40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.American Psychological Association
Okay, you’re here because you are considering divorce or separation from your spouse. Here are a few steps I encourage you to do before making your first couples counseling appointment.
- Talk with your spouse. If you have grown distant or cold towards your spouse, you need to start with turning towards one another rather than turning away. This could be simple and small acts, so start there. The more you turn away from your spouse the more distant you put between the two of you. Distant doesn’t help a marriage on the edge, so starting small with basic conversation and positive interaction can help.
- The approach to your conflict really matters. Whether the conflict is your marriage, how to raise children, or household duties such as laundry and dishes, how you approach conflict makes a big impact. If you approach the conflict with a fighting mindset, you are going to leave the conflict hurt. Start slow and be gentle.
- Recognize that almost half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. While that statistic can be scary, it’s a truth. Do you want to become part of this statistic or do you and your spouse want to have a different outcome? The United States is also sporting a declining divorce rate that dropped 18% during 2008 – 2016.
- Take ownership of the hurt and pain you have caused or brought into the relationship. Marriages take 2 people working together to be successful. If your marriage is suffering, own up to what you’ve done or said in the past that brought the marriage to this point.
- Recall what you did before you were married when you were dating your spouse, what did that look like? How did you think and feel differently about your spouse? What type of activities would you do then that you stopped doing?
- Acknowledge that you can’t change your spouse. If your relationship was that simple to fix, it would have been done already. Make an intentional effort to understand that you can only change your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviors. You can’t change your spouse but you can change how you respond to them.
- If you are currently and actively involved in infidelity outside the marriage, stop. Ongoing and secret infidelity has significant impacts on trust.
- Let difficult emotions go, especially those that don’t serve you well. This doesn’t mean to forget but maybe it means to forgive and no longer letting the past get the best of you.
- Many of the couples tell me at the end of marriage counseling that they shouldn’t have waited as long as they did to see me for marriage counseling. These couples typically wait until things get so bad to seek help. Dr. John Gottman reported that couples wait 6 years before seeking help!
- Speaking of Dr. John Gottman, I encourage you to read the Gottman Institute blog and check out the books and other materials they have created for couples. The Gottman Institute has about 40 decades of marriage and relationship research. The Gottman Institute provides a well researched and insightful conversation into helping struggling marriages.
- Finally, seek out a couples or marriage counselor to work through difficult issues. A counselor isn’t there to fix you or your spouse but help you learn to express yourself better, understand your spouses perspective better, and learn new techniques to enhance and deeper your relationship.
I believe that you deserve more than ok in your marriage. Ready to make an appointment? Contact me today.
Remember, no great misery goes unnoticed, if you are struggling with your mental health, be sure to reach out to a qualified mental health professional. If you are considering suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, call 9-1-1, or visit the closest emergency room.
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Jeff Simms is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Counselor in private practice in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Jeff works with adults that want to get better dealing with their anxiety, depression, PTSD, and marriage.