Michele Weiner-Davis, nicknamed “The Divorce Buster,” is a marriage enthusiast, a passionate optimist, and an author who understands hope for marriage. At sixteen, she was shocked and shattered to see her parents’ divorce. She decided that no matter what, she would work to make her own marriage work, avoid divorce at all costs, and give her children the gift of growing up with both their parents. A while back, I spoke with Michele for an hour on the phone. Afterward, I read her book, The Divorce Remedy, in one sitting. I was excited about what I learned for my marriage, and am passionate about bringing her brand of solution-oriented wisdom and action-based advice to hungry, hurting, and desperately broken couples. The following are some nuggets of truth I gleaned from our conversation as well as The Divorce Remedy on how to redeem your marriage.
1. Realize that divorce is a trap
Fifty percent of divorces happen in the first seven years of marriage because people don’t know what to expect. Young couples must be taught that conflict, angry emotions, and frustrating differences exist in all relationships. This doesn’t mean their marriage is broken, their spouse is flawed, or they made a mistake. Entertaining the option of divorce steals your ability to best relate and improve in your marriage.
2. Look out for the walk-away wife syndrome
Two-thirds of divorces are filed by women. Early in marriage, women are the usual caretakers of the relationship, frequently checking to see if the relationship is close, connected, and warm. When it is lacking, they press for more closeness. Instead, men hear it as nagging, which causes them to withdraw.
Next, women try to get their husband’s attention by complaining about all areas of life, which are impacted by loneliness, lack of understanding, or connection. Instead of having a positive effect, men feel disrespected and recoil. Negative patterns continue until a woman gives up and thinks she’ll be happier without him or with another person. The husband notes less friction and assumes things are better, or just fine. Eventually, she drops the bomb. “I want out.” He is devastated and shocked and says, “I had no idea you were this unhappy.” This seals the coffin as she concludes he has always been clueless and uncaring. The tragic thing is that this is the point when the husband is now desperate and motivated to work on and rebuild their marriage. But the walkaway wife has closed the door on the way out.
3. Seek solutions before explanations
Most therapy is premised on a long process of introspective journey into the “causes” of your problems stemming from your background. Wiener-Davis practices Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy. This immediately sets goals and helps couples determine concrete steps to heal and grow and redeem their marriages. The emphasis is on changed behavior that each spouse can implement immediately. (The intense exceptions are physical abuse, dangerous addictions, and constant infidelity. However, these represent less than 10-15 percent of marital problems.)
4. Don’t assume the worst of your spouse
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. In assuming the negative, we behave in self-defeating, relationship-damaging ways. We turn inward, get selfish, react, accuse, refuse, and withhold respect or love. Does this work for us? Give your spouse permission to be flawed. After all, we are flawed as well. Isn’t that how God works with us?
Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? –Romans 2:3-4
Grace works. We need to receive it and to give it. It softens consciences—theirs and ours.
5. Change your marriage by changing yourself
Even if the other spouse has a foot out the door, there is opportunity to turn it around. Don’t insist that two must be working on the relationship at the same time. One person can make big changes in behavior to change the relationship and redeem the marriage.
6. Stop doing things that don’t work or that make the situation worse
You’ve heard the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing, but expecting different results.” Stop doing what is not working. A committed spouse may actually be driving the other person away. If you know how to push your spouse’s buttons to get a negative response, you have proof that you can learn to push their positive-response buttons and impact the relationship. Ending the unfruitful cycle of “more-of-the-same behavior” is the next key to success in healing and improving your marriage.
7. Recognize that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself
Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Letting go of resentment helps your spouse, but it also frees you to be your best self, not a depressed, bitter victim. It does not depend on forgetting, just refusing to keep reminding. Decide right now. Stop blaming. Forgive. Make peace. You will be a better person and good effects will ripple toward others. No matter the condition of your marriage, desperate or strong, you will gain from her wisdom on divorce busting and marriage strengthening. Weiner-Davis’ message and resources will be a practical injection of hope into situations that seem hopeless. Finally, the wisdom of counseling is only part of the equation when you want to improve your life and redeem your marriage. Getting the focus off your spouse is a start. More central to the matter is seeking depth in our relationship with God and His power to enable us to behave in the best manner. And that starts by humbly learning from the Creator of our marriage and recognizing the true enemy of it.
…“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. –James 4:6-8
When two people—or even one—humbly recognize their need for God’s strength to successfully navigate the tricky world of personal intimacy, that relationship becomes different. We are made to depend upon and draw from the infinite power of the One who created us for intimacy with Himself and continues to redeem us from ourselves and for relationships.