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12 Real People Share the Ways They Saved Their Marriages From Divorce

From taking breaks to taking up yoga, hear how real people saved their marriages on the brink of divorce.

We don't need to tell you that marriage can be difficult. Chances are, you know the dismal stats by now (53 percent of first marriages end in divorce within 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). But sometimes, the prospect of splitting up can be the unlikely first step in mending a marriage on the brink. Yes, in an odd way, saying the words "I want a divorce" can actually help a couple in the long run, as the following stories from real people prove.

Herein, you'll hear from couples who were constantly fighting or just growing apart and found themselves headed toward divorce, only to discover solutions that helped them stay together. If you're looking for ways to save your marriage, get inspired by these real people who turned things around and rebuilt their love.

The couple who reconciled on the day they were set to finalize their divorce

unhappy couple on couch

When Jamie Freeman's career was on the way up, her husband Mark's was on the way down, she told Friday. The different places they were in led them to stop talking about their issues, choosing instead to avoid one another and sweeping everything under the rug. Even their marriage therapist thought that they needed time apart, which they took—spending nine months without one another.

Eventually, their conflicting emotions forced them to file for divorce for irreconcilable differences. But on the morning they were set to make the split official in court, they had breakfast and finally started to open up and communicate. The whole experience was beyond difficult for the pair, but ultimately, it saved their marriage, Freeman said. "Almost divorcing was horrible," she told Friday. "We're only just coming out of the debt it created. 
It was the most raw, vulnerable time of my life. But I wouldn't change it for anything."

The couple who realized their unhappiness was with themselves, not with each other

Asian couple unhappy in bed because neither is in the mood to have sex

In the face of substance abuse and infidelity, Danielle Simone Brand and her husband filed their divorce on their 13th wedding anniversary. But a month later, they rescinded the paperwork and vowed to make their marriage work, in part for their kids, Danielle wrote for What's Up Moms.

What else was behind the change of heart? Besides their disgust at the amount of paperwork (and money) that a divorce would take, they reexamined the reasons behind their personal unhappiness and found that they were making themselves—not each other—miserable. "Trapped by a life that I had absolutely participated in creating, divorce felt like the only way to free myself," Danielle wrote. But "actually addressing the ways I was unhappy or unfulfilled was."

The wife who stopped trying to change her husband

Older Indian couple laughing

When communication issues started to disrupt Robina Kauser's marriage, she initially tried to change her husband, she wrote in an article for The Muslim Vibe. When he refused to accept that anything was wrong, Robina searched for answers online and from friends and experts, but none of the advice she received held the answer to her problems.

"I had completely lost the battle to make my husband listen and save our marriage. I felt helpless, exhausted, and silently depressed," she wrote. "I finally started to accept the reality that my marriage was over, and that it was heading down the path of divorce."

It was only then that Robina was struck by a game-changing realization that she was putting herself in a trap by making her happiness dependent on her husband and trying to change him. She needed to find the ability to make herself happy and the rest would come. That simple insight, Rabina wrote, "transformed my marriage [and] my life in ways I never dreamed possible. I was no longer suffering, screaming like a crazy person to be heard, and the constant blazing rows also came to an end."

The spouses who asked each other one important question every day

middle aged asian couple talking
Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

After getting married at 21, Richard Paul Evans and his wife, Keri, struggled to stay in love for more than three decades, they explained to NBC News. They stopped talking and battled each other for power in the relationship. Then, after crying in the shower one day at age 55, Richard said he thought to ask Keri a simple and sincere question: "How can I make your day better?" Now, they ask one another the same question every day to make sure they are helping one another.

The couple who finally became confrontational

Family in field son on father's shoulders

Robyn and Donny had a picture-perfect life one minute, then a series of family issues jolted them so hard that they almost got divorced, Robyn wrote for Brave Girl Community. They loved their careers, their home, their daughter, and their dog. Before things went haywire, Robyn wrote that they often joked, "Life was easy. Why did everyone around us not know how to do this?"

Then, they suffered a miscarriage and later had a son with autism. Their relationship went into a tailspin and they spent less and less time together. After a separation, Robyn and Donny put their non-confrontational natures aside and decided to work on their marriage. Now they make time for one another every day, and they never badmouth each other outside of their marriage.

The couple who exercised together

Young black couple stretching together in the gras

Darcy Reeder and her husband were having a difficult go of it after three years of marriage, even fighting in the car during their three-year-old's nap time, as Darcy detailed in a post for P.S. I Love You. But then they found an unexpected way to connect: YouTube yoga videos. After a false start, they completed a 30-day yoga challenge, and they still work out together three or four days a week.

How did the experience change their relationship? "Rather than repeating the endless cycle of fighting, I let the best in myself recognize the best in my husband, and it's saved our marriage," she wrote.

The couple who created a safe device-free space for communication

Young couple talking and holding hands on a terrace

After 14 years together, Kim Zapata and her husband had essentially stopped having deep and personal conversations, she wrote in a post for Babble. They had grown apart as they changed through the years, and when she announced she was thinking about leaving, he agreed to go to therapy.

Talking to a therapist, they realized they needed to create a safe space to talk to one another. "For us, it's nothing more than a set time we put aside each day to address one another, and to truly listen," Kim wrote. "A work-free, device-free, distraction-free time to talk about whatever's on our minds."

The woman who decided to stop playing the blame game

Young multicultural couple sitting on floor talking in the sunshine

For Sylvia Smith and her husband, divorce seemed imminent until she started to examine her own role in their failing marriage, she wrote for Sylvia reexamined her religious faith, which helped, but she also looked at her actions with fresh eyes. "It had much to do with identifying my biggest problem areas, stopping the blame game, and then deciding that I was going to work through the issues that I was contributing, which were compromising our happy marriage," she explained.

The couple who listed everything they loved about one another

Older woman whispering into giggling old man's ear

Valli Vida Gideons and her husband had nothing nice to say to one another, but then their therapist asked them to write down lists of the things that they loved about each other. "Once I started, I couldn't stop," Valli wrote in a post for Her View From Home. "And it wasn't the big things that resonated—instead, the nuances, tidbits about memory lane, and all the other idiosyncrasies I had no longer acknowledged." When they shared their lists, Valli and her husband were both moved by the thoughtfulness that they had long forgotten. "Sweet nothings aren't nothing—they are everything," she wrote.

The couple who overcame a devastating loss

Older couple talking on the couch while drinking coffee or tea serious talk

In an article on Houston Moms, a woman named Keri wrote about how she and her husband, Ryan, struggled for years after the death of their daughter and other family health issues. The couple tried a temporary separation and therapy with mixed results.

In the end, what helped them find a way to stay together was something a friend said: "It's time to make a decision. Either split the sheets and move on, or choose the covenants you made at marriage. Either way, make a choice. Stop living in limbo." They chose the latter and have been together for nearly two decades now.

The couple who finally became teammates instead of archrivals

Multicultural couple high-fiving using computer

Valerie Kolick was convinced she could "fix" her husband. "I thought I could use the information in books to get the love and adoration I needed in real life," she wrote for Mind Body Green. But Valerie soon found out that by thinking she had to fix her husband, she was actually just blaming him for all their issues. And by blaming him, she made herself the victim. So, she actively chose to change her mindset in order to think of her husband as a teammate. Now, she wrote, "we work through our challenges and celebrate our victories as a team."

The couple who made time for sex every day

Couple in bed excited

Heidi Powell and her husband, Chris, had grown apart over the years, and that included a steep drop in the amount of sex that they were having. Heidi wrote on her blog that in the midst of one of their "infamous knock out, drag down fights" and talk of divorce, they decided to try and reconnect by challenging themselves to have sex every day for a month. Even on the days when they were fighting, they had to put down their guns and make love instead. "What I believe really changed us was our dedication to spending even 20 minutes every single day completely focused on each other," she wrote.

Adam Shalvey
Adam Shalvey is a writer based in Rhode Island. Read more
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