I don’t want to admit that a marriage might ever reach the point when it is truly over. But I must say what I’m about to say. And this is why: I’ve been considering the question: How do you know when it is really, truly, actually “too late”? for the past several months as I’ve seen folks who are extremely close to us go through a contentious divorce.
I’ve been witnessing our friends’ cycles of violent ruptures and what they believed to be true “repair” and healing for years, but which was really simply a band-aid covering the fundamental issues. I’ve observed them struggle to understand and actually put notions like reconciliation, new or revised boundaries, and forgiveness into practise. I’ve seen them cause harm to their marriage and their family by postponing seeking help for their issues. I have witnessed their marriage steadily deteriorate over time, from hopeful to hopeless; from we still have time to work things out to it’s too late; it’s over.
Although getting to this point may have been avoided, it is now “too late” for their marriage, and they are not allowed to live in the past or in the realm of “ifs and onlys.” They have to live in the present, and their marriage has broken down in front of them, as well as their friends and relatives. I’ve had to face the sad truth that sometimes the harm done is too vast or too heavy to go past after watching them closely and dealing with the countless other couples that we hear from every day. It’s time to let go now.
Here are 8 warning signs that it could be too late to save your marriage if it has been in an ongoing cycle of “explosive rupture” and “ineffective repair” for a while.
Please keep in mind as you read this that even if these apply to you personally, they may do so for your spouse. Even if you aren’t ready to end your relationship, your spouse may be based on these warning signs. A very difficult truth to accept, but one that is crucial for self-awareness regarding the marriage your spouse is in and how it differs from the one you are in. Your realities could be completely dissimilar.
Therefore, read this first from your perspective and then from your spouse’s perspective. That may be a tough pill to take, but if you are reading this, it probably means that something in your life or your marriage is seriously hurting. As a result, I hope that this will give you new perspective and inspire you to strive to be the greatest version of yourself possible.
You alone have the power to change your situation right now, so don’t waste time. Improve your self-awareness, hire a life coach, seek counselling, enrol in AA or rehab, or take any other necessary steps to break the negative loops and chains in your life.
Ready? Breathe deeply, and let’s begin:
Long-Term Therapy Isn’t Working
It’s time to think about why things aren’t improving if you’ve been attending weekly or biweekly sessions of marriage counselling for three months. Have you worked hard enough? Has your partner? You should start to experience little victories in your marriage after three months. You ought to notice some development and modification. If you’re not, that raises a serious red flag. Particularly if, after at least three months of counselling, your partner is still entirely blaming the other for the state of your marriage. Nobody is flawless, therefore it’s a major matter if your spouse won’t acknowledge their mistakes and provide an apology.
It’s time to ask yourself why your spouse, who has a history of infidelity, won’t follow their word and make changes. Why don’t they focus on taking the necessary efforts to save your marriage instead of always turning to another lover? Why don’t they believe you when you declare that it’s over if it happens again? Why do you let this behaviour persist? After having an affair, we have seen couples restore their marriages, but there was a real difference: the spouse shut off communication with the lover and gave counselling their all while mending the lost trust. They didn’t try to justify their actions or place the blame on their partner. The devoted partner was ready to forgive them completely and move on as well, thus they were able to resolve the issue. However, having another affair demonstrates a lack of genuine change, disrespect for you, and disregard for your marriage. It’s time to consider whether you want to be a part of that marriage.
The harsh reality is that you cannot help someone with addiction if they don’t want to be helped. You cannot save or repair your spouse if they are battling an addiction of any kind (to sex, alcohol, drugs, or porn). They must decide on it. I want you to know that we have seen spouses recover and move forward to have a healthy and connected marriage after the addiction surfaces and comes into the light the first time, provided that the addicted spouse agrees to go through whatever treatment or program, agrees to continually meet with a counselor, mentor, or sponsor, and chooses to truly show up and do the work necessary to make (and continue) the change in their lives and in their marriage. Sadly, whilst it is conceivable, that isn’t usually the case.
With continual relapses and spouses who refuse treatment to begin with, it is time to ask yourself five very hard questions:
- How much longer can I put up with this until I personally lose it?
- Will there ever be genuine, long-lasting change if it hasn’t already?
- At this point am I helping my spouse heal from their addiction or enabling it?
- Have I set very clear and understandable boundaries for my spouse so that I can be certain that he/she knows what is at stake here?
- Is this a healthy and safe environment for my children (or yourself, for that matter) to be in?
If your spouse is in a relapse or is refusing to get help, you can call the American Addiction Centers at (888) 970-3730 or visit their Addiction Guide for Spouses and Partners. Only you know how much you can take. Don’t wait until it’s too late or until you snap. Don’t wait until your kids see their parent arrested. Your spouse might be heading in a downward spiral of destructive behavior, but do not allow them to drag you down with them. What we allow to continue in our lives is what will continue. Please consider that.