10 Tips to Save Your Marriage When it’s in Trouble
It is scary to realize that your relationship is in trouble. You feel like your whole world is caving in. You invested so much time and energy into the relationship and it is devastating to think that it might fall apart.
You might be tempted to shut down or throw in the towel. It’s hard to know where to start. You don’t want to waste energy or time on the wrong things. There is so much advice about what to do next. And you don’t want to choose the wrong things.
The reality is that if you want to save the relationship, you probably can. Every couple has really rough things to work through. It might not be easy, but usually it is worth the trouble. You chose your partner for good reasons and you have already invested so much into its success.
Try these 10 tips to turn things around:
1) Assess the relationship. Which parts are going well and which need some work?
If you have trouble doing this, a good couple’s therapist will help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in the relationship. If your partner won’t go to therapy, you can still use counseling to identify the best areas to work on.
2) Thank your partner for their contribution to the things that are going well in the relationship. Even when things feel like a complete disaster, there are still parts of the relationship that are functioning well.
Giving your partner credit for the work they have put into the relationship, even if you have to look for minor contributions, will give your relationship an immediate boost. Don’t be deterred if your partner is a little suspicious because they aren’t used to getting appreciation from you.
3) For the problem areas, identify three things that you could do to improve things. Focus on little things rather than grand gestures. Choose things that you can be consistently committed to.
It is harder to focus on your contributions to the problems rather than blaming your partner. However, you will have a much bigger impact on improving the relationship if you focus on your part and what you can do to change your behavior. This doesn’t mean letting your partner off the hook, but focusing on their choices is a surefire way to make things worse.
4) Focusing on good relationship habits can give you a quick win in the situation. Choose one or two simple and straightforward things that you could do every single day that would help you and your partner feel connected with one another.
For instance, say good morning and good night, share a non-sexual hug and kiss, or check-in about their day. These small daily acts can make the relationship feel better and soften some of the rough edges in the relationship.
5) What made you feel close with your partner when you were building the relationship at the beginning? Can you incorporate some of those actions again? Maybe you shouldn’t have stopped doing the things that built the relationship.
Why do we stop doing the things that made the relationship feel good? It is the typical course of events, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense that we let the best parts of the relationship fade over time.
6) Change your mindset to look for the ways your partner’s opinions have helped you grow as a person. In their heart, they probably want both of you to be happy. Understanding that both of you want good things in the relationship often helps strengthen your connection and reduce conflict.
Sometimes it’s hard to see your partner’s good intentions. You might need to imagine that they are well-meaning. It is always helpful to give them the benefit of the doubt.
7) Talk with your partner about the state of the relationship. Plan a meeting when you are both relaxed and rested so it has the best chance of being productive. You will need to manage your feelings so you don’t become defensive when they have some complaints about you. Identify one or two things each of you can do to improve the relationship. Then, have a follow up meeting to discuss how your efforts worked.
Pro Tip: focus on being genuinely curious about how your partner feels. Ask questions that help them explain what they are experiencing so you can find solutions that work for both of you.
8) Identify the ways that you have hurt your spouse or they have felt let down. Most relationships have experienced some relationship injuries. You may need to make some repairs to build goodwill between the two of you. You may be arguing about the trivial details of life because you have unrepaired relationship injuries.
It is tempting to focus on the ways your partner has let you down or hurt you in the relationship. If you do, you will continue the current course. Now is not the time to try to convince them to make up for the ways they have hurt you. Hopefully, that will naturally happen as you improve the relationship.
9) Ask for help even if you don’t think you need it. That help could come from a well-trained couple’s therapist or a trusted wise friend. Getting good advice can often give you the insight you need to turn things around.
When we are in the middle of a crisis, it is very difficult to be objective. An outside perspective really can help you see what is currently hidden from you.
10) Sometimes we seek assistance from the very people who can threaten the relationship. Choose someone who is wise but can also be neutral in their opinion and won’t cross any relationship boundaries that would make the situation worse.
It is not uncommon for an affair to start between coworkers or friends through innocent discussion of relationship issues. Exercise an extra dose of caution about talking through relationship issues with someone who you might develop feelings for.
When couples are struggling, they usually just try harder at the same old things. If your relationship is in trouble, now is the time to do something different so you can make long-lasting real changes in the relationship. None of us expect our relationships to be perfect, but we do expect them to grow and change over time. You will probably need to explore new options to save the relationship.