Can I Save My Marriage With Gratitude?

Man looking skeptical at the idea I can save my marriage with gratitude.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. ~Wayne Dyer

According to Dictionary.com, gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation, as for gifts or favors. Gratitude also been defined as “an estimate of gain coupled with the judgment that someone else is responsible for that gain” by Robert C. Solomon in his book The Passions.

Now if your marriage isn’t exactly blissful and you’re wondering if you can or even want to save it, feeling thankful for it isn’t an easy thing to do. BUT it may be exactly what you need to do.

According to Robert Emmons, Ph.D, gratitude has some serious, science-proven benefits that will change the way you look at the world (which, btw, includes your marriage). In one of his studies, participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to make progress toward important personal goal.

Yes, “I want to save my marriage” is definitely an important personal goal that could be more easily gained by practicing gratitude.

This doesn’t mean that you need to feel grateful for every argument you have with your spouse. (Although you could be grateful for the learning opportunity the argument gives you, but that’s a topic for another time.)

It does mean being grateful for other things. But to do that you have to step back from the immediate emotions of anger and hurt and disappointment and whatever other unpleasant emotion you’re bathed in.

And how do you do that? By choosing to become curious about what triggered the latest situation and/or becoming empathetic to both you and your spouse.

This idea isn’t the easiest for me to put into words. But luckily there’s an amazing sculpture by Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Milov that beautifully illustrates the love that still exists between a couple even in the midst of argument and hurt.

Since the first time I viewed this sculpture, I think of it when my husband and I have a blowout. It inspires me to become curious and empathetic despite how much I just want to turn my back, walk away, and wonder privately if I can or even want to save my marriage or not.

Once I move past the immediate pain, I can start (slowly) becoming grateful. I’ll usually start with what my husband and I have created together – our home including everyone and everything we share it with.

And then, as my emotions shift, I start becoming more resourceful. I’ll ask for what I want instead of expect or demand it. I’ll encourage him to do the same. I’ll surf the web for helpful ideas and implement them. I’ll also kindly challenge him to do the same.

As I learn to live more in gratitude instead of reaction, my marriage is changing – for the better. The age-old wisdom that Wayne Dyer so eloquently stated “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” is absolutely true and is the cornerstone for me knowing that I can and continue to do my part to save my marriage through gratefulness.

Look, I get that you’re skeptical about this. I was too when I first heard the concept that gratitude can change your relationship. And I need to let you know that gratitude won’t help everyone save their marriage. It’s not a panacea.

Some marriages can’t be fixed.

If your spouse is abusive to either you or your children, if your spouse is an addict who isn’t getting treatment, or your marriage is an abysmal example for your children, then I want you to stop reading right now and call an attorney. You can’t fix that stuff with gratitude. You and your family will have a better shot at a good life if you end the marriage now and divorce.

But for the rest of us (and, yes, I do still include me here) who have either fleeting wonders or persistent agony about answering the question “Can I save my marriage?”, then gratitude could indeed be the answer you’re looking for. And if it’s not THE answer, it will be a terrific first step to take.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are wondering if they can or even want to save their marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

Still wondering “Can I save my marriage?” You’ll find more tips in Unhappy Marriage?

 

Blind Belief In Romantic Quotes Could Destroy Your Marriage

Not all romantic quotes are true. Some sow the seeds of discontent or even divorce.

‘Tis the season for weddings. And if you’re like most people you probably wonder how many of the couples who walk down the aisle are going to make it – especially if you’re one of the couples walking down the aisle!

Like anything in life, beliefs and expectations have a lot to do with whether or not a couple will make it.

That’s why when I saw this list of romantic quotes about love and marriage that I got worried. Many of these quotes romanticize love and marriage so much that anyone who takes them to heart will have a difficult (or maybe impossible) time keeping their marriage intact.

Let me give you a few of examples.

“That’s when you know for sure that somebody loves you. They figure out what you need and they give it to you – without you asking.” Adriana Trigiani

OMG! Really?! This is an absolute recipe for disaster. Marriages take work and maintaining love takes work. The obsession of new love wears off over time and an expectation that your spouse will continue to read your mind and know exactly what you need exactly when you need it is the stuff of epic battles and destroyed feelings.

Lasting love requires that a couple learns to communicate about all things – especially those things that they would like from each other.

“I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.” Henry Ward Beecher

The first time I read this quote in relation to marriage my stomach turned. When one spouse worships the other or expects to be worshiped, they create huge amounts of distance in the relationship. The one being worshiped is placed on a pedestal and is expected to live up to unrealistic expectations. The one doing the worshiping usually feels less than their spouse.

Marriage works best (and most easily) when it’s between two equals – not when one spouse is superior to the other.

“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.” Sarah Dessen

On the surface, this quote is beautiful. The problem comes when couples believe this is the only way true love appears or that it should maintain this flash and throb without effort on their parts.

True love isn’t always so dramatic when it appears. True love can also appear as a slow smile started in friendship that gradually blossoms into a radiant smile of bliss. There are no rules about how love happens so expectations about there being only one way to know you’re in love can lead to both heartbreak and missing out on the love of a life time.

“Your absence has not taught me to be alone, it merely has shown that when together we cast a single shadow on the wall.” Doug Fetherling

YIKES! Does anyone else feel smothered when they read this?

Every healthy couple needs to be able to have time alone together and separately. It’s by each spouse being a whole and complete person on their own that they can bring all of themself to the marriage and not expect the other to complete them (which we all know is a recipe for disaster).

Not all romantic quotes about love and marriage set you up for a rocky (at best) marriage. Some of them are beautiful and speak the truth.

“I don’t want to be somebody’s crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am.” Stephen Chbosky

Being 100% you without either of you hiding behind a mask is the surest way to know if your love is true. And that can be a tricky thing especially over time because we all change and grow. So the challenge is to continue communicating and learning about yourself and your spouse throughout your marriage.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin

This quote hints at the effort involved in keeping a marriage alive. Sometimes I think of it more as waking up each and every morning and making the decision to love my husband today – even on those days when I’m not feeling especially loving.

And that’s truly the test of a marriage – choosing to do it even when it might not be the easiest thing in the world because you’ve decided it’s worth it. Anyone who can do this day in and day out will have a successful marriage despite what the overly romantic quotes might lead you to believe.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with an unhappy marriage and wondering if they can make it work. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

Looking for more help with and information about marriage work? Read more advice in Unhappy Marriage?

This article originally appeared on Marriage.com

Dealing With Divorce And The Fears That Are Keeping You Stuck

Woman trapped in her fears while dealing with divorce.

Dealing with divorce effectively requires you to conquer your fears.

There are few things more frightening getting divorced and realizing that you’re all alone.

You’re alone with your daily activities. You’re alone with your kids (when you have them). And you’re alone with your thoughts.

And all of this aloneness breeds fear which makes dealing with divorce even more difficult.

Fear of not being enough to get through your daily activities because there were two of you getting everything done before. Fear of not being able to fully meet your kids needs when they’re with you and terror of not being able to meet their needs when they’re with your ex. But probably the most terrorizing part of divorce is being alone with your thoughts.

Your thoughts are so tough because they are what-if’s – the negative what-if’s. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if it all happens? How will you deal with any or all of it?

These what-if’s you create in your mind are so powerful that you’re thrown into a fight, flight or freeze response.

And, honestly, what I see the most of is the freeze response (a.k.a. overwhelm and/or over-analysis) because most of us are too frightened to make a move. We’re frightened to do anything because we’ve come to doubt ourselves as a result of our marriage ending in divorce.

Yeah, dealing with divorce is tough and it becomes absolutely horrible when you find yourself trapped in your thoughts of fear.

But what I want you to know is that you can also use your thoughts to break through your freeze response.

The first step is to identify what type of fearful thought is causing you the most trouble right now. I know you probably have lots of them you’re facing as you’re dealing with divorce, but choose just one.

Now that you’ve got the one in mind, I want you to know there are basically three types of fears.

There is the fear of loss. When you get divorced there are TONS of losses that can make anyone hesitant to do something that might result in another yet loss. So you choose to do nothing instead of proactively dealing with your divorce.

Then there is the fear of process. This is just the fear of doing something or really anything because you’re afraid of what negative stuff might happen or because you think that doing anything will be too hard for you. So you do nothing and continue feeling trapped instead of putting your energies toward healing from divorce.

Then there is the fear of what might happen on the other side. If you do x, then some horrible y might happen and that fear of the what-if keeps you from doing x or anything else.

So which type of fear is it that’s causing you the most trouble right now?

If you’re dealing with a fear of loss, then you can write a goodbye/hello letter to process the potential loss. By writing the letter, you’ll be able to put the fear into its place by taking an action to address it. And taking action will break the trap of overwhelm and over-analysis you are in.

If you’re most fearful of the process, then you need to figure out a way to make the process fun instead of frightening. A great analogy here is a roller coaster. There’s a part of being on a roller coaster that is incredibly terrifying, but everyone (just about) who gets on a roller coaster finds a way to have fun. They might throw their hands up in the air. They might scream. They might even laugh hysterically the entire time. So how can you think about what’s ahead of you in a different way that will enable to you have even a smidgen of fun?

If what the future might hold for you is terrifying, then you need to start taking control of your future. Begin dreaming about what you want your future to be like when you’re not constantly dealing with divorce. Make your dream so compelling and wonderful that you’re excited to start making plans and then taking the steps necessary to fulfill those plans.

Look, I know this is advice might seem pretty simplistic and doesn’t take into account all of the realities of your life. But here’s the thing, the truth is that your fears and the what-ifs your mind generates (just like mine did when I got divorced) make things more complicated than necessary.

Try this advice. Doing even a simple thing to help you while dealing with divorce is better than staying stuck. Isn’t it?

And who knows you might be able to break through some of your fears on your own by trying this advice. Or you might have better language to talk about your fears with others – maybe even a helping professional. And by refusing to continue to let your fears control you, you’ll be taking a huge step forward in dealing with divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with dealing with divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

Looking for more help with and information about dealing with divorce? Read more advice in Healing After Divorce.

I Cheated. What Should I Do?

Coming clean is the best thing you can do.

So you’ve cheated and now you’re feeling a mixture of guilt and elation. Elation that it was so fun (and easy). And guilt because you have a spouse who trusts you implicitly.

And so you struggle. You wrestle with whether or not you should tell them because you know if you do, there will be repercussions. You could even lose her/him if you tell them the truth.

So you begin rationalizing … Biologically we’re all wired to cheat and there’s no beating my DNA. Right? It was only one time. They’ll never find out.

But that’s all just game playing. Your struggles with whether or not to tell them mean that you know you should, but that you’re scared.

You’re afraid of letting him/her know you’re not as good a person as they think you are (or maybe even as you thought you were). You’re frightened about their reaction when you do tell. And you’re worried because you could lose your marriage.

Despite your fears, coming clean with your spouse is the best thing for both of you.

Still not sure you want to tell? Then, here are the 3 most important reasons you should:

  1. You had sex without a condom and they deserve to know their health has been compromised.< It doesn’t matter whether you see a future for your marriage or not, you have to tell as soon as possible.

    STDs are a real threat and, according to the CDC, can be passed through having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Yup, even if you’ve only had oral sex without a condom, you’ve put yourself and your spouse at risk.

    Many STDs don’t cause any symptoms that you would notice, so you can only know whether or not you have one by being tested. Both of you need to be tested.

  2. You promised you’d be honest. You cheated! That’s about as dishonest as you can get in an intimate relationship.

    Your guilt stems from your dishonesty. You know that marriages can only work when both spouses are respectfully honest with each other. You will continue to live with the nagging guilt of your actions until you come clean.

  3. You owe it to yourself. You made a mistake and the best thing you can do is admit it and learn from it.

    We all make mistakes. But, as cliché as it may sound, unless you learn from your mistake, you’ll continue to make the same one until you’ve learned the lesson you need to learn. And once you’re learned the lesson, you’ll grow and not need to make the same mistake again.

Look, just because I believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to cheating, doesn’t mean you have to (unless you’ve had unprotected sex). You’re the only one who has to struggle with the emotional toll of betraying your spouse.

But, you can free yourself from the trap by having a real and respectful conversation with your partner.

If you continue avoiding the truth and facts, you’ll continue feeling guilt and regret for the rest of your life. Yes, you’ll get used to the misery over time, but it will still be there sucking away at your soul, even if you choose to end your marriage, until you can be honest about your behavior and admit that you’ve strayed.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are wondering if staying married is the right answer for them. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more tips on how to deal with marriage difficulties? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity

 

The piece originally appeared on Get A Wingman.

The Secret Grief Of Divorce You Never Talk About

Woman thinking about her grief of divorce.

Your griefs are real even if you’ve never heard anyone else talk about them before.

Divorce isn’t something anyone is ever totally prepared for. You probably know someone who’s gotten divorced and seen what they went through. But watching someone else deal with the grief of divorce doesn’t do anything to make you ready to deal with your own.

You were probably shocked to learn that your ex wanted a divorce and tried to see if you could do anything to save the marriage. Usually there’s nothing to do. Once someone comes to the point of asking for a divorce, they’re usually done and are already experiencing their own guilt and grief.

And after the unwelcome surprise of hearing the words “I want a divorce” begins to wear off, the tidal waves of grief begin to hit you. And they don’t just hit once. The waves of grief hit you again and again and again – until you’re not sure you can take it anymore.

Yet, as uncomfortable and miserable as the grief is, the only way to truly get over the painful losses resulting from the end of your marriage is to go through the grief and acknowledge each and every one of your losses.

Here’s the thing though – you don’t always recognize everything that you’re saying goodbye to because there’s just so much of it. And that’s why you don’t talk about it. You’re afraid that it will make you seem more pitiful or weird than you already do.

But I want you to know that what you’re feeling is OK. The grief of divorce is different for everyone. However, knowing what other people have and do secretly grieve as part of their divorce will help you to ferret out all that you’ve lost.

That’s why this list of the secret grief of divorce is so important – it helps you to recognize and acknowledge your divorce grief so you can process it. By processing it, you’ll get over the end of your marriage more easily and reduce the chances of getting stuck along the way.

But before you read the list of the 50 secret causes of the grief of divorce, grab some tissues, paper and a pen.

The items below probably aren’t exactly what you’re losing, but they will stir things up for you emotionally. (That’s why you need the tissues.)

Don’t just let things get stirred up, write down what you’re grieving about the loss of your marriage. (Obviously, this is why you need the paper and pen.) By specifically recognizing every little and big thing you’re mourning you’ll be taking a big step toward your divorce recovery and out of the miserable place of being stuck in the grief of divorce.

Here are 50 secret causes of the grief of divorce:

  1. The children you’ll never have together.
  2. Losing the home you shared.
  3. The inside jokes that won’t mean anything to anyone else.
  4. The shared history that you’ll never share with anyone else.
  5. The love you thought you had.
  6. Feeling that you were special to your ex.
  7. Your children not being able to grow up in an intact family.
  8. Losing the secure feeling of knowing your ex has your back.
  9. Lost financial security.
  10. No longer sleeping together.
  11. No longer parenting together.
  12. The dream of celebrating your 50th anniversary (or maybe just your 10th).
  13. Being able to help out at your kid’s school at a moment’s notice.
  14. Always having someone there to share your day with.
  15. Losing your best friend, soul mate, and confidante.
  16. Losing your pets.
  17. Saying goodbye to your in-laws.
  18. Having your role as spouse ripped away from you.
  19. No longer being part of the bulk of society – married.
  20. Losing your holiday traditions and spending all of your holidays with your kids.
  21. Saying goodbye to amazing sex with your ex.
  22. No more date nights with your ex.
  23. The withering of the relationships with your shared friends.
  24. Losing your shared music library.
  25. No longer being able to count on someone else to take care of the car or pay the bills or cook or maintain the house or …
  26. No longer being able to stay at home to raise your kids.
  27. The disappearance of that someone who accepts you as you are.
  28. Losing your shared vacation dreams.
  29. Saying goodbye to the dream of growing old together.
  30. Losing the dream of sending the kids off to college and rediscovering each other.
  31. Not being able to welcome your grandchildren together.
  32. Taking your wedding pictures down.
  33. Asking your parents to take your wedding pictures down in their home.
  34. Splitting up all the things that made your house a home.
  35. The dream of happily ever after with your ex evaporating.
  36. No longer being able to reach out and hold their hand when you’re scared, or happy, or proud.
  37. No more sharing a cup of coffee in the morning before the day kicks into gear.
  38. Losing the joy of sharing your hobby with your spouse.
  39. Losing the comfort of attending church together.
  40. Knowing that your spouse is no longer your rock.
  41. Having to file your taxes as single instead of married.
  42. Discovering that your self-confidence has evaporated.
  43. Feeling isolated and no longer feeling connected with others.
  44. Realizing you don’t know who you are if you aren’t your ex’s spouse anymore.
  45. Noticing that you don’t know what you want out of life anymore.
  46. Losing your sense of purpose.
  47. Finding it difficult to trust anyone – even yourself.
  48. Destruction of your belief in love and romance.
  49. Losing your faith in the legal system.
  50. Feeling as if you’ve lost control of your life.

This list isn’t comprehensive. There’s a myriad of things you say goodbye to when your marriage ends and your grief of divorce will probably continue long after you’ve read through this list for the first time. So revisit it each time you have a new wave of grief that you’re ready to process.

However, if you find yourself feeling consumed by grief, reach out for help. You might get the help you need from your friends and family, but you might also choose to look to a helping professional to support you as you process your grief of divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with grief after the end of their marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more help with coping with your heartbreak? Read more advice in Dealing With Grief

4 Divorced-Girl Tricks For Surviving The Wedding Season With Grace

Tossing the invites into the trash isn’t your ONLY option.

The trees are leafing out. The flowers are blooming. You can’t escape it no matter how much you want to right now. It’s wedding season and the invitations have started arriving.

Your friends deserve happiness and you wish them well, but why the crap do they need to send you an invitation to their flipping wedding?

Don’t they know that just seeing their invitation sends you into a tail spin? It’s like they’re purposely rubbing salt into your divorce wound. Don’t they realize that their invitation is just another reminder of your failure?

Honestly, no, they don’t understand your pain. Unless you’ve been through divorce, you don’t get it.

So the invitations are still going to come. And you need a way to deal with them a little better than just throwing them away unopened and grabbing a pint of Haagen-Dazs, a bottle of wine and/or Tinder.

Option 1: Decline the invitation. If going to a wedding is too painful for you, that’s OK. Divorce grief is a big deal. There’s no reason to put yourself into a situation that will undermine your healing. You have to take care of you first. Your friend will understand.

Option 2: Take a friend as your +1. If your only reservation about attending the wedding is showing up alone, then by all means bring someone with you. Ask your best friend, your cousin or sibling to go with you. (Despite Debra Messing’s experience in The Wedding Date, please don’t hire someone to go with you as your date!)

Option 3: Go to the wedding. If you want to attend the wedding, but just feel uncertain of what it will be like, then go. Healing from divorce requires courage. You’re going to try lots of things that might be a little uncomfortable. And who knows, you might be surprised at how much fun you can have hanging out with your friends without your divorce being the focus of attention.

Option 4: Continue tossing the invites. It’s pretty normal to isolate yourself early in the divorce process. And ignoring what’s going on in the rest of the world can work when your divorce is new because you’ve already got more than enough on your plate with trying to make sense of what’s going on. However, if you’re beyond the initial stages of accepting your divorce, then you need to ask yourself if you’re wallowing in self-pity before tossing another invitation without opening it.

Look, there’s no one right way to deal with wedding season when you’re newly divorced or even in the midst of it. But sometimes looking at the options will open up new possibilities and maybe even bring a little fun into what has been a pretty depressing divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are wondering how to move forward after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more tips on how to deal with divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.

 This article originally appeared on YourTango.