There is reason to hope even if you are separated or feeling stuck. For every problem, there is a solution. Learn what that is and get to work on it.
There are two kinds of people who don’t have success. Those who give up hope too soon, and those who keep trying when then need to move on. Successful people know the criteria for determining whether to take further action or not. Most people give up too soon.
For example, your spouse saying your marriage is over is not a criteria for giving up hope. That is just how your spouse feels at that moment and feelings can change. Many people written to tell me they have improved their marriages just by using the free resources on this website. Doing what works makes all the difference in terms of having hope.
An affair is also not a reason to give up hope. What you choose to do can actually end your spouse’s affair. Let’s look at some things that your spouse may do, and some things that you may do, that impact how much hope there is for your marriage.
Signs your marriage can be saved
Partner factors are things that your spouse is or is not doing. Most people think that partner factors are the biggest determiner of whether there is hope for their marriage. So, they spend too much time watching what their spouse does instead of focusing on what they should do.
It is NOT OVER when you are separated
Separation can actually improve a relationship. For many years, counselors have been helping people to separate and rebuild their relationship. This is done when living together is creating too much conflict or negativity in the relationship. Separation results in less time together, which means less conflict. If you then use good connection skills and the right boundaries, you can connect with your spouse faster than you ever could by living together.
Although many of my coaching clients were fearful of separation at first, they later were thankful that it happened because it resulted in so much relationship improvement. Working with me, they learned how to connect each time they interacted with their spouse to improve their relationship again.
It’s NOT OVER When your spouse desires someone else
Interest does not equal commitment. There is a difference between your spouse being interested in dating, and your spouse being committed to someone else. Everyone who is in a bad marriage has an interest in finding someone who will give them what they are not getting from the marriage.
Desiring others is normal. Just as hungry people will desire food, unloved people will desire love, ignored people will desire attention, and so forth. If your spouse has an interest in getting that from others, it is a symptom of your marriage problems. Even if your spouse is strongly attracted to someone in particular, there are still things you can to to stop your spouse’s limerence for another.
Desiring other is not evidence that your spouse is somehow unfaithful. You must act quickly to provide what your spouse needs, in a secure way. That won’t prevent your spouse from being attracted to others, but it is still necessary for saving your marriage.
It’s NOT OVER When your spouse has someone else
If your spouse is involved with someone else, then he or she is no longer being faithful to you. That does not mean that your spouse is no longer committed to you. Many people try to have an affair while still being committed to their spouses. There are ways to work on reconciling when your spouse is having an affair.
There is still hope if your spouse continues to have a friendly or ambivalent relationship with you. That spark can be fanned into a flame or snuffed out, depending on how you manage your emotions, and whether you use boundaries that promote reconciling.
Signs your marriage can’t be saved
It IS OVER when your spouse is committed to someone else
Commitment is signaled by living together, having a baby with, buying a house, or divorcing you to be with the other. It is then time to move on. Marriage counselors say “You can’t unscramble eggs,” meaning you can’t end one committed relationship to save an earlier committed relationship. I agree with that.
Continuing to wait for your spouse in this situation just puts you in the position of being a backup in case something goes wrong with your spouse’s new relationship. That is a very needy position which would ultimately be damaging should your spouse come back. If your spouse came back under such a condition, he or she would likely be off again when the chance arose.
It IS OVER when your spouse will no longer have contact with you
Regardless of whether your spouse is seeing someone else, if he or she will not have contact with you, there is no hope for your marriage. Without contact, there is no relationship and no possibility for building one. Just because you had a relationship for many years does not mean that you have one now. No contact equals means no relationship and no way to build it.
The Earlier You Take Action, the More Hope there Is for Your Marriage
Little problems grow into big ones. If you take care of them when they are little, it is usually quick and easy. The bigger they get, the more effort and time is required. They can get so big, that one lifetime would not be enough to create reconnection.
Small connections grow into great connections. Learning how to turn things around just a little can start you on the path to a better relationship. Even with big problems, connections need to start in a small way. This will decrease resistance from your spouse.
As long as you can keep things moving in the right direction, you will eventually get your relationship to where you want it to go. If you only observe what your spouse does, your relationship will grind to a halt. Never substitute watching for doing. There is only hope when you take action.
Signs your marriage can be saved–recap
There are two kinds of evidence to consider when determining if there is hope for your marriage–what your spouse is doing, and what you are doing. There is hope for your marriage if:
- Your spouse is not committed to someone else,
- your spouse has regular contact with you, and
- you are willing to use effective methods.
If one of these three criteria are not met, you won’t be able to reconcile no matter how hard you try. If you’ve got all three, then you have good reason to hope and just need to learn the right methods.
Self Factors–do you have what it takes?
Even if you still have friendly contact with your spouse and your spouse is not committed to someone else, you must have more than the desire to reconcile. You must have the ability to reconcile.
List of necessary self factors
The more of these questions you can answer “yes” to, the greater the hope for your marriage. A “no” response to even one of them may negate any chances you have for saving your marriage:
- Are you willing to give up your current ineffective methods (needy behaviors) that damage, rather than build, your relationship?
- Are you willing to look at whether your actions or inaction are preventing your relationship from moving ahead?
- Are you willing to give up negative attempts to change your partner like complaining and blaming?
- Are you willing to be the first to change the way you and your partner interact, even if you didn’t cause the problems?
- Are you willing to earn your partner’s respect with self-control and healthy boundaries?
- Are you willing to learn the skills you need to have in order to improve your relationship, even if your partner does nothing?
- Are you willing to use those skills to improve your relationship for your partner’s benefit as well as your own?
- Are you willing to let go of short term “quick fixes” and work toward long term intimacy?
- When you don’t know what to do, are you willing to get necessary professional help even though you will have to pay for it (counseling, coaching, books, etc.)?
If there is still reason for hope in your marriage, you must take action before that hope goes away. Go over every single item in the checklist above and work on it. Stop looking for hope in your spouse’s words and behaviors and start creating hope with your actions. The main reason that people don’t reconcile is not a spouse who won’t change, but failure to take required action.
It only takes one person to improve or to destroy a relationship, depending on that person’s actions. One thing you change can start the ball rolling in either direction.
There Are Guarantees
Sometimes people want a guarantee that something will work before they try it, like counseling or coaching. In fact, they will often look so long for a guaranteed solution to their marriage problems that it becomes too late to do anything about them.
Instead of looking for a guaranteed solution, you should be comparing the risks of your current approach to the risks of a new approach. Is what you are doing now working? What will happen to your marriage if you just continue doing what you are doing? The answer to those questions tell you the risks of not getting help.
With God there is always hope
This is because God loves you and He is able. He is willing to help you never be alone and to cope with whatever problem you face. Although things have often not worked out the way I hoped, God has always taken care of me. When I look back at various tragedies in my life, I can see how God was there, helping with each one, whether it was childhood abuse, broken relationships, or illness.
God can help you move forward. You can move forward with faith and hope that there is something better for you in the future, even if you can’t see what that is yet. And, you can feel loved today, even if your spouse has rejected you. The only way out of a dark tunnel is to keep moving forward.