Trying to Save a Marriage Alone

Colleen Sheehy Orme

In college, I majored in business. My mom thought being a journalist was too risky. She compared it to becoming an actor. She wasn't entirely wrong. But over the years, I never gave up on my passion. Eventually, I was published in Washingtonian Magazine.

Washington is one of the top media markets in the country.

Highly competitive doors began to open.

I was now a marketing consultant, a freelance journalist, and a business columnist. I would alternate between writing articles and business strategies. Not realizing how one day my business background would give me a unique perspective on relationships.

I was also experiencing the worst of my marital struggles. I was overcompensating for my husband's lack of interest in saving our marriage. As a fixer, I was depleting all of my energy. You name it and I tried it. I made our world smaller. I focused on family outings. We began marriage counseling. I stripped back and simplified every aspect of our lives to make our relationship a priority.

One day I sat in my office compiling a marketing plan for an entrepreneurial business.

My thoughts kept drifting to my marriage. Stress will distract you that way. I was thinking about something a friend had told me. "Colleen," she said. "No one has tried harder than you to save their marriage."

I stared at the papers in front of me. As a marketer, what would I tell a failing partnership? If one individual was left to run the business alone. And the other partner rarely shows up to make any type of emotional, financial, or operational investment.

The answer is simple.

I would tell them they were no longer a partnership.

They were now a sole proprietorship. But more importantly, I would ask them if they wanted their business to survive? If so, they'd have to abandon coaxing their partner into caring. The day-to-day operations, customer service, and finances must take priority. Distractions would need to be minimized and focus increased.

If not, the business, as well as the partnership, would fail.

This was my epiphany

One person can't save a marriage. Astonishingly, however, a vast majority of us attempt to do so. I certainly had. We view relationships through an emotional lens. But they are partnerships. In a business, we would abandon someone who wasn't carrying their weight. It's typically less emotional because we've made a different type of investment.

I was arriving every day and giving it my all.

My husband wasn't showing up.

He wasn't leaving either which confused me. He must have some vested interest in us or he would go. This was optimistic and naive of me. His actions told the greater story. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to have this epiphany.

The partnership between us was failing.

Unfortunately, I was failing as well.

I had abandoned the business of myself. The better parts of me, my individual brand had slowly been evaporating. In the marketing world, we refer to this as shelf value. One or more distinct features differentiate a product and make a person choose it over another. It would be considered what makes each individual and product unique.

This was the beginning of the merging of my two worlds. Not long after, I began writing a national divorce and relationship column. I no longer wrote features, profiles, or business pieces. I began applying my marketing skills to the study of relationships. And I immersed myself in counseling and research on the topics of marriage, divorce, and extreme personalities.

Because we indulge in the ugliness of failing relationships.

When we should be rescuing our own individual beauty so that at least one of the two survives.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a National Relationship Columnist, freelance journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, relationships, and self-restoration. She has spent more than a decade in research and counseling on the topics of divorce, relationships, and Narcissistic personality disorder.

Reston, VA
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