One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “How do you know when it’s time to give up on your marriage?”
If you’re considering divorce, I suggest first trying to make it work for at least one more year.
Did you hear that?
Try for at least one more year!
And I mean REALLY try. You can always call it quits. You always have that option. But once you pull that trigger, it’s over. No more chances. Your life will never be the same. Do you have kids? Their lives will never be the same.
If you end your marriage, you don’t want to have a shred of doubt about what might have been. You don’t ever want to look back and wonder if things could have been different. You don’t want to ask yourself, “What if this? What if I tried that?”
If you have to end your marriage, you want to know DEEP IN YOUR HEART that you did everything you could to make it work.
Giving it one year of serious effort will also help you to move on with your life and into another relationship with a clear head, should you ultimately divorce. You want to come to a place of healthy closure. That is crucial! In my experience, the best way to do that is to work at your marriage for at least one additional year. I know it probably seems like a long time, but it’s an investment in the rest of your life.
Here’s the key point: It’s a good investment for the rest of your life whether your marriage succeeds or not. Obviously, it’s a good investment if you turn your marriage around. But if you don’t, it will not have been a wasted year. It will have been the most important thing you could have done with that year because of the impact on the rest of your life and (if it comes to this) your next relationship.
I have seen too many cases of spouses ending their marriages prematurely, and as a result, never reaching closure in the relationship. A few years later, they find themselves in the same situation with someone else.
Sometimes the progress individuals make in relationship counseling turns out to be more beneficial for them in their next relationship than in their current one.
I remember an instance when a man’s marriage ended in the middle of a seven-week marriage boot camp. The individual asked whether he should continue with the final weeks of the program. I said, “Absolutely.”
He responded, “Why? What’s the point? My marriage is over.”
“You’re not doing it for this marriage,” I explained. “You’re doing it for the benefit of your next one.”
Now don’t get me wrong; your intention for working on your marriage shouldn’t be simply to benefit your life after marriage. You need to be intent on restoring your current relationship.
But if you fail, your effort will not have been for naught.
Bottom line is this. If you’re asking, “When is it time to call it quits?”
The answer is: one year after you think you’re done. If after one more year of trying everything in your power to make your marriage work you’re still miserable, then you should consider moving on. Until then, hang in there and don’t give up.
This topic reminds me of my situation many years ago. I remember learning late one night that my wife had an appointment with a divorce attorney the next morning. We were hours from “done.” Who would have thought that we could turn things around at that point?
We did, of course.
It’s never too late! In fact (and here’s real food for thought), very often the turning point in a marriage is when a couple hits rock bottom. Sometimes it’s not until things couldn’t get worse that they can get better.
Mort Fertel is a world authority on the psychology of relationships. He has been featured as an expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox television networks, as well as dozens of publications including Glamour Magazine and Family Circle, to discuss his Marriage Fitness System.
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