Q: My husband and I have been married for fifteen years and have three children. Although I hate the idea of divorce, I am not sure if I want to stay in this marriage any longer. We don’t seem to do anything together except fight. What should I do?
A: If we are not careful, many marriages get stale, especially when there are children that take up a lot of our time and make it easy to forget to work on the marriage. One day we look around and wonder what happened. There is no more fun in our lives. Often the things that irritate us about our spouse are the same things that once attracted us to him/her, for instance, the partner that used to be so “spontaneous and adventuresome” is now “unpredictable and unrealistic”; the person who was once seen as “steady and dependable” is now “boring and a couch potato”. When the person feels that they have not changed but are now unacceptable, they become confused and defensive. Part of what has to happen is honest communication. This is often best done with an experienced counsellor who can see through the defensiveness and help “translate” what is being said so that no one’s feelings are hurt unnecessarily.
Another common problem occurs when communication regresses to the level of a nine-year-old’s schoolyard fight. Each one has to be right and there is no compromise or hearing the other person’s point of view. It is important to remember that, in a family, if anyone wins someone else looses and if one family member looses, the whole family looses. It is like a hockey team. No matter how well one player is doing, if the team loses, they all lose. Again, a qualified therapist can help you both learn to work together so that you get your opinions heard and your needs met but not at each other’s expense. In this way, no one’s pride is lost and the whole family wins. As an added bonus, imagine the great role modelling you are doing for your children in teaching them to deal with conflict and communication in a respectful way.
I cannot answer whether or not you should stay in your marriage but there is always time to leave if necessary. There may not always be time to fix your marriage, however, unless you start now. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your family to at least give it a fair try so that if you do decide to leave you can honestly say that you did all you could? Who knows, the marriage that you want may just be hidden in the one you have!