How to avoid divorce.
A “how to” about avoiding divorce may seem like a bold heading for someone with no psychology background, no social science degree, and having only been married for a short five years, but hear me out. I notice things that go on around me. One thing I have noticed more and more is people discussing divorce. Whether it be getting divorced, that they have been divorced for some time, whether they feel sad about it or indifferent, it’s all around me. People who I have known for some time, who were once happily married, now getting divorced. I was at some of their weddings. Now they are split up. It just gets messy when kids are involved too.
So I’m writing this simple guide to staying married. It is geared toward men, probably men who have been married 10 years or less, since it is all knowledge gained from experience, and I am a man obviously, and have been married a relatively short time. Most of the concepts however, are universal. I would not dare, try to explain to women how to stay married. That would be counter productive, and furthermore, full out self-sabotage. Ya know what? That’s going to be the first freebie. Don’t try to explain things to your wife that you couldn’t possibly understand.
Who am I to write such a guide? I must have a lot of audacity right? I must think my life is just perfect right!? Absolutely not. There are a lot of things I am absolutely terrible at. I have a happy marriage, but it’s not without it’s problems. And believe me, my marriage has come a long way! There were times in my marriage that I was certain it would not last. But I picked up on a few key concepts that I realized, if I applied them, I could stay married, and be completely satisfied and fulfilled. It did require changing some things about myself.
Here is something important that you should know before you continue reading. All of these concepts, in fact maintaining a marriage at all, requires effort. Yes, effort. You will have to work for this. It will cost you time and energy. You will have to commit and sacrifice. You will have much invested in this. If you cannot readily and full-heartedly say that you will indeed put forth effort into staying married… well isn’t it obvious? “On to the point!” you say. Fine, here I go. (in as proper an order as I could muster.)
Concept #1: It is shocking what you will hear if you listen.
This is good advice for both parties, but someone has to start first and it might as well be you. I have learned that, in general, women will tell you how they feel. They aren’t like us in that, we can feel a certain way, and just hold on to it until it is gone. If your wife is unhappy about something, or feels that there is something that needs addressed in your marriage, she will say so. Do you get into the kind of arguments where it seems as if the two of you are just trying to see who can yell louder? Yea? I’ve been there. 3 in the morning in the front yard kinda screaming? I’ve been there. She’s probably yelling it at you because she is getting tired of saying it. Before you can address an issue you have to know what the issues are. Listen. She will tell you how she feels.
Concept #2: Women respond well if you do little, seemingly insignificant things that require you going out of your way.
This one is incredibly easy but difficult at the same time. It requires so little from you, but you have to think outside the box. I don’t care what condition your marriage is in. Doing this can help. For example, I found that if got my wife something to drink, or a snack when I was out running errands or just bopping around, her attitude toward me was friendlier than before. This doesn’t mean that you can buy your wife stuff to make her happy. She saw that I thought about her when I didn’t necessarily have to. There was no negative consequence for coming home without something for her. I did this simply because I wanted to. Many things could qualify for being “that little something extra.” Folding some laundry when she’s not around. Running an errand for her that she didn’t ask you to. Anything that lets her know you were thinking about her. Women love being on your mind. It shows you care. Do it. It’s so easy and it goes a long way. You may feel that I’m making the claim that everything that is wrong with your marriage is YOUR fault, not hers. I’m saying shut your mouth and listen, I’m saying do extra stuff for her. Its not that its your fault, its just that you are the best candidate to repair what is broken. The attitude “why do I gotta fix it? It’s her fault!” isn’t going get you anywhere.
Concept #3: Bottom line, viewing pornography will have negative effects on your marriage.
Are you still reading? I’m sure I’ve lost some of you by now. Allow me to explain. Let’s pretend for a moment that the ONLY reason why pornography is not good is because of what it does to a marriage (although I could write a book on this). We live in a society that has basically made pornography okay for a couple very ridiculous reasons. The first is that pornography is so so so easy to view. It is so readily available that we just sort of accept it. It certainly isn’t going away. Just deal with it right? No. The second one is that it seems to be okay if you are viewing pornography if it keeps you from going outside of your marriage with another woman. As if in some way, pornography is the acceptable lesser of two evils. Consider this. Jesus said in the Bible that looking with lust upon another woman is the same as adultery. I just lost some more of you. To put it psychologically, after viewing pornography regularly over a period of time, you wife will no longer be good enough for you. She’s not the same as those girls on the Internet, and you will wish she was. Pornography is a social epidemic on society, and you are not alone if you struggle with it. Lust is a very powerful tool of the devil and it’s grip is strong. But trust me, you are better off without it, and so is your marriage.
Concept #4: You may need to rearrange your priorities a bit.
This one may seem unfair as well, but if you take inventory of yourself, you may find there are some things that don’t belong. This was difficult for me. It could apply to a lot of things. There could be something that you really enjoy that is doing harm to your relationship. It may require making tough decisions. For me it was alcohol. My wife and I went back and forth for the first couple years of our marriage about alcohol. Actually, at first it was never a problem, but here’s the thing. We outgrow some things, folks. Sometimes we don’t realize it, or want to admit it. I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t miss alcohol at all, in fact I have found life to be far more pleasant without it. But after a while there was just no room left in my marriage for it. Here’s what I did. With a very clear, rational, and sober mind frame, I put alcohol in one hand, and my marriage in the other. I examined them both very closely and I had to decide which one was more important. My wife and I never agreed on much about alcohol, and I thought I had a pretty sound argument, but I knew I couldn’t have both. My marriage was more important (but you already guessed that didn’t you?)
Concept #5: No spouse should control the other in a marriage.
Even if you are good at it, controlling your wife only produces a toxic relationship. Your wife is an adult and is capable of making her own decisions. Hopefully, if you apply the first three concepts, you are on your way to a healthy relationship in which your wife makes decisions that are healthy and respectful of you, all on her own. You see? It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but the effort you put forth into your relationship pays off. You can have a mutually enjoyable, loving relationship with your wife. If you follow along, applying this concept should actually require less work. Relax a bit. Watch the fruits of your labor unfold before you.
Concept #6: There is always more.
If you want to keep your wife smiling, which by this point she ought to be, then you have to keep putting forth the effort. You will never reach a point where you have done all you need to do, and you can just stop now. You will never have done enough. But friend, you keep impressing your wife because you get to. Not because you have to (although you do). After all, she is worth it. Stephen Covey wrote a book many years ago called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In it, he describes an experience in which a man approached him and asked what to do in a marriage when love just isn’t there anymore. Stephen Covey responded, “love her.” The man said “you just don’t get it, there is no love anymore.” Again he responded, “love her.” People, love is verb. To love requires sacrifice, and willingness to listen, and to cherish. Stephen Covey describes the act of loving as having its roots in timeless principles. Love the feeling has its roots in emotion which is brittle and cannot stand on its own. It needs a strong foundation. Love the emotion is a by product of love the action. Love her.