Could you evaluate your marriage, in 30 minutes or less – and come up with a conclusive answer about whether or not you should stay or go? Some experts say yes, what do you think?
It’s one thing in life to know when you are happy, but how does a couple, or an individual for that matter – truly decide whether its time to bail, or whether the marital strife at hand is simply going to pass over like a summer thunderstorm – in a matter of weeks. Often, in the midst of problems that affect marriage, the end feels and seems imminent because the wounds are fresh and the emotions are high. Yet, after a few weeks or months, or even years, things may settle down and it’s easy to settle yourself and simply stay in the marriage. Gauging things like marital or personal happiness are not always easy, especially because they are often so closely welded together. Even more difficult is that often people don’t realize how draining and unhealthy a marriage is until they are out of it, and find themselves happier than ever.
According to the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, taking time periodically to evaluate your marriage is actually a key to longevity. They recommend that couples sit down every few months with one another and evaluate not only what is wrong, but what is working as well. This way, couples can design a personal course of action and development plan to help them work towards correcting marital issues.
Yet, before you sit down across a table with a notebook in hand – in the hopes of ‘spilling your guts’ to one another and making radical changes, you must first have a conversation with yourself. This is perhaps the hardest part, because not only do you have to ask yourself the hard questions, but you also have to answer them HONESTLY.
- What are you gaining from the marriage?
- Do you still love your spouse? Do you feel loved in return?
- Are you simply waiting until the ‘time is right’ to leave? (When the kids are grown, when you are financially independent)
- Do you think about separation or divorce often?
- Are you able to forgive your spouse for wrongdoings?
- Are you often angry and resentful towards your spouse, to the point that you feel bad in their presence?
- Do you feel that you can talk to your spouse openly and honestly?
- Is your spouse supportive of your feelings?
- Is the relationship healthy for you, and all others involved?
- Are you simply staying to ‘save face’ with family and friends?
- Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make the marriage work, both together and individually?
When you ascertain how you really, and honestly feel – then and only then are you ready to talk to your spouse. You should assess the things in the marriage that are not working with the same matter of fact attitude that you would approach a business. Additionally, both of you need to remain committed to having a marriage evaluation without yelling, crying or arguing. Instead, use a checkpoint, checklist type of system that will allow you to move through you and your spouse’s agenda quickly.
Evaluating marriage should also include a healthy dose of finding solutions. If you and your spouse aren’t ready for a split then the two of you need to come up with problem solvers. This may include counseling, or tackling some of the bigger problems one at a time. Another useful tool that can help save the marriage is to start trying to do one little thing every day to make a difference. This could be something as simple as kissing each other good-bye in the morning, or talking in bed before you go to sleep. The point of this is that when both halves of the whole show a commitment to making positive changes, it is easier to feel better about the relationship as a whole. Plus, it helps to bridge the gaps in both communication and connectivity that often get lost after years of marriage.
At some point, you also have to face the realization that perhaps a marriage evaluation, isn’t going to solve a thing. If one of both partners are not good at communicating without ego, or feel self righteous in their behavior and treatments towards others, chances are evaluating things isn’t going to work. But what it may do, is help the partner who is stuck with the unreasonable spouse find the courage and reason to leave and seek greener pastures. This isn’t to say that there is a point in a relationship, evaluated or not – where nothing can be done to right the relationship, but rather that there is a time when complete incompatibility rears its ugly head. If this occurs, and your attempts to help the marriage, and set up evaluations are serving no good because your partner is not on board, chances are your best bet is to throw in the towel and save yourself.
It’s interesting, but experts report that most couples prior to marriage, talk more about the relationship than they do once they get married. This key communication somehow gets lost as the marriage proceeds and it becomes harder and harder for couples to be honest with one another. The end result can be so much anger and resentment over the years, that neither party knows where to start rebuilding – or whether they want to.
The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center can help new couples keep the communication alive. At some point, all you are left with in a marriage is honesty. If you don’t take time to sit down and talk about the good and the bad, as well as make plans for the future – you won’t be able to make it (happily) to a 25-year anniversary. Sadly, most people wait until they have taken so much, have had enough, and are completely stripped away of any nurturing emotions for their spouse to talk about the marriage. By then, it is too late. A marriage evaluation every few months truly can help keep things in your marriage flowing smoothly.