wikiHow to Avoid Getting a Divorce

Four Methods:Working on YouAccepting Your PartnerWorking TogetherTrying Separation

If your marriage has been in a tailspin, you or your spouse might be considering divorce. But it’s never too late to turn your marriage around. Changing yourself and the nature of your relationship will help you recover a healthy, fulfilling marriage.

Method 1
Working on You

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    Listen to your partner. Open and honest communication is crucial for a good marriage. Listen patiently when your partner comes to you with problems or concerns about your relationship. Being attentive in conversation will help you understand what makes them unhappy and give you a chance to take action. [1]
    • If you have questions about what you can do to make your partner happier and more satisfied, you should feel free to ask them.
    • Expect your partner to listen to you with an equal amount of respect.
    • If your partner is verbally abusive, belittling, or refuses to engage in conversation, let them know how their behavior makes you feel – hopeless, alone, and dejected.
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    Stay positive.[2] Your spouse fell in love with a happy and emotionally balanced person. If you have become exhausted by conflict in the relationship or no longer feel your marriage is salvageable, take a step back. It’s natural to feel down about conflicts in your relationship, but try to focus on the big picture. When you feel depressed about the state of your relationship, think back on all the good times you’ve had with your spouse.
    • Your happiness should not be dependent on the other person. Focus on being the best you can be, even if your partner is not.
    • If you expect the worst from your partner, you’re more likely to see and focus on your conflicts and problems.[3] Try to be attentive to subtle, positive changes in how you and your partner interact. Share these positive changes with your partner.
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    Be flexible. Don’t demand that everything be done your way. Marriage is a cooperative partnership. Neither of you will get your way all the time.[4] If you and your partner have different goals and ideas -- whether its about where to move or where to dine -- hear each other out.
    • Have conversations, not monologues. Listen to your partner and expect that he or she will listen to you.[5]
    • Let certain things go. Imagine that you wanted chicken but she made soup, or you wanted to see a play but he insists on going to the ball game. In either case, and with either decision, life goes on. Pick your battles and let the trivial stuff go.
    • Being flexible doesn’t mean your spouse should walk all over you. There are times when the decision not to make concessions is the right one.
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    Keep up appearances. While physical attraction is only one part of love, in our visual culture, it plays an important role in how we think about and relate to our partner. When you go out with your spouse, dress nicely to show that you consider your time together special. Take care of your health, too. Eat a nutritious, balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. Aim for thirty minutes of exercise each day. Dressing well and taking care of your appearance will keep your partner attracted to you.[6]
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    Practice healthy communication. Only speak to your partner when you are in a mood and state appropriate to do so. Do not yell at your spouse. If you feel anger building on your side or your spouse’s, suggest that you both take some time out to cool off and resume the conversation later.[7]
    • Avoid trigger topics, the issues and problems which lead you and your spouse to bicker.
    • Communicate only while sober and rested.
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    Balance your time. Healthy couples should spend time together as well as apart.[8] Catch a movie, play mini-golf, go bowling – whatever it is you both enjoy doing, do it together. Try new things and have adventures that you can bond over. But when you need some alone time to recharge, let your partner know. You and your partner are not clones, and won’t be interested in all the same activities. Give each other space to pursue the hobbies and interests you each enjoy.[9]
    • Try to set aside specific days or time periods for date nights.
    • In addition to spending time alone, spend time with your friends.
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    Stay loyal to your spouse. It might seem tempting to have a brief fling or an extended affair with someone who gives you the attention and affection that your spouse won’t.[10] But remember, your spouse, not your fling, is your family. Violating the bond of marriage can propel you toward divorce and leave you feeling guilty.
    • Identify situations or individuals you know may lead you to infidelity and avoid them wherever possible.

Method 2
Accepting Your Partner

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    See them as they are. There are always two versions of a person: the person they are, and the person you see them as.[11] Sometimes these two identities are closely in alignment, while other times they are not. It is important to recognize your partner’s faults and flaws, but also to recognize their good qualities. When you find yourself obsessing over their deficiencies, remind yourself of how sweet, thoughtful, and affectionate they can be. Give your partner a fair hearing when they insist they can and will change, and be open to the possibility of their doing so.
    • Demanding that the other person change will not make them or you happy. They will feel trapped by your demands, and you will feel frustrated by the lack of change.
    • Do not compare your partner with anyone else.
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    Focus on your partner’s good qualities.[12] Think back to when you first met and fell in love with your spouse. Reminiscing about these good times will help you see their good side more clearly in the present. If you’re constantly on the lookout for your partner’s flaws, instead of their positive qualities, you will see them in abundance.
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    Empathize with your partner. Put yourself in your spouse position. Do you treat them with the same level of respect that you expect for yourself? How do you feel when someone wants you to make a drastic (or even a minor) change to your personality? Most of us resist hearing that we are doing something wrong or irritating.[13] We become defensive, hurt, and angry.
    • Understanding how and why your spouse reacts to criticism will help you soften your approach. Explaining that you feel attacked or hurt by their demands will, in turn, help them soften theirs.
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    Think about the big picture.[14] Nobody is perfect. You and your spouse need to be honest with each other and with yourselves about what qualities, habits, or idiosyncrasies are truly grounds for divorce, and which are merely irritating or inconvenient. You may think your spouse snores too loudly; walks like a duck; makes too many grammatical errors; or is a shabby dresser. But these things don’t have to mean an end to your marriage. Understanding your partner’s limitations and flaws, as well as your own, is an important step towards recovering a happy marriage.
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    Accept yourself. Often, our judgmental attitude of other comes from a feeling of disappointment with ourselves.[15] Search your feelings as to why you have such high expectations of your spouse, or why you demand so much of them. Is it because you are not completely content with yourself personally or professionally? If so, it will be difficult for you to accept others as well.
    • Lower your expectations of yourself to a realistic level and recognize that you and your spouse are both flawed in your own ways.
    • Do not expect your spouse alone to provide feelings of fulfillment.

Method 3
Working Together

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    Reinvigorate your sex life. Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship. With the possibility of divorce close at hand, it may be difficult to have a good sex life.[16] But physical and emotional intimacy go hand in hand, and both are equally important if you hope to stave off divorce.
    • Make time for romance.[17] Everyone is busy, but scheduling date nights will give you time to set the mood. Try a romantic candle-lit dinner (either at a restaurant or at home), see a movie, or just go bowling. Before you head to the bedroom, though, it is important to give your spouse the love and attention they have been missing. Tell them you love them and enjoy spending time with them.
    • Place scented candles and flowers around the bedroom. Massage your partner’s hands, feet, and shoulders prior to intercourse. Arousing the senses can be an important first step toward reigniting your partner’s libido.
    • If you feel your sex life is stale, try new positions or try wearing lingerie. You could try reading erotica to one another, or watching porn. Take turns leading the session on alternate nights to ensure maximum variety.[18]
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    Talk about your dreams and desires.[19] In addition to communicating about everyday needs and situations (“We need to do the laundry”), it is important to share your deepest fears, hopes, and dreams with your partner to build emotional intimacy. Use phrases like “I believe...” or “I hope...” when presenting your vision of your and your spouse’s future. Thinking about and sharing these thoughts and feelings can help you both realize that there are possibilities for your marriage beyond divorce.
    • Ask questions of both yourself and your spouse such as:
      • What great things do I think my spouse is capable of? How can I empower them to achieve their best?
      • Where would I like to travel to with my spouse?
      • What am I looking forward to doing with my spouse when I retire?
    • Invite your spouse to share his or her dreams and desires as well. Thinking and talking about your future together helps rectify it.
    • Do not use these conversations to complain or engage in negative thinking.
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    Identify what needs to change. If you’re considering divorce, it’s likely there are real problems for which both of you are partially to blame. Don’t blame your partner for all the problems in your marriage. Have a dialogue with your spouse so you can come to a mutual understanding of what has gone wrong, and how it can be fixed.
    • Express the problems you perceive with “I” statements, as in “I wish we spent more time together,” as opposed to “You never want to spend time with me.”[20] These are less likely to be perceived as critical and will produce more positive results.
    • When blamed unfairly, defend yourself, but don’t counterattack when criticized. Try to see the conflict from your spouse’s point of view.[21]
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    Strengthen your connection with your spouse. Be generous with your partner in your affections and compliments. This will help rekindle the love you once had together. Fulfill their emotional needs first as well as their material ones. Love your partner the way you want to be loved.
    • Tell your spouse you love them every day.
    • Surprise your spouse with little gifts that they’ll enjoy. Make dinner for them, buy them flowers, or take them shopping.
    • It may take time to rebuild trust and affection for your partner. Be patient and continue to work at it.
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    Let go of the past. Talk with your partner about occasions when they hurt or upset you. If you wish, write the list down. This should not be a complete list, but it should include the most painful memories or experiences that you and your partner have held onto, and which have inspired mutual resentment. You and your partner will likely have different lists. Talk about each incident in turn. Each of you should acknowledge how you contributed to the misunderstanding and apologize. [22]
    • Practice forgiveness even if your partner will not.
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    Be open to change. Agree to make changes in your routines or interaction if you feel it will help. Make it clear that you will try your best, but it might take you some time to get used to them. Then, really try your best in implementing the promised changes and show that you are sincere. Ask the same in return.
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    Seek counselling. Couples counselling with a therapist will help you work through the problems with a neutral mediator. The therapist provides an objective point of view and can offer advice on communication strategies, conflict resolution, and general guidance on improving a problematic marriage.[23]
    • Couples counselling usually lasts one hour, once a week. Working more often with the counselor might yield more results.
    • Group therapy is another useful type of counselling, and introduces couples going through similar periods of stress to each other for an extended discussion about how they are working through their issues. Group therapy provides the opportunity to gain new understandings and ideas about your own relationship.

Method 4
Trying Separation

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    Suggest a trial separation. A trial separation is an informal period of separation during which the couple temporarily separates. This gives each party a chance to examine their feelings and lives away from the constant influence and presence of the other.[24] Trial separations could help you and your spouse remember how much you miss and need each other. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” as the old saying goes.
    • Your spouse may not be open to the idea of trial separation. Explain to them how beneficial it would be to mutually “take a break” and have some time to think through what you both really want from the marriage.
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    Decide how long to separate. Between three and six months is the ideal trial separation period.[25] A longer period may make it difficult to reconcile with other person as both you and your spouse begin to settle into the single life.
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    Set the terms. When you move forward with a trial separation, there are a number of financial and lifestyle questions you both need to agree upon. Put the terms of the separation in writing so as to avoid any confusion between you and your spouse.[26] Important questions to ask include:
    • Are both of you moving out? Or just one?
    • Where will each of you go?
    • Will bank accounts need to be divided or shared? Credit cards?
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    Think about your kids. If you have children, make sure you are open about the process with them. Help your children understand the situation and let them know that despite the conflict between you and your spouse, both of you still love them.[27]
    • Children may react badly to the trial separation. They may become clingy or refuse to go to school. Older kids and teens may become withdrawn or angry. Talk to your child’s teachers about your home situation so they can look for signs that your child may be acting out.
    • Children may believe something they have done caused the separation. Let them know that the situation between you and your spouse is not their fault and nothing they have done could cause it.
    • Arrange appropriate care and visitation schedules for your children. Try not to ship your children back and forth from one household to another more than once a week, and ensure that their schooling is not interrupted.
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    Use your time wisely. Whatever was causing your domestic problems initially, it will not fix itself simply because you and your spouse are separated.[28] Whether you proposed or opposed the trial separation, talk to a therapist about how and why your marriage ended up in its current state.
    • Ideally, you would continue attending couples therapy even while you live separately. A trial separation should not be a complete shutdown of communication between you and your spouse.[29] Work on sorting out your differences with the help of a counselor.
    • Do not use the trial period to pretend you are single. Do not date other people or engage in romantic flings. The goal of the trial period is to find a new perspective on your relationship that only distance can bring.
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    Arrive at a decision. As the end of the trial period approaches, evaluate your experience. Are the problems in your relationship really insurmountable? Or did the trial separation demonstrate that you miss and love your spouse so much that divorce would be disastrous?[30] Talk with your spouse about your feelings and elicit theirs.
    • It may be that you and your spouse do not reach the same conclusion about the state of your marriage. Be prepared to move forward with a divorce at the end of the trial separation if either of you deem it necessary.


  • You should not try to fix a broken relationship. If your spouse has physically harmed you, your children, or your family, or acted aggressively in any way, divorce is the best option.
  • Seek immediate protection from physical harm. Contact your local shelter, police, family, or friends and tell them you need help.
  • Don't feel obligated to stay married for the sake of your children.
  • Don’t discount divorce altogether. Some people just aren't compatible together.

Sources and Citations

  3. Divorce Busting: A Step-By-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again, 45-46,
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Article Info

Categories: Divorce