Episode 52: Instead of Divorce, Can You Save Your Marriage By Evolving It?

by | Last updated: Dec 7, 2023 | Podcast

You feel like you’re at the end of your rope when it comes to your marriage. Divorce looks like the inevitable next step…but is it?

What if there was another way? What if there was the possibility of still saving your relationship by evolving it into a newer, better version?

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll learn about the divorce alternative that many of my clients have used. I’ll teach you the similarity between relationships and technology and reveal how one client has started evolving her marriage.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

1:03 – How “Julie’s” and “Chris’” relationship dynamic changed in 23 years

3:05 – How you need to think of marriage evolution

6:09 – How we get to the point of being stuck in the same miserable cycle in our relationship

9:03 – What the process of evolving your marriage depends on

10:36 – What marriage is and the change in “Julie’s” marriage with “Chris” as it began to evolve

13:11 – What if your marriage can’t evolve beyond where it is right now?

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Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert, and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

Hello, love. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Today I want to talk to you about evolving our marriages. I call this the divorce alternative that thousands of women swear by. Now, most women find me when they're in a place of assuming that the only option that remains to them is either stay in the relationship and suffer or to divorce.

What I want to share with you today is that alternative that so many of my clients have used that gives them another option, that gives them a better option than just ending it and calling it a day assuming my partner is the problem, if I get rid of him, problem solved. It's not that easy.

I want to share a story. I will call this client Julie and her husband Chris, that is neither of their names. But she would tell me about how they were just this great couple early on. They knew each other so well that they would finish each other’s, sentences, they would laugh together really easily, and they were like each other's person. They were the go-to person when something good happened in their lives, that's the person they reached out to. When something bad happened in their day, their spouse was the first person that they reached out to.

But over the period of time, life got a hold of them, like it does all of us, and all those good times were before they had kids, before he had lost his job, and before Julie had lost her mother to cancer. Those things changed them as individuals and it also changed the dynamics and the relationship.

Now 23 years later, they were just coexisting as roommates. They're living and functioning under the same roof, but they're not connecting at all, and they feel really distant from each other. They most certainly are not laughing easily, spending time together, and finishing each other's sentences.

She had been trying to retrieve what had been lost so that she could feel good about her marriage again. It wasn't really working that well. Or maybe it would get better for a few days or a few weeks but inevitably, they would fall back into the same destructive patterns where both of them just ended up being hurt. But that just made her feel more hopeless that the only alternative was to stay and suffer and endure this bad marriage for the rest of her life because that's what she's supposed to do, or end it, blow it all up.

What I want to offer is what if there is an alternative here that Julie and Chris had not considered? What if it's not about going back to the way that it used to be because there is no going back? If you try to go back to who you were before you had kids, or before you lost your mother, try doing that, be that person, it's impossible.

Life changes us and evolves us but we don't take an active role in evolving our marriages along the way. I don't think it's about going backwards at all. I think it's about how do we evolve this moving forward so that our marriage can be something that feels really good for both of us given where we are in our lives today.

I call this evolving your relationship to marriage 2.0. Now I say 2.0, it could be 10.0. Think about it like this, much like Apple comes out with a new phone every 6, 9, 12 months that has new features and new functionality, why is it that we are so shocked that after 20 or 30 years inside of our marriage, we need some new features and some new functionality? Think about it.

In your 20s or let's say 30s when you got married, what did you want? What were you looking for in a partner? How did you want to feel? I bet you wanted stability, security, someone with shared values, someone who wanted similar things that you did. You wanted that safety and stability because that was the person that you were going to build a life with. That was the person that you were going to raise a family with.

But then, I've heard thousands of women lament in their 40s and 50s about how they married the nice guy, the good guy, or the safe guy but now they look at their partner and they're like, “I don't have anything in common with this person anymore. There's no connection. There's certainly no desire or passion. I'm not willing to live without that. I guess the only answer is to end it.”

But here's what I want to say. Look, if we want our relationships to feel good and to last a lifetime, they have to evolve. Period. End of discussion. I state that as if it is a fact because, in my mind, it is. The same things that brought you together as newlyweds, as a young couple when you came together are not the same things that are going to sustain the relationship over the long haul.

It's like the factory settings in your phone. Once you get your phone, you start to realize, “Oh, I don't like all these notifications that are being sent to me. Let me turn those off.” We start customizing the phone to work for our lives. That is the same thing that we need to be doing inside of our marriages.

But how did we come to these factory settings inside of our relationship? Well, think about it. All of us learned what love and marriage were supposed to look like by watching our parents growing up, by watching what they did. We learned how to argue. Do you raise your voice or do you shut down and go quiet?

We learned about who did what in the household. Who was responsible for what chores, for what tasks? What were the roles that Mom played versus Dad played as we were growing up? We learned about what level of affection was appropriate and what wasn't. Let's say Dad was patting Mom on the bum in the kitchen and Mom kept pushing him away and saying, “Don't do that in front of the kids.” You learn, “Don’t show affection in front of other people.”

We learn so many things just by watching. Literally we are sponges until the age of seven, and then things start getting locked in. It becomes unconscious to us. That's what I consider factory settings. Let's be honest, a lot of the stuff we learned by watching our parents wasn't all that helpful or healthy.

It wasn't that they were ill-intentioned, they weren't. But they didn't have any tools or training either, they didn't know they needed to evolve their relationship, and let's be clear, times were a little bit different 50 years ago, weren't they? 40 years ago, 30 years ago, whatever it is, just everything is changing so rapidly.

I call this the metaphorical equivalent, if we're going to extend this metaphor a little bit further, if you only are operating in your marriage based upon what each of you grew up watching and experiencing at home—by the way, we pay attention to their actions and what was actually happening, not their words, words don't teach, experience teaches—if we are only operating with that, I'm going to date myself here, that's the equivalent of the phone that's attached to the wall that has a spiral cord and with a headset that you can't walk away, too far away from with and it's probably a rotary.

I know there are some of you that don't even know what I'm saying when I say rotary, and that meant you would put your finger in a hole and turn it to dial a number. That's the metaphorical equivalent of what we're trying to operate from today versus the cell phones that have a camera, a mini-computer, an operating system, a messaging system, and a way to communicate with one another.

We've got to evolve. We've got to stop assuming that what we came in with is the same thing that will sustain us over the long haul. The reality is that one of the things that we're going to need, let me go back to Julie and Chris, she started working with me and I started equipping her, equipping her with these new features and functionality that I speak of.

You're probably like, “Well, what are these features and functionality?” Well, it depends on your marriage. Some people are great at communication, some couples suck at communication. If you suck at communication, you are going to struggle in a lot of areas of the marriage.

For instance, you start learning how to communicate with one another in a very emotionally mature way. You start learning to express your needs in a way that your partner can receive it. That's how you can get your needs met. You start learning how to express what are healthy and loving boundaries for you and you start having more open and honest conversations about affection, sex, connection, and intimacy.

You also learn how to argue more productively so that when there are upsets inside the relationship, because of course, there are going to be upsets, it becomes an opportunity for you to understand your partner more deeply as opposed to creating more problems or more hurts that now need to be overcome in the relationship.

Marriage is a study of how to forgive one another over and over and over again, including yourself, forgiving yourself while still holding each other accountable to creating change that needs to be created. Then also just this understanding of self, what are my emotions, what are my triggers, what are my wounds, what are my experiences that are still playing out in my life and in this marriage?

Because if you are not willing to look at yourself, if you don't know thyself, how in the world can you show up fully inside of a relationship and be able to connect deeply with another human being? Those are some of the tools at a very high level in terms of what I teach my clients.

Julie started to learn and then began to apply these tools in her relationship with Chris. Slowly but surely, their relationship began to change. She started feeling a little bit more hopeful and a little bit more optimistic that maybe it didn't have to end but that what needed to happen was it just needed to evolve for both of them. Because neither of them was in a place where they were super happy.

This is the idea that I have walked so many of my clients through. It's like show up, learn the tools, get equipped, apply what you learn over and over again until they become more habitual for you. See if you can evolve the relationship to the 2.0 version of your marriage, the 5.0, the 10.0, whatever you want, but a new version of your relationship.

See if it can evolve, and if it can, lovely. You can remain together, happy, and growing together for many more years to come and it can continue to evolve, change, and grow because now that you've opened your mind to the fact that it needs to, now you're going to be more open to it and not just assume that oh, this is a one-time fix and we don't need to evolve ever again.

No, Apple is not going to stop coming out with new iPhones. There's no car company that's just going to stop evolving and coming out with the latest and greatest features. We need to start thinking the same way inside of our lives and marriages because life around us, the context around us is not going to stop changing and it's not going to slow down anytime soon so we need to be able to adapt to that as human beings but we also need to be able to adapt to that inside of our marriages.

It's lovely when it works out. It does. For thousands of people, this is the process that they have used. But sometimes it doesn't work out. But what you do get on the other side of that decision, let's say that you learn the tools, you apply the tools, and you realize that the relationship simply cannot evolve beyond where it is today for whatever reason, so then you make the decision to end the relationship, here's what I can tell you. You'll be able to make peace with that decision. You won't second guess it. You won't live with years of regret doubting yourself, because you'll know you genuinely tried.

You showed up and you gave it your best. You didn't just rely on the factory settings of what you had learned 40 or 50 years ago assuming that that should carry you through four, five, or six decades with your spouse, you really got equipped with new tools, new functionality, and you applied them with an open and loving heart. You can make peace with the decision when you give it your very best and it doesn't work out the way that you had hoped. You can make peace with that.

Alright. I hope that this has given you something to think about and I hope it opens your mind to the idea that we need to be constantly evolving as human beings, as individuals, and inside of our marriages if we want our marriages to feel good over the long haul. I hope that was helpful. Until next time, take really good care.

If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now.

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