If you have gotten this far in this article and you know, based on everything we’ve gone through so far, that your marriage deserves a second shot, I want to congratulate you. It’s so easy to want to give up when things get tough but as I said above, divorce doesn’t always have to be the answer. There are so many cases (the majority of cases, even) in which a marriage can be saved. It IS possible to reconnect in a loving way, it IS possible to rebuild that complicity and that bond, and it IS possible to fall in love again. You just need to make sure that there is no abuse present, and I cannot stress the importance of this enough. I have seen couples bounce back from the most impossible situations, but mental and physical abuse is not excusable.
Now, let’s say that you want to fix this marriage because you have committed and you know that this marriage has the potential to be incredible fulfilling. You two have built a life together, maybe you have a house and kids already, and you’re willing to do what it takes to repair the damage with your spouse. So where to start?
The first step is to acknowledge and accept that this marriage is broken. If you’re reading this article, it means that you’re already at this step. You’re in a tough spot right now, but we are here to help. We need to make sure that your significant other also acknowledges that the marriage is broken and divorce is looming over your heads if things don’t change. To be on the same page and to be able to move forward, you have to acknowledge where each person is coming from, and to move forward together, you have to accept what happened. This way you can work together as a team and define the proper solutions based on the situation. It is helpful to think about is less as “You VS me” and more as “It’s us VS a problem.” You will also need to give each other space and time to collect your thoughts, explore what you want to say, and heal. Once you’re able to go through your healing process, it will be much easier to clearly express your feelings.
When things are particularly rough, we give our clients a tool that is called a Year of Patience, where you spend a year (or any predetermined amount of time) living a life independent of your partner. It allows you to see what life is like without each other. We often get so caught up in the day to day reality that we feel like our partner is to blame for all of our problems when in reality, some issues and frustrations have nothing to do with them. If you remove him or her from the equation, you can put things into perspective. This helps you to see that life without them isn’t necessarily better. In fact, in many cases, it feels worse! Far too often I see couples pull the plug too early. They think, “Am I headed for divorce,” and they end things before they properly analyze the situation. In some cases, people will try for a while and then give up because it’s hard. The thing is, marriage takes work! That’s part of the commitment. It isn’t always going to be easy. I will tell you this: It is much easier to repair a marriage while you’re still together than if you’ve already divorced.
The next thing we need to explore is healthy communication. We have written an extensive article on how to rebuild communication in a marriage, and I encourage you to read it by clicking here. Communication is key to a successful marriage, and so is setting realistic expectations. If you two have had a couple of years of hard times together, it is not realistic to expect your marriage to be fixed after a week apart, especially if there is no proper communication! A realistic expectation would be to work on yourselves independently, then little by little, start to date and get to know each other again. In addition to that, make sure you aren’t making assumptions about your partner’s expectations. Again: communicate, communicate, communicate!
When you begin dating again, you have to work on rebuilding passion and intimacy. The best way to do this is to approach this as if you were dating each other for the first time. In all the years that have passed, you have both grown, so I encourage you to work on rediscovering each other like you did when you first met. Have fun and come up with new experiences to share. You don’t need to be doing anything over the top, but challenge yourself to incorporate a sense of freshness and romance into your daily lives. We have to work on making every day life feel special. Share positive moments in your every day activities (and in the bedroom) so that you can both start to associate your marriage with positive emotions over time.
As we are nearing the end of this article, I want to give you a list of some bullet points that will set you out on a path towards success in love. Each relationship is so unique, so I encourage you to reach out to us for one on one coaching, but these will help you to get started!
▪ Use constructive criticism and pay attention to the way you speak to your partner. Say, “I love you,” “Thank you,” “I understand,” “ I am proud of you” “We don’t spend time together like we used to.” Avoid phrasing such as; “You just never have any time for me, do you!” Avoid starting your sentences with, “You always…” “You never,” or “You’re a…”
▪ Practice mirroring. When your partner is expressing a concern or their unhappiness about something, repeat what they say back to them so that they see that they’re being heard. “So what you’re saying is that…” This way, they see that you understand and that their words are being received.
▪ Understand the importance of space. Some people need it more than others, and some people think that it’s a bad sign if their partner needs some time to themselves regularly. It’s actually very healthy to have alone time. It allows you to focus on your own projects and goals, and on taking care of yourself. When you’re together, it’s even better because you have the opportunity to miss each other.
▪ Don’t forget to date. One of the most common things that break a marriage apart is when the two partners don’t make time for each other. They neglect their bond and don’t do anything to make each other feel special anymore. There should always be time for the other person, even if it’s just having your coffees together in the morning before work!
▪ Touch more. A lot of couples stop touching long before they separate. If things have gotten really bad, reintroduce touch little by little. Sit closer together on the couch, touch your partner’s arm when you’re talking. When two people touch a chemical is released. It’s called oxytocin, aka “the bonding chemical.”
▪ Make sure things are fair. Responsibilities should be balanced so that no resentment can be harbored. Speaking of resentment, make sure that you’re both open and communicative when things are wrong. Pent up feelings are poisonous!
▪ Focus on recognizing your own flaws and making improvements. Trying to make your partner change makes them become more defensive and resistant. Both of you must become better to save a failing marriage.
▪ Another thing that you can do when you want to repair a damaged relationship is to reintroduce humor! I know it might sound a little odd, but think about it. Doesn’t it feel good to laugh with your partner and to see them smiling? Now is the ideal time to work on creating a positive environment and de-escalating the situation.
▪ Make a list of what you feel needs to change and have your partner do that same. Share your lists and come up with solutions together.
▪ Take a moment every day to remember something that brought you joy with your spouse. Remind yourself of the good times. It is human nature to focus on the negative, so don’t let it stamp out all the good things you shared and continue to share.