Is love a feeling or is it a choice? What if it’s a value or a behavior? It can be all of those things. Typically, when you decide you want a divorce, you are no longer “feeling” love toward or from your spouse, but love is so much more than the “feeling.” You can make the choice to love and behave in a loving way.
There is no easy way to determine whether or not you have done all you can to prevent a divorce because the answer to this question is so individualized. Kyle Cease says, “No one breaks your heart, they break your expectations.” Think about that incredibly profound statement! Anytime you have been hurt or disappointed in your life, it is truly because someone did not do what you expected them to do. End of story!
Why is this realization so profound? Clearly we can adjust our expectations if we choose to. Prior to getting married, I advise couples to create a short list of their relationship non-negotiables. People sometimes choose things like violence, drug abuse, or addiction. The list is intentionally kept to 3-5 items that would be deal breakers for the relationship. Many people include infidelity, and that’s fine, but it’s interesting how you might think that’s a non-negotiable until you experience it; then you realize you want to stay in the relationship and work things out. Your non-negotibales must be a serious list of what you refuse to live with.
If your spouse has broken one of your non-negotiables, then you will want to exercise the option of leaving or asking your spouse to leave. When you begin to compromise on your non-negotiables, it becomes a slippery slope and, before you know it, you no longer recognize yourself when you look in the mirror. If a non-negotiable was violated, there is nothing more you owe your relationship.
If it wasn’t a non-negotiable violation, then is it possible that:
- You are taking your spouse’s behavior personally? Is it possible, whatever happened, your spouse was doing what they needed to do to get their own needs met and it had nothing to do with you?
- You are trying to make your spouse responsible for your happiness?
- The spark left your marriage and it just feels empty?
- You are holding your spouse to a standard higher than they are capable of reaching?
- You have simply grown apart?
- You want different things in life?
- Your values and beliefs are not in sync?
- You are annoyed with everything your spouse does?
- It seems you are consistently doing things to hurt or punish each other?
- You or your spouse are having those loving feelings for someone else?
- You became the person your spouse said they wanted, only to discover that wasn’t what he or she wanted at all?
- You are tired of being the one that always gives in the relationship?
In any of the above situations, there is room to get your marriage back on track. These are all examples of broken expectations that can be fixed. However, depending upon your situation, it shouldn’t always be fixed. You do not have to sentence yourself to a life of misery because of a promise you made however many years ago. People deserve to have happiness in their lives, with a supportive and encouraging spouse, not a “perfect” spouse. In case you haven’t noticed by now, “perfect” does not exist in marriage—and that includes you!
I will be writing future articles to address each area specifically, but as a general statement, you can adjust your expectations; you can take control of your own happiness by adjusting yourself instead of trying to “improve” your spouse. It is possible to forgive and move on from an affair, if that’s something you both want. It is possible to increase and improve the sex and romance in your relationship. It is possible to reconcile your differences, even without both of you needing to be involved in the solution! When you take control of your own happiness, you no longer need the other person to change or do anything differently. You change. Your behavior is the only real thing you can control anyway, so make your own adjustments first—it’s much easier than trying to change someone else.
My checklist for hanging in there:
- I really want to improve my marriage.
- My spouse is at least interested in maintaining the marriage.
- I am willing to do whatever it takes to move in that direction, even if it means completely accepting my spouse for exactly who he or she is today.
If you can agree with those statements, then there is more you can do. Look for future articles that address these areas.
Learn more.. Secrets of Happy Couples.