- Win $100 in prizes!
LOOK AND LISTEN
"Enough is enough
-- I'm out of here!" How many
times have you felt like saying this to your mate? We all feel
like handing our spouse walking papers from time to time. We
ponder whether it would be easier without the day-in, day-out
confrontation of a troubled marriage. Who needs it?
by Jodie Lynn
Whether the big "D" word -- divorce -- is lurking
in the back of your mind or on the tip of your tongue, before
you take that road, if you're not in an abusive or life threatening
situation: Stop, Look and Listen. Step back and get a clear view
of your marriage so that you know --
without a doubt -- that divorce really is the best option
for you and your family.
STOP: Stop listening to what everyone else
is saying! People are full of advice. They all mean well, but
can be very confusing. Unless you are undergoing professional
counseling, tune everyone out. If you are going to professional
sessions with your spouse and seem to be arguing more and more,
tune the counselor out as well (and/or find a new one). Some
arguing may indicate that a counselor is probing sensitive issues.
In that case, they really are doing their job and it's working
for the two of you. But if therapy doesn't turn into constructive
criticism (or something better) within 6 to 8 weeks, it may be
time to look for another route of help.
LOOK: Look at the relationship between you and your spouse
through a positive perspective. Right now, you are probably seriously
contemplating divorce, but what would happen if you were to try
a checklist with a bird's eye view? This procedure will take
a little work -- but it's worth it. Go to a quiet spot
(no kids) and really concentrate. Take along a pen and notebook.
At the top of one page, write the headings: PROS and on
opposite side of the page write CONS. Does this look familiar?
It's the old Ben Franklin method. It works on many topics.
Take a deep breath and write
all the negative things about your partner under the CONS
heading. Keep a box of Kleenex handy. By the time you get this
done, you will feel better (whether you can tell it or not) and
there may be plenty of "stuff" written down. This is
perfectly fine and perfectly normal.
Take a break if you need to and
clear your head before continuing to step two. You may have to
really work on this one. Yep, it's time for the list on the PROS.
Of course, this is the side for positive "stuff." Put
on some favorite music, take a deep breath, wiggle your fingers
and rotate your head. Think back to the time when you first fell
in love with your spouse. Think about good times and fun times.
For right now, try to put all hard feelings aside. In the past,
you've cared and shared with this person. Try to remember some
"happy thoughts." Upon completion, this side may be
shorter -- don't worry about it.
LISTEN: Listen to your heart. Take a long hard
look at the words in each column. Reach down deep into your heart.
Are there things on the "con" list that you might be
contributing to? If you tried to change some habit or communication
method with your spouse, would a better response be forthcoming
from him? In other words, how could you personally improve your
marriage and the line of communication for its success?
Go through each negative item
and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 --
10 being really important. Is it possible these traits could
be worked out between the two of you? A bad marriage is almost
always the result of two people. Each person has contributed
to the "mess." If you can accept that, and assume part
of the blame -- it's a great start. On the other hand...
if things really are terrible, don't shoulder blame that isn't
yours. Part of being honest means acknowledging the work you
have done and realizing that it's your mate's responsibility,
too, to make the marriage work.
Next, ask your spouse to complete
the very same list of pros and cons. After waiting 24 hours,
exchange lists. Don't discuss them. After waiting another 24
hours, get together (without kids) and compare notes. Try to
discuss differences calmly without any finger pointing or blaming.
Be completely honest -- both about what you love and what you
find difficult. Set these rules before meeting!
Ask your spouse if he/she is
ready to discuss the marriage's good and bad points. If another
day or two is needed in order to digest all of this, so be it.
This is your marriage on the rocks --
not a drink that will go flat within minutes. Take all the time
that's needed for the other person to feel comfortable. Not every
marriage can (or should) be saved. But if you can work on the
Ben Franklin project together, it might help to shed some light
on unknown areas that may have been previously forgotten or overlooked.
It will give you a clear and honest view of where you both stand.
If it doesn't help this marriage, it will certainly give you
a better understanding of what you need from your next relationship.
DON'T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO DO THIS EXERCISE. For many couples who have waited until
the last minute, this exercise may not make a difference at all.
It's actually a fun activity to do at least once a year even
in a healthy marriage. As years pass, our ideas can change as
well as our likes and dislikes. This personal at-home-workshop
can provide updated information as we grow and change in our
daily lives and enhance the strength of our marriage. And, as
always, never stop dating your spouse. Make time for a date between
just the two of you at least once a month.
- Jodie Lynn is a nationally syndicated columnist
of Parent to Parent, and author of Mommy
- CEO (Constantly Evaluating Others), Five Golden Rules. She invites you to enter her Mother's Day contest
and spread a little cheer. See details at her web site: Parent