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How do you know when your marriage is over?

Hello and welcome to “Ask a Therapist.” I am Jonathan Decker, and today we’re going to delve into a question that plagues many couples: How do you know when your marriage is over? It’s a question that often arises when a relationship reaches a breaking point, leaving both partners feeling lost, unfulfilled, and even hopeless In this blog post, I’ll share my insights on this challenging topic, drawing from my experience as a therapist and the extensive research I’ve conducted over the years.

 

The Desire for Connection

The first thing I want to emphasize is my empathy and sympathy for anyone facing the possibility of the end of their marriage. You didn’t enter into this sacred union expecting it to crumble; you sought connection, love, respect, and safety. Marriage is a covenant where both partners aim to give and receive these essential elements. However, many find themselves in a situation where they feel undesired, neglected, or even trapped in a relationship that’s heading nowhere.

Love Alone Is Not Enough

The Beatles famously sang, “All You Need Is Love,” but the truth is that love, while essential, is not the sole ingredient for a lasting, healthy marriage. Trust, respect, and a sense of partnership are equally crucial. I’ve encountered many couples who seek therapy in what I call the “11th hour,” a point at which their relationship is on the brink of collapse. This approach often leaves both partners frustrated and feeling as if they’re dumping their problems on the therapist, rather than actively working to resolve them.

Is It Worth Fighting For?

To understand whether your marriage is over, it’s important to first answer a different question: Is it worth fighting for? In cases of chronic abuse, infidelity, or dishonesty, it might be best to walk away. However, if there’s any hope of saving the relationship, both partners must be willing to put in the effort to change and grow.

Dealing with Abuse, Infidelity, and Dishonesty

In situations involving chronic abuse, infidelity, or dishonesty, it’s crucial to take immediate action. If these issues have persisted over time, and your partner has not demonstrated any commitment to change, it might be time to consider ending the marriage. Remember, one instance of abuse, infidelity, or dishonesty can be enough for some to call it quits. However, if you choose to stay, your partner must actively work on themselves and seek professional help.

Addressing Differences

Sometimes, it’s not abuse, infidelity, or dishonesty that drives a wedge in a marriage, but rather differences in personalities, communication styles, and conflict resolution. It’s not uncommon for couples to have significant disparities in their habits, beliefs, and values. The key is to determine whether both partners are willing to work on these differences. Successful marriages require a high degree of mutual tolerance, meaning that you accept each other’s imperfections while still holding each other accountable for personal growth.

Finding the Middle Ground

To navigate these differences, create a list with three columns: “Appreciate,” “Tolerate,” and “Non-negotiable.” In the “Appreciate” column, list the qualities you admire in your spouse that differ from your own. In the “Tolerate” column, place the aspects that annoy you but are manageable. Finally, the “Non-negotiable” column should include only those issues that are irreconcilable. Remember, non-negotiables should be serious and inflexible, not minor annoyances.

Consider Professional Help

In most cases, instead of jumping to conclusions about the fate of your marriage, consider seeking therapy. A skilled counselor can provide an objective perspective and help you weigh your options. Ask yourself, “If nothing changed, could I be happy?” If the answer is yes, there’s hope for your marriage. People and couples can change and grow over time.

Conclusion

In the end, the decision of whether your marriage is over or worth fighting for is deeply personal. It’s not a choice to be made lightly. Seek professional guidance, communicate openly with your partner, and remember that the road to a healthy, lasting marriage often involves compromise, growth, and mutual understanding. If you’re willing to put in the effort, there’s a chance for your relationship to thrive and bring you the happiness and fulfillment you both desire. Remember, a therapist can help you navigate these difficult decisions and guide you toward a healthier, happier partnership. Your marriage is worth fighting for if both partners are committed to making it work.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to addressing more of your questions in future “Ask a Therapist” sessions. If you have any other questions or thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments below. Your insights can help others facing similar challenges in their relationships. And if you found this blog post helpful, please share it with your friends, as we aim to reach and uplift more people through the Mended Light community. Remember, your light can shine to the world, and we all need it. Keep on shining!

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