Suppose you were stranded on the proverbial deserted island. You’d probably panic, I’m guessing. You might wonder how you got there and try to piece together bits of memory to fully grasp your situation. After the desperation and panic subsided, your only thought would be getting back home.

This is kinda sorta the mindset we have when we “wake up” one day believing our marriage is doomed or that our life is a complete shamble. We feel like we are adrift on some god forsaken island, going nowhere, doomed to a lifetime of meaningless repetition. Am I right?

Of course, being the smart, resourceful woman you are, you’re not going to just hang around. I mean you might not be sure how you got here, but you are damned sure of one thing, you ain’t stayin here.

So, you begin to build a raft to get off the island. You start gathering everything in sight you could possibly tie together.

That’s what we do when we feel our marriage is sinking. (Ok, well, first we might complain a lot about how we arrived at this critical juncture, but that soon wears off and then we shift into our instinctive nesting gene and get down to “let’s fix this relationship mode”.)

We might start, unfortunately, by telling our husband we aren’t happy. After all we reason, communication is everything.

Maybe that works in some relationships. If so, awesome! But in my own experience, and everyone else I have known, that step usually doesn’t get us very far. So, for arguments sake we are going to assume that move was rather like gathering palm leaves to build our raft. It sounds pretty, and they may look good, but they don’t take us far.

We might even get a reaction from our husband about how if we did so and so, he would be much happier and then all would be well. Hmmm, kinda like getting smacked in the face with our own palm leaf.

But, we recoup, put our thinking caps on and get back to strategizing what we should do next. Maybe we try seduction (oh come on, you know we do.) Maybe that even works well for a while. Until we start to feel we are doing all the giving and nothing is coming back. Meaning we are expecting our husband to give us what we secretly want. But we aren’t going to tell him because we told him once and it didn’t work, so he should know now. He is psychic after all.  Meanwhile, he is confused by our reaction. He has no idea what we really want. We talked last Friday he may remind us.

So, now we withhold affection and intimacy. We reason that we can’t possibly connect when we are feeling this low. Which of course just makes him angry, more confused and less likely to be loving.

We dive into research at this point. We are going to find whatever the hell it is that we need to get off this island. Like now.

We shuffle off to bookstores for books on relationships/marriages. We may confide in our friends, seek out a counselor. Unfortunately, if you are anything like me (and I have discovered I am boringly normal) everything we are doing to regain happiness in our marriage is back firing, because we are only looking outward.

It’s rather like having our raft shattered on the rocks, much like what happened to Tom Hanks in the movie, “Castaway”. We have put all our heart, time and effort into raft building, but we can’t control the elements.

Overcome by the ensuing undercurrent we are forced back into a routine, one that often drowns our initial hopes. We start to imagine all kinds of things. We might tell ourselves he really doesn’t love us anymore, or maybe his job or hobbies seem more important to him than we do. He seems distant, unmoved and cold. Our tears don’t seem to matter. In truth he probably doesn’t know what to do with them, or us.

But we fixate on “making all of this right somehow” – or rather on what is usually the case, fixing our husbands.

And how does that work for us? Well, I can only speak for myself. But for me, it was a disaster. I went from occasional tears, to chronic boohooing. That is if I wasn’t clutching a glass of wine in stoic anger. It seemed that the more I cried or avoided in manipulation, the angrier and more distant he became. Shocker right?

I can see now of course that he was at a complete loss. He wasn’t unhappy, or so he said. In his world I was the one creating problems. The harder I tried to bring us together, the further apart we grew.

So, finally, I shifted gears. I had been told by one of the many counselors I was seeing, or had seen, that taking the pressure off the relationship and therefore off my husband, would bring me much closer to a happy marriage. I took to “working on me” with zeal.

It was brilliant advice. The only problem was that she didn’t really help me understand what that meant. So, while I was doing these things to “improve” myself, hobbies, goals, etc.,  I was still waiting on him to wake up and do “his part”. Confessionally, while at the gym, or teaching yoga or covering myself in potter’s clay by way of distraction, my thoughts went something like, “Well, if he would just___________” or, “as soon as I can get him to see_______.” Trouble was, he didn’t know his role, so he couldn’t possibly play his part, now could he?

What happens then?  Well, we feel trapped. So much like Tom’s character in the movie, we give up. We surrender. We name our basketball Wilson, and we begin to settle into what we believe is just our future.

We function. We move through the motions, but a part of us dies. Maybe its our dreams. Maybe it is letting go of the need to care for our bodies. Maybe we take the destructive avenue of an affair, falsely believing that if someone just loved us enough, or understood us, or... We might even make ourselves physically sick with the stress, anger or hopelessness.

I can remember at one point in my marriage feeling that if we could just make it to 65, we would be fine. I have no idea why I picked that number, but an image of us sitting in rockers on some porch in the middle of a beautiful meadow, with shade trees, holding hands laughing at our current (now past) struggles seemed to quiet the my angst, temporarily anyway.

The problem was, I was no longer living. I was biding time. And that is when we start to feel like maybe divorce is the only option, sadly.

Which is what I did.

But, the true answer comes in the form of looking at ourselves, the only thing we have even a hint of control over. Because we might one day, miraculously, make it off the island, like Tom did. In other words, we might tough it out through this rough patch. But if we haven’t gotten control of ourselves, what happens next?

We go back right back to the place where we left off, expecting our lives, our relationship to be like it was when we first fell in love. Only now, much like poor Tom, we have accumulated even more, what we often refer to today as “baggage”. But we find out the hard way that everything we knew, everything we counted on has changed.

At this point, typically, both parties feel that there are “irreconcilable differences” and they begin the process of dividing the furniture and the children.

And let me tell you, if you haven’t experienced it, the divorce process is a messy, painful, lengthy, oft times ugly ripping apart of lives. It is like a combination of loss and rejection all rolled up into one not so neat package. And my divorce was not even acrimonious.

Please do hear me however, when I say that I am not advocating staying in a marriage just to avoid the divorce process.

I am not advocating one way or another.

I am just sharing my story.

But I do believe in my core that whatever choice I made, whether I had decided to stay or continued with the divorce, I could have spared myself, my ex-husband and even my son a great deal of pain and confusion if I had grasped the healing power of coaching and writing either before deciding to divorce, during the divorce process and even post-divorce.

Coaching helped me gain insight and understand myself, know myself better. Writing helped me create a plan for my life. It opened my heart again and brought dreams back. It got me past the rocks. It helped me set sale on the beautiful life I have now. But think how wonderful it would have been to shave off the years of being stranded on that island.