When is a marriage really in trouble?
“But,” you say, “I have only threatened divorce a handful of times, only under stress, or when we are fighting, which is only often and not constantly, and half of the threats are in my own head. We still have sex at least a couple of times a month, and I like my partner at least half the time. Well, a third. What percentage is a fifth again?”
“Surely others,” you continue, “who are truly bad off, are the ones who need couples counselling. My spouse just needs to figure out how not to be such a jerk, and then we will be fine.”
To this series of defences mixed with white lies and outright denial, I rejoinder, snappily: “If your leg was infected, would you wait for gangrene to set in before seeking medical attention? Do you think marriages improve as you get farther and farther away from the honeymoon period and have more stressors, some which crawl and destroy your home, to contend with?”
“How is your spouse going to realize to shape up when in fact they think it is you who needs to learn how to do so? How is it that you are smart and goal-oriented in other aspects of your life, yet when it comes to working to improve your own marriage, you put your head in the sand? Would you treat your own diabetes? Fill your own cavity? Why, then, do you hesitate before finding a couples therapist when you know in your heart that nothing is going to improve anytime soon without working on it?”
There are a lot of lists out there as to when it is time to get help for your marriage. Strangely though, there are even more authors that republish almost the exact same list under the heading of, “When it’s time to get a divorce…”
Sadly, both publishing strategies are correct.
Because, yes, while they are lists of legitimate danger signs, they are signs of the same type your microwave gives off: It beeps when it’s done…
The above-linked list is different — it’s a list of the early warning signs — and listening to them generally is a recipe for a great relationship.