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To Save Your Marriage

To Save Your Marriage

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

Michelle Weiner-Davis, a marital therapist in Chicago, doesn’t like divorce. Her own parents divorced when she was child, which had a traumatic effect upon her, so she has devoted her professional career to preventing divorce if possible. In her latest book, “The Divorce Remedy” (Simon and Schuster, 2001), Weiner-Davis lays out a step by step plan by which an individual can attempt to save her marriage that is on the brink of divorce.

One of the assumptions that Weiner-Davis makes, which I have found to be true, is divorce often creates more problems than it solves. At times, it is easier to fix up a failing marriage than to go through the pain of a divorce, single parenthood, and remarriage that often follows people who divorce.

The first thing Weiner-Davis recommends is that a person trying to save his marriage giveS up some basic assumptions. One assumption is that it takes two to save the marriage, whereas she believes that a person can do so by himself. A second erroneous assumption is that conflict and anger means a marriage has failed. On the contrary, all marriages will have conflict. A third erroneous assumption is that people need to have common interests, tastes and backgrounds to have a happy marriage. Research shows this not to be the case. A fourth erroneous assumption is that love is a feeling. Love is a commitment, a decision. The feelings of love will wax and wan but as long as the commitment is made, the marriage will be stable. Another erroneous assumption is that second marriages are always happier. In fact, the divorce rate is higher for second marriages. Finally, the assumption that insight is needed for change is also erroneous. Weiner-Davis is a pure behaviorist who does not see insight as necessary to bring about change.

If you want to try to save your marriage that may be on the brink of divorce, the first thing you need to do is decide what you want. Specify two or three changes only that you would like your spouse to make in the marriage. The changes should be small and positively put. In other words, there is a difference between saying to your spouse, “I don’t want you to ignore me so often” versus, “I would like us to spend more time together.”

In doing this, focus on goals in the future, not complaints in the past. Bringing up the past is not productive whereas focusing on the future can be.

Having decided what you want, simply ask for it then monitor the results and reinforce any change that your spouse makes.

Weiner-Davis has some interesting ideas which may seem somewhat radical to save a failing marriage. One is to act as if the marriage is going well. Another is to communicate with your spouse through letters, emails, or cards. When writing what you want from your spouse you can be much clearer and calmer than when talking directly to her. Sometimes the best thing to do to or save a marriage is to do nothing, especially if you have been co-dependent and controlling of your spouse. At other times, reverse your behavior 180 degrees and do the opposite of what you have been doing. For example, if you have been pursuing or nagging your spouse, back off and leave him alone.

As a last resort, stop chasing your spouse. Pressure on a spouse who is on the verge of a divorce is counter-productive. Find a life for yourself and wait and watch to see what happens.

In effect, Weiner-Davis’ advice to those of you who want to save your marriage, even if your spouse is not willing to work on it, is to quit doing things that are not effective and to start doing things that may be effective. Try something - anything - new to improve your marriage and reinforce any positive results.

Her book, “The Divorce Remedy,” can be found at the Lewis and Clark Library for those of you who may want to read it yourself.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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