Figuring out how to save your marriage could be the most important action you ever take. Your live, the life of your spouse, and the lives of your children are going to be dramatically affected for the remainder of your days on this Earth by a decision to divorce. The trauma this inflicts on a child can lead to a pattern of unhappiness and unfulfilled relationships even in their adulthood. A decision to divorce should not be taken lightly, and the two of you should work on saving the marriage.
You won't always be able to save the relationship. But you and your wife should fight and claw to prevent the final breach, so you can always say you tried everything. Sometimes, these seemingly irreconcilable differences don't look so big in the rear view mirror. A little perspective and a lot of love sometimes leads to a rejuvenation of your married life. People with open hearts and open minds can always gain a little added wisdom.
You don't have to agree with one another.
You don't even have to like one another right now.
But you do have to show one another respect.
This advice goes double when the kids are around, or when any third person is around. Respect and honor each other.
Behavior is habit forming. If you disrespect your spouse, it becomes easier to do it the next time around. Pretty soon, they're likely to respond in kind, as a defense mechanism. The next thing you know, the two of you are trading insults and trying to tear down each other at every look and glance, to friends and acquaintances or anyone who'll listen--even your kids. Do like sports teams do: keep it in-house. Don't complain to others. Settle issues behind closed doors.
Showing each other respect is habit forming, too. Your spouse is going to calm down, because he or she isn't on the defensive all the time. You won't be have to respond to attacks. The two of you, slowly and surely, begin to learn how to behave around each other. Show respect enough and you might start seeing a different side of this person.
Every person alive has little quirks and habits that, over the years, can drive their friends and roommates crazy. Familiarly breeds contempt. Maybe he smacks his food when he eats certain things. Maybe she clings a fork on her teeth when she eats yogurt. Or maybe she leaves the lights or tv on when she walks out of the living room, while he leaves his shoes at the front door.
If these things annoy you, let them roll off your back for the time being. Give it a rest. Don't find little habits and turn them into big issues. This should automatically mean you won't fight as often.
To be engaged in the marriage, you have to be willing to listen to your spouse. Your wife has cares and concerns that are not your own. You might not view them as entirely rational or legitimate, but she does. Listen, be ready to sympathize, and understand this is important to her. If she's important to you, and this problem is important to her, then the problem should be important to you.
That tip goes double when her problem is with something you do. It's natural to get defensive on reflex, but instead, shut your mouth and actually listen to what she has to say. Listen and analyze, then make a rational response. Do your best not to get defensive (I know it's hard) and make a good-faith effort to address her concerns. You'll probably find that gets a much better response than another argument does, once she perceives you're willing to listen.
Jealousy is a sure way to kill a relationship. It's natural for a man to be somewhat territorial of his wife. But when your suspicion and jealous thoughts get so out-of-control, you do irrational things. Spying on your wife and trying to catch her in lies is a way to start losing your wife. Accusing her of infidelity or having a wandering eye is a way to drive her away. In the end, marriage is based on trust. If you have suspicions, seldom is it a good idea to voice them.
I'm not saying you should have blinders on. Plenty of marriages end in infidelity. If your wife starts acting differently or suspiciously, I'm not telling you to stick your head in the proverbial sand. What I'm talking about is jealousy anytime your wife speaks to another man in a public place where conversation is expected. I'm talking about jealousy when your wife goes out with her girlfriends for a movie or Bunco Night. Your wife needs to be able to breathe, to relax and enjoy the company of friends, and she deserves to have you trust her.
Some things you have to let go. Sometimes, you have to forgive your wife, just as she has to be able to forgive you. Once again, I'm not talking about real betrayals here. Some things are unforgivable in a marriage (at least with most people). But if your wife gets angry and says something she shouldn't, or if she gets into a fender bender and tears up the front of your cherished car, these are not things to hold a grudge against for months and years to come.
When she calms down and she realizes her anger got the best of her, a good wife is going to feel sorry for what she did. And if she dented up your prized possession, she likely feels terrible about it already. To continually torment her and get revenge day-in-and-day-out is a childish reaction. Learn to forgive the petty slights and human errors of your spouse.
Whatever you promise to do, keep that promise. If you don't feel comfortable with an arrangement or request, don't make the promise in the first place. So much in life is about managing expectations. When you make a promise or statement of intention, it's natural for the other person to expect that to happen. When it doesn't, their bitterness and disappointment is justified. If you make a promise, keep it.
Understand that one spouse cannot save a marriage. A marriage is a partnership, a team. If one person doesn't want to be in the marriage, it's never going to work. You could be the perfect husband, the perfect spouse, and you're never going to do enough to make your relationship work. Your spouse has to want the marriage to work, too.
Finding out whether your marriage partner wants to be in or out of the marriage is an important first step. Learn this important fact, no matter how much you fear rejection and dealing with the pain of not being loved. If she doesn't want to continue, you're saving yourself a lot of needless heartache, wondering, and suffering. If she does want to continue, this is a moment when the two of you can turn a corner and start working together.
If all else fails, listen to your wife and attend marriage counseling. I know what you imagine this is going to be like. Marriage counseling is instruction and training in how to manage a married relationship and how to steer clear of the worst troubles. If you didn't know how to fix a carburetor, you would study how. If you didn't know how to install a new operating system on your computer, you'd find a manual. So if you don't know how to save your marriage, there's nothing wrong with getting advice from a trained professional.