Marriage is a word that speaks to bonds.
Love is a bond. As man and wife, we become one.
When we get married, our hopes and dreams is that we will forever live in happiness, closely bonded to the man (or woman) we love.
We never imagine a day when our marriage is broken. It just seems inconceivable that the man or woman we love would ever become our enemy.
The notion of having to start over so your marriage has a second chance is the last thing we would dwell on.
So thoughts of a loveless and broken relationship just does not even enter our mind.
And why should it. It is not conducive to having a successful marriage if we are plagued with worries that the relationship will be torn asunder.
Such thoughts should be cast out of our minds because such negativity can feed on itself, right?
After all, all couples will encounter setbacks and challenges. Why must we even consider the prospect of starting over.
What does that even mean? Is there ever a time when we should be worried that things are going down the toilet?
How do you even know if your marriage is in the danger zone?
And what do you do if you are sure your marriage is failing and needs a major reboot?
How do you overcome the pain and fear of seeing your marriage go down the tubes?
When can be you be sure that the Marriage is over?
And is there a way you can make good again on the promise to love and cherish and forever remain in each other’s hearts?
A lot questions about the solidarity of our marriage can occupy our minds when things seem to be going sour.
I don’t think a marriage is over just because your outlook is bleak. It is not unusual to find yourself down in the dumps if you can’t imagine living with your husband (or wife) much longer.
But nor do I believe you should stick it out to the very bitter end if you are roiled in a marriage where you are miserable.
So what should you do about it? One thing I want you to do is take a look at this post if you have not read it yet. It is full of key principles you should follow to save a marriage in trouble.
I guess we should start with what might be the signs of a failing marriage. After all, one should have an idea of what it looks like when the marriage is really kaput or nearly over for good.
As we walk through the different signs or indicators of a failing marriage just know that on the whole, a marriage usually does not slide into oblivion on the basis of a few things going wrong. And seldom can your write off a marriage based on the amount of time things have been going horribly. Though that is an important consideration.
To say the least, there are many factors which influence the erosion of a couple’s relationship. We are going to explore some of these things and then we are going to talk about what you and your spouse can do to pull your marriage out of its downward spiral.
OK, so let’s get started.
What Are The Signs and Indications of a Crappy Marriage?
I think one way to understand and see when the end is near is through some stories that married women (and men) have shared with me.
I have talked with a lot of married men and women about their struggles. Sometimes they can really get down on themselves. And that is understandable if you feel like you are stuck in a marriage with no escape.
For example, a relationship can disintegrate rapidly to a place of no return if your husband (or wife) emotionally abuses you. It is a common occurrence. Sadly, emotional abuse involving husband and wife is more pervasive than people realize.
Many marriages also break down due to extramarital affairs or emotional affairs of the heart. The impact of having a cheating spouse can be jarring and long-lasting.
Let’s take a wife’s unique perspective.
A married woman wants to feel she can trust her husband and it is also important she feel safe. These two things operate in unison. It is difficult to feel safe and secure if trust has eroded.
Trust in marriage is something that should resemble a great wall.
As time passes, trust should grow and solidify.
But if over the course of the relationship, bitter arguments and poor treatment become the norm, trust can been severed. The couple will not only feel split along these lines of conflict, but also their trust in each other will be broken.
So trust in marriage is powerful. The lack of trust is common thread in marriages that are breaking down and falling apart.
You trust that your husband loves you and will take care of helping you when you need support.
You trust that he will be there for you in the present and long in the future.
And you trust that your husband will have your back and will not betray you.
Take trust out of the love equation and the marriage will cease to be a healthy relationship.
Let’s drill down deeper and consider what some of my clients have said when they grappled with the question of whether they should start over.
“I just don’t have any feelings of love for him. It has been exhausting living with someone who rarely shows any affection. This has been rocking along for a few years now and it is just getting worse. I know I made a terrible mistake marrying him and I want out. We fight all the time. He is cruel and uncaring. His friends tell me he is cheating on me. I can’t rely on him. Should I ask for a divorce and move out or is there something else I should be doing? Is there a reset marriage button?”
“I am miserable living with him. We never really had much of a courtship. I was young and impressionable and got married too fast. I am thinking of leaving him because I have seen enough about what kind of man he really is and I just don’t want to be married to somebody I have no respect for. I am tired of his lies and I know he is having an affair. There is no trust and never will be. I know he hates me and can be vindictive. I can’t live this way anymore. I never realized I would end up with a guy who constantly tells me things I know are untrue.”
“The fight we had last night was the final straw. My husband will never change. He wants to control every single thing about me. I am afraid to be myself. When I get my courage up to speak up, he pushes me down and either lectures me or tells me he is disgusted. He acts like he despises me when I have done nothing to deserve such harsh treatment. He has been married before and they broke up for the same reasons. I stuck my head in the sand while it was playing out in front of me every day. The man is a control freak and I really need to get away from him and need your advice on how to do it.”
“I left my husband in spirit a few years ago. We are still married, but I love another man. What drove me to fall in love with this other man was my husband’s affairs. Even now he still sees other women when it suits him. He has no clue as to my affair and that is perfectly fine by me. I am not one of those women who want to punish him with the knowledge that I get my love and sexual satisfaction from another guy. Not because I am above being cruel. To be honest, I am not without fault. But I love this other man and I want to build a life with him. But I also still love my husband and don’t know how and when I should pull the trigger to end our marriage.”
Many of the complaints I get from women who are on the edge of quitting their marriage usually follow a similar pattern. While not all of these outcomes may describe your circumstance, if you find your marriage is plagued with several of these situations, it is likely your marriage is in serious trouble.
- The couple has had a long history of ugly fights.
- One or both married partners may be having issues with being emotionally unfaithful or outright cheating.
- The couple is experiencing an ongoing loss of trust
- A spouse is dealing with a significant loss of respect for her lover. This issue around loss of respect usually does not unfold as a result of a singular incident, but rather occurs over time due to multiple events and behaviors.
- When there is little to no kindness or appreciation offered within the marriage, the chances of a successful long-term relationship is poor.
- Your husband (or wife) is a total and absolute control freak. You feel imprisoned and incapable of making decisions for yourself. Your ideas and opinions are usually snuffed out. And when you try to assert yourself, your husband (or wife) aggressively pushes you back down in an effort to limit any input or autonomy you wish to assert.
When The Marriage Is Breaking Bad Should You Start Over?
Now we have arrived at a crossroads.
When is it time to toss in your chips and cash out?
When can you be reasonably certain that it is in your best interest to go a different direction? And when can you be certain that you have given your marriage every opportunity to succeed?
You can be sure that the success of you marriage will be challenged by forces that neither of you fully understand and you and your husband (or wife) will suffer hardships and setbacks.
Whether you are a woman or guy, take a look at this article I wrote a while back. It offers you a marriage survival guide.
So throwing in the towel prematurely and not working to mend what is broken can be a big mistake.
But nor am I an advocate of going down with the ship.
It takes two to make a marriage successful.
Sometimes, despite one’s best intentions, two people are not able to make it work. Men and women make mistakes in who they chose to marry and it can be a mistake to cling to a relationship that continually falters, despite your best efforts.
If you have given your all to your marriage and committed yourself to genuine efforts over a lengthy period of time to work on your shared problems, that speaks volumes.
If after all your efforts serious problems persist, something else needs to happen.
Without knowing any of the specifics of your personal situation, it is impossible to provide definitive advice on whether you should break it off permanently with your husband (or wife) or if you should try an entirely different approach.
Think about your options holistically.
Let’s take the case of a woman whose husband has been emotionally abusive over a long period of time. Let’s assume that the type of emotional abuse she is subjected to is hateful and occurs with frequency. Assume the couple has been married for several years and despite the woman pleas for them both to get marriage counseling, the abuse has only gotten worse. Now the wife is miserable and feels lost and hopeless.
On the face of it, it would seem the marriage is very much on the rocks and arguably has been suffering for years, despite the wife’s efforts to get help. The relationship is dysfunctional.
So one would ask why should the wife persist in trying to make the marriage work. How much suffering is enough? It would seem appropriate to advise the wife to leave her husband. Seems simple, doesn’t it.
Unfortunately, nothing is simple in marriage.
The wife, while she may be suffering the pain of poor marriage, may also still love her husband very much. There may be extenuating circumstances that cause her to hold on to her marriage. Some of the reasons can be deeply psychological (e.g. emotional dependency) and other could be more practical such as the social fabric of the family if children are involved or her financial well-being.
So what may be in the wife’s best interest is usually a very complicated question.
Usually, in my view, one’s personal happiness outweighs most other factors. Emotional dependency is real thing, but it is a condition that can be addressed and treated over time.
Separation and divorce can certainly have an adverse negative impact on the children if not managed properly, but children can also be impacted negatively if they live in an unhealthy marital environment. Financial considerations are worthy of close scrutiny, but they should not outweigh the other factors.
Sometimes it is best to break clean from a marriage.
But another path one can try before breaking away from a dysfunctional marriage is trying to do something that hopefully will be transformative.
Is Starting Over With Your Husband or Wife Possible?
So how can you start a marriage over, without breaking it completely?
Should you and your husband simply agree that the marriage is suffering terribly, so let’s reset and start over, putting the past behind you? Perhaps you can put it in writing and swear by it.
Is it really that easy? Has it ever worked?
It does sound good.
And many well-intentioned couples will tell each other they want to start the relationship with a clean slate and actually try to pull it off. But more often than not, such promises ring hollow, perhaps not in the moment they were made, but eventually the problems that existed before surface and cause conflict.
Is there another way to get a second chance at making the marriage work?
I believe that in some circumstances, particularly when the stakes are high, it becomes necessary to jar someone’ sense of routine. If you are unhappily married, despite whatever it is that is causing you to be unhappy, you and your husband (or wife) are engaged in routines.
A big change to the marriage equation would be upsetting the routines, without utterly destroying or ending the marriage.
Let’s go back to the husband that is the “emotional abuser”. Doing something to interrupt all the routines would usually get’s the full attention of the spouse. If the marriage is a mighty ship, consider such an action a shot across the bow.
Something needs to happen to enforce the belief in your spouse that you are willing to end it all.
If one considers a marriage as being over as the “Big Breakup” (i.e. this being your final trump card), then the intervention I am talking about would be the “Minor Breakup”.
In a way, you are giving your husband one last chance, but it is not in the form of a do over or a “let’s give it another try agreement”.
The intervention I speak of would have to be a case in which you express your utter dissatisfaction with the marriage and your desire to take an extended time out from each other. This could involve asking our husband to temporarily move out of the house or if you don’t think that would fly, then you could temporarily move out yourself.
The relationship intervention would assume that coming back together again would be predicated on certain things such as you both living apart for a while and if you both later agree to resume the marriage, it would be under the condition that you both attend marital counseling.
For some couples, a condition of resuming the relationship could be something symbolic such as them both agreeing to a written set of principles of how they will treat each other.
There is nothing that I can point to as a plan that is fool-proof when it comes to how to avoid a complete marriage break up. And starting the marriage over sounds good in principle, but in practice it can fall way short of success.
Sometimes you need to do something big and meaningful to create an impact to change the way the marriage has operated in the past.
It reminds of the solution employed by those who extinguish a runaway fire in an oil well. There are different methods that can be employed to stop the flame from consuming the well. But sometimes the best way to stop the burning flame is to set charges and explode the well. That act can finally extinguish the flame, allowing the operator to rebuild the well.
If your relationship is flawed, sometimes you need to break the mold that formed the marriage, then build it up again with a new set of principles and commitment.
This approach doesn’t always work, but if you are at the end of your rope, it might be worth trying