How to Fix a Marriage that is Falling Apart
Learning how to fix marriage is an incredibly nuanced and challenging endeavor. But it is completely worth the effort. While it is different for every couple, there are certain principles that happier couples tend to do well at.
Many ask “can I fix my marriage by myself?” The answer is probably not, but following these principles will likely help you and your spouse change what is necessary to fix your marriage.
How to fix a marriage: Communication.
You’re not going to solve any problems by remaining silent. If you haven’t already, don’t let it get to a point where you are just roommates awkwardly occupying the same space.
The objective here is simple: you have to say something. How you do it is important, but wrong is still better than not at all. As in anything else in life: you will fail multiple times before you are successful. Here
Learn how to “complain without blame”
The phrase complain without blame comes from John Gottman, founder of The Gottman institute. What this means is it’s okay to have a grievance with your partner.
It’s okay to air that grievance. But instead of looking at it as “they did this to me, and they are awful because of it.” Understand how and why you feel negatively.
When you approach your spouse, talk about how you feel, don’t blame then for making you feel that way. Just talk about it. If you open with feeling hurt, rather than accusing your spouse of hurting you, it opens up the door for a healthier discussion.
Learning how to fix a marriage requires objective analysis of your own behavior. It is so easy and convenient to blame your spouse for your problems. Step back, reel in your emotions, and find out what’s really going on.
Sometimes they may have something to do with them, but many of our problems are things we need to work through. When you are upset with you spouse, before speaking to them, take a while and think deeply about why you’re upset.
Is it because he didn’t do the dishes, and nothing more? Probably not. Most likely there is something about you that needs him to do the dishes. Maybe acts of service is your love language.
If that is the case, then you need to explain how him doing the dishes for you shows you that he loves you, rather than telling him he’s lazy and never does the dishes.
Learn how to empathize
One of the most important things you can learn in your marriage is to empathize. Empathy is so crucial to a healthy relationship, it can literally make or break it.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. You are going to hurt your spouse’s feelings at some point. Probably more frequently than you realize.
When your spouse tells you that you hurt them, put yourself in their position. If they feel hurt, they are hurt. Acknowledge it, and validate their reasons. Then apologize.
Learn to apologize
If you’re looking for how to fix your marriage when trust is broken, a good place to start is with an apology. A good apology is much more than saying you’re sorry. There are four steps to a proper apology
- Express remorse for your transgression. Say “I’m sorry” and say it sincerely.
- Take Responsibility. Accept that you caused your spouse some hurt, whether it was intentional or not. This is when empathy kicks in.
- Make Amends. Offer to fix the problem, or do work on improving the behavior that warranted the apology.
- Follow through. When you say “It won’t happen again” or you’ll work on it, make sure that you follow through. Empty promises will make the situation worse than before.
If you begin to apologize with these four steps, trust will slowly build-up to where it once was.
Learn how to disagree (instead of fight)
This is when learning how to analyze your behavior and be objective comes in handy. When we fight, we often let our emotions get the better of us. This usually does not lead to the best possible outcome. And it also leaves resentments in its wake.
Married couples disagree. There really is no way around it. But how happy couples handle disagreements is different than the way unhappy couples do. I’ve been both.
Happy couples have disagreements and treat them as such. Unhappy couples fight. You could say that happy couples fight efficiently. But they take emotion as far away form the fight as they can.
The look at the situation as objectively as possible, assume responsibility for their part, and move forward. There is no resentment, hurt feelings, and best of all, no one said something in anger they wish they hadn’t.
I do want to be clear, I’m not saying that you are an unhappy couple if you fight with emotion, but the more you can remove it from your disagreements, the happier your marriage will be.
How to fix a marriage: working on yourself
Take care of yourself
We always hear in a marriage that you need to put your spouse first. And while it is incredibly important to compromise and make sure your spouse’s needs are met, it is also important to take care of your own well-being.
There are three components to any marriage. You, as an individual, your spouse, as an individual, and both of you as a unit. The three act in unity to create a happy, healthy marriage.
If the unit is unhappy, both individuals are unhappy. If one individual is unhappy, the unit will be less happy. You are 50% of your marriage, your happiness matters a ton. Make sure you matter.
Care about your spouse’s happiness
Caring about your spouse’s happiness is important for the same reason taking care of your self is. If your spouse isn’t happy, your marriage will not be happy.
Many of us would say “of course I care about their happiness,” but continue to do selfish acts that are only in our interest. One example is always having to be right during an argument. It seems small, but it’s little things like this that show your partner you care.
When are are hellbent on the fact that you are right and your partner is wrong, you are not concerned about their well-being. We’re human, it happens to all of us (even in healthy relationships).
Our ego wants us to be right so bad, that it doesn’t allow someone else to be correct. Remember that there are two perspectives and both have truth to them. Care about your partner’s truths, and that will show them that you care about their happiness.
A positive attitude can work wonders for yourself and for your marriage. A negative attitude will be the downfall of your marriage. I always used to think I was a pretty positive person, and I have been. But I was also a “realist.”
Living in reality is important, but positivity can alter the reality of what is possible. Both in your life and in your marriage. The second you say, “I can’t see this working out (even though I want it to) is when things will just get worse.
Trust that your rough patch will get better. Take the action you need to take to make it better. Increase your positive thinking, and tell your spouse about it. Share with them positive thoughts. It will eventually catch on. If you are both positive, there really is no stopping you.
Forgiveness is the final piece in the puzzle in fixing a marriage. And it is possible to forgive just about anything. Especially when it is not a repetitive behavior.
If you don’t know how to forgive, your spouse has no room for error. That’s an extreme statement, but it’s true. The better you are at forgiveness the larger room for error.
People make mistakes, and it is crucial for them to feel okay with making mistakes (to a degree). The sweet spot in your marriage is up to you.
But forgiveness is as much for your own peace of mind as it is for your spouse. When you are able to let go of things that happened in the past, your marriage can move forward, through almost anything you WANT it to ( including infidelity).
Forgiveness is a choice you make. You don’t have to say, he/she cheated I’m done. You can choose to find out what caused them to do it. That doesn’t make the action okay, but it might be understandable.
You can forgive and move on. You can forgive and still decide to leave. But at the end of the day, your marriage doesn’t have a shot of being healthy if you can’t learn to forgive.
Note* Excessive affairs, addiction, abuse and anger have no place in a marriage. If the behavior doesn’t change, it’s safe to say you can get out. You can forgive, but you don’t have to stay if these are severe problems.
Improve physical intimacy
Many suffering marriages have the side affect of a lack of intimacy. But it’s not just with sex, it’s also with affection in general. Having a good sex life is incredibly important, but it is not quite as important as your intimacy outside the bedroom.
Studies have shown that cuddling in particular is incredibly beneficial to one’s heath. Cuddling releases oxytocin, which is basically a feel-good hormone.
For this reason, cuddling with your spouse on a regular basis is a great way for you two to connect again. Make sure to do it often, and for reasons other than to have sex (bonus if it leads there). Kissing and hugging often also goes a long way in help with reconnection.