Let's be real. Very few couples get to the altar thinking about divorce. In fact, how many couples actually think & discuss about life beyond the wedding day? I see many couples in my practice who come in for premarital counseling (and struggles during marriage) and we discuss the areas of growth and the areas of strength. We talk about how to talk about feelings, negative patterns that may be starting to develop, how past relationships and family of origin shape our views on attachment and connection in relationship, and discuss practical tips to invest in the relationship for success. While these aren't full proof, in and of themselves, they certainly can help facilitate closer connection even in conflict. It takes two to make a marriage work and two bring it to an end.
As a relationship educator and licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in "all things" couples, (premarital, dating, marriage counseling, blended family issues, and yes, even divorce), ere are some things that may help you prevent divorce in the future:
1. Be your spouse's biggest cheerleader. Encourage your spouse, talk about them in public in a way that builds them up, not puts them down. In private, share with them in a way that does the same.
2. Let go of your "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" in marriage. Couples often have a preconceived notion of what marriage should look like and when their partner doesn't live up to this expectation, they get disappointed and eventually disenchanted with the partner. Share your expectations before marriage and have someone reality test these (a therapist, or mentor). Comparison is the root of all evil. Create a relationship that takes into account BOTH partners longings and needs, not just what you think it "should" be. "Should" and "shouldn't" are shaming words and make the other person, and even self, feel less than.
3. You don't always have to be right. I have a saying in my office when couples get into disagreements about who said what (there is each partners perception of what was said and what it meant and somewhere in the middle there is what actually happened) and I challenge them with this question, "do you want a relationship or do you want to be right?" Rather than argue what happened and who said what, dig deep into how your partner's behavior impacted you emotionally and be open to how your behavior impacted them and what was driving those. Choose relationship and emotional connection over being right.
4. Figure out your negative pattern. Every couple has a negative pattern that develops (even therapist couples!). When you understand what is driving your partner to pull away or pursue you in a negative way, for example, you can actually step out of that negative pattern quickly. This is where