We’ve all heard the cliché: “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” But is divorce destined to become the next certainty? The overwhelming numbers are not in our favor. In Canada, 41 percent of marriages end in divorce within the first thirty years. For varying reasons, including growing apart, infidelity, affairs, mid-life crises, or money troubles, it appears divorce is a distinct possibility for several couples. What steps can be taken to avoid this teeter-totter of happily-ever-after versus starting over? How can divorce be avoided?
Whether you’ve found yourself on this article because you’re recently married and hoping to “study-up” for a lifetime of joy with your spouse or because you’ve been married for years and feeling that things just aren’t the way they used to be, we’re here to help. Please understand, this task will not be easy—especially if you’re thinking in terms like, “saving the marriage.” One must be willing to devote time and energy to keeping the marriage moving in the right direction. Past errors must be fixed and overlooking unpleasant issues helps no one. On the other hand, learning to forgive and work through anger problems can often ease feelings of resentment or even betrayal. In his book, Forgive For Good, Dr. Fred Luskin promotes the healing powers of forgiveness and puts an emphasis on “letting go of hurt.” Remember, the goal is not to not get divorced; the goal is to enjoy a happy marriage.
Although the following examples may seem obvious, after years of tolerating objectionable emotions or behaviors, a simple change could mean the difference between fire and ice. First, set aside time for each other. Modern couples are often busy with everyday chores and work commitments like proposals and shuttling the kids to ballet and soccer, that time alone is limited. The occasional “date night” may change an entire relationship. It doesn’t have to be formal or expensive, but it does have to be together. If time is too scarce for a date night, there are other occasions that can be spent together. One of our favorite pastimes as a couple is taking our three beautiful canines to the dog park. Even if I choose to jog to the park, my husband and I still have the time there and the walk back to be together. Not to mention, we both get to spend time with our Dachshund Graf and our Great Danes, Toki and Nucky.
Communicating with your spouse is as important as the air you breathe. According to a 2010 poll from Fly Research (online marketing research), “couples now spend less than an hour a day talking in person, with almost one in five spending just fifteen minutes speaking face-to-face.” To be the couple that survives while others all around you are failing, never stop communicating, never stop connecting. Even if time doesn’t permit face-to-face conversation, texting or sending e-mails reminds your spouse that he or she is in your thoughts. Connect every day and as often as possible. This is a component of marriage that is never complete. Whether it is a short text that says, “thinking-of-you” or a silly quote from your favorite movie, every chance to communicate is important. As in breathing, one point of contact carries you to the next for a long, happy marriage.
When unforeseen crisis arise and they will, be understanding and supportive and see it as a challenge to master. Your marriage may be sailing along and suddenly it happens; a crisis occurs. In our case, I had a stroke in my first trimester!
I was baby & career obsessed and yet my brain had suffered a trauma wherein I had short term physical damage and longer term emotional impact. It was a tough time as my husband supported me but also tried to shock me into getting back into the routine I’d had cherished previously. It was not an easy time and it required loads of patience, compromise and love to get us through those two years of stressful times. Looking back at that period, I believe that our relationship became stronger, having survived that test.
Spice up your marriage by committing to something new and entertaining. There are always opportunities to take up couple sports or enroll in classes together. Imagine you and your spouse taking dance lessons or cooking classes together—new experiences to share with the one you love. It can result in developing new skills and sharing hundreds of inside jokes. My husband and I took ballroom dancing together. It turned out we both hated it, but we wouldn’t have known if we never tried. On a larger scale, we also love to travel together. We’ve been to many unique places with one of the most memorable being salmon fishing in Iceland. Would you believe that neither of us normally goes fishing! We love to travel together, try new foods and really become a part of each and every culture we visit.
Finally, it’s important to be supportive and appreciative of each other. My husband and I have had the same fights as other couples because I’m a bit of a workaholic. However, I know how much he appreciates me and we both truly value one another’s opinions. Like most couples, we don’t agree on everything but we don’t have to! The key is to be supportive. It’s important that even after fifteen years we don’t pre-judge or cut each other off during the middle of a sentence. This is another aspect of communication that can never be overlooked. I know it can seem difficult, but listen to your spouse and let them finish their thoughts before chiming in. It can truly make the difference between rocky roads and smoother sailing in a long-term marriage.
It’s been my experience that divorce can be avoided if problems are detected early and addressed in proper manner. Minor wrongs can be brought to light and forgiven early on, but issues that are allowed to marinate often harden and become much more difficult to fix. Somehow, divorce became the solution for accumulated minor problems in marriage. Like any skill, marriage involves work. But the effort can result in a beautiful masterpiece when performed properly. Modern society seeks instant solutions for problems, but there are no instant recipes for long-term marriages. Trying to fix a marriage in a day is like trying to repair a vehicle with duct tape; it doesn’t work. It takes time. If counseling becomes necessary, try counseling. Take time every day to communicate, enjoy new experiences, support and appreciate your chosen mate, and always make the effort to live happily ever after.
Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, Tokii CEO & Founder
A business and brand maverick, skilled in building start-ups and building brand management teams in North America, Asia and Europe.