No one goes into a marriage planning for it to fail. Many couples on the verge of divorce say, “How did we get here?” or “I never thought this would happen.”
Even though our original intentions are not to divorce… somehow… it can still happen. When a couple notices detrimental signs it can often be too late.
In this post, you’ll read the steps you can take to help protect your marriage against divorce. This is not intended to be a 100% guarantee. You have to put in the work, but these characteristics are something successful relationships have that failing relationships lack.
These tips will give you a road map to protect your marriage and reduce the risk of divorce. We’ll walk you through what you do can before and during marriage to make it work (especially if you think your marriage might be in trouble).
This seems like common sense, but when love is new and exciting it can be difficult to make smart decisions. We may not be willing to admit the person we are dating is not an ideal partner for us because we’re having too much fun.
New love is full of hormones which heighten our initial experiences in a relationship. Hormones make us see everything through rose-colored-glasses. The problem is that they fade from 1-3 years into the relationship.
If you have been riding the wave of love without seriously reflecting on if you and your partner are compatible, you could be setting yourself up for a difficult marriage. You may have different hobbies and interests, but if you differ on values, this could lead to problems in your relationship.
Values are what guide our decisions in life. We decide the difference between right and wrong based on our values. If you, for example, value a life-long, committed marriage and he or she doesn’t, then it doesn’t matter how much money he makes or how hilarious she is. The relationship will not work.
Be sure to ask these questions before you get married: Does he or she have the same moral values as you? Do they desire to have children? Do you have the same parenting philosophy? What religion will the children be raised in (if you practice different religions)?
If you can at least put some thought into who you want to spend the rest of your life with and what life together will look like, that’s one step away from divorce.
Be Prepared: Your Spouse will Change
People change over time. It’s completely normal but many seek divorce because, “You’re not the same person you were when we got married.”
You’ve got some pretty high (and unrealistic) standards if you expect someone to be the same at the age of 23 as they are at 53.
Think about how much you’ve grown and changed from your childhood until now. Your life experiences molded and shaped you into the person you are today. The same will happen after marriage.
Both you and your spouse will grow and change, and that’s okay! It doesn’t mean there’s a crisis or that you’re married to a stranger.
When my husband and I first met, I did not eat red meat. Because of our interactions over time, I slowly began to make changes to my own diet. He never demanded that his future wife eat red meat. I was simply and subtly influenced by our relationship.
Your husband might have never played an instrument in his entire life and one day decides he wants to take tuba lessons. Your wife could be afraid of heights and one day decide to take flying lessons.
If you go into marriage knowing that people change, you won’t be in shock when it happens and you hopefully will not get divorced because of it.
If a change does occur, instead of being concerned, try to view the change as evidence of your spouse growing into a better person. Reflect on how you’ve influenced one another over time. You basically get a front row seat to witness that transformation unlike anyone else!
Not only that, but view change as an overall opportunity to grow closer as a couple.
That’s the best part… knowing that you will get to grow and change together can strengthen your relationship.
During Happy Times
Being devoted means being faithful to your spouse in all ways, whether that’s through your free time or with whom you share your secrets.
Here’s a little test to find out how devoted you are to your relationship. Ask yourself these questions:
“Who do I spend the most time with?”
“Who do I confide in the most?”
“Who do I text or call most often?”
“Who is my best friend?”
Your spouse should be the easy answer to all of these questions.
A devoted marriage is an intentional marriage. It takes work! Being faithful means more than just in the physical realm. If you’re more excited to share your good news of the day with someone other than your spouse, you may not be as devoted as you think.
This needs to change or you could be headed toward divorce.
You can’t get complacent and take your relationship for granted.
Make your spouse a priority, stay steadfast, and work tirelessly to keep them as a priority. Make them your first thought when you are making plans for Saturday. When you take the time to prioritize your spouse, they will see that and feel appreciated. An appreciated spouse is a happy spouse and happy spouses typically do not seek divorce.
Date, Date, Date
This is definitely a no-brainer. Isn’t he/she the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?? Then spend it together! Spending time together nurtures your relationship and helps to increase feelings of closeness.
When you spend time together do something enjoyable. Mix it up!
Instead of going to your usual local restaurant, go to the gym or go on a hike. Newness can increase feelings of closeness as well.
The point is: Have regular dates! Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what you decide to do as long as you choose to spend time together.
Put it on your calendar right now. Schedule something and don’t let anything change it.
Surround Yourself with Strong Relationships
You are the company you keep! If you befriend couples whom you admire or who you know have strong relationships, you may begin to glean their wisdom. You’ll observe how they interact. You’ll witness the cute things they do and get ideas.
Most importantly, these couples will rarely say negative things about their partners. They will respect their spouses in public by not saying anything demeaning or insulting about or towards them in front of others.
Successful businessman, Jim Rohn says that, “You’re the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with.” Some in the business field have taken this quote and found correlations between friends and salary. Some say if you take the average salary of the 5 people you spend the most time with, it will be close to your current salary. So, if you want a higher salary, start spending more time with those that earn more money than you to increase your average.
The same principle applies to your marriage. If you and your spouse spend time with couples who value and prioritize their relationship, you’ll begin to do the same. Not only that, you’ll prevent exposure to negativity which will reduce opportunities to view your spouse in a negative light. Instead, your relationship will thrive from positive peer pressure.
During Distant Times
Know There Are Lows
Sometimes you have to prepare for the worst. Remind yourself that there are highs and lows in life. Even the best relationships can feel flat and stagnant at times.
You may find that your partner loses their job and you are faced with extreme financial burden. Those stresses can increase conflict and lead to many arguments. Instead of taking your frustration out on your spouse and calling them a lazy slob or wondering if they are a worthy partner if they can’t keep a job, remember that there are seasons to life.
If you can say this to yourself, you will be better prepared when a crisis hits. Sometimes knowing is half the battle.
When your marriage hits a low point, don’t freak out! Instead let it kick you into action. Start thinking of ways you can get your relationship out of the slump.
Compliment your spouse. Remind them of their strengths (they’re probably not feeling too confident after the job loss). Share what jobs you think they’d be suitable for. Think of the connections you have and help them search for jobs. Knowing you’re behind them will motivate them all the more and get you through the difficult season.
The sooner you take action, the sooner you’ll be on your way to your next high point!
Triangulation refers to moments when a 3rd party is brought into a relationship and can cause division for a couple.
For example, after an argument, a spouse calls a friend or family member to vent and get support from that person outside of the relationship. Now there are 3 people involved in the conflict instead of 2.
Sometimes we need a neutral 3rd party to see a different point of view. However, couples can use this as a crutch rather than working out the conflict with each other.
Perhaps the most common 3rd party is a child. Couples frequently put attention into their children to avoid having to work on their marriage.
If a third party is overwhelmed by “being put in the middle” or if one spouse feels continually left-out and neglected, these could be signs of triangulation. Once you notice the signs, eliminate attention to that 3rd party and focus on the conflict with your spouse.
Working through a conflict together (just the two of you) is likely to be more advantageous than avoiding it all together. When you avoid, that only makes problems build and more problems leads to less satisfying relationships which can lead to divorce.
Tread Lightly with Family
Yes, his brother is an alcoholic and yes, your mother may be crazy, but be very careful when you are critical of your spouse’s family members.
If an in-law is crossing boundaries and being inappropriate let your spouse speak to their own family. Do NOT get involved. You do not have the history with that family they way your spouse does and they will not be as willing to listen to you.
If it is your family who frequently crosses the line, know that you have the responsibility to speak with your family.
Tell them you need them to be more respectful to your spouse or whatever the issue is that needs to be addressed. Explain how important this is and make demands if you must.
The point is, do not allow extended family to be a point of stress. Ideally, you would never want to have to ask you father to be kind in order to continue visiting your home. However, if you have to choose between speaking with your father or prioritizing your marriage, choose the marriage.
When You Feel Like You’re on Your Way to Divorce
If you feel like it might be too late, if the relationship is too far gone, know that there is still hope! Sometimes one spouse is unwilling to stay married but if your spouse is willing to stick around, there are things you can do to improve your marriage.
One thing you can do today is to look for positive aspects of your relationship (even if they are hard to see!). Ask yourself, “What went well today?” and challenge yourself to think of 3 answers.
Taking small steps like these are what can make a difference. If you need more support, speak to a counselor or trusted adviser.
Ultimately, marriage is a choice. Not one choice, but hundreds of daily choices to continue moving forward. You can choose to stay or you can choose to end it. You can choose to nurture your marriage or neglect it.
Divorce-proofing your marriage is a way to become attentive to your relationship so that it is more satisfying and less-likely to end in divorce. Start working on divorce-proofing today. The choice is yours.