5 Couples Reveal: "The Extreme Ways We Saved Our Marriages"
By Colleen Oakley
Would you send your husband to boot camp? Install a stripper pole in your bedroom? As these five couples discovered, when love is on the skids, sometimes you have to take a big risk to get it back on track.
Every marriage has its ups and downs, but when you hit a really rough spot, where do you turn? Sure, there's couples counseling, but not every couple (and definitely, let's face it, not every guy) takes to it. In fact, just as every relationship is different, so is the recipe for fixing it. When you've got a good thing going — even if your relationship isn't as solid right now as you know it can be — it's worth taking some risks to hold on to it. And for people ready to try anything, there are some awfully imaginative ideas out there. Here, what these five real-life couples did to get back on the road to happily ever after.
"We lived apart for nine months."
Christine Miller, 33, and Jimmy Miller, 34; married 7 years;
Wesley Chapel, FL
Christine: Six years into our marriage, I realized Jimmy wasn't on board with the reality of our life — we had a 4-year-old daughter and responsibilities, and he was still acting like we were in our carefree 20s. His whole Peter Pan, playful attitude was partly why I fell in love with him, but now it was breaking my heart. I was a broken record asking him not to party so much, and Jimmy wouldn't participate in counseling. I felt like I'd tried everything. Finally, I told him I wanted a divorce. He went into panic mode, promising he would do anything to get me back. But I really thought it was too late.
Jimmy moved in with a friend and eventually got his own apartment.
In the months he was gone, though, I found myself missing his whimsical approach to life, the way he could make friends with everybody. Most of all, I just missed us. I started therapy and realized that by not being clear about what I really needed, I was actually supporting much of Jimmy's behavior. I began to wonder if he could refocus his priorities and, if we pitched in together on our relationship, whether we might be able to make it work.
Driving home one night, about nine months after Jimmy moved out, I was remembering the book Eat, Pray, Love, the part when the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, hit rock bottom and called out to God for help. I did the same thing. I said out loud, "What is the answer?" Right then my phone rang; it was Jimmy. That was my sign that it was time to give my marriage another go. I told him I wanted to try couples therapy.
I'd never fallen out of love with Jimmy, but our counseling sessions helped me respect him again as a partner. He really had changed during our time apart. He rarely goes out now, and when he does he's home by 10. And he sold his motorcycle to help us pay off some debt. Those changes made it clear that our family was finally his number-one priority.
Jimmy: Our marriage started to deteriorate because Christine and I just weren't on the same track. I wanted to stay out until 4 in the morning on my motorcycle. Christine wanted me around more for our family. She suggested counseling, but I didn't see the need. But when she told me she wanted a divorce, I was devastated. I told her from Day One that I would do whatever it took to make our relationship work. I moved out and began therapy to find out what I needed to work on in myself. My priorities began to change. When I was living with Christine, all I wanted to do was party. When I was alone, I just wanted my family back. I realized they were more important to me than anything else. I kept waiting for Christine to give me another chance. Nine months after we separated, she finally did. We went to counseling, I sold the bike, and we moved back in together. Now, a year later, we're both on the same page, happier than we've ever been, and we just had our second child.