When couples come for marital therapy there is a sense of urgency and despair. Many of them have talked about ending the marriage, and a few of them are using marital therapy as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. A common question that is asked within the first half hour of meeting with them is, “How do we know when it is over?” This is a tough question, because anyone who has been married for some time and hit unexpected problems in their marriage has at least fantasized if not thought about how much easier it would be to just end their marriage. Half of these couple ends up calling it quits, but the other half hang in there. Now many marital and family therapists (including myself) think you should commit to at least one more year and really try to make it work when you hit that point where you want to quit.
The logic behind working at your marriage one more year is well supported for several reasons:
1. There is a 50/50 chance that you won’t end the marriage after the year is up.
2. When couples really try they begin to focus on what brought them together in the first place, and this may re-spark the marriage.
3. If the couple can get it together, the kids will be far better off if the marriage returns to a healthy point than if the parents’ divorce.
4. Financially it behooves the couple to make their marriage work.
5. Even if the marriage doesn’t work, you will have peace of mind that you went the extra mile and really tried to make it work.
6. Couples who work on their marriage for a set period of time have a 50/50 chance of developing a better understanding and friendship even if the marriage fails.
7. It is easier working on your marriage if you have a set time frame. It doesn’t seem as overwhelming, and working together helps bring a common vision to share.
Working on your marriage for one more year can also teach your children the value of their parent’s marriage. Talking to your kids at their level about mommy and daddy learning better ways to communicate helps everyone. When marriages are in the ending stage there is often resentment and anger. Working with a therapist to minimize those feelings, replacing them with understanding and forgiveness many times leads to healing. Working with couples, I have heard over and over numerous people tell me, “If I had known then what I understand now, I think we could have worked it out.” Why not take one more year when you feel you are at the end of your rope, and instead of ending it, work toward restoring your marriage?” You have nothing to lose, and possibly everything to gain.