Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away (2008) is about difficult marriages and how to work things out when you’re most tempted to hit the eject button. Written by a marriage counselor with years of hands-on experience, this patient and thoughtful reflection on rocky marriages is ultimately filled with hope. With enough understanding, empathy and clear communication, Gary Chapman argues, there are few marriages that can’t be saved.
We live in a throwaway society. When the latest electronic gadget hits the market, we don’t hesitate to hit the buy button and toss out our old devices. That attitude isn’t just restricted to consumer products. When it comes to marriage, we’re just as likely to favor trading in the old for the new. But there’s a problem: divorce isn’t the “easy” solution it sometimes appears to be.
When people tell one another that they’re having a tough time in their marriages, they often want to be told that they should hit the eject button. But marriages aren’t like bad investments; they can’t be ditched as soon as their value drops. Your partner isn’t a stock option but a person with whom you develop a deep bond founded on love, even if only for a certain period of time.
That’s why divorce – the severing of that bond for good – takes such an emotional toll. Then there are the practical difficulties. Take Karin, one of the author’s clients. Her life was much harder after she divorced. She realized that she now had to work a full-time job to support her family, leaving her with less time to spend with her children. She felt sad, anxious and drained.
Another reason that divorce often fails as a solution is that the problems it addresses reoccur in all relationships. That’s something Michael, another client of the author, realized after divorcing his wife. The cause of the split was their constant fighting. A few years later, he met another woman and fell in love. He was convinced he’d be happy in his new relationship.
He was wrong. A few months in, the couple ran into trouble. Michael’s new partner had children from a previous marriage, and he resented how much attention she devoted to them rather than to him. He also struggled to assert his authority in what was now his family. Divorce, it turned out, hadn’t been a silver bullet to his problems.
So if divorce isn’t always the solution, what should you do when your marriage hits the rocks?