Step 1: Take Time to Grieve
The struggles of your marriage are a sign of the end of a dream. Did you wish for certain things to happen and they didn’t? Are things not going quite as you hoped?
It’s OK to be sad, it’s OK to be angry. It’s part of the natural process to mourn what we no longer have or realize what we can’t achieve.
Just what are the stages in the grieving process?
Just because there’s a list, it doesn’t mean that these are the specific “steps” you have to follow.
There is no right way to grieve. You might go through the 5 stages in order, or you might feel like you are a ball in a pinball machine and you are bouncing from stage to stage and back again. Just knowing what stage you are in assists you in moving to the next place. This then assures you that this IS an end to your grief.
What can you do?
The process of grief is a difficult and confusing one. Feelings come and go so unexpectedly. Just when you think things are getting better, the feelings come back and are worse than ever before.
1. The most important thing to do is take care of yourself.
See Step 2 for more about this.
2. Access the support of friends and family.
Don’t grieve alone! As humans, our first response is to want to hide and be alone. We don’t want others to see that we’ve failed or are hurting. It’s hard to go against this natural reaction.
3. Find a support group.
This is a healthy, effective way to cope with grief. Be sure and look for a program where you can learn new ideas and ways of thinking, where you can then practice taking action in a safe and loving environment.
Step 2: Take Time for Self-Care
Flight attendants advise passengers in case of an emergency, place your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Why? Because you’ll pass out from lack of oxygen. And who can you help if you’re unconscious?! So put on your oxygen mask! You can’t help your marriage if you have nothing left to give.
What makes you smile? What gives you that extra boost of energy? What fuels you up from the inside? Below are some examples, just keep it simple. Make sure to always schedule at least 30 minutes of JUST YOU time weekly (better yet DAILY!)
1. Schedule in your day planner 30 minutes alone time – just for you.
2. Take a bubble bath
3. Get a manicure and pedicure
4. Get a massage
5. Go to a movie with a friend
6. Take a walk
7. Go to a yoga class (or do yoga at home)
8. Read a book
10.Take your dog for a walk
11.Go to the beach
12.Take a short drive
13.Work on your favorite craft
15.Draw a picture (even if you can’t draw!)
16.Write a short story or poem
17.Take a pottery class
18.Take an acting class
19.Go back to school and earn your degree
20.Sing (in the car, in the shower, on American Idol!)
Step 3: Know your “Love Style”
Gary Chapman talks about love languages in his book, “The Five Love Languages.” These five languages are:
Words of Affirmation
These are expressed as verbal compliments, words of appreciation, encouraging words, kind words (it has to do with the way you speak them, your tone of voice), or humble words (love makes requests not demands).
This way to give love is expressed by giving someone your undivided attention, togetherness with focused attention, quality conversation (dialogue where you are sharing experiences, thoughts and feelings in an uninterrupted period of time), and quality activities.
Gifts are visual symbols of love. They may be purchased, found or made. What’s important to the receiver is that the gift represents how much the giver was thinking of them.
Acts of Service
This way to give love is expressed by doing things that you know the other person would like you to do. Washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, washing clothes, cooking a hot meal and have it ready by 530pm sharp every week day, mowing the grass, changing the cat litter box. When they are done in a positive spirit, it’s an act of love.
Most people automatically think of sex as the primary way to give and receive physical touch.
But it’s also important to hold hands, kiss, run your fingers through their hair, or give a back rub.
It’s important to understand that we usually give love in ways that we like to receive love. If the person you are giving your love doesn’t receive it in the same way that you do, their “love tank” runs on empty and never gets filled.
When I took the Love Language quiz in Gary Chapman’s book, I found out that my primary way to receive love was through physical touch and receiving gifts was a close second. On the far end, I had ZERO points in the words of affirmation category, whereas my husband’s way to receive love was through words of affirmation and on his far end were quality time and physical touch.
Before reading this book and taking the quiz, my husband didn’t understand why I was completely devastated when one year he tried shopping for Christmas presents on Christmas Eve at 10pm and was completely amazed that WalMart wasn’t open. He then proceeded to give me an IOU as my Christmas present. (Then never got me anything at all that year!)
And on the flip side, I never understood why my husband was always complimenting me, telling me how wonderful I was, and always asking me if I loved him, if I was attracted to him, if I would stay with him forever. Words of affirmation meant the world to him, and I could care less if I received them or not. But I was always giving him gifts and trying to make his birthday special. He could care less. His birthday was just another day of the year!
Both my husband and I were starving for love and not getting what we wanted. We were giving to the other what WE wanted most, but the other didn’t receive love that way. Neither of us understood, were frustrated, and our “love tanks” were running on empty. When your tank is empty, you’re angry, hurt, negative, and rarely want to do something for someone else. But when your “love tank” is full, you’re happier, life feels good, and you gladly do things for others “just because.”
Understanding how to speak my husband’s language of love made a significant difference in our marriage in a very short period of time. I highly recommend getting the book.
Step 4: Communicate
I know you’ve heard it before, but communication is vital. For years there were things I didn’t talk to my husband about because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. My husband didn’t want to “put his foot down” about my spending habits because he thought I’d leave him. We enabled each other and hurt our marriage more in the long run.
The key to communication is to have conversations regularly, when you’re not angry, and from your point of view.
Rules to follow when communicating
Schedule a specific time each day or week to really talk. What are your dreams and fears? What do you want to be doing in 5 years? What do you want to do when you retire? How do you want to raise your children? What are your priorities in life? What’s important to you? What are your money habits? Leave NOTHING to chance.
2. Not when you’re angry
Don’t confront your partner when you’re angry. It’s OK to be angry – and let them know – but we all say things in the heat of anger we’ll regret later. So when you get angry, take a few minutes to get it out and then come back to the conversation.
3. “I” statements
Did you have an older brother or sister or maybe a friend who always told you what to do or how you felt? And was your response, “You’re not the boss of me?” The only person you can ever really know and understand is yourself. When communicating with your partner try to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. When you use “you” statements, you are attacking, blaming, bossing and sometimes belittling your partner. For example:
“You make me angry when you come home late and don’t call. I had dinner ready at 5:30 and it sat there for 2 hours and now it’s ruined because of you.”
This was most likely said in the heat of the moment when the person came home.
Instead, when the late person comes home try this:
“I’m very angry that you’re late. I need to take 10 minutes by myself, can we talk about it then?”
Then go scream, beat a pillow with your fists, stomp your feet, get the anger out. Then approach your partner from your point of view:
I feel angry when .
It hurts me when .
Can I make a request? I’d appreciate it if .
Step 5: Commitment
Marriages must be tended to like a garden. A garden needs water, sunshine and weeding for the plants to flourish. To have a healthy garden, it takes a commitment from you to take care of it.
And so does your marriage.
You must commit to tending to your marriage in the following ways:
Plant the seeds
You planted the seeds of your marriage when you wanted to know more about someone else and also when you fell in love.
You water your marriage when you commit to self-care.
Knowing your “Love Style” gives your marriage the warmth it needs to flourish.
By following the rules of communication, you weeds out the hurts before they can damage your marriage.
Danielle Eidson is a Certified Master Integrative Coach and Certified Spiritual Divorce Coach personally trained by NY Times best selling author, Debbie Ford. Her passion is helping people heal from painful relationships. Through her own personal challenges and successes, she has built coaching and educational programs that help you enjoy better relationships by changing the way you think- and the way you look at life. With her programs, you won’t be putting a band-aid on the situation – you will be finding solutions that cut through to the core of the problem. The result? A future filled with positive relationships…WITHOUT any of the baggage or negativity from the past.
To find out more about her programs go to: