It might sound odd, but sometimes, during a marriage life coaching session, I will encourage one or both spouses to hold a memorial of sorts. Why? Well, whenever they tell me something like, they got married because they felt pressured to do so, or they realize, in hindsight, that they didn't know each other as well as they initially thought that they did, or they think they got married at the wrong time and/or to the wrong person, my first response is not to encourage divorce or even separation. No, what I recommend is that they take some time out to grieve the initial decision that they made—to honor their feelings in that way.
Why do I do that? One, because as a child of divorce, I don't take that kind of decision lightly. One way or another, it affects all parties involved, oftentimes in ways that can't be predicted at the time the divorce papers are signed. Indeed, no matter how many folks do it, divorces aren't as simple as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It is far more serious than that. Two, grieving things makes it easier to make wiser decisions on the backend. Meaning, if you don't go through the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—typically you'll just keep rehearsing your regret (which usually breeds resentment and extreme bitterness over time) instead of putting a purpose-filled plan in place for how to move forward.
And three, it has been both my personal experience and observation that sometimes, once we're given the space and time to fully express our disappointment, once we can honor instead of fight our true feelings, rather than leave a situation, we become strong enough to endure it.
I've sat through way too many sessions to not believe that at least one person is reading this because they can totally relate to where some of my clients have come from. If that individual is you, and you absolutely regret who you are currently married to (not because they are abusive or don't love you; that is another article for another time), before doing anything else, fully process these tips. I'm praying that they will help you to figure out how to save your marriage rather than end it.
Revisit What Regret Actually Means
I say often that I don't feel comfortable being around people who claim that they don't live with any regret. Regret means remorse and, unless you are the most arrogant person on the planet (and you're not; our current president probably is), I'm pretty sure that there is something that you feel badly about doing—past or present.
But here's the thing about remorse. It literally means "deep and painful regret for wrongdoing" and wrong means "not morally right" or "deviating from truth". OK, so if you are feelin' where I'm coming from on the regret tip, and you do regret who you chose to marry, ask yourself if it is because you feel like it was morally wrong to have married them? That somehow you lied to yourself—or to them?
If that is indeed the case, the beauty in having this type of clarity is you can get a foothold on where to go from here. Like if you married them in order to get over someone else or you married them because you were tired of being alone, that doesn't automatically mean that the marriage is doomed. What it does mean is now you have a place of truth to operate from. Now regret is not just an emotion, it's its own call to action in a way.
Ask Yourself If It’s “Currently” or “Constantly”
I can't remember who said it, but I remember hearing a wife say, "I can promise you that you will have a moment, even as early as on your honeymoon, when you will ask yourself, 'What the hell did I just do?' Exhale and move on. It's totally normal." That said, I don't know one married couple (including married couples who lived together before jumping the broom) who doesn't believe that marriage doesn't change something. If you're not adjusting to something as "simple" as another person's living habits, you've got to find a daily balance of navigating through your expectations as well as theirs. Shoot, it can be hard enough trying to find harmony within your own being without trying to do the same for someone else…every single day…hopefully for the rest of your life.
That's why I say that another thing that you need to stop and ponder over is if the feelings that you have are just in this moment or they're pretty constant. Like, is this just a bad week, or can you not recall the last time you felt any real peace and satisfaction in your relationship? Feelings are usually temporary and ever-changing. Asking yourself this question can help to bring some stability and balance back to your emotional state.
Take Your Spouse’s Temperature
Just because the two of you are on the never-ending journey of learning how to become one, that doesn't mean that you are no longer your own individual. Hopefully, that goes without saying. Still, sometimes, when there are low points in a relationship—that can even feel like lulls on some days—knowing where your spouse stands can offer up more insight.
What I mean by that is, if you are wondering if your marriage is a mistake, you ask your husband how he feels and he is on the total other end of the spectrum, that may mean that it's not so much regretting the marriage or even him. It could be that you're feeling dissatisfied across the board, you are going through a growth spurt of sorts, or something else is transpiring that you can't quite pinpoint. Whatever "it" is, you are automatically putting onto your marriage, even if that isn't necessarily the core or cause.
This is why communication is so paramount in a marital relationship. Whenever you're feeling like something isn't working, see what your partner thinks. Hearing their perspective can sometimes do wonders as it relates to where you currently are with everything. After all, they are in your marriage with you. You should take into account where they stand.
See a Marriage Counselor
This is a point that I truly can't stress enough. It really does blow my mind, how many engaged couples will enter something so serious as marriage without signing up for premarital counseling (three 20-minute sessions with your pastor doesn't count; unless you want your marriage to last a little longer than that) and how many couples in trouble exit something as serious as marriage without seeing a marriage counselor as well.
It's kind of an unwritten rule for all of mankind that, in order to gain a clearer perspective on matters, we can't just look at things from the inside out; we sometimes need the help of reputable professionals so that we can look from the outside in too. It's been documented that couples who go to premarital counseling have a 30 percent higher success rate and, somewhere around 40 percent of marriages are saved if they got to counseling after saying "I do" (by the way, a totally invested counselor, therapist or coach trumps someone who simply has a lot of letters behind their name. You can read more about why here).
I will say that, as a marriage life coach whose niche is reconciling divorces, it is difficult (difficult not impossible) to rebuild a house that is almost burned to the ground. What I mean by that is a lot of marriages seek out counseling only when they are fifty feet away from the courthouse. It is so much easier to help couples when they treat counseling/therapy like a maintenance tip rather than a last-ditch effort. Yet, either way, if regret is what you feel, see a counselor. If you don't want to go with your spouse, at least consider going alone for a bit to get some tips and tools that just may help.
Be Careful Who You Talk To
One of my clients, she was something else, boy. While on the surface she seemed sweet as pie, about four sessions in, I saw that she was mean as a bat (a great read is "Married to Jezebel: It's All About Control"). Although she was all for coming to counseling to "fix her husband", the moment she was called out on her own stuff, she started hanging out more and more with a bitter bestie who was also going through a divorce. I could always tell when she was spending more time with ole' girl more than she should because it was like I had to reprogram her mind from all of the "Girl, you don't need that man", "Girl, kids survive with divorced parents all of the time" (that's true but you do want your kids to do more than just "survive", right) and "If I were you, I…" (please avoid so-called wisdom from people who start out their advice with that line; they ain't you).
There are scientific studies to support that negativity is sho 'nuf contagious, and the last thing that you need when you are feeling regretful is a lot of that all up in your space. Instead of hanging around other women who seem to be anything but pro-commitment, find a wife mentor or married couple set of mentors who can offer up support, encouragement and sound advice. Good energy and positivity can work wonders.
Be Intentional About Getting Your Needs Met
A marriage is not going to be healthy if both people's needs aren't being met. With that being put on record, if you feel like you regret marrying your spouse because you're not all that attracted to them (single ladies, please avoid that "church wisdom" about attraction not being a necessity in selecting a spouse; YES IT IS), or you didn't have a realistic view of marriage and you see that now, or the two of you want totally different things and you feel like divorce is your only option, ask yourself why that is the case? Especially since the success rate of remarriages only decline with each one.
The reality is a lot of people end their marriages, not because they can't be saved but they stewed in their regret for so long that they don't feel they have the emotional strength and fortitude to fight to save it.
However, with articles like "4 Reasons You Might Regret Getting Divorced Down the Line", "5 Divorce Facts That Might Change Your Idea of Splitting Up" and "Too Many People Regret Divorcing Once the Dust Has Settled", I think it's far more important to try and focus on getting the needs that you have met than calling it quits altogether. Because if your husband is a good one, while it may hurt his feelings that you are currently going through what you are (which is totally understandable; imagine how you would feel if he felt that way about you), he is going to want you both to feel safe and secure in the relationship. He's going to want to know what your needs are and do his absolute best to strive towards getting those needs met.
Also Revisit Your Marriage Vows
I want to be happy. While that is certainly not a bad thing, I do feel sometimes that we make some rash or irresponsible decisions due to that being our main (and sometimes only) focal point. So, you're going to call out from work for three days in a row because work makes you…unhappy? You're not going to feed your kids because sitting in long lines at the grocery store makes you…unhappy? You're going to allow all of the utilities in your house to get cut off because going through your bills makes you…unhappy?
If you revisit the traditional marriage vows that couples recite on their wedding day, "happy" isn't anywhere in them. At the same time, what it does talk about is sticking through things, when they are awesome and not-so-awesome, for the sake of honoring the commitment that was made. And oftentimes, when that happens, not only does growth in character and a stronger bond develop, but happiness can transpire too.
Regret isn't the best way to feel about a spouse or your marriage, to put it lightly. But hopefully, what all of this did was offer you some other options other than simply ending your union. Life is interesting. Just like you may need to mourn the fact that you didn't make the best decision at the time when you said "I do", you also may need to allow some time of healing and discovery to embrace that your marriage can still be good. If you and your partner are willing to put in the work. If the greater goal is not to regret them but not regret leaving them later up the road.
Grieve it out. But then make sure to choose wisely, OK. On the other side of what you're feeling, it'll be worth it.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating
10 Things Husbands Wish Their Wives Truly Understood
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage
The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship
Feature image by Getty Images