If You Think Your Marriage Is Over, Give It One More Year


Relationship Guru Mort Fertel is often asked: “How do we know when it’s time to give up on our marriage?”

If you’re considering divorce, I suggest first trying to make it work for at least one more year.

Did you hear that?

Try for at least one more year!

And I mean really try. You can always call it quits. You always have that option. But once you pull that trigger, it’s over. No more chances. Your life will never be the same. And if you have kids, their lives will  never be the same.

If you end your marriage, you don’t want to have a shred of doubt about what might have been. You don’t ever want to look back and wonder if things could have been different. You don’t want to ask yourself What if I had tried this or that?

Very often, the turning point in a marriage comes when a couple hits rock bottom.

If you have to end your marriage, you want to know deep in your heart that you did everything you could to make it work.


Giving it one year of serious effort will also help you to move on with your life and into another relationship with a clear head, should you ultimately divorce. You want to come to a place of healthy closure. That is crucial!  In my experience, the best way to do that is to work at your marriage for at least one additional year. I know it probably seems like a long  time, but it’s an investment in the rest of your life. That’s a key point: it will prove a good investment whether your marriage succeeds or not.

Obviously, it’s a good investment if you do turn your marriage around. But if you don’t, it will not have been a wasted year. It will have been the most important thing you could have done with that year because of the impact on your future and your next relationship.

I have seen too many cases of spouses ending their marriages prematurely; as a result, they never reached closure in the relationship. A few years later, they find themselves in the same situation with someone else.


Sometimes the progress individuals make in relationship counseling turns out to be more beneficial for them in their next relationship than in their current one.

I remember an instance when a man’s marriage ended in the middle of a seven-week marriage boot camp. The individual asked whether he should continue with the final weeks of the program. I said, “Absolutely.”

He responded, “Why? What’s the point? My marriage is over.”

“You’re not doing it for this marriage,” I explained. “You’re doing it for the benefit of your next one.”

Now don’t get me wrong: your intention for working on your marriage shouldn’t be simply to benefit your life after marriage. You need to be intent on restoring your current relationship.

But if you fail, your effort will not have been for naught.


Bottom line is this. If you’re asking, “When is it time to call it quits?”

The answer is: one year after you think you’re done. If after one more year of trying everything in your power to make your marriage work you’re still miserable, then you should consider moving on. Until then, hang in there and don’t give up.

I’m speaking from experience. I remember learning late one night that my wife had an appointment with a divorce attorney the next morning. We were hours from done. Who would have thought we could turn things around at that point?

We did, of course.

Very often, the turning point in a marriage comes when a couple hits rock bottom. Sometimes it’s not until things couldn’t get worse that they can finally get better.


Photo by daBinsi

About Mort Fertel

Mort Fertel is a world authority on the psychology of relationships. He has been featured as an expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox television networks, as well as dozens of publications including Glamour Magazine and Family Circle, to discuss his Marriage Fitness System. His program is endorsed by a wide variety of mental-health professionals, and he has helped save thousands of marriages. Fertel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, was the CEO of an international nonprofit organization, and is a former marathon runner. He lives with his wife and five children (including triplets!) in Baltimore, MD.


  1. “You want to know you did everything to make it work….”

    Watching my friend’s marriage and family life go up in smoke up close is terrifying and frustrating to say the least….the turbulence and violence makes it obvious to me that the situation is unsafe and not a union worth saving….shocking, and yet somewhat not shocking, my best friend is going back to an unstable situation and I fear for her and her family…my hands are bound in some ways….at this point, she chooses to go back and I feel uneasy…I wait fretfully for the next frantic call when she needs a safe haven….

  2. Big Willie says:

    I had a rocky marriage. A few years into it, she decided her problems were all my fault, and told everybody she was going to divorce me. I consulted a lawyer, he warned me when it gets to this stage, it’s not going to get better, and it doesn’t have to be this hard. Another guy told me the old joke about the sour milk- you don’t put it back in the ‘fridge to see if it’s going to get better.

    I wish I’d listened to them, instead of wasting several more years trying to make it work. It only got uglier.

  3. FlyingKal says:

    I think that if you really have personal issues or “clanky gears” that need to be worked on, it might often be a good idea to actually do so in a more solitary environment, instead of having another person around who have been conditioned to have a negative attitude towards you and probably will interfere with the process.

    Then again, if you have kids it’s probably a good idea to plan ahead a little more.

  4. Yes and teach your children to remove bandages slowly, just peel them back and feel every millimeter of adhesion breaking…

  5. wellokaythen says:

    As long as:

    She’s not abusing you.
    She’s not abusing your children.
    She hasn’t moved out and refuses to contact you.
    Her behavior isn’t threatening your health, safety, or sanity.
    You can safely say you have more than a year to live.

    I don’t think we should give a man any divorce advice that we would not give a woman. Men and women seek divorces for a lot of the same reasons. I would never tell a woman to stay married for one more year without some exceptions allowed, so it should be the same for men.

    But, I do like the idea that the year will be good for you to work on yourself and turn your own life around regardless of what happens with your marriage. Not mention the fact that it might be in your financial best interest to get some things in order before you go through with a divorce. It may take some time to prepare yourself for the pain her lawyers will inflict.

  6. Very good advice but when that year is over and she is still saying “soon” and “it’s medical” but refusing to go to the doctor run. I hung on for 5 years. Mostly for our daughter. I really wanted to believe, but in the end she admitted that everything that she had said for 8 to 10 years had been lies and she walked last summer.
    My 14 year old daughter is with me and it was mortifying the first time she came to me and said “How did you stay with her so long?”
    When it is over and after you have tried CPR and failed to revive it, just let it go. Everyone knows already so just let it go.

  7. Good article Mort. I think we’re too quick to walk away from things these days. And just as quick to bandaid the blow with someone new while not actually dealing with the reasons why things went pearshaped in the last relationship.

    Of course the flip side are people who hang on for dear life years longer than they should. (Been there!)

  8. Excellent, Mort! Thanks.

    Love this:
    “You’re not doing it for this marriage,” I explained. “You’re doing it for the benefit of your next one.”

    Which means you’re doing it to address one of the CORE REASONS your marriage is in trouble: You.

    My marriage didn’t survive after hitting rock bottom, but healing myself was not about getting rid of my wife. It was about figuring out and fixing the parts of me that helped lead to her departure. Oh what a ride it is!


  1. […] These are comments by Steve Horsmon, Rachel @ Reality Chick, and wellokaythen on the post “If You Think Your Marriage Is Over, Give It One More Year“. […]

  2. […] The Good Men Project: If You Think Your Marriage Is Over, Give it One More Year. Good advice with one caveat from me: give it one more year unless of course, there’s abuse […]

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