When to Fix a Failing Marriage
To stay on top of developments in marriage and divorce law, policies, education, and research, I monitor a bunch of Google alerts daily. As a result, I am almost certain to hear about every celebrity break-up.
This week, it is Jennie Garth and Peter Facinelli. They are divorcing. Been together long enough to leave three young daughters to deal with what they could not fix. Sixteen years, eleven of them married. Kids are 5, 9, and 14. Second marriage for her. Irreconcilable differences, of course.
He's 38. She turns 40 next week. His acting career is going great right now, hers not so much, so she's dragged their kids into a reality TV series on cable that debuts in April. In it, she and the kids move out of Hollywood to the country, accompanied by a female assistant who, if we believe the promo clips, hates the country and shares Garth's bedroom.
Facinelli has been filming in Vancouver and New York for the past two years, coming home to Garth's ranch/set in Santa Ynez on weekends. Now they plan to share custody of the kids.
She says she rejected the idea of divorce. She told People, "We both saw it unravel and it was painful. I tried everything I could to save our marriage."
If you see your marriage start to unravel, here are some things you might try to arrive at a different ending.
- If you must live apart for career reasons, be part of each other's weekday lives. Visit each other. Get to know the places and people your spouse lives among while you are apart. Be available by phone or internet during the day and not just late at night.
- If you live together but see less of each other than in the past, schedule some of your time to be available to your spouse, and keep to it even if he or she does not take advantage of it for the first month or two. During this time, make it clear you are available. Stay off the computer and the phone. Don't start anything you cannot drop at a moment's notice, nor anything that would keep you from noticing your spouse checking on your availability.
- When your marriage begins to unravel, spend more time on and with your spouse, not your children. A little disruption in their lives now might spare them the continual disruptions of shared custody and the many awkward life passages later.
- If you are unwilling to move to where your spouse is currently working, at least stay near where his or her next job might be found.
- Pay more attention to preserving your marriage than your income or wealth. Yes, you might lose both in a divorce, but staying married beats any individual strategy for protecting your future financial well-being.
- Find one more ray of love or respect every day.
- Assume Love when you get upset. Expect Love when you want more than you're getting. Find Third Alternatives whenever you disagree. And don't stick your head in the sand until your partner starts to move on from your unraveling relationship.