How to make marriage last forever

make marriage last foreverHow do we make marriage last forever?

There is a concept with marriage in our society that I just don’t get.  

It is the idea that when attraction leaves, the marriage is over.  

Or when you don’t feel IN love anymore, it is time to move on.  

This seems crazy to me.

I have a different view of marriage that some of my clients have told me is “old fashioned.”  It is certainly not the sexiest view of matrimony, but it has saved me from multiple divorces and a shattered family.

In my opinion, the way to make a marriage last forever is to start with a certain mindset. It is the fundamental belief that when two people marry, they create a family. It’s a bond that is as strong as if you were related by blood.  Even more so, actually, because you chose each other.  Blood relatives don’t get to choose. So if you viewed your spouse as your “family”, tied together no matter what…you will stay married through the ups and downs of life.  Whether you feel like it or not.

How making a marriage last forever relates to having kids.  

When you decide to bring children into this world, you commit to loving them.  This is pretty remarkable considering you don’t have any idea what they will be like when you decide to conceive.  

You don’t even know if if you will have a boy or a girl.  You have wants and desires for your children.  But you almost always get surprises.  And yet, you love your children fiercely.  

Even when they are unlovable.

You love them when they hurt you.  

You love them when you don’t like them.  

You wouldn’t dream of leaving your children because you just didn’t feel like being their parent any longer.

Some people do this and we are shocked when we see it.  Because it isn’t natural.

Now, how would the world change if we viewed marriage the same way?

Here’s the thing:  most people end a marriage when they are in pain.  

Whether it is pain from disappointment, betrayal or unmet needs.  

Sometimes it is the misery that comes from the frustration of not feeling loved.  

And sometimes it is the pain of boredom.  

There isn’t any abuse, but there aren’t any fireworks either.  We don’t like pain.  

We try to avoid it or we numb it or run from it.  But pain is necessary for growth.  

So in all our avoidance of pain, we are also avoiding the opportunities it provides us to grow ourselves up.  

Pain is an invitation to change.  Make your Marriage Last Forever.

So if your marriage is causing you pain, let that pain teach you and guide you.  

Let it change you.  I’m not talking about suffering through an abusive relationship.  

I don’t believe every marriage should be saved.  

But the way we recycle life partners in our culture indicates we have a serious problem with avoiding and denial.  

You will have days when you don’t like your spouse.  

You will have seasons where you question your commitment and love.  

You will yearn for a simpler life with less conflict.  

You may even be tempted by greener pastures.  

But remember, you committed to love this person for the rest of your life.  

I don’t believe in saving marriage at any cost.  

But seriously, if you are miserable in your marriage and there isn’t abuse, it is growing pains.  A sign that something needs to change in you or your partner.  

We don’t seem to know how to get along with anyone anymore.  

We aren’t very good at reaching out to our neighbors or involving ourselves in other people’s worlds.  

We have become hedonistic and it is toxic to us and to our society.

A Real Life Example

I met with a client recently who was having an emotional affair.  

She was angry because she had told her husband for years she was unhappy.

He didn’t get serious about changing until he found out about the affair.  

She asked me why it took something so drastic, because now she really didn’t care anymore.  

I told her it took this long because she trained him.  

She complained, but she didn’t get his attention.  

If she was truly unhappy she should have put the marriage on hold.  

Moved out of the bedroom, gone to counseling, given him a deadline and followed through.  

She was shocked and asked me if she really should have been that direct.  

It felt so “mean” to her.  Ironically, it would have been much kinder to have gotten his attention and forced his hand sooner while she still wanted the marriage.  

If you or your spouse is unhappy, get to work.  

Stop staying silent because you think it is easier or you feel like “what’s the point.”

If you are complaining and your spouse isn’t changing anything or taking you seriously, ramp it up until you have their attention.  

Having a marriage last forever will take work.  

But the rewards will be worth your time and effort.  

Trust me!  I know these things.

Contact us today, and let’s work together to make your marriage last.

How to tell the kids about divorce (when parents can’t agree)

Despite some couples’ best efforts, there are times when divorce is inevitable. The next question is often, “How do we tell the kids about divorce? And what do we tell them?

Many therapists will advise you to partner with your spouse, take a united front and tell your kids something like, “Mom and dad have decided to get a divorce.”  

But what if you don’t want the divorce?  Should you lie to your kids?

(If this is your situation there may still be hope for your marriage. Read What to do When Your Spouse Wants a Divorce and You Don’t.)  

how to tell the kids about divorce

How to tell the kids about divorce without a united front

I covered some basic concepts on how to tell your kids about divorce here, but today I want to get more specific and talk about what to do when one parent wants the divorce and the other does not.

I don’t think lying to your kids is ever the best response.  

For one thing, they will almost always know when you are lying.  

They have lived with you and your spouse and have seen the issues up close even if you think you kept all the negative stuff hidden.  

Kids have brilliant “BS” detectors.  

Lying to them about such a big issue will cause them to doubt everything else you are telling them and that just isn’t good. Lying and telling them this is a joint decision won’t lessen the pain they feel.  

While I think honesty is very important, I also think it would be easy to turn this already difficult situation into a damaging fiasco.  No matter how you present the divorce option, your kids may be inclined to take sides and telling the truth could easily slant them against the parent who is wanting out.  

Be sensitive to this and avoid encouraging this with blaming words or nonverbal cues.  Your kids need both of you in their lives.  If you give in to the temptation of swaying them to your side, you risk their emotional health.  

Create a gameplan with your spouse about telling the children (if you can)

Prior to telling them, it’s important to discuss with your spouse how you’re going to tell the kids about divorce.  

You do not have to agree with your spouse about presenting a united front to the children, if you’re not also wanting a divorce.  This may make your spouse very angry but you are not responsible for their emotions or behavior–only your own.

Your spouse will almost certainly want you share the blame for the failed marriage.  It makes him/her look less like the villain.  But do you really want to make it easier for your spouse to leave and feel good about the decision?  

The argument you will hear from your spouse and very likely other “experts” is that you need to think about the kids first.  You need to put their needs before your own.  

Isn’t that ironic?  

You may be thinking if your spouse was really putting the kids’ needs first, he/she would be fighting for the marriage, right?

Experts want a united front because it makes everyone look as if they are playing nice.

The object is to keep conflict and blaming away from the kids because divorce is painful enough.  

But you can be honest without casting blame or giving your kids information they don’t need. You can simply say something like, “You guys know we haven’t been getting along very well.  We disagree on a lot of things, including whether to stay married.  Since it takes two people who want a marriage to work, we are getting a divorce.  

Your kids don’t need to know the reasons why one of you is leaving, or why the other wants to stay married.  

You can stand up for yourself in this way, and it is still both honest and respectful.

When the kids have questions about the divorce

The kids will most likely have questions.  They may not come up during the initial conversation.  

Regardless of the timing, think through how you will answer difficult questions.

Do not share personal or intimate details of the reasons behind your divorce.  

Instead, say things like, “You may have noticed that we’ve been fighting a lot,” or “We are having a tough time seeing eye-to-eye on some really big problems.”  This addresses the main issue, but does not provide details that the kids do not need.

Assure them they are not the cause of the divorce and let them know you will continue to be their parents and they can depend on you.

Remember the kids are not a go-between the adults.  

They are still children.  

You are the adults in this situation.

Ultimately, remember that you don’t have to present a united front about divorce.  It’s best to be honest and open, but to find the balance between sharing enough without all the graphic details.

Other helpful links:

Divorcing you marriage – what have you done to change?

9 Things to Consider Before Telling Your Kids About the Divorce

The Re-Engage Toolkit