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Love and Marriage Article

Is My Marriage Worth Saving?

by Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

We have said for many years, “Most marriages and relationships can be saved, but not all!”  And our corollary has always been – “Most marriages and relationships are worth saving, but not all!”  Here’s what we mean.

In the case of abuse – sexual, physical, mental – many failing marriages and relationships are simply not worth saving.  In fact, to attempt to save them puts one or both partners in the relationship at risk for further abuse. 

Frankly, we know that some marriages and relationships are not worth saving.  And do you know how hard this statement is to make for people like us – the eternal optimists who always see a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—who always see a silver lining?  Unfortunately, the truth is the truth when it comes to love and life . . . and marriage.

Our six decades of life and nearly three decades of research on the topics of love and marriage, tell us that some relationships become so poisoned, so dysfunctional, and so hopeless, that it is better to end them than to operate under the illusion that they are worth saving or can be saved.

We recently interviewed a young American couple that had been married for 14 years.  It was clear from the beginning of the interview that this was not a match made in heaven.  In fact, this marriage had failed so miserably that the only just and decent thing to do was end it.  End it now!  No amount of counseling and therapy, no amount of praying, and no amount of hoping were going to save this marriage.

For 14 years, the husband had “mentally abused” his wife.  He discounted her every word.  He made her feel insignificant by his words, his deeds, and by his actions.  And even though his wife was pursuing a doctoral degree at one of America’s most prestigious universities, he treated her like she was some kind of dumb cluck – someone capable of nothing significant, lasting, or meaningful.

When we interviewed them, it became clear to us that she had had enough.  She had had enough of his disrespect, his belittling, his mental abuse, and his coldness.  She had finally decided that if she were to have any life at all, their marriage and their relationship would have to become history.  So, she decided to end it.

The truth is, the mental anguish she suffered over the years had taken its toll – on her, her three children, and on her marital relationship.  She asked us the most profound question of all – “How can I continue to live with a man that makes me feel so worthless, so insignificant, and so meaningless.  How can I continue to live with a man that respects me so little?”

Her questions reveal the truth of all this.  Sometimes it is just time to move on.  Sometimes, to save your soul you have to free yourself of all that is oppressive.  Sometimes, you must remove the albatross around your neck if you have any hope of living out your life with happiness, hope, self-respect, and meaningfulness. 

Sometimes, you simply must move on with your life before it is too late.  For the couple we interviewed, her time had come.  The action she must take was clear.  The action she must take to save her soul and the souls of her three children became clear to her – if she had any hope at all for her life and her children’s life, the time to move on was now!

The simple truth is, some marriages and relationships should not and cannot be saved.  As harsh and evident as this truth is, it cannot be avoided in the case of some marriages and relationships.  And in the end, when you have exhausted the solutions available to you, you simply must cut the tithes that bind.

For 26 years, we have interviewed couples around the world and across cultures and continents.  Most of the time we have concluded that most marriages and relationships can and should be saved – but not all!  When you can look in the mirror and honestly and truthfully say that you did your best to save your relationship with another human being, but to no avail, then ending it is the right thing to do.  Life is too short to waste it in torment, in abuse, and in lost love.

Save yourself.  Love well.

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