Many people visualize their divorce as a way to cope with unhappy marriages. Yet you don’t have to get divorced to find happiness.
While divorce may be progress in some marriages. For most, divorce is one of many ways to deal with negative feelings and unresolved conflicts. Instead of ending the marriage when you realize you can’t change your spouse, embrace the adventure of getting to know, learn, and grow yourself.
You will breathe hope into your relationship by working on what you can influence and change – your part in the problem. When you invest in what you can change, you will be more relaxed, open, and playful. With all of these positive feelings, it is much easier to enjoy the adventure of marriage.
My Journey to Marriage Despite Fear of Divorce
I haven’t always had positive feelings about marriage. In fact, I never wanted to get married. Instead of daydreaming about my wedding, I visualized the inevitability of my divorce.
I grew up thinking marriages don’t work, at least not in my family. My parents divorced when I was very young, so it is all I knew.
While my parents did a great job raising me separately, I had a hidden worry that my marriage would end too. I didn’t put too much emphasis on ever planning a wedding…that is until I fell in love with my husband.
After accepting his proposal, I studied what makes marriages work to soothe my divorce fears. Instead of working on my part, I worked on the marriage (and eventually worked on my spouse). I “knew” what made a good marriage and elected myself to keep us on track.
Have you ever felt responsible for keeping your marriage and/or spouse well and thriving?
Luckily for my spouse (and for me), I eventually realized (with some coaching) that I only needed to be responsible for my part. I was letting my worry direct my actions and helping create the very problems I feared. I am still married after 15 years and am no longer visualizing my divorce.
Redefine Marriage as a Growing Adventure
There are many ways to think about marriage and much advice on how to prevent divorce. Most marriage advice encourages you to fix your marriage. I’m proposing something different – work on your part. In doing so, we redefine marriage as an adventure where you get an opportunity to define and grow yourself with each interaction with our spouse.
“Marriage is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Dr. Corey Allen, Simple Marriage Manifesto
Adventures can be fun and interesting. On your journey you will encounter challenges and take risks. And if you allow yourself to view marriage from a new perspective, it will push you out of your comfort zone. When you view marriage as a growth adventure, it’s easier to take the challenge and enjoy the journey.
Growing Self as Way to Enjoy Marriage More
When you embrace the challenge of growing yourself (instead of your spouse), you will put less pressure on the relationship to keep you calm and happy. With less pressure, it is easier to connect intimately and enjoy each other’s company.
Turn the pressure into motivation to be the best mate you can be – interaction by interaction. On your personal growth adventure, cultivate three things in yourself:
1. Self-Awareness: Identify Your Part in Co-created Problems (Observe your positive and negative interactions with your spouse. What do you think your part is in the c0-created distance and/or conflict?)
2. Self-Responsibility: Take Responsibility for Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions (We all have the tendency to either put all the blame on ourselves or the other person. Instead of shifting the blame back and forth, own just your part.)
3. Self-Directed: Become less Regulated by Others’ Reactions (How do you let your spouse’s reactions get under your skin less? Start to see your spouse as separate from you. Instead of fixing or avoiding your spouse, care curiously.)
The adventure of growing a self isn’t ever done, but you can learn to enjoy the journey. You will have many opportunities to work on yourself, especially in important relationships. If you fall in love with enjoying the adventure of growing yourself, you will enjoy the adventure of your life.
Note: In my work with individuals and couples, I never advise clients to get divorced or stay married. This choice is always in your hands. I encourage you to find and work on your part in the problem, no matter what your adventure looks like.
Photo credit: “The future is yours” by Nattu