When your marriage or relationship is in trouble to the point where you’re thinking about breaking up or getting divorced, it’s easy to feel hopeless.
But it’s important to know that you can fix a broken relationship and save your marriage.
You can even fall back in love with your spouse — if you’re willing to put in the work.
In the beginning of your relationship, you were probably mesmerized by the newness of it all and believed that feeling was so powerful it just might last forever. You didn’t see many of your partner’s flaws, so you never thought you would have to worry about one day finding yourself trying to fix them.RELATED: How To Survive All 5 Stages Of Marriage (Well Past The Honeymoon Phase!)
Your relationship evolved, as relationships do, and that is entirely normal. All relationships and marriages go through their share of highs and lows.
But, if it feels like you and your partner are now on the brink of a breakup or divorce, you must invest in your relationship again if you want to make things work.
To help you through your rough patch, I’ve assembled a list of things you can start doing now in order to get your relationship back on track.
Here are 7 ways to fix your broken marriage — and maybe even fall back in love.
1. Remember what made you each fall in love in the first place.
After being married for a while, it’s easy to forget what you like about your spouse.
What was it like in the beginning? What stood out? What did he smell like? Where was your first date? What made you realize that this was the person you wanted to be with for the rest of your life?
Write all of it down. Doing so will help you remember the positives, which will also help lift your spirits and change your mindset about your relationship.
2. Actively listen to each other again.
Listening is truly a gift you can give to your spouse that can help your relationship go deeper.
When you listen to your spouse without criticism, you convey understanding and support — which is what we all want more than anything in a relationship. This will help your spouse feel more comfortable opening up to you, too.
Ask questions that let your spouse know you are genuinely interested in them. For example, do you know your spouse’s deepest and darkest secrets? If not, this is a great time to ask.
3. Make the little things count.
It’s the subtle things that make a BIG difference in your relationships, like turning your body toward your husband or wife when they’re talking and making direct eye contact, rather than staying engrossed in your phone. A smile or simple “How was your day?” can also help create a more positive tone in your relationship.
And when you reunite at the end of the day, make sure you greet one another to let your spouse know you’re happy see them.
Like the funny video below shows, it’s easy to fall into habits where we forget that our partner is the most special person in our lives.
4. Don’t let distractions get in the way of your marriage.
Think back to how it was in the beginning of your relationship. Your partner was the most exciting part of your day and always came first.
But now that you’ve been together for a while, it’s all to easy to let life get in the way of your marriage. You have kids, work, and a house, which makes it easy to put your marriage last.
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That’s why you need to start scheduling time for one another, and stick to it. If the phone rings, let it go to voicemail. This is your time for one another.
5. Do something fun together again.
Fun is what keeps you together. When was the last time you laughed with your partner? And, I’m not talking one of those “haha” laughs. I’m talking about a good belly laugh that felt like it would never end.
As adults, we get away from laughing. The next time you have a chance observe children on a playground. They laugh a lot! They aren’t taking life so seriously or worrying about their next bonus or the next Tesla they want to buy.
Laughing and having fun together is good for your relationship and your soul. An easy way to get started is to reminisce about some of your favorite memories as a couple — the times where you had a good laugh together.
6. Change your expectations.
When you are a child and dream of your “happily ever after,” it never dawns on you that your marriage might not end up that way. I mean, let’s face it – all the Disney movies in the world never, ever hint to the fact that Cinderella and her Prince Charming would ever have any problems, right?
Well, Disney movies aren’t real life. Although we all know this on a conscious level, we still – in our hearts – hope that we will be the exception to the rule. We think that we will be one of the lucky ones who have a lifelong, happy marriage.
However, for many couples, it simply doesn’t happen. Why is that? Well, the reasons are many, which I will go into in a minute. But no one teaches us how to have a loving marriage. And if we didn’t see our parents living happily together, then we really have no model for it.
So, what if you find yourself in an unhappy marriage? How to fix a broken marriage and save your relationship?
Reasons that Lead to a Broken Marriage
I really wish all of us could take a class in school called Relationships 101. But no one is ever formally taught how to have a good marriage (or any relationship for that matter). What is the result? The result is that all of us just sort of fly by the seat of our pants and wing it when it comes to relationships. But if you want to have a happy, healthy, successful marriage, you can’t do that.
Here are some of the causes of a broken marriage.
Everyone says relationships are hard and take a lot of hard work. Well, think about it. Anything in this life that is worth having takes effort, right? I mean, unless you win the lottery, you won’t become rich without hard work.
Relationships are no different. You have to put in effort into your marriage. If you don’t, and are too lazy to keep it alive, it will die.
Many people are selfish to some extent. But when it comes at the price of a healthy marriage, then it’s a problem. You can’t always put your needs first. You have to put your partner’s needs at least equal to – or before – your own. Otherwise, resentment will keep building endlessly.
This goes hand-in-hand with laziness and selfishness. If you are lazy and don’t put in effort, and you are constantly selfish, then you are neglecting your partner – and your relationship as a whole.
Relationships are like plants. If you don’t water a plant, it will die. If you neglect a marriage, it will eventually end as well.
As much as we love them, children are hard on a marriage. If you are honest with yourself, you know it’s true. Children take a lot of time and energy – time and energy that could spent on your marriage. So, when couples don’t stay connected because children get in the way, then your marriage will break down.
Poor Communication Skills
Knowing how to talk to your partner to express your feelings and needs is essential. However, both people need to do the same and have empathy for the other person.
If empathy (the ability to identify with and see the other person’s point of view) doesn’t exist, then it’s virtually impossible to have a healthy marriage.
How to Fix a Broken Marriage (without Couseling)
Sometimes, we feel hopeless when we’re in a bad marriage. You wonder if it is ever possible to rediscover the good relationship you had in the beginning. The answer is yes, but you have to put in some work.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the financial means to go to counseling. However, if you do, I would suggest that as a first step.
Even if this is not an option, here are some steps you can try:
1. Take a Good Look at Yourself
It takes two to tango. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before. In other words, problems in a relationship are rarely the sole responsibility of just one person.
Take a look at your behaviors and speculate how they might have contributed to the state of your marriage.
Home » Love & Relationships » 10 Simple Ways to Fix Broken Marriage and Save Your Relationship
There are a lot of causes for marriages to fall apart. A lot of couples have struggle from issues in marriage because it’s either that we don’t want to or won’t believe just how much work it takes to keep relationships humming at optimal levels.
Another reason can be a simple failure in imagination. But, since it’s true that to pull off successful courting it requires commitment, hard work, and imagination… then why do we act surprised when neglect hurts relationships after we have walked down the aisle?
They wouldn’t have married you if you took them for granted – so why risk everything now?
But let’s assume that the damage is done, so can a broken marriage be repaired? There are many good strategies if someone wants to restore an ailing, under the weather marriage.
Here we suggest the following 10 tips on how to save their struggling or broken marriage or even a relationship.
Choose to love
Love comes and seems easy when its brand new. It’s new and exciting, something we haven’t ever experienced or maybe we did but from a different source.
But eventually it gets mundane and boring. Love over the long term is as much of a choice as it is an emotion. Choice is difficult, it’s an act of maturity, and it has a much better track history than emotion left to make a way on its own.
Even if you get bored, choose to love the person you are committed to. Look for the things that made you fall in love. Prove to them that love prevails over everything else.
Pray for your partner
If you are going through a failure in marriage chances are that you launched your relationship with both promises and prayers.
Pray for your spouse, and ask for guidance as you pledge to make the kind of effort that will bring you both back close. When you pray, you hope.
When you hope, you try. Praying will indirectly result in you making even more efforts blindly for saving your bond and eventually it will work out.
Surround yourselves with positive people in healthy
Some of those negative patterns that result in a sabotaging relationship involves friends.
When you are around people who sleep with a different person every other day and who talk about how exciting their life is compared to your boring one, you unconsciously become confused that maybe you’re missing something in life.
Or those who remind you that maybe you haven’t explored the sea yet and settled too early.
Instead, we should hook up with a faithful community where marriage is valued and there is a widespread support for making yours work by reminding you of all the perks of having a loyal partner.
Act as if your mate’s happiness is more important than your own
Putting your spouse’s needs first nurtures trust, gratitude, generosity, and affection.
They will realize that you are willing to make things work and that you genuinely care about them in return to which they will also be willing to make efforts.
Put the relationship ahead of everything
It’s unfortunate, but time has a way of fading away at our priorities. From you being the most important thing in one’s life, work, the family business, the children, aging parents, even shopping, gossiping or drinking can become a priority.
Marriages don’t work well when one partner plays second fiddle to anything. It’s a known fact; the happiest kids are those who’s parents love one another the best.
Start over from the scratch
Ask them out. Make sure you remind yourself why you went out with them in the first time and build from there. When did you last talk for hours face-to-face, held hands at a movie, or smooched behind a plant in the mall?
Get silly about each other. If you don’t feel like it, do it anyway to save your marriage, this will indirectly remind you exactly why you chose the person.
Stop taking your partner and your relationship for granted
Say “thank you” when they make you breakfast. Celebrate obscure anniversaries that you think don’t matter anymore. Tell them how much they mean to you and how you want to keep them in your life.
Spend your free time with them. Pay attention to the little things they do and act like someone who really values the relationship.
You can’t afford it? Believe me, it’s cheaper than divorce! Most counseling sessions simply involves a few sessions to get the communication flowing again.
A willingness to talk instead of taking any action in that context sends a hugely positive message to your partner.
Follow the counseling with an action plan
Just like a personal fitness challenge, counseling comes with homework and an action plan over time. Draw up the schedule, ask friends you trust to help you, and then follow through. When both parties take responsibility, anything becomes possible.
Change the patterns
Do you usually come home angry? If so, stop the car a block away and think about it first and cool yourself down. Do you always fight when something doesn’t go as you planned? Try agreeing with your partners decisions and supporting them 100%.
Some problems in relationships can be tackled as a couple: Not spending enough kid-free time together? Call a babysitter. Prioritizing screen-time over quality time? Kindly escort your cell phone out of the bedroom.
Other problems are a lot harder to solve. Below, marriage therapists share eight weighty relationship problems that just can’t be fixed.
1. You have contempt for each other.
Make no mistake: If left unchecked, finger-pointing, sarcasm and contempt will chip away at the foundation of your marriage, said Bonnie Ray Kennan, a psychotherapist based in Torrance, California. (Contempt is so bad, renowned marriage researcher John Gottman has identified it as the single best predicator of divorce.)
“This kind of behavior creates a culture of disconnect,” Ray Kennan explained. “If one or both partners are unwilling to soften the marital conversation and stop fighting, the problem will get worse until there is no coming back.”
2. Your partner is needlessly argumentative.
There will be times when your opinion on an issue is so starkly different from your spouse’s, you’re downright shocked. Let it be and agree to disagree. As a couple, you need to recognize that no one wins when one of you always has to be right, said relationship coach Lisa Schmidt.
“It’s a problem if one or both partners provoke arguments and then look for reasons to not forgive the other,” she said. “What makes it worse is when the inability to forgive is followed by a refusal to discuss the issue further.”
3. There’s chronic infidelity.
Being in a relationship with a serial cheater is nothing short of exhausting. The relationship can be repaired, but only if the unfaithful partner is honest about what happened and fully prepared to leave the affair behind. If not, heartbreak is inevitable, said Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and the author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love.
“People vary in how willing they are to put up with this,” she said. “Many eventually give up on trying to fix the relationship; they simply decide they have had enough broken promises. They realize that enough is enough.”
4. Your partner is distant or secretive about where they go when you’re not around.
While time apart is essential in any relationship, what your partner does with their free time shouldn’t be some great mystery. There’s a difference between privacy and secrecy, said psychologist Susan Heitler.
“Too much secrecy can leave you feeling abandoned emotionally as well as physically, even when your partner is home,” she said. “A marriage needs sharing and openness.”
5. You have incompatible sex drives.
Don’t shortchange yourself: For most people, a mutually fulfilling sex life is incredibly important in a long-term relationship. That’s exactly why you should establish your sexual compatibility early on, Heitler said.
“If your spouse has zero interest in sharing sexual pleasures but you treasure your sexuality, your partner might end up feeling less interesting to you. And you may begin to feel that a marriage without sex is unacceptable. “
6. Your partner pushes you away.
We all have attachment styles that affect our behavior in relationships. If you feel comfortable being close and intimate, but your partner has an avoidant and dismissive attachment style, it’s going to be difficult for you to bridge that gap, said Marni Feuerman, a couples therapist based in Boca Raton, Florida.
“It can be maddening to be with someone who is highly avoidant,” she said. “In fact, it can turn a normally calm and self-assured person into a bundle of neediness.”
She added: “It chips away at your self-esteem to be with someone who shows you no affection or compliments, engages in mechanical sex and has no desire for closeness with you.”
7. Your partner is truly a narcissist.
If your partner truly has narcissistic personality disorder (as opposed to someone with narcissistic traits), maintaining your relationship is going to be an uphill battle, said Carin Goldstein, a marriage and family therapist based in Sherman Oaks, California.
“It is not uncommon for the narcissistic partner to sometimes throw a bone here and there, giving the other partner hope that they’re finally beginning to evolve in a way that will save the relationship,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s usually just crumbs. Most of the time, they criticize you for making their life miserable.”
8. You can’t open up to each other.
You need to feel comfortable laying bare your problems and frustrations with your partner. It’s problematic if one of you prefers to keep your emotions bottled up, said Marie Land, a psychologist based in Washington, D.C.
“If you’re not expressing your feelings, you may start to feel anxious or disappointed in the relationship,” she said. “You don’t want to end up distancing yourself from your partner, giving up on them prematurely, or feeling straight up depressed about the state of the relationship. That’s exactly how you’ll feel if one or both of you don’t express what you’re feeling.”
Couples are made in heaven; they meet each other on earth; start a life and try to live happily ever after. That is the general idea of a marriage, but not everyone is this fortunate.
Many people struggle to keep their marriages afloat. They fight tooth and nail to keep their relationship going. To some people, their marriage is all they have, and it’s hard for them to break away even when the other partner isn’t even trying to save the relationship. What should one do in such a case to save a marriage?
The first thing you need to do to save a marriage is to assess your situation, if it were a loving marriage that has gone down to drain and you are the only one realizing this, then know that you will be the only one to try and save this marriage. If your partner doesn’t even realize that they are sinking the ship, they won’t help save it either.
So when you know that you are the only one trying, instead of asking yourself, how to save your marriage from divorce, you should ask yourself, how to save your marriage even if your spouse is checked out and another good question would be, do I want to save this marriage ?
Here are some great tips that you can apply to your sad reality and change the whole game of your marriage and create a win-win situation.
How to save a marriage when only one is trying
1. Ask why do I want to save it
The first step is to ask, why do I want to change this? Why do I want to save this ? Why do I need to save a marriage from doom? You need a clear answer to this question, what is your reason.
- Is it because you took vows to stay married till death does you apart?
- Is it because you can not deal with an ugly divorce?
- It is because of your kids?
- Or is it simply because you love your partner too much to let them go?
- This list of reasons will keep you motivated to put more effort when you feel down and discouraged.
Recommended – Save My Marriage Course
2. Take your focus away from the problems in your marriage
How to save a marriage that is falling apart? The answer is, quit focusing on negative points. Stop talking about this altogether, to yourself, to others and to your spouse. You might think it is like being an ostrich who buries itself in the sand to avoid danger but trust the logic of this; it truly works.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Quit discussing the issues with your partner (It doesn’t help)
- Quit telling them where they are wrong (It only fuels the fire)
- Quit advising them to do things differently (They’d only drift apart more)
- Quit the blame game with your spouse (Nothing good comes out of blaming)
- Stop giving your family and friends a rundown of all your fights and arguments.
When you start letting go of the problems and negative points, you start focusing on what’s good, what’s positive and enhance that. Here’s what you can do every time you start getting depressed at the problems.
- Start by making a list of things to be thankful for in your marriage.
- Start humming your favorite song.
- Start listening to a song that reminds you of the early days of your marriage.
- Run an errand that you have been putting off to distract yourself.
- Give your partner a call just to say, “I am thinking of you.”
- Calm yourself and take deep breaths.
Self-care leads to positivity, and it will start to show in your relationship. Value yourself more than these negative thoughts.
Stop asking yourself, how to save your marriage when you are the only one trying, and start acting on the plan that you have devised with effective ways on how to save a marriage when only one is trying.
Also watch: 7 Most Common Reasons for Divorce
3. Take a u-turn
Your worried tantrums and your clinginess can drive your partner away from you. Stop doing that and take a U-turn.
So, how to save your marriage alone? Start reasoning with yourself; stop thinking about the abandonment that you might feel looming near you.
Instead, start focusing on becoming the person your partner loved and married. Bring your partner on board again to get your marriage work again; these will make them notice you more and value you more.
- Arrange dates
- Unexpected loving texts and calls
- Cook together to keep things light
- Play a song that brings back old memories of love and intimacy
- Hug a lot (This releases endorphins and make a person relax)
- Communicate better
- Cuddle and watching movies that you once loved.
- Plan intimate massages
- Keep reminding them you love them and miss them
- Texts are great, but love letters are even better
- Hold hands more
- Plan for walks and long drives.
- Arrange candlelit settings to encourage intimacy.
It must feel like a lot, to save a marriage, but given time and effort to a broken relation heals a lot.
The causes of marriage failures
Marital disorder leads to divorce and the divorce cases are increasing day by day. Hence this is the high time to examine the real causes of this dilemma. On scrutiny of most of the divorce cases we can found that there were no valid reasons behind it. It is also pertinent to mention here that in most of the cases of divorce a mere counselling can solved it amicably. But in some cases, we can find valid and genuine marital problems. The list of the main causes is too big and few of them are-
- Extra marital affairs or infidelity is the crucial one.
- Infertility issues,
- lack of money,
- lack of intimacy and equality,
- constant arguing on unrealistic expectations,
- at last but not the least, family relationships with in-laws, parent, siblings, children and step-children.
How to fix a Broken Marriage
In most of the cases of divorce we can see the ignorance of marital relations. In my view, a pre-marriage/relationship counselling to be enacted without further delay. While counselling them try to educate the important factors that contribute to a satisfying marriage such as; trust, love, attention, listening each other, commitment, patience, tolerance, respect, honesty, generosity, the ability to see other’s view point, willingness to forgive others, the ability to compromise, and constructive management of arguments/disagreements. Those who have a fair knowledge on these, they will never be quarrelling each other.
However, it may be very difficult for couples to restore their broken marriage relations to a satisfying one when they drift apart. Failing marriage is the worst thing and a big catastrophe. Yet some of the following may help to recover a failing marriage such as;
- at the very least, try to identify the real causes of a broken marriage as it is important to fix one.
- thinking back the times that you had fallen in love and believe that still you are loving each other can really help in certain extent to lift your spirits and heal your broken marriage.
- To be patient with your partner and listen to your partner also try to understand what they want.
There could be hope yet.
Bob Marley once said, “Everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” Marley may have been a total womanizer, but he’s got a point. In long-term, truly intimate relationships, some level of betrayal and hurt is almost inevitable—whether your partner lies about quitting smoking or has a full-blown affair. So perhaps true love isn’t about finding someone worth suffering for, but rather finding a relationship that’s worth putting in the effort to repair.
“You’re not doomed to split because you’re facing a specific issue,” says Samantha Burns, a licensed mental health counselor, relationship counselor, and dating coach. “Certain issues are more challenging to overcome, but the success or failure of the relationship is determined by how you cope with the issue.”
Here are some signs that the two of you can still work things out.
1. You’re Still a Team
Regardless of who caused or contributed more to the problem, successful couples approach these hurdles as a team.
“For instance, ‘Even though you bought that car without my permission and I’m super pissed, now we have to figure out how to get out of debt,’” says Burns. This is what she refers to as the “we factor.” These couples are able to keep the big picture in perspective and realize they love each other, even when they don’t like each other’s actions.
“Certain issues are more challenging to overcome, but the success or failure of the relationship is determined by how you cope with the issue.”
2. You Both Take Responsibility
Obviously, it’s not your fault if your partner cheats on you. That being said, it is important in that situation (or any other) to look at all contributing factors on both sides. Perhaps your partner has commitment or impulse control problems. Or, maybe you’ve been emotionally distant.
“Oftentimes, rebuilding trust can’t happen until each partner acknowledges his or her role, whether active or passive, in the bigger problems that led to the betrayal,” says Burns. “Taking responsibility for the distance and chasms in the relationship is key for the couple to create and define a new stronger, more committed future together.”
Whatever the case, Burns emphasizes that it’s vital to practice introspection. If you have a situation where no one is willing to admit they’re wrong, the problem is likely to repeat itself one way or another.
RELATED: 9 Rules Happy Couples Follow When They Fight
3.You Haven’t Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
This is a biggie, and the reason some say love conquers all. If you and your partner still love each other and are capable of showing it, your relationship has a greater chance of surviving even the most devastating trespasses.
“[Successful couples] are attuned to each other’s love languages, which are the ways in which each partner most prefers to receive love,” says Burns. “This makes it easier to resolve conflict and feel connected again, because you’re saying, ‘I love you,’ in a way that really resonates with your partner.”
Whether it be words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service, or physical touch, learn each other’s love language and utilize it daily—especially when the road gets tough.
“Taking responsibility for the distance and chasms in the relationship is key for the couple to create and define a new stronger, more committed future together.”
4. You Have External Support
Our current social media climate makes it so easy to compare ourselves to others (#relationshipgoals), and swipe right or left on any potential mate. At the sight of any flaw or betrayal, we’re expected to move on and find someone better. There are just so many options, after all!
“These days, especially for women who pride themselves on being independent and powerful, there’s a lot of shaming that goes on for staying in a relationship where the man cheats,” says Burns.
If you’re trying to mend things with your S.O., it’s helpful to be surrounded by friends and family who are open and willing to listen to your feelings, rather than those who make negative comments or encourage you to leave your partner.
RELATED: Do These 9 Things And You’ll Never Need Couples’ Therapy
5. You Both Want It to Work
After all, the relationship isn’t going to fix itself.
“If you have tried to straightforwardly address your partner’s reluctance and resistance, but he or she denies any responsibility for his or her actions, refuses to change or invest the energy into working through it, and is unwilling to put in the effort or go to therapy, it might be time to walk away,” says Burns.
While almost any issue can be resolved if the above factors are aligned, it is important to acknowledge that there is one problem that cannot be remedied: any abuse, physical or mental, should never be tolerated. Yes, people do change these behaviors, but it’s not worth the risk to wait around and hope that it happens.
Getting into a marriage is usually the easy part. While advertisements and movies make a big deal out of proposals and getting engaged, those are the periods where you get to know the other person well and really fall in love with them. Once all of that is over, you’re facing a commitment with another person that is supposed to last for the rest of your lives.
The big question is, what do you do if something goes wrong? How do you recover when the foundation of your marriage has been shattered? (Read: 8 Signs Your Wife Might be Having an Affair)
There are thousands of self-help books on what you should do when your marriage is in trouble, but with these ten steps you might be able to get a few ideas without spending any money.
There is no replacement for what a couple’s therapist can do for a relationship, but you’ll find throughout these steps that the best cures for an ailing marriage are simple honesty and the desire to work things out.
- Acknowledge the Problem. This seems like an obvious step, but you would be surprised at how many couples actively avoid it. Has there been a loss of passion and intimacy? Do you find yourself getting angry with your spouse for seemingly no reason, and arguing with them more than you are affectionate? It might be time for you both to sit down and start being honest. Be open about the fact that there is a problem, because it goes a long way toward finding and fixing it.
- Commit to Change. Once you are both aware of the problem and ready to face reality, it’s time to commit to change. Just making the simple pledge to be a better partner, or to make up for mistakes in the past, will mean something when it’s said with honesty. It’s not enough to just apologize and try to soothe away any pain that you have caused. You are not dealing with the underlying problem, but rather trying to cover it up. Apologies won’t fix your marriage – change will.
- Let Go of Fear. Many of the couples who face problems in their marriage are actually facing fear. It’s either the fear of one partner leaving another, a fear of being cheated on, a mutual fear of raising a child together, or a fear of being “stuck” forever with one person. If you want the marriage to work, you have to let go of those fears, because they will drag your marriage down. Again, honesty and full commitment are the best policies.
- Embrace Yourselves. If your marriage truly began out of love then it’s time to look at where that love came from, in both sides of the relationship. Your spouse fell in love with you because of who you are. You should think a bit more deeply about what that means. Was it your loveable flaws, your undeniable charm, or was it the emotional journey you’ve been through that brought the two of you together? Or is it a complex combination of all of that? Look at what there is to love about you first so that you can understand your partner and what he or she sees in you.
- Understand Wants and Needs. Wants and needs are two different things. You may want adventure, but you may need security. You may want a higher financial status, but what you really need is respect from friends and family. Examine your desires and figure out which ones are really needs and which are wants. Wants can have a deeper core issue that may cause friction in your marriage. They can deeply affect your relationship with your spouse, because a marriage is a partnership that includes shared goals, hopes, and dreams.
- Find Forgiveness. If the problems in your marriage are caused by a mistake, it might be time to look for forgiveness. Apologizing actually does more for the person apologizing than it does for the person they are apologizing to. An apology may help you to feel as though your partner has forgiven you, but have you forgiven yourself? Not all mistakes are made happily or readily, and when they hurt a marriage, you can both be the victim. Look for ways to find forgiveness, both from your partner and from yourself, after a serious mistake has been made.
- Look for Bridges, Not Cliffs. One error that a lot of couples make during the mending process is to look for warning signs of impending and irreversible damage to the relationship. They mistakenly make mountains out of molehills. A misstated word, or someone forgetting something important, could all be interpreted as malicious slights and lack of caring. Make the effort to look past simple problems that your mind could easily twist into disasters waiting to happen, because if you can’t look past them that is exactly what they turn into.
- No Ultimatums Allowed. Another mistake couples make is the ultimatum; you absolutely cannot put a time frame on when a marriage is going to be “okay.” In fact, the process of healing and rebuilding may go on for years, or even decades. The important thing is that you and your spouse make the effort to stay together and resolve to make the marriage work. If you truly love the person you’re with and want to spend your life with them, then you have to maintain the working parts of the marriage just as you would with a machine.
- Reconnect. Do you remember what it was like to be in love for the first time? Now that you’ve looked at why your partner loves you, and what you’ve been trying to build together, it might be time to rebuild connections that can get lost because of time, new jobs, children, and more. Look for new ways to connect with your spouse.
- A Second First Date. A clever game that some couples play is to go to a bar and attempt to reconnect as if they were strangers. What moves would you use to get your spouse to go out on a second first date with you? Think about ways to intrigue, charm, or excite the person you’re with. If you can do it once, you can do it again (Read: 10 Movies Perfect for a First Date).
Take any of these ten steps that you like and apply them to your marital problems. There is no real order in which they are useful, but you will find that some will naturally lead into another.
Remember that while not every marriage is meant to be, it is important to know that your marriage can work if you want it to. Understand more about what you and your partner are looking for, both from life and from each other, and then move forward from there.
Editor’s Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center, will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question t [email protected].
“She told me she doesn’t love me anymore,” I read in a recent email from a man in obvious distress. “She packed up her things,” he continued, “moved into an apartment, and is threatening a divorce. After twenty years she said she was done with me. She took our kids and left. So I went and got an attorney. I need to protect myself.”
“Yikes,” I thought to myself. “Here is another lost opportunity to possibly save a marriage. Here is a man reacting to a bad situation, making it worse.”
I arranged to speak with the man the next day. Chuck is a thirty-five year old man, father of three, facing a divorce. Like most in his situation, he is panic-stricken. He didn’t see this coming and is now frightened that not only might his marriage be lost, but half his pension, half his estate, and half of everything he has worked hard for over the years. He fears not seeing his children every day, and wonders what his life will be like without his companion. His friends have told him to protect himself with legal counsel.
“She’s really angry with me, partly for good reasons,” Chuck told me. “I haven’t been the kind of husband I ought to be. I drank too much at times and have had a temper problem. I didn’t want it to come to this but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it now. She’s gone, won’t go to counseling, and is talking divorce. Is there anything at all I can do to save the marriage?”
I made it clear to Chuck that I was not an attorney, and would not offer legal advice. However, I had a few thoughts about how to do everything in his power to save his marriage. Filing for a divorce, in the face of his wife’s threats, would probably not help his cause.
In a climate where divorce is common, and marriages stand only a 50/50 chance of survival, many find themselves in an adversarial mode even before reaching divorce court. By the time one mate leaves the home, the adversarial fires are often burning very hot, often propelling the marriage into Divorce Court. The very adversarial, combative atmosphere that may have led to the separation is the one that can put the final nail in the marital coffin.
But, things don’t need to be this way. Here are seven steps I encouraged Chuck to take on how to fix a marriage headed for divorce—none of them easy, and none guaranteed to solve all his marriage problems. All, however, could enhance the possibility of saving his marriage.
First, don’t panic.
Anxiety rarely helps us think clearly. Often, when feeling anxious, we react instead of respond thoughtfully. Our best decisions occur after rest, Godly counsel, and reflection. The wisest man on Earth said, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider; God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
Second, do nothing to harm or injure your mate.
While things don’t look good, sometimes the best action is no action. Stop doing the things that aggravate the situation. Cancel the appointment with the attorney. Don’t do anything that places you in an adversarial role with your mate. Stop doing those things you know irritate your mate. Stopping the hemorrhage saves many lives. Make the decision to do no harm.
Third, listen to your mate.
Your wife left because of things you’ve been doing that hurt her. It is unlikely she came to this decision easily. What has your mate been trying to get across to you? What changes is she desperate for? Seek opportunities to listen to her. Even if you don’t have a formal conversation with her, I suspect there are subtle ways she makes her message known. Listen carefully. Make a list of those things she needs to set out to make the necessary changes.
Fourth, meet your mate at their point of need.
Consider what your mate needs. Some of the things she may be making perfectly clear to you, such as a need for space. Some of her needs may be unspoken, and you’ll need to figure those out for yourself. Perhaps she has a need for respect. Give it to her, even in the midst of being separated. Perhaps she has a need to be valued and treasured. Give it to her, in small but significant ways.
Fifth, become the best version of yourself you can be.
This tragedy is an opportunity for you to remember why your wife fell in love with you. What are the characteristics that made you irresistible twenty years ago? Reflect and resurrect those old qualities. It’s time to again become daring, adventuresome, caring and charming. These qualities won her heart once before; they may do so again.
Sixth, be patient.
Even though you are separated, and fear you will never get a chance to prove you are different, that is not the case. You will have ample opportunities—perhaps in small ways—to show her you are dedicated to change. Letting her know you will wait, and are dedicated to a change process, can be powerfully attracting. Show her, over time, that you are committed to change.
Finally, commit everything to prayer.
The Scripture is clear: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalms 127:1) You must seek the Lord’s guidance and follow his lead. Prayer is your pathway to peace. Prayer not only can change her heart, but yours. Then you can feel the peace of God in your heart and life.
Photo Credit: © GettyImages/fizkes
Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.