“Telling your spouse what you don’t like about them—when they are ready to walk out of the marriage—is a bad move every time.” ~Lisa Merlo-Booth
Contrary to popular opinion, not all marital problems are 50-50. Often, one spouse’s behaviors are far more challenging to live with than the other’s, and the key “contribution” to the marital struggles of the latent partner is compliance—until they stop complying and start heading for the door. Is your relationship headed for the door because your partner is unhappy? If so, and you want to save it, now is not the time to list all the things you don’t like about your spouse either.
Saving your marriage takes a level of adulting that many people struggle with; it requires a black belt in humility, accountability, and listening. Sadly, many people have a blackbelt in defensiveness, blame, and dismissiveness—not the perfect mix for saving marriage for sure. Here’s the hard truth you need to hear if your partner is almost out the door: pointing out what you don’t like about them (in response to them saying they’re thinking of leaving) will push them further out the door.
Minimally, saving your marriage requires that you truly hear what they say has driven them to want to leave. Now is not the time to focus on your needs. Although there will be a time when you will need to also talk about your unhappiness and wants from your partner, you first have to earn staying power. You earn staying power by changing your behaviors—specifically, the behaviors that your spouse is saying have driven them out of the marriage. If your spouse says your anger is the driving force of their misery, then you need to show them that you will be emotionally safe—now and in the future. If the issue is your incessant criticism, then unless you stop criticizing and start appreciating, no amount of sex, flowers, or (fill in the blank) will save the relationship. Change the behavior your partner is telling you they can’t live with and see what happens. The more you change your side of the equation, the more credibility and leverage you will have to ask your partner to change theirs.
Challenge: Keep defensiveness, blame, explanations, and justifications for your behavior off the table. Own your actions, humbly and bravely acknowledge the impact of those behaviors on your partner and marriage, and do everything in your power to change them—consistently and permanently.