Four Ways to Protect Against Divorce and Achieve Emotional Intimacy
Gender roles are changing. Men are as immersed in the care of hearth and home as their wives or partners. Although recent data claims divorce rates are falling, they still occur frequently. Gender equality in the home improves the quality of a marriage or partnership for both parties. Despite that, something is still amiss.
When it comes to preventing divorce, the ability to translate tasks into meaningful, emotional communication is the missing piece. I’ve seen it again and again in my coaching practice.
You may wonder how taking out the trash isn’t just that and seems to be such a complicated, multi-layered issue during an argument. Buckle in and pay attention to what people really need in a relationship to feel valued and to be honestly committed.
The three parts of a successful relationship:
- How you feel,
- How you behave, and
- How you express how you feel and act.
All of those parts are necessary to create teamwork and a lasting partnership. As most of us want that bond with another, we only need to understand how to use the tools at our disposal and begin practicing the habits required to instill these into our daily lives.
Start by learning why doing isn’t always the same as feeling and being felt. Yes, it’s another to-do on the list, but when you begin to see a difference in your life and your partner’s responses, it’s one task you will happily focus on daily. That’s how you live the life you want with the intimacy you deserve.
Practically speaking, how does this work? How does one achieve a balance between:
- Knowing that you care,
- Your feelings,
- Doing chores and tasks to show you care,
- The act of love, and
- Making sure you’re not sabotaging all of it with your communication (which can be the greatest expression of your love that matters to your partner)?
Well, it is possible! Pay attention to:
- Your feelings – no more hiding out from them.
- Your actions – yes, you do need to do some stuff.
- How you express what you like and dislike about those very things in your partner – what they feel and do.
Create an intimate bond by sharing your softest, most vulnerable feelings in a way that is not threatening to your spouse. It can be done while getting your needs met, too.
Studies suggest exhibiting these behaviors is the greatest predictor of divorce:
- Defensiveness, and
Noticing that each one involves feelings, whether allowing them or not, is critical to bringing about positive change. Let’s address each as a way to prevent, or at least, protect against divorce.
1. Contempt is thinking that your partner is beneath or inferior to you.
Once this attitude of disgust mixed with anger develops, it’s extraordinarily difficult to change – although not impossible.
A Simple Scenario
When your partner does a task in a way that differs from how you would have done it, do you:
A.) Talk about it in a relaxed and friendly moment?
B.) Find out why they do things the way the do them?
C.) Give them some freedom and respect to do it their way?
D.) Either immediately complain about the way they’ve managed something?
E.) Not say anything at all but keep it at the forefront of your mind?
You should make every attempt to understand your partner’s methods and reasonings. If you don’t, you risk losing respect for your spouse. Try to share their perspective.
It’s critically important to continue to see your loved one as your equal and not your subordinate.
This isn’t to suggest you can’t each have unique ways of accomplishing tasks. It only means you need to get on board with the view from their eyes. Understand their unique modes of living and embrace them.
Sounds simple. But if you think you’ve missed the mark on this, give it a try and let yourself open up to their methods. See how your feelings change after a week. You’ll develop a new appreciation for your spouse.
2. Criticism is making what your partner does a statement about who they are.
Organize a weekly check-in with your spouse to assess the state of your marriage. Preventing divorce requires that you commit to evaluating your behavior and that of your spouse regularly.
Once there, assess your conversation’s tone and determine if you:
A.) Can talk about things (like their avoiding the laundry hamper, for instance) in a calm, cool-headed way?
B.) Just complain again and again about a non-changing behavior?
If the latter is true, your feelings about what’s bothering you can lead to bigger resentments that will seem insurmountable in the way you view and value your partner.
Check-ins are for talking about issues that appear small but are ongoing. Figure out what can and will work for both of you.
If you think you can’t find time for this, remember that a divorce will consume loads more of your time than a weekly meeting with your spouse.
If it’s not worth a try, perhaps that speaks to where you are already within the relationship. Try again and see if your ability to avoid criticism improves after a month. If it doesn’t, consider relationship counseling. Some couples need structure and the neutrality of a third party to help alleviate anxieties.
3. Defensiveness is playing the victim in all your dealings with your partner.
A.) Is it always their fault when something goes wrong?
B.) Or are you able to see that most situations involve two people and each contributed to what occurred?
If you play the role of the one always wronged, the way you view your partner will negatively change.
Acknowledging one’s fault is uncomfortable. Still, try it. Share what you might have done differently. Your partner likely will, too. Shared responsibility builds teamwork. And that’s exactly what you need in a marriage.
Repeated practice leads to developing healthy habits in around two to eight months. Try out this new behavior until then. If it’s second nature, you’ll likely be pleased with the results.
4. Stonewalling is the repeated inability to communicate one’s feelings.
You may avoid an argument at all cost to keep from feeling emotionally hurt. It may seem like you’re taking the higher road. After all, who wants conflict?
Instead, preventing the discussion’s occurrence may have as large an impact on the state of your union as too much criticism.
You are entitled to your feelings. If you communicate what’s happening to you on the inside, it’s a way to start figuring out how you can realize what role you play in all of it. That’s a start to figuring out a solution that works well for both of you.
Allow your vulnerability to come through. Express it. Let your partner in even when it’s hard. Carry your share of the workload. Avoid the pitfalls in your emotional expression:
- Defensiveness, and
As a result, you will begin to see how your behavior plays a role in your personal level of satisfaction with the relationship. Change prompts change. It’s going to provoke a new way of thinking in you and your spouse. Preventing divorce is about changing your reactions and your spouse’s reactions to you.
Start building new habits. Consciously change the way you relate to your spouse. Plan and hold weekly check-in sessions to assess the state of your marriage. Notice if your feelings improve as you implement real changes in your actions.
Equality is terrific! But so is the ability to respect your spouse. The changes may feel forced (even silly) at first. Preventing divorce isn’t about being cool. Changing your behavior will save your marriage. In the end, who doesn’t want that?
- No doubt you’ve heard countless advice about how to avoid divorce and save your struggling marriage. Your parents, the in-laws, friends, church members, everybody has an opinion—and most of the well-meaning nuggets of unsolicited wisdom contradict one another. You are left more confused than ever on how to find a…