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How Long Does Unhappily Married Last?

How Long Does Unhappily Married Last?

A good marriage is one that positively changes over time. When a marriage expands the horizons of both spouses and creates a lasting bond of love and family, the benefits last for generations. However, when a marriage, over the years, leads to constant bickering, resentment, anger, hurt and, on the part of one or both spouses, a loss of a sense of self, it’s time to evaluate if the marriage is worth maintaining.

Divorced individuals often say that they knew the marriage was over years before they ever filed for divorce. There are those who will hear that response and question “So why did you stay? If you knew it was over, why not end the relationship right there and move on?” Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

While far too many people jump into marriage without careful consideration, far more married individuals stay stuck in an unhappy marriage out of worry, fear, doubt and, yes, hope. The biggest questions a person who’s unhappily married will ask him or herself is this “Can this marriage be saved if I give it more time? Have I really tried and done everything to make this work?”

Those two questions keep some people in marriages that eventually rebuild but, far too often, keeps many others in marriages that will never reconcile. The important thing is to be able to tell the difference so a person knows which marriage he or she is in and doesn’t waste time.

How can you tell if your unhappy marriage is a passing phase or if it’s an incurable condition? Ask yourself three important questions:

Question #1- What are you fighting about?
Rocky marriages are filled with all sorts of internal struggles. Whether a war of words or a battle of silence, it’s important to pinpoint the three to four key topics that form the core of your marital problems. Once you can identify them, you’ll clearly see whether you’re fighting about issues or causes.

If you’re fighting about issues, you’re having confrontations about values, ideals, situations and lifestyle choices that directly impact your quality of life within the marriage. An example of an issue is eating healthy and exercising. If you are a person who believes in buying organic food and belonging to a gym where you go five to six times a week to exercise and your spouse engages you in arguments over why you’re spending too much money on food and why you won’t quit the gym, you’ve got an issue not to mention a serious lifestyle incompatibility. This is not something that you turn a blind eye to. If prolonged, this kind of arguing can lead to deep resentment where the room for compromise is little to none.

You don’t “sort of” eat organic; you do or you don’t. Going to the gym is a lifestyle choice and many people prefer it to exercising at home, especially if home is full of distraction. Again, not much room for compromise. In this scenario, it makes no sense to be fighting over actions and activities that improve your overall health. If you’re fighting over an issue, it’s something that MUST get resolved or “unhappily married” will quickly become “swiftly divorced.”

If, however, you are fighting for a cause, the opportunities for reconciliation are bigger. Causes are those topics we argue about “just because.” Most people like to be right. It feels good to be right. All married individuals know their spouse’s hot button topics, the words you can say that will make his or her blood boil. When you’re fighting about causes, you’re fighting to be right. It’s almost always a circular argument where nobody wins. It begins with “I want” and usually ends with “It doesn’t matter why. I want it.”

Here’s an example of a cause:

You like laundry done and folded in one lump sum. You don’t like to sort clothes, take a break, wash and dry and then pile the dry clothes on the folding table and let them sit for a few hours and then come back and finish them. You like to get it done in one sitting. Your spouse, on the other hand, doesn’t care and does laundry with breaks and it drives you up the wall.

When you fight about anything, you always come back to “I want you to handle your business, finish what you start… like with the laundry… because that’s how I want things to be run.”

Are you laughing yet? Seriously, is this really why you’re arguing, over whether laundry is done quick, fast and in a hurry?

That’s a cause and causes wreck marriages everyday because they get blown out of proportion and get turned into personal attacks. It does not have to be so. If you are arguing causes, your unhappy marriage is very much a choice you’re making and the good news is that you have every ability to choose differently.

Question #2- Where has the relationship been going?
Marriages travel in one of two directions: 1) circular or 2) staggered climb.

Let me explain the difference:

A circular marriage is one that is built on, affected by and challenged with the same patterns of behavior, issues and perspectives over and over again. it’s a cycle of arguments, discussions, resolutions, and problems that lead no where and, instead, go round and round in circles. When your marriage is circular, you take two steps forward and two steps back. You resolve an issue and, six months later, you’re fighting about the same issue. You feel stuck and, because the marriage isn’t growing and becoming more, you truly are stuck. Circular marriages usually wind up in divorce court.

The other traveling direction for a marriage is what I call a staggered climb. In this marriage, you start out with one purpose: to get to the mountain top. Both people bring their baggage, pack food and water, and embark upon the journey together. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, breaks in between and obstacles to overcome. When you get to the mountain top, you realize this is only the first mountain and there are many more to climb but you hang in there because the goal of doing this journey together is the highest priority. That is a marriage with staying power. Even setbacks, in this marriage, spring the two people forward.

Question #3:Why are you holding on?
There’s a payoff in everything. In an unhappy marriage, you’re choosing to stay for one of two reasons:
1) Fear of failure- People stay in unhappy marriages because of the stigma they attach to “failing at marriage”, living alone, not keeping the vows, or not “getting it right.” Don’t mistake fear of failure for loyalty or commitment. To know if you’re staying in this marriage out of a fear of failure, all you have to do is ask one question, “If I knew I couldn’t fail, would I leave this marriage?’ The answer comes quickly.

2) Commitment to Success- If you like who you are with your spouse, if you’re proud of what you’ve built together, if you can find the good in the relationship, even when it feels really bad, you are holding on because you know this marriage can work and you’re committed to seeing it work because it truly is the best relationship you could build on right now. Yes, you could go elsewhere and begin again and be just fine but this is the marriage you want to work in the long run and that’s why you hold on.

Asking yourself these three questions will make it very clear to you if your unhappy marriage is temporary or here to stay. Respond to the questions openly and honestly and the answer will be clear.

Kassandra Vaughn is a pre-divorce strategist and creator of top notch pre-divorce coaching programs designed to educate, inspire and support individuals thinking about divorce. The CEO of ROI Coaching, Ms. Vaughn creates coaching programs that help individuals live their best lives starting NOW!

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