Marriage can be challenging at times and it takes a lot of work and energy to keep a marriage strong and healthy. Many spouses at one time or another have wondered whether or not their marriage can be salvaged. There are a lot of couples who go into counseling with that very question in mind. Whether it’s communication breakdown, a major life event, the birth of a child or the wandering eye of your partner, there are many events that can challenge and outright shake the foundation of a union.
If you’re sitting there, thinking about your own marriage and wondering if you can save it on your own, this article may help.
Is it really possible?
Can one partner save a marriage on their own? If one partner worked hard enough, could it be enough for both people in the marriage? I don’t doubt that some people hold this fantasy, but I don’t believe it is possible. I have seen partners attempt this feat to no avail.
Why isn’t it possible to save your marriage on your own?
Well the answer lies in the nature of marriage. Marriage is a partnership, a team. Teamwork requires communication in order to be successful and communication is a two way road. Sure, each partner can do their own part to work towards saving their marriage, but ultimately it requires the merging of each partner’s efforts.
When I work with couples, I teach them early on that the only thing they have some control over is their own beliefs, feelings and behaviors. The majority of disturbances in a marriage stem from unrealistic demands and rigidly held beliefs that are largely unproductive and dysfunctional. Even when your partner’s behavior is dysfunctional, you can still hold irrational beliefs about their behavior such as “They SHOULD not have done that” and “Because they did, it PROVES they don’t care about me”.
For the sake of consistency, if one person can’t save a marriage, the opposite must be true, one person can’t ruin a marriage
Now, some of you reading this may be saying to yourself, “what about when your spouse cheats on you?”. One partner can definitely do something to impact the relationship, like cheating. But there are many marriages that have been salvaged, and even made better after a spouse cheats.
When one partner cheats, the other partner may have various beliefs that guide the way they feel and what they do about the situation. If a partner holds the belief “Spouses SHOULD not cheat, and if they do, they are NO GOOD”, feelings of depression, unhealthy anger and hurt will likely ensue. If these unhealthy negative emotions occur, unhealthy behaviors are bound to occur and the likelihood of the marriage surviving is slim.
If, however, the partner holds the belief that “I WISH my spouse didn’t cheat but they did, it doesn’t mean that they are no good, it just means they ACTED poorly”. This belief is more likely to yield healthy negative feelings such as sadness, healthy anger and sorrow. These healthy negative feelings will lead to productive actions such as seeking therapy, working towards forgiveness and in effect saving the relationship.
Now let’s say that one believes that they SHOULD be able to save the marriage on their own. There are likely to be many dysfunctional derivatives if this demand does not get met. Such derivatives may sound like “it is all my fault”, “I am no good because I couldn’t save the relationship”, “I will never find another partner”, “ I am doomed to be alone”. If one beliefs this they are likely to feel dysfunctionally depressed, bitterly angry, or severely guilty. If one feels this way, they are LESS likely to get into new relationships and LESS likely to risk vulnerability which will reinforce their unhelpful thinking.
Going back to the original question:
“Is it possible to save your marriage alone?”, I would hold strong to the belief that it isn’t possible
It is possible, however, to save your beliefs about your marriage.
You can’t control what your partner does or doesn’t do but you can control what you tell yourself about what your partner does or doesn’t do. If you have helpful and productive beliefs about your marriage, you are doing your part in the relationship and that gives the marriage the best chance of surviving.