I once had a colleague who did what I do: he was a marriage therapist. But this gentleman was in his early 90’s, and he had been married 70 years. He talked about his 5 marriages—and his 4 divorces—to his wife of 70 years, all with the same woman, and never with an actual divorce. But he talked about 5 different marriages and 4 distinct divorces in a lifelong relationship.
As an example, in the beginning of their relationship, they traveled to hostels around Europe together, learned to scuba dive together—and could never get out of the bedroom. The first of their 5 babies came, and he described it as like a divorce, where they had to completely reevaluate what they wanted from their marriage when the focus shifted from them to a bunch of little ones. He described going through empty nest as like another divorce, where they had to again completely re-negotiate what they wanted from each other and from the relationship at that station of their lives. In total, he figured there were 5 separate marriages and 4 distinct divorces in their lifelong marriage.
If you are in a conflicted and disconnected relationship or marriage, just possibly instead of repairing your relationship, maybe what you really wish for is a new marriage. And perhaps you don’t need an actual divorce in order to create that new marriage—like my colleague once did. (You understand that what I’m referring to is in the realm of symbolism, because in reality nobody forgets anything. That’s called dementia.)
But think about it for a moment. If you and your spouse/partner were to create a new marriage together, without an actual divorce, what would that new marriage consist of? Here are some suggestions about what you might consider:
Permit your partner to talk without getting angry, defensive or reactive. If you fail to do this, you will make it much harder for your partner to communicate with you. But then you’re no longer in an intimate relationship, because intimacy demands that your partner talk freely to you. How do you avoid being defensive or angry? Listen when your partner speaks, and then paraphrase back what s/he says. Continue doing this until s/he has finished. No interruptions, explanations or arguments. If you do this, your partner will feel heard. After your partner finishes, you could then speak, but do it respectfully and with no zingers, or you’ll trigger the same reluctance to talk openly around you.
Be physically affectionate every day. Holding hands, touching, kissing, hugging and cuddling are actions that demonstrate closeness, warmth and connection. Affectionate touch is the aphrodisiac that will keep the fires burning.
Choose peace over irritation. You have the power to respond kindly and peacefully whenever your partner irritates or angers you. Making a kind and peaceful choice instead of an angry or judgmental choice will go a long way in your partner feeling less judged, criticized or belittled by you. Consequently s/he will feel closer to you.
Make important to you that which your partner says is important to him or her. That means you value being on time, personal hygiene, managing your anger and being more polite to other people if your partner tells you that’s what s/he wants or needs. To refuse to do this is tantamount to telling your partner that his/her wishes, desires or needs just don’t matter to you.
Be true to your word, and tell the truth. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Trust is one of the sacred tenets of a loving relationship, and no one can afford the price it costs to mess with it.
Make your relationship a top priority in your life. Don’t spend your “prime time” consistently occupied with other concerns, too tired, inebriated, on your devices or watching TV. Staying connected requires you to offer your undivided time, attention and presence.
Make it important to acknowledge what you like, love, admire, respect and appreciate about your partner, and say it out loud, frequently. Let your partner know what s/he does right. You’ve no doubt been brilliant at letting your mate know what s/he does wrong.
This is just a reminder that you don’t need an actual divorce in order to create a new marriage.