Is your marriage on the rocks? After adding “schedule an appointment with a good marriage therapist” to the top of your to-do list, you could consider making a note to pick up The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage. You know what I really liked about this book? Its never-say-die attitude, coupled with intense creativity. The author Michele Weiner Davis self-discloses pretty early on that she’s a colossal proponent of marriage and refuses to assume any couple is inevitably headed for divorce. I like this about Michele – she’s a marriage warrior. What a gift and asset to the couples she serves. In fact, Michele reminds us that when there are children involved, divorce isn’t even possible in the truest sense of the word – you will always be tied to your partner through your kids, arranging holidays, money, etc. So why not do everything in your power to save your marriage?
Are her methods as foolproof as the title sounds? Probably not, and I’ll tell you more about why later. Nonetheless, she’s smart and innovative and has truly helped lots of couples away from the cliff of divorce.
Michele’s Advice for Saving Your Marriage
So let’s chat about Michele’s methods! She is a true-blue no-apologies solution-oriented therapist. This means she’s less interested in taking the time to understand how you and your spouse’s pasts are affecting your marriage. What really revs her engine is finding quick, practical solutions to get your marriage turned around.
Michele believes that “it takes one to tango”- that you can create breakthroughs in your marriage without even cajoling your partner to get on board the marriage-fixing train. Michele knows our daily, habitual actions impact our spouse in reverberating ways we’re not even aware of. Causes and effects in marriages are circular. I do something, you react, then I react to you, then you react to me, and on and on. When just one lonely spouse finds creative ways to re-route their energy more productively, they may be surprised to see their partner also gradually changing course.
Thus, most of the book is written to that one spouse who is upset/mad/hurt/hopeful enough to take some risks and start making changes. Michele encourages you to first scribble down some concrete goals. After all, how can you find a solution if you don’t know what you’re aiming at?
Then notice what you are currently doing in your marriage. Do you criticize and blame to no end? Do you pull away to cool down and hope your spouse will forget about the World War III-style argument you’re in the middle of? Do you chase your partner with constant love notes and invitations to date nights? Are you more of a talker? Or a silent type who avoids conversation? Whatever you’re doing, notice it!
Then, you have to find ways to try something new. If you’re a nagging critic, try encouraging your husband for a change! If you’re a Debbie Downer, try being more positive and up for activities and outings. On the other hand, if you’re always trying to cheer up your spouse, and it’s clearly not working, then maybe consider sitting with them in their Eeyore state sometimes, not trying to get them to see that the glass is half full.
A crucial step that must not be missed is looking out for small changes in your spouse. You have to become very attentive and notice faint details and minuscule shifts; otherwise you’re not going to know what’s working! If something you’re trying out is effective, you should see some small but real changes in your spouse within about a week. If you see that things are shifting, terrific! You should absolutely do more of that! But if there is radio silence and crickets chirping in the change department, then simply try something different.
Basically, Michele’s method is a quasi-scientific experimental method. It’s common sense, but you’d be surprised how engrained and unconscious our habits of relating to each other can become. We think we know our spouse inside and out; we literally have the gall to assume we know how they will respond in every situation. But assuming we already know what’s going to happen removes our “beginner’s mind”. A beginner’s mind is curious and open, ready to try new things and learn. And let me tell you, adopting a beginner’s mind can be fun and empowering!
So this is Michele’s basic MO. She also has specific chapters about the tricky issues of infidelity, depression, midlife crises, etc. Her pages are packed with lots of wisdom and experience, like a mentor who’s dealt with hundreds of marriages and has learned a thing or two along the way. One more rad thing about Michele’s writing is she dishes out lots of practical knowledge about divorce, mediation, etc. and along with that, gives you lots of resources to check out. This is the kind of dope insider scoop you get only from therapists who have tons of real-life experience in the field of marriage therapy.
Now on to how Michele Weiner Davis and I differ. As stated before, she bleeds solution-oriented. Her heart beats to the tune of, What’s the problem? And how are we going to fix it? I actually appreciate the blazing practicality of her methods. Problem, solution, BAM! I like the energy.
I just don’t think it always works that way. Humans are complex. Too often the sad, lonely, and hurting couples that enter my therapy office are operating out of unconscious beliefs stemming from their own childhoods and traumas. They are behaving in the ways that make the most sense to them, and have no idea how they are affecting their spouse. When it comes to Michele’s step of being aware of what you are currently doing in your marriage, many people actually have no idea exactly what they are doing, or why! They are so in the dark that simply reading a self help book is not going to cut it.
I’m also concerned that Michele’s techniques blissfully ignore one of the most crucial steps to building intimacy in a marriage: vulnerability. Vulnerability is tough. It doesn’t always feel as empowering as reading a good self help book. Self help is just that – you help yourself. There’s only one person in the tango, and trying to fix messy problems on our own can sometimes feel way safer and easier. But marriage isn’t a solo gig. It’s about two people opening up their hearts to one another. That very act requires vulnerability.
Vulnerability and authenticity are like Siamese twins. You really don’t get one without the other. So if you avoid vulnerability by trying experiments with your spouse from a safe distance, you’re also sacrificing being truly known by your partner, and loved for who you are. If your experiments are so contrived that they are not really you, then how are you going to truly feel satisfied in your relationship? If you’re doing experiments and they don’t in any way reveal your true heart, I think you might get some interesting results, but you’re not really going to build an intimate marriage.
Buy this book if…
If you’re at your wits end, maybe have even considered throwing in the towel on the whole marriage thing, and need some hope, please schedule an appointment with a good marriage therapist. But also consider reading this book. I think it will help you realized that no matter what you think, you haven’t tried everything.