A marriage worth saving is a wonderful thing to behold and the good news is that there are a lot of them. I have been a priest, in the business of marriage making for more than 20 years and I can honestly say that I have only encountered a few marriages that I didn't think were worth saving. I believe in the power of love but these were mainly marriages that had been permanently stained with abuse and hatred.
As a Christian, I also believe strongly in redemption; therefore, I also have to say that there is no marriage that cannot be saved. People can make such changes in themselves that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible. The marriages that have regressed to the point of actual hatred are very difficult to save--there has to be a sincere desire on the part of both spouses to participate in a radical forgiveness and to be willing to give up the resentment and hatred for more positive feelings.
Then there must be a serious commitment to work with professional counselors on resolving the causes so that they won't continue to breed negative feelings. As a "marriage maker," it is my goal to bring two individuals into a healthy relationship as a couple and it has been my experience that the best way to do that is to explore the ingredients to a healthy marriage.
These are the things that will make a marriage worth saving and, make no mistake, every marriage goes through moments that threaten to make it "unworthy." It takes a serious commitment to a long-term relationship, a willingness to give and to receive, and a lot of hard work to keep a marriage worthy of saving. Let's look at the "hard work" of a healthy marriage.
Commitment to a Long-Term Relationship
The commitment has to be made by each person--both as individuals and as a couple during a marriage ceremony. This commitment must be more than just words. Evidence of this commitment can be signed wedding vows, personal written promises exchanged by a couple at the ceremony or in private, or physical symbols of a commitment such as wedding rings, framed vows, a unity candle, etc. The result of such a commitment is a faithful and healthy relationship.
The key to this healthy relationship is strong communication. Without it, the little things that can be resolved become the big things that destroy. Communication takes diligence, 24/7 monitoring, 100% contribution by each spouse (in fact, 110% is really necessary - with each spouse giving 110%, both get what they need), and total honesty.
Without invading the private space all humans need, each spouse must be willing to share feelings of fear, anger, joy, love, to name the big ones. Stored-up feelings are a camel's back just waiting for the last straw. They are the one thing that can destroy a relationship, as they are also a huge contributor to the "crash and burn syndrome."
This is when one has stored up so many bad feelings there is overload and then a loss of altitude, which inevitably leads to a big crash. At this point, the feelings are so intense from becoming magnified many times over, that it is possible to destroy both spouses without fast intervention. The only prevention for this syndrome is to lock the storage room.
Share your feelings openly and as soon as your individual make-up will allow. Some people need a little time to converse without blowing up. Some people need a little blowing off steam to be able to speak coherently. These are the things you need to know and understand about each other so that you can allow each other to share feelings at the level that is possible.
The feelings of love are easy--they just "happen" when we fall in love with someone. Love is much more than feelings; in fact, love is a verb. That means that love is an action as well as a feeling and it is necessary for each spouse to learn ways to "do" love that communicate the feelings of love in appropriate and meaningful ways.
These can be everything from saying "I love you" to putting one's life on the line for the other. "Doing" love is the act of showing your feelings for the other person by doing loving things: little notes in the lunchbox or on the mirror, sending flowers or "love gifts" for "no reason," doing the dishes (or something else you really don't like doing) when your spouse least expects it and needs it the most, being there when your spouse needs support even when you need support yourself, picking up your socks, putting down the toilet lid, etc., etc., etc.
"Doing" love is an everyday affair and one which should become second nature so that when it is most needed and you are most in need yourself, you can still "do" what's needed. Almost every time, you will also get what you need as you do what your spouse needs. This is the "give and take" of real love.
The main thing each person has to understand about the other is that men and women are not the same, do not have the same needs, and will not respond the same way to the same things. In fact, each person, with different upbringing, experiences, likes and dislikes, as well as different needs will behave differently when exposed to the same events.
Some people need peace and quiet at the end of a busy day to process it before sharing it while others need to let off steam right away in order to get back on an even keel. A couple has to find ways to accommodate each spouse's needs so that the time you have together outside of work is loving, productive, and enjoyable instead of hateful, wasted, and full of tension and unresolved anger because there is no outlet for your feelings or no respite from the other person's feelings.
This takes hard work and a lot of trial and error to find a balance in one's need to retreat and the other's need to move out with gusto! The key to this is understanding where the other person comes from and that it is not the same for each person.
These are just a few of the things couples need to attend to in order for their relationship to be healthy, strong, and a joy to behold and to live. The best teacher is time and patience but the best sometimes needs a boost; so find a professional counselor--preferably one who specializes in relationship building, feeding, nurturing, and strengthening.
Be diligent in learning about the other person's needs, wants, desires, as well as your own and work hard at finding ways to fulfill each other's needs and expectations while enjoying each other just because of all those things. They are the things that make that person the one you love so be sure to find someone who can teach you both to learn to love them all (even if you don't like them).
Finally, be diligent about your marriage. Ask every day "is our marriage worth saving?" Be sure that every day you can say "Yes!" Then, and only then, will your marriage be saved even before it needs saving.