Orlando Marriage Counselor Jada Jackson, MS, LMHC offers 3 steps to safeguard your relationship.  The demise of relationships like Patrick Dempsey and Jillian Fink can make you question how solid your relationship really is. If a seemingly loving marriage can break after more than 15 years, what’s to say that it can’t happen to you?

Were there any signs? Was there any way to salvage the marriage? What preventative measure do you need to take to maintain a solid and connected relationship? We’ve got the answers.

Patrick Dempsey was interviewed in 2011 by Good Housekeeping and was asked questions about his marriage that give us insight into the values and dynamics going on in their relationship.

  • When Patrick was asked what he felt was the key to a successful marriage and he said 2 distinct answers. The first being, “accepting that you’re not going to change the other person” and the second was “Yes, dear. Whatever you want.” His first answer shows no signs for concern but his second answer reveals a lack of communication. It portrays the sort of ‘brush it under the rug’ mentality. This method never works long term, resentments build and the conversation becomes more and more guarded.
    • Be vulnerable enough to speak your mind and express your feelings.
    • Stay calm and receptive when communicating so it encourages future open discussions.
  • When asked what he considered to be the worst aspect of marriage he said, “When you’re not connecting. Your partner is going out the door when you’re coming in, and you don’t have a chance to debrief on that day. That’s the worst.” This tells us that the marriage has become low in one or both partners priority list. Marriage doesn’t maintain the connection in a relationship, the people do. Even with busy schedules, long-distance relationships, or night shifts; if you want your relationship to last staying involved has to be a top priority.
    • Find the time to make the phone calls, plan a date, write a letter- anything to let your partner know how much you love and care for them on a consistent basis.
  • He was also asked what he considered to be an important thing to have in a marriage and he replied, “Individual time. She’ll do things on her own so she can come back and be much more patient with the kids. I go car racing.” What sticks out to me is a lack of marital quality time. While having individual hobbies and activities is actually beneficial in a relationship, the fact that it was said as the first important thing is a little alarming. It implies that the main method they use to get recharged and balanced is when they are away from each other.
    • When the tolls of life begin to catch up with you, you need to be able to turn to your partner and release them together. Go on a small adventure, goof around, just find a fun release you can do together. Alone time is necessary but being able to rise above the negative together is crucial.

When you read between the lines and really hear what Patrick was saying, the divorce becomes less of a surprise. All 3 answers he gave screamed a lack of connectedness. Some people aren’t meant to be and some relationships are supposed to end. But if you add a lack of communication, low marital priorities, and little quality time, it could put any relationship at risk. Learn from the failures of others, stay connected, and don’t allow your marriage to end up like the Dempsey’s.

If you want to safeguard your marriage, here are three steps you can take:

ESTABLISH a strong ability to communicate with your spouse. No matter how uncomfortable a conversation may become, it is always important to have the difficult conversation to address difficult issues.

PRIORITIZE your relationship. Remember, if you put your job first, your relationship may suffer. If you put your friends first, your relationship may suffer. It is necessary to put your marriage first and you will be successful in other areas of your life.

CREATE your own happiness. Happiness is our responsibility. If you choose to focus on the negatives in your life, everything around you will appear to be negative. You have the power to create your own happiness and invite your spouse to partake in your “Happy!”

If you or someone you know need relationship or marriage counseling, please contact a therapist near you.

Authors: Jada Jackson, MS, LMHC and Dani James (Intern)