Improving Marriages

Many people in marriages “pull the plug” too early. Later in life, they may say, “If I knew what I know now then… I would have stayed in that marriage”. On the other hand, some people learn valuable lessons in “starter marriages”. Some couples struggle in a marital purgatory for many years, where the marriage is not quite bad enough to give up, but not quite good enough to give happiness. These people are in the horns of a dilemma.

Deciding to leave a marriage is a very important decision, and one to be made carefully, after knowing all the facts and having tried all types of solutions. It is a personal decision. In many cases, a marital mediator can help you evaluate the pros and cons of leaving (or staying in) the marriage.

Communications problems are often the root cause of why marriages break up. They lead to feelings of anger, and sometimes to infidelity. Married couples can work to improve their communication skills. All married couples verbally fight. It is normal. It is the way a couple handles their dispute that will indicate whether or not the marriage will be successful. Mediators are experts in disputes and can help a couple take a unvarnished look at what they are doing. The couple can then objectively analyze their communications and work towards change. They can change an unproductive method of disputing that makes them angry to a productive one that makes them feel closer to each other.

Another major reason that marriages break up is feelings that the other party is not contributing enough. Sometimes the lack of contribution might be reality. But in most cases, it’s an erroneous perceptive on the part of one or both spouses. Talking about the marriage in terms of contribution (not just financial) is an educational process. It can really help a couple appreciate each other more and definitely helps marriages.

Infidelity can be a symptom of a marriage in trouble. Strong marriages help protect against infidelity. When a marriage is meeting the needs of the spouses and gives adequate satisfaction, the spouses do not go elsewhere for companionship. To protect the marriage, each spouse also can control superficial sexual attractions that could damage their relationship. Even where there has been infidelity, it does not mean the marriage has to end. Spouses can use mediation to communicate about the infidelity, clear the air, and learn to make the marriage better.

The problems in some marriage are caused by situations, such as the death of a child or parent, a job loss, bankruptcy or illness. Working on understanding the effects that these problems have on the marriage through communication in a mediation setting can help normalize the feelings and have the spouses work as a team with greater understanding. People in long-term marriages report that working through major painful and difficult situations has actually improved their marriages.

Sometimes, in spite of a couple’s efforts and use of marital mediation and/or marital counseling, they will decide to end their marriage. If they do so, they can use divorce mediation as a good method to work out the terms of their divorce. Often, they can use the same mediator who worked with them as a marital mediator. That person will already know much about the marriage that can streamline the divorce mediation and make it more customized to the needs of the divorcing clients.     –Laurie Israel, marital mediator