experts” willing to make a buck, er, tell you how to save your marriage. Be sure your “expert” is really just that. At a minimum, make sure they actually have some training, not just their own experience! They don’t have to have a Ph.D., but if they can’t tell you about their training, other than “been there, done that,” move on!
Experts are experts because they have worked in the field, received training, and have some ideas on how to help you. The others are experts in marketing. Be sure and distinguish between the two.
Remember way back when the barbers who cut hair were also the “doctors?” They weren’t trained, caused lots of damage, but that was the only choice. Well, we don’t live in the “wild West” anymore, and there are plenty of real experts. Get their advice and avoid the damage of well-meaning but ill-equiped “experts.”
4) Do everything at once! Hey, if a little is good, a lot is better. . . right?
Wrong! Many marriages have suffered from neglect for too long, until one day someone wakes up and says “enough.” Then the other person jumps into high gear! They try to make “date nights,” meaningful conversations, do the housework, get another job. . . just about anything to make it work!
Instead, pick a couple of things. Be consistent with them, and try a slow approach. Building from zero takes some time. But if you try the “everything at once” approach, you will scare your spouse away.
3) Argue, beg, plead, and show your emotions. Surely your spouse will see your sincerity to save the marriage!
This is a very common situation. You see, we all are master “scriptwriters,” often ready for Hollywood. . . at least in our minds! We assume a spouse will see the wisdom of our logic, emotions, begging and pleading. Problem is, they are working off a different script.
If I throw someone a rope and when they grab it, I start pulling, their reflex is to pull back, matching power with power. It is no different in verbal tug-of-war. The harder I try to convince someone of something counter to what they have said, the reflex for that person to become even more entrenched in the belief.
e arguing, “reasoning,” begging and pleading have the opposite effect and actually hasten the dissolution of the relationship.
2) Let your spouse know your theory about how this is really about their “issue.” Then they will see how unhealthy they are!
Here is how to throw even more gas on the fire: when your spouse says he or she wants to leave, point out how it is a) their midlife crisis, b) they are never satisfied, c) really about their dysfunctional family, c) some other diagnosis you read about or saw on Oprah or Dr. Phil.
You may be dead-on! Problem is, you are not going to be seen as an objective provider of a diagnosis. Instead, you will only be strengthening the sense of frustration that your spouse is feeling. Diagnosis is best done, if at all, by an impartial, outside expert or by one’s self.
1) Try to prove how much you need them! Surely, just seeing they are needed will get them to stay!
Neediness is never attractive, and when someone wants to leave, feeling the neediness only throws fuel on the fire. People want to be wanted, but not desperately needed! And in the midst of a crisis, the last thing someone wants is to feel manipulated.
I’ve seen people threaten to kill themselves to prove how much they need the other person. I have seen people refuse to pay bills, eat, take care of the kids, take care of the house, etc., etc., etc. And in every case, the person who wants out says “see?” It’s hard to argue with that. Being needy is never attractive, and is even more so when someone wants nothing more than to not be needed.
Well, that is MY top ten list of how NOT to save a marriage while trying to save it. I could go on for many more. I think I have seen every mistake possible.
My hope is not that you become discouraged, but that you think through what you are doing and how you are doing it as you try to save your marriage. There is little more noble or heroic in today’s society than trying to hold a relationship together. I just want to stress the need to do so in helpful, not harmful ways.
So, what are your list? In other words, what mistakes have you made in your efforts to save your marriage?
More marriage saving information can be found in my ebook, SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE HERE.