If you are asking how to save your marriage it is likely you know your relationship is in trouble, the earlier you recognize this the better, it is always easiest to fix when the first cracks appear.
Most marriages go through rough patches and statistically most are saved if at least one spouse is actively trying to save the marriage. It takes changes to your communication and giving both of you a fresh look at your marriage. It takes effort, but it can bring you both back to a stronger place than you started.
If your instinct is to save the marriage it means you feel there is something worth saving. That instinct to fight for the marriage means that the core of the relationship, love, is still alive. Even when it feels like this love is one-sided, it’s much easier to rekindle those embers than you might think.
Keeping a marriage alive is a lot like keeping a garden alive. You can plant amazing flowers admire them and water them for a few months and they will usually be fine, but if you want them healthy and blooming for years they will need a little bit more attention, so does a marriage.
I’m going to go over the broad strokes of what you can do to save your marriage. Just remember that every marriage is unique and you’ll need to take everything in context with your relationship. If you’d like to take a moment to tell me exactly what you’re going through I can help be more specific.
How Do You Know If a Marriage is Worth Saving?
You know your marriage is worth saving if both of you want to save it. I know sometimes it can absolutely seem like your spouse has completely checked out and doesn’t care anymore – but once we do a little digging you might be surprised.
Underneath everything else, there’s still the couple who fell in love and got married.
Love and respect are at the core of a good marriage. If these still exist at any level then the work to save the relationship is worth it.
It may be that you have been together years and have put all your effort into building a home, into raising kids, into keeping afloat. Busy lives, jobs, kids, extended families, hobbies, other people, all get the way of focusing on the two of you.
Life gets in the way of love.
A marriage is worth saving if there is love at the core of it. If you have spent time building a life around it and forgotten to look after the relationship you built everything around it is time to stop some of the busyness and look after the love.
I don’t think all marriages should be saved. Some become so toxic it’s best for you both to just call it quits. Personally, I think on some level you already know if you want to save it. There are some signs a marriage cannot be saved but the vast majority don’t fall anywhere near this in my experience.
I think a marriage is worth saving if you want to save it.
Can Most Marriages be Saved?
There are statistics that tell us about the divorce rate in America. According to the CDC/NCHS statistics between 2002-2018, there are 3 marriages per 1000 population that end in divorce. Divorce rates are actually falling.
Part of this is because there is more help available and part of this is possibly related to the fact that both men and women are finding divorce to be less acceptable.
This starting point is good, more people stay married than get divorced and increasingly both men and women have a belief in marriage.
On a personal note, I would add that the majority of people who seek help with their marriage do save it. It is those who don’t bother, who do not care if it is saved who let go.
I do personally believe any marriage can be saved no matter what you’ve been through. So how do you get started?
How Can I Save my Marriage by Myself?
All of the advice I have given to date, although it sees you taking the initiative and putting things in place, requires both of you to be on board. A relationship involves two people and if only one is doing all the running it is unbalanced and will eventually topple over anyway. Fixing it all by yourself is nearly impossible.
That said: it only takes one of you to start the process. The vast majority of the people I speak to feel like they’re the only ones still fighting to keep their marriage alive. Your first goal is getting you both on the same page.
The only exception I can see to this is where you are in a position where you recognize that your partner has been taking all the load in the marriage to date and that you see that it’s your turn to do some of the runnings before they collapse under the weight.
For instance, if your partner is always the one saying I love you, carrying all the emotional stress, supporting you through tough times, if your partner is the only one putting the effort into keeping your relationship fresh and exciting and you simply go along for the ride, this wears thin after a while.
Sometimes they will decide it is no longer worth the effort and just withdraw, then it slowly wilts because neither of you is looking after it. Sometimes you will start to hear things like, ‘you don’t appreciate me anyway’ or ‘you never notice me’ kind of comments. if you are hearing this it is time to sit up and pay attention. Everyone likes to feel loved and a bit of attention never goes amiss.
How often do you hear people who have had an affair say they were flattered by the attention the other person gave them, that they felt invisible and irrelevant in the marriage. Simple things make all the difference, so if you are recognising any of these danger signs then please step in and you can save it by yourself by paying attention, showing the love you feel, and balancing out that load.
It Takes Two To Tango
Two people are inside this relationship, and two people really need to work together to keep it alive and well.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be the one who recognizes that the marriage is in trouble and starts to speak about it, say how you feel, and ask the other person how they feel. You can be the one who takes responsibility for opening-up and asking your spouse to make things better by working with you.
This is really about creating an invitation for the two of you to work together. If you do nothing and just wait to see what happens spontaneous fixes rarely happen, it takes effort care and love to make things better.
How Do You Save a Marriage That Is Falling Apart?
The fact that you know how to save the marriage is the best start. This might seem like common sense, but many try by trying to pretend that everything is alright, by keeping quiet and not saying how they really feel, or by trying to just make do with something half broken.
You will save your marriage if you give it the time and attention together that it needs. The relationship between the two of you is all that matters. The first step is to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and says and how they live. You two will save the marriage because you will suit yourselves and design your lives the way you want them.
Communication is Key
This is one of the easiest things to say and we all know it’s true but it is is the hardest thing to get right in a marriage or any relationship. If there is one thing to learn about how to save a marriage it is how to communicate with each other.
There are a few things I would say from my experience with couples that are successful in saving their marriage, even those who have been married for years who hit trouble, and most of it is about how we talk to each other.
There are a few things to get right the first is to listen to each other. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and often when one or both partners are in a conflict neither feel they are being listened to. A simple fact is that you cannot talk and listen at the same time.
So a few things you can try:
- Set aside a time in the day, when you are both relaxed and just talk about your day. It might be you agree one will go first, so you both get a chance.
- Set aside time to talk about your relationship. It is also important to limit the time on this so you both get a break from the intensity. You might even agree to talk for an hour then leave it.
- Sometimes just sit quietly together so it decreases the pressure and is a relaxing time rather than pressurized time
- Paying attention when someone is talking is underestimated we all need to feel we are listened to and heard
- It may be you agree not to talk about the relationship for an evening or a day, and you just enjoy being together, park it up.
Falling in Love Again
It would be lovely to think we could all wind the clock back to when we first met and it was all about passion and missing each other, everything was all about being together and fun. All about the falling in love.
Time changes the shape of relationships, people can grow apart without even realizing this is happening. You can wake up and wonder who the stranger beside you is. You realize you have little in common anymore, you spend little time together and what little time you do spend is either functional or fighting.
Turning the clock back isn’t possible. However, it is possible to actively spend time together enjoying yourselves together and bringing back some of that feeling of fun but you need to agree on how you are going to do that.
It is possible to recreate some of this feeling by setting aside time that is just about the two of you, some couples have ‘date night’ some go away for weekends. I worked with a couple who set up a schedule of activities ranging from playing cards to taking exercise classes and dance classes together, but also agree to two nights when they had time for their own activities.
Re-establishing these small rituals puts the relationship front and center and may help save your marriage.
One successful couple I worked with introduced ‘Friday Present’ the husband in this case bought his wife a wee surprise every Friday. It was handed over during a Friday date which she organized. The presents were most often tiny things, like a packet of sweets or a pair of earrings, often they related to memories of their dating.
the point is when we fell in love it was often about seeing each other, looking forward to seeing each other and doing things together. All this and making some time to recreate the passion, through sex or any other way of connecting is incredibly important in saving the relationship.
For those of you who remember love notes before texts existed, you may have cards and letters from the past stored away where you have lots of little ‘I love you’ notes on cards. Dig them out, or make new ones and plant them somewhere stick them in your spouse’s bag when they go out or to work or on the pillow or the bathroom mirror.
I worked with a couple and the husband started after 23 years of marriage to write a wee note to his wife every morning with her cup of tea, this brought them closer and was one of those small things that saved their relationship. It was simply a small way of paying attention to his wife.
You can get fridge magnets with letters and write notes to each other on the fridge. You can simply write I love you on a post-it note.
Technology… emails are the new love letters. Texts and instant messages are all easy ways to let your spouse know you are thinking of them, it is for more than bring home a pint of milk. It can be easier to use texts as a way of building up the sexual tension, a great way to set a different tone and make home the place they want to be instead of dreading coming home to another row.
Writing to each other. long love letters or short notes by text can all help just to keep the warmth and connection between the two.
Look Forward Not Backwards
When couples ask how do I save my marriage I always ask why they want to save it and what they want the marriage to be like.
These are two really important questions you need to answer. Sometimes it helps to write down the answer to each. Most people have to really think about it and the answers might surprise you.
If you want to want to work out how to save the marriage, it is good to understand why it is worth saving, and what it is you want to save. Part of this is about thinking about all the good things you have now, and about the good things you have shared.
It is also about wanting the same things for a future together. If you can see how it will be and describe that you can start to work to achieve it together. Sometimes one person wants a different thing and not having even talked about it you are both traveling in different directions.
As time changes our relationships its not always a bad thing. Often they are much deeper than when we first fall in love, shared time and experiences, families, loss, hardships successes all these things add to our joint stories. when we remember all these times and we realize just how much we are immersed in the same story it can bring us closer. Sharing the good bits of our past brings us closer spending time on recriminations can wreck a marriage.
A few things that you can do to help you look forward together
- Write down 3 things you are grateful for in your marriage
- Answer the questions why do you want to save your marriage and what do you want it to feel like
- Talk about how you are going to do that
- Do it even if it means compromising
- Celebrate your decision
Give Each Other The Gift of Time
I spoke earlier about communications and listening, if you just don’t talk anymore this is usually because you feel the other person doesn’t care, or if you try to talk it will end in a row.
One way around this is to ask questions and show you are interested in the other person, don’t just wait for them to tell you, they are too busy thinking you don’t care. Then shut up and let the person talk. Actually listen.
You could agree to spend time together doing some things you both like or trying something completely new.
We all need a bit of time on our own, and one way to give the gift of time is to allow your spouse to do things that do not involve you, things they are interested in and you are not.
Don’t Play The Blame Game
A marriage is a choice, you want your spouse to choose to be with you, to be happy with you and its a horrible place to be when everything you talk about is negative, and especially when they always feel they are in the wrong. They are afraid to open their mouths in case they say the wrong thing and they step on yet another landmine and it blows up in their face.
Storing up blame and anger and bringing this out in every small argument is the road to divorce.
One clear rule in how to save your marriage is to stop storing up accusations and blame for the relationship going wrong. One couple I worked with highlighted this for me when it came out that the husband would make notes in his diary of things his wife said that offended him or were ‘wrong’. He would then fetch this diary as evidence of all her wrongdoings and throw them out mid-argument. This was raked over and over and over. Only when this diary was stopped and the old ones burnt were they able to move forward.
If you are the type to store up a list even in your head of all the things your husband said or did over the months and years then ask yourself the question again ‘what do you want the marriage to be like’, Would you choose to go home to someone who had a list of your wrongdoings or do you want to go home to someone who loves you for what and who you are?
If you want to save a marriage where one spouse has cheated for instance if you will never get over this, what are you saving? Picture the marriage you want, and take the actions to get you there. Do you want to live with blame as part of your daily life? Throw it away, if you have to write it down on paper and burn it, or on a stone and throw it into the river, whatever it takes throw it out of your life.
Turn the Volume Down
If you have the kind of marriage where you are yelling at each other all the time, maybe try a whole evening without that. This doesn’t mean silence. Women can withdraw words as a punishment and men tend not to do this. the silent treatment is not how to save a marriage.
Shouting and screaming is really not good for any relationship, is not good for you, the kids, the neighbors, it isn’t nice to go home to. When you picture the marriage you want is it full of screaming? probably not. So create the marriage you want by turning down the volume on the yelling.
Shut Up When You Are Right
It is tempting when you think you are right about something to prove that you are right and then when you prove you are right to keep reminding the other person that you are right.
It is awful to be on the receiving end of this endless ‘I told you so’ so whether mid-argument or in everyday conversation let go of the need to keep reminding the other person how right you were. this is all part of the letting go of anything that causes rows between you.
Say Sorry When You Are Wrong
We have all heard the phrase, love means never having to say you are sorry, well that’s just plain wrong. Saying sorry is one of the biggest things you can do when you love someone. If you are wrong if you have hurt your spouse intentionally or otherwise say sorry.
it is the simplest yet often the most difficult. We all say things we don’t mean, we all have arguments over daft things or do or say things we have not thought through.
if you have a row, and you know you have some blame in that row, no matter at what point, say a simple sorry for losing your temper or for specific things you said and then shut up. Do not say sorry and then qualify that with where they were wrong just say sorry and stop.
This tiny promise to the relationship will bring you so much benefit, it shortens the rows, it quietens the blame game, it keeps things calmer, and it is just the right thing to do.
So, What Kind of Marriage Do You Want?
You will save the marriage when you keep in mind what it is you really want and everything you do works towards that. So if you want a marriage without rows and you find yourself screaming take a breath and stop. If you imagine a marriage where you have fun, plan some fun and do it.
Every day you work towards trying to save the marriage ask yourself are you creating what you want in the future or are you digging a hole for the marriage you have now.
Everything you both do should be the things you imagine yourself doing in the relationship you want. You might write down a short agreement that both of you keep to for a week or a month at a time…until the agreement becomes who you have become as a couple.
Here are 3 prompts to ask yourselves and fill in the answers, keep it visible and live it every day if you can.
- What 3 things are you going to keep doing?
- What 3 things are you going to stop doing?
- What 3 things are you going to start doing?
This a great way of agreeing on what you both want from each other, it can be surprisingly powerful and you might surprise each other by doing most of it and becoming really happy again.
It might be that you decide you have come to the point where a therapist might help you both, and this is always a good decision. Asking for help is never a bad thing to do, professional hep can create a safe space for you to both talk and listen to each other.