Did you know that marriages in the United States have a 50/50 chance of making it? Studies and surveys by the American Psychological Association (APA) state that 40 to 50 percent of married couples divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages are even higher.
Baby boomers, people born between 1946 and around 1964, statistically lead divorce averages for the United States. Eva Sachs, a divorce financial consultant and the coauthor of the book When Harry Left Sally: Finding Your Way Through Grey Divorce, said that most grey divorces are initiated by the wife, thanks to the increasing presence of women over 50 in the workplace. “With financial independence, women are not feeling that they have to stay in the marriage because they’re not working,” Sachs said.
Boomers generally married young, which is one of the biggest contributors to divorce risk. However, with baby boomers getting older and “dying off” divorces are expected to see a decline. Sociologists are finding that couples marrying at an older age have a lower risk for divorce because they are more established both emotionally and financially.
Aside from finding one’s self later in life, there are several other causes that contribute to divorce. Recently, The Today Show collaborated with the Smart Dating Academy to identify the top reasons why couples divorce. The data was compiled by the Smart Dating Academy and includes the responses from thousands of people participating in couple’s counseling and/or have decided to get a divorce. The top six reasons (not in a specific ranking order) are infidelity, money problems, addictions, extraordinary situations (medical diagnoses, death of a child, infertility, etc.), incompatibility, and irreconcilable differences (hostility, extreme anger, stonewalling, or constant fights).
Needless to say, before calling it quits couples should do everything in their power to save their marriage from divorce. No relationship is perfect, in fact seasons of marital struggle are common but the actions a couple takes, proactively and reactively, will determine whether or not a marriage can be saved from divorce.
Here are the ways a marriage can be saved. It is important to note that your marriage doesn’t need to be in complete turmoil to incorporate this advice into your relationship. Often times being proactive and creating a strong foundation will be the saving grace of a marriage.
Work on yourself.
Romantic films portray couples as completing each other. While your spouse can be viewed as your soulmate, the idea that you can’t exist without your spouse is a heavy burden. Self-evaluation is a keyway to determine what makes you happy and provides true substance in your life. Ideally, you need to be fulfilled as an individual and do things that contribute to your own joy. Ask yourself, “What makes me happy?”
Maybe the response is something artistic or perhaps it is a physical activity. Either way, turn inward and identify what you can do to improve your mindset and overall view of yourself.
Communicate your feelings.
Instead of assuming that your spouse feels a certain way or knows how you are feeling, commit to communicating your feelings and emotions. If your spouse does or says something that you don’t like, tell them. It is unfair to believe that your husband or wife should just know how to react.
Communicating your feelings will help your spouse identify the ways they can revise their actions and responses. If you feel like your spouse isn’t forthcoming with their emotions and feelings, ask them to speak up if you do bothersome things.
Make time for each other.
Silence all of the distractions and invest in time together. For example, my husband and I have a no-phone rule after the kids go to bed. At 8 p.m. we put our phones away and do not check them for the rest of the night – this includes no texting, no phone calls, no internet browsing, and no social media. We’ve made the commitment to bond. During this time, we connect about our feelings and usually keep it casual with a TV show or movie that we watch together. Sometimes we’ll grab a snack and play a game together.
It is important to make your spouse feel like a priority. Other ways to prioritize each other is setting a weekly date, blocking off time during the day to reconnect, or cook meals together.
The daily grind can sometimes lead couples to take each other for granted. This is a common mistake couples make on a daily basis. Just because you said I do, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to complement each other and show appreciation. If your spouse cooks dinner or went the extra mile to make something special for the family, express your gratitude by simply saying ‘thank you’. Or maybe you notice that your partner got a new haircut, tell them how nice they look.
Appreciation doesn’t need to be a grand gesture because the little acts of expressing gratitude go a long way.
Fighting fair is a must! In order to fight fair, you shouldn’t bring up past incidents, no name calling, and breaking things out of frustration is not allowed. But couples can own their own short comings and identify what they can/should improve on.
If either partner is feeling like they are hitting a brick wall, it is perfectly normal to take a short break to regroup and self-evaluate. However, a couple must agree to the short break and be willing to reassess with an open mind.
Come up with a game plan.
Collectively create a marriage game plan. A plan should include all the above and the actions to achieve these things from both sides. Consider this game plan to be a strategy to create a healthy marriage. Like all plans, things can and should shift based on the circumstances. Therefore, couples should have regular meetings and evaluate what is working and what is not.
For example, maybe one spouse feels like they are doing all the work at home and in turn feeling under appreciated. During a meeting, a spouse would discuss their frustrations and the couple would work together to create a better balance.
Don’t compare your marriage.
Everyone has a different relationship because no two people are the same. Avoid comparing your relationship to other couples because you will inevitably set your marriage up for failure. With that said, it is wise to read books on marital conflict and goals from professionals; however, creating benchmarks and ideals derived from another couple is unfair and a terrible idea.
Every relationship requires intentionality and that means couples should create a strong foundation by adhering to proactive tactics. If you’re too late to adopt a proactive approach, then incorporate these seven strategies into your marriage and continue to practice them – even after things feel more stable. Marriage is a lifetime commitment and like all commitments each partner must be willing to always give their all.