When it seems like you’re the only one trying and your spouse does not seem to care, is it still possible to save your marriage?
We’ve gathered some experts’ insights to help you figure out how to fight for and save your marriage alone.
Table of Contents
- Change for the better
- Take responsibility for your emotions
- Seek a therapist who specializes in relational work for individual therapy
- Become aware of your dance
- Recognize if there’s a pursuer/distancer pattern going on
- Learn to regulate your own emotions
- Find outlets for fun and distraction outside of your relationship, without hindering it
- Shift criticism to a gentle start-up
- Shift contempt to appreciation
- Shift defensiveness to accountability
- Shift stonewalling to self-soothing
- Hold your relationship in warm regard, flaws, and all
- See your relationship as an ecosystem
- Get curious about what your partner needs
- Find ways to create a triple win
- Reflect on your part on the relationship dynamics
- It’s not possible to save a marriage alone
- Set a date when to reassess the state of the relationship
- Give your partner space and place your focus on other interests, prioritizing your own fulfillment
- Work on yourself
- Learn how to talk about the problem, not your partner as the problem
- Be willing to compromise with your partner, whether you think it is fair or not
- Go to marriage counseling for one
- Work on overall self-improvement
- Take on a significant challenge
- Develop positive mantras
- Communication is key
- Take responsibility for your emotions
- Reflect on your own needs
- Communicate your needs clearly and positively
- Be calm and manage your temper
- Cultivate your pleasures
- Find the problem
- Remember the good times
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What if my efforts to save my marriage alone aren’t working?
- What other resources can help me save my marriage on my own?
- How can I show my spouse that I’m committed to saving our marriage, even if they are not yet on board?
- How do I know when to stop trying to save my marriage alone and consider other options?
- How can I manage my expectations when trying to save my marriage?
- What are the signs that my efforts to save my marriage alone are making a positive impact?
Dr. Margaret Paul
Psychologist | Author | Relationship Expert | Co-creator, Inner Bonding
All relationships establish a system. Sometimes it’s a healthy system, where each person loves and values themselves, and takes responsibility for their own feelings – and they come together to share the love and support each other.
But often the system is dysfunctional, such as one person trying to control with anger, blame, and criticism, and the other person withdrawing and resisting being controlled.
These people are abandoning themselves, and if they do come together, it’s to get love or avoid pain, rather than to share the love.
Change for the better
If the marriage is falling apart and one person is willing to do their inner work to save it, then what they need to do is work on letting go of their end of the system. When one person changes their end of the system, the whole system changes.
For example, if an angry and demanding person learns how to love themselves and take responsibility for their own feelings, rather than making their partner responsible and then trying to control getting love with anger, the withdrawn person might feel safe enough to re-connect.
If the withdrawn person learns to love themselves and take responsibility for their own feelings rather than shutting down, they might have the courage to be honest with their partner about how their partner’s anger and blame affects them. This can lead to more open communication.
Take responsibility for your emotions
The key to saving your marriage is to learn to love and value yourself and take responsibility for your own feelings, rather than to keep abandoning yourself with anger, withdrawal, resistance, or compliance.
When each person learns how to love themselves, then they can come to each other with love rather than with fear or neediness. There is a huge difference between trying to get love or avoid pain, rather than being available to share the love.
Related: How to Express Your Emotions
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Gottman Trained Couples Therapist |
Owner, Healing Connections
Seek a therapist who specializes in relational work for individual therapy
If your relationship is crumbling, this means your own mental health is being affected. You are likely experiencing anxiety, questioning your worth, and feeling defeated.
Working with a professional that has expertise in relationships can help you identify the role you play in your relationship, the good and the bad that you contribute to it.
They can help you become aware of negative core beliefs and potential attachment trauma that might be taking over your ability to engage in your relationship in a healthy manner. By working on yourself and digging deep, you are beginning to change the steps of that dance.
Become a pseudo expert in attachment styles and learn to identify your own as well as that of your current partner and any previous partners. Attachment is at the core of all relationship issues. We are wired to have strong emotional connections to others, and when we feel disconnected we are wired to reach out and protest.
Understanding the dynamics between partners with varying attachment styles can help you see where the disconnect lies and how it can be repaired. Knowing the attachment style of previous partners can help you identify patterns that you are drawn to.
Become aware of your dance
What do you do that triggers your partner? What do they do that triggers you? What is your reaction when triggered and what is theirs? What is your counterattack and what is theirs? How are we left feeling after a fight?
For example: When my partner doesn’t check-in throughout the day, I feel like he doesn’t care about me. Maybe like I am not a priority, and I begin to feel disconnected.
To reconnect, I sent him a cold text with a critical message. He feels attacked and becomes defensive. He thinks he can’t get it right by me and this triggers frustration and inadequacy. He replies defensively and the fight commences via texts. The fight leaves us feeling even more disconnected, dissatisfied with the relationship, and alone.
Recognize if there’s a pursuer/distancer pattern going on
This where one partner craves more emotional closeness and actively protests when they feel disconnected. The other partner needs more time themselves to be able to process events within and outside of the relationship. They often feel overwhelmed by the pursuer’s demand for connection and shutdown feeling like they aren’t “good enough.”
They shut down not because they don’t care about the pursuer, but because they do and are afraid that they will make things worse if they say or do the wrong thing. It’s a constant push and pull, the more the pursuer pushes the more the distancer pulls away. This leaves both partners feeling frustrated, defeated, alone, and ashamed.
Learn to regulate your own emotions
This is to avoid being reactive and falling back into the old dance. Find techniques that help you self-soothe and manage the natural rollercoaster of emotions that are experienced when a relationship is ailing.
Find outlets for fun and distraction outside of your relationship, without hindering it
Go to the gym, go on bike rides, join your friends for brunch, take a violin class, anything. Create some space for yourself and your interests that are not related to your relationship.
Be mindful that these activities should in no way, post any danger to your relationship. For example, reaching out to former partners or lying to your current partner about your whereabouts is not advised.
After doing your part of the work, it’s important to encourage but not force your partner to consider couples counseling, a couple’s retreat, or any therapeutic service that is geared to helping relationships heal.
You cannot carry the weight of the entire relationship on your own forever, it’s not humanly possible and it’s unfair to you. You deserve to be with someone who believes your relationship is worth fighting for.
Now, at this precise time, your partner might not be ready to pull up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. That’s okay, you can get the two of you started. Eventually, however, they are going to have to get in the trenches with you.
Registered Clinical Counselor
Saving your marriage alone is a difficult task but it can be done! The Gottman Institute has done extensive research around what makes relationships fall apart and what we need to do to change in order to help the relationship thrive.
Here are the four main shifts that you can do to start saving your marriage today!
Shift criticism to a gentle start-up
Criticism refers to verbally attacking someone’s personality or character. When we criticize someone, even when it feels valid, the person responds in defensiveness, and no actual progress is made.
We need to learn to begin a conversation with a soft start-up. This means we talk about how we feel, rather than what we dislike about someone. We talk about behaviors we are struggling to work with, rather than seeing the entire person as a problem.
Finally, see if you can ask a question about why something is or isn’t happening. Get curious! For example, rather than saying “You never take out the garbage, you are so lazy” try shifting it to “I am feeling frustrated that the garbage isn’t being taken out. What can we do to make this happen?”.
Notice how this shift in our language, followed by a question invites growth and discussion in your marriage, rather than shutting it down.
Shift contempt to appreciation
Contempt refers to attacking a person with the intent of hurting them; when we do this, relationships end really fast, even if it’s just happening in our mind!
Even when it may feel forced, saving your marriage is going to require you to start noticing what you appreciate in your partner and pointing it out. This is going to mean stopping yourself from saying hurtful things (in your head as well!) and finding opportunities to say good things.
Examples include pointing out actions you appreciate (thanks for putting your dirty clothes in the hamper) as well as noticing parts of their personality you like “you work so hard for this family”.
If you notice yourself insulting your partner in your head, you need to stop this thought and replace it with something you appreciate instead. The more you do this, the more you will notice the things you appreciate, which goes a long way in rebuilding a relationship.
Shift defensiveness to accountability
When we become defensive, what we are really doing is shutting down our partner’s attempts to work through valid concerns. So for example, if your partner said “you always take things so personally” and you automatically start denying it, you are missing an opportunity to understand and grow from their complaint.
Rather than shutting them down, try taking accountability. This doesn’t mean that you have to deny your own reality, but it does mean that you have to make room for their reality as well. I would follow their complaint up with a question “Okay you are saying that I take things too personally. What’s the impact of this on you? What does this stop you from doing?”.
Rather than denying what your partner is saying, taking accountability for your role in the problems of the relationship allows you to find ways to solve them and move forward in your relationship.
Shift stonewalling to self-soothing
Have you ever been in a fight with your spouse and you just shut down completely? They say something and you ignore them or just make a little “mhmm” but you aren’t actually listening or participating in the conversation anymore? This is what we call Stonewalling and it kills more marriages than you could possibly know!
People stonewall because they are so overwhelmed or upset by the conversation that they can’t keep going. When you notice this happening in your self or your partner, it’s time to take a break. This doesn’t mean we end the fight, it just means that we take some time to use different relaxation techniques to help ourselves calm down before we continue.
Deep breathing is a simple and effective tool to try. If you notice your partner stonewalling, gently point out that it’s happening then ask if they would like to stop talking for 5-10 minutes then come back to the conversation once they are feeling calmer.
If you can practice the four shifts and begin implementing them in your marriage, you will notice the way you have conversations and interact with your spouse will change.
When you shift how you talk to your partner and how you begin your conversations, your partner will naturally and unconsciously begin doing the same.
Remember that you cannot make one of these changes one time and expect change. You will need to make these shifts consistently before your partner follows suit, but trust that they will work and that you can save your marriage.
Risa Ganel, M.S. LCMFT
Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist, Together Couples Counseling
You want to fight for your marriage, but your partner isn’t on board. What can you do?
Fighting with your partner to get what you want and need will almost certainly backfire. While in any healthy relationship, your voice, your needs, wants, desires, and goals are important, they aren’t enough for building lasting love, let alone for repairing a relationship that’s suffering.
We know this as personal empowerment. We ask ourselves things like, “Am I getting what I need from this relationship? Am I fulfilled? Do I deserve better?”
Personal empowerment teaches us to focus on our autonomy, our self-determination. The problem is that the skills we learn through our culture of individualism are actually anti-relational. They make intimacy and connection more elusive and harder to achieve.
Personal empowerment focuses on finding your voice, authenticity, and your “I.” Clearly, these are important for remaining healthy individuals within your relationship. However, this doesn’t help with the health of your relationship.
For that, you need relational empowerment, which focuses on the “We”, the connection with your partner.
A healthy relationship requires a balance of both personal and relational empowerment. How do you make the shift to include relational empowerment?
Hold your relationship in warm regard, flaws, and all
It’s like self-esteem, but for the relationship. You know it’s not perfect. You know your partner isn’t perfect. However, you know you’re imperfect too. But you view the joining together of these two imperfect people as worthy of compassion, support, and effort.
See your relationship as an ecosystem
The second step is to see your relationship as an ecosystem, a system of interdependence, where each part is affected by the health of the other parts.
The technical definition of an ecosystem is a community of organisms whose living and physical components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Everything that enters the ecosystem affects every part of that ecosystem.
Just as the flowers need water to bloom, and the bees need the flowers to pollinate… what you put into or get from your relationship affects the ecosystem that is your relationship.
You aren’t above or outside of that ecosystem. You’re a part of it.
If you pollute the system by criticizing, yelling, demeaning, giving the silent treatment, lying, demanding, breaking commitments, and using sarcasm, you invite a polluted response from your partner.
Though it may sound cliche, the only person you can control is yourself. Paraphrasing from Mahatma Gandhi, be the change that you wish to see in your relationship.
When you look at your own behavior and emotional responses, and how they’re polluting the ecosystem, you can choose to change them. That will invite a healthier response from your partner. If you have trouble doing this, find a therapist trained in systemic thinking.
Get curious about what your partner needs
If you want him to be more communicative and emotionally expressive, find out what he needs in order to help him achieve that. Maybe, when you go silent in anger at him, he shuts down. That means what you’re doing is shooting yourself in the foot and getting exactly the opposite of what you want.
Maybe she hears your questions about what she has done all day as criticism. Get curious about how you can approach her in a different way that has her feel appreciated and cherished while getting you the information you desire.
Find ways to create a triple win
Ask your partner, “What can I give you to help meet your needs, so you can help me meet mine so that we win as a team?”
You are a team, and in order to get what you want, you need to help your partner get what he or she wants or needs.
Your team needs to create a win-win-win. A win for your partner, a win for you, and a win for the relationship. Without this, getting what you want without considering the ecosystem will inevitably lead to resentment and retaliation by your partner. And we know how disastrous that is for any relationship.
Personal empowerment without relational empowerment is destructive and will lead to the inevitable end of your relationship, not a healthy reconnection. You need both.
The truth of the matter is that you can’t save your relationship alone.
All you can do alone is become authentically connected to yourself and to your partner, so your behavior begins engaging your partner constructively. Then, you won’t be trying to save the relationship alone. You’ll be doing it as a team.
National Dating & Relationship Expert | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
A healthy relationship is built off of a dynamic created by both partners, but if one partner shifts their beliefs, thoughts, and actions, the dynamic has the opportunity to change in a positive way.
Relationships are like a dance. As the saying goes “it takes two to tango”, but often we feel like a wallflower in our own marriage because the distance between partners is too entrenched and it feels impossible to re-connect.
Many couples I work with, find themselves in a dance they don’t want to be in and I tell them, similar to certain dances, the partner that knows how to lead can help the other learn the way.
Reflect on your part on the relationship dynamics
If you are feeling like your relationship is going in a negative direction, the first thing you need to do is reflect on the part that you are playing in that dynamic.
Before you blame your partner, notice what behavior you can change that might encourage a different response from your partner. We need to change from viewing partners as guilty or innocent and rather as viewing your partner as your teammate.
Monitoring your own actions can shift the emotional connection, which can then have a surprisingly different action than your partner. The next time you and your partner are in a fight, take a second to say “I think I need a breather” and go outside for a 10-minute walk.
As you notice how the environment shifted, stay aware of the difference you made in your relationship with even one small action.
Marriage Consultant | Founder, ADHDmarriage.com
It’s not possible to save a marriage alone
The success of a relationship depends entirely upon how two people interact with each other. When someone attempts to save a relationship on their own it is an indication that their relationship is very badly damaged, indeed, because it indicates that the other partner is unwilling to engage with them.
When that is the case, continuing attempts to save that relationship alone will lead to anguish and, most likely, an increase in anger. That said, by holding up a mirror to yourself and being willing to look into it with honesty, you can see where you yourself can make improvements to your interactions.
In so doing, you may open up a door through with a previously unwilling partner may be willing to walk and start the process of healing as a couple.
Set a date when to reassess the state of the relationship
If you do take this path, give yourself a date in the future when you will reassess the state of the relationship. If, after you’ve got your own house in order, your partner remains immovable, it may be time to move on.
If your partner is unwilling to engage in relationship repair once you have removed impediments to doing so, then it’s likely the relationship will continue to feel lonely and unfulfilling for a long time to come.
Psychiatry Resident, Dalhousie University
Fighting for your marriage is fantastic – if it’s at least partially mutual and both partners are willing to work on saving it.
Marriage is hard work, and seeking couples therapy to fix a broken marriage is common. Any couple seeking to fight for what they have is commendable for their commitment and their combined efforts.
However, if you have reached the point where one partner has checked out and you are fighting for the marriage alone, then you may be in a demand/withdraw pattern.
As part of a demand/withdraw pattern, the more you plead and persist and fight for the relationship, the more your partner pulls away from you. If you push too hard, this can spell the end of a relationship. So if you feel like your partner is not fighting for you and has withdrawn, then tell yourself this: “Less is more”.
Give your partner space and place your focus on other interests, prioritizing your own fulfillment
Your partner may be unable to see the beauty of your love and commitment through an overwhelming feeling of being pressured and hunted, but if you step back, then your partner has room to breathe, remember the value of what you share, and come to his or her own conclusions.
This works better if the space you provide is significant, such as going to live with another family member for a few weeks with minimal or no contact during the period of space.
You cannot talk someone into a one-sided marriage, but you can give your partner room to realize that your marriage is worth fighting for, at which point mutual efforts can save your relationship.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Certified First Responder Counselor
When it comes to marriage, we need to remember that it is not about “me versus you”. In all relationships, we need to look at issues that arise with the mindset of “me and you versus the problem”. Now, this is extremely challenging when you feel like “it’s just me”.
Here are a few ways you can foster a cooperative spirit in your marriage without forcing your partner to participate:
Work on yourself
One of the biggest issues I see when people come into my office is how the majority of their relationship disputes are centered around their own expectations and hot buttons that they don’t realize they have.
We all have expectations in relationships, but in marriages in particular. Engaging in self-exploration to better understand ourselves will be essential to fostering a cooperative spirit.
Learn how to talk about the problem, not your partner as the problem
Another common issue that I see in couples is using “I statements” incorrectly. For example, “I feel hurt because you don’t listen to me.”
This is not an “I-statement”, it is a “You-statement” because you are placing blame on the partner; also, you are assuming you know that the person is not listening, which we actually don’t know for certain. A better way to phrase this concern would be, “I feel hurt because I do not feel understood or heard.”
In the second instance, you are focusing on the issue, which is your need/expectation to feel seen/understood; now this phrasing does not say the partner is not trying to understand, because we don’t know for a fact that they are or not.
You can even take it a step farther and offer, “Can I share with you what helps me to feel understood or heard?” And then share what that is (eye contact, affirming statements, reflecting/reframing what you hear, etc).
Be willing to compromise with your partner, whether you think it is fair or not
Now, please don’t misinterpret this. I don’t want you to be a doormat who gives into everything in the hopes that it will save your marriage. Rather, what I want is for you to recognize that some of the expectations or hopes you have for your marriage simply will not be.
If you have always wanted a partner who will sit with you and cry with you, but your spouse has a very limited emotional range, this may be an area of compromise where they allow you to cry on their shoulder, but they are not expected to be emotional with you.
With the divorce rates increasing yearly couples are quick to throw in the towel, however, if one person is still invested in the relationship there is a great chance that your marriage can be salvaged. Here is the “SAVE IT” method on restoring your marriage.
- S: Set an intention that divorce is not an option. Leave that D-word out of your marriage.
- A: Ask for help. Reach out to a marriage counselor, marriage mentor or a pastor to help guide you and your spouse in restoring your commitment.
- V: View your problems as opportunities for growth. Sometimes changing the perspective allows you to see that the glass is full instead of empty.
- E: Eliminate distractions. Find ways to focus on each other. Take up a hobby together or establish a ritual or bond time.
- I: Initiate healthy communication. Oftentimes when things are bad, the communication ceases. Open up the lines of communication again.
- T: Thankfulness and gratitude are oftentimes a prescription for change. Develop thankfulness practices with each other so that you will always remember the little things to fight for.
Relationship Columnist, Beliefnet
Many people fight to save a marriage by begging their spouse to care or to care enough to go to marriage counseling. It can create a futile, never-ending argument. The same repetitive circular conversation.
A more effective strategy is to concentrate on yourself. The best possible outcome? A marriage is saved. And if the worse does happen you have at least strengthened yourself individually. Because ongoing marital problems can lead to physical stress, weight loss, or gain, and we can become emotionally unhealthy.
There are several strategies when fighting to save your marriage alone.
Go to marriage counseling for one
The best counselors teach people about themselves, the choices they make, and how to heal. They acknowledge problems you may have with another but focus more on how the individual can create healthier exchanges rather than on blame. It’s critical to pick a good counselor.
Additionally, if the marriage problems involve extreme circumstances such as addiction, narcissism, emotional or physical abuse then it is best to find a marriage counselor who is also a psychologist.
Work on overall self-improvement
Join a gym, start walking, meditate, improve your diet, get back in shape, even pamper yourself. The more you make yourself a priority the better you will feel about yourself and your spouse will take notice.
Take on a significant challenge
Start running and do a 5K, skydive, learn a new instrument or a new language, take a trip alone, change careers, go back to work, etc.
Pick something which is daunting enough to build additional confidence and independence. You are no longer begging your spouse to work with you but rather positively moving forward yourself.
Develop positive mantras
As you work on yourself it will be difficult to avoid marital triggers. It’s far easier to slip into negative dynamics. Therefore, develop three to five mantras that can center you and keep you from engaging.
- “I can’t change others I can only work on myself”
- “I will not react to this bad behavior I will take a walk or run”
- “I will stay silent even when I want to say something back”
- “This person and these marital troubles do not control me I will work on myself.”
Mantras can be incredibly centering during a chaotic time.
It’s hard to break out of bad marital habits. Namely overtalking, asking for change, and demanding to be heard. However, when you concentrate on yourself it becomes easier and easier. And it simply works better because we can’t change others. They have to want to ‘grow’ themselves.
Ellen J.W. Gigliotti, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist | Clinical Director, Sanctuary Christian Counseling
One person really can make a difference in their marriage. It’s important that the person fighting for the relationship remains positive, and tries to draw their partner back into the relationship gently, emphasizing the friendship aspects of marriage.
Sometimes this can take the form of invitations to activities they both once enjoyed, sometimes it can look like new “date night” type activities such as open-ended questionnaires or projects designed to help the couple reconnect.
Communication is key
Being able to share feelings, needs, and dreams really help reignite a spark. Being real, teachable, and humble can really make a difference as both spouses are able to see each other in new ways and realize there is hope for their marriage.
And a little humor always helps. The ability to laugh with each other can again bring joy to the relationship.
Tal Mandelbaum, Msc
Social-Organizational Psychologist, Choosing to Connect
Take responsibility for your emotions
There is a lot that we can do to change a relationship by ourselves. So often we try to change the other person, thinking that this would lead to an improvement in the relationship, but that nearly always leads to failure. The truth is, that being the change we want to see, is the much better path to take.
When we take responsibility for our feelings, and especially, for our judgments, we can turn them around. Criticism and blame are especially destructive to a relationship, so by avoiding them, you can do a lot to save your marriage.
Every time a negative feeling or judgment towards your partner comes up in your mind, remember that it is yours, not theirs.
Make an effort to rise above these negative impulses of blame or criticism, and instead, react lovingly to your partner. Give them an example of how you would want to be treated.
Give compliments and show loving gestures deliberately, even if you aren’t feeling it. Faking it really does make it happen. You’d be surprised how much your partner is craving that kind word or for you to take interest in them.
This may take practice, and it’s best done together, but even if you are the only one making this effort consciously, your example can have a profound effect on your partner, and it can ultimately save your marriage!
It is very well possible, that the sole act of ceasing to judge and choosing compassion instead will be all it takes. You are effectively making space for the other person to be who they are, and that has is incredibly healing for any partnership.
Stephanie L. Tang
Collaborative Associate | Mediator | Attorney at Law, Kogut & Wilson, L.L.C.
Reflect on your own needs
Oftentimes, spouses are quick to lash out angrily in response to one incident as it happens to try to achieve a short-term result without thinking about their underlying need.
For example, during the time the stay-at-home order is in place, say your spouse forgets to pick up eggs at the grocery store during the one run your family relies on for food for the next few weeks. You yell and scream and ask him how he could possibly forget.
Similar incidents pile up in your head as seemingly isolated events. But what is your underlying need? Is it that you need your spouse to remember to get eggs? Or perhaps you need to feel some control and remembering to buy eggs would have been one way to help you feel control in your life?
Examining what you need to help you feel happy in your marriage as opposed to focusing on little incidents can help you communicate more effectively and more productively with your spouse.
Communicate your needs clearly and positively
Once you identify your needs, it is important to be clear with your spouse so they know what these needs are. This means leaving passive-aggressive and critical comments at the door. Also, resist the urge to dredge up the past and blurt out every incident that has ever happened.
Flooding your spouse with information in this way will likely just hurt them unnecessarily and cause them to shut down completely. Instead, keep your message concise and focus on your underlying need.
Using the example above, instead of yelling, “you always forget things at the store!”, consider, “it is difficult for me to plan what we can eat for the week if you don’t buy everything on our list.” This not only helps to change the tone of the message but also relays the family’s needs.
Psychosexual Relationship Specialist, End the Problem
Be calm and manage your temper
You’ve probably had enough of fighting in your marriage, so let’s talk about the essential steps you can take right now to save and enhance the state of your marriage.
- Restore your emotions to a place of calm.
- Get clear on how you want to feel.
- Stay focused on what you want to create.
- Understand what is important to your partner.
- Step up your “A is for Attraction” game.
It’s important to always make sure you communicate from an emotionally empowered state so you don’t inadvertently trigger your partner…. or forget what you need to say!
Our nervous system has more recently evolved to allow us to first engage through our eyes, facial expression, hand gestures, and tone of voice to resolve a tense situation.
However, we more often than not override this newer social engagement system and default to our ancient survival mechanism of fight/flight or freeze/shutdown. In a relationship, we may perceive this as being aggressive or passive-aggressive.
Related: How to Stop Being Passive Aggressive
These triggered emotional states make clear communication impossible. With our bulging eyes, tense body, and voice sounding tense as well we look scary and threatening. This has the result of triggering our partner – and so the endless loop of being triggered and retriggered continues, with important topics never being fully resolved.
In addition to this, when we are emotionally triggered, our prefrontal cortex shuts down to the degree that we cannot think clearly or assimilate new information. This is why in an argument, both partners will resort to bringing up past situations that were similar as they desperately try to give context to the current situation.
However, this tends to make either partner feel blamed and accused – and is ineffective because our memories of the situation were clouded by our own perception at the time (at which we were usually triggered).
This is why the first step in saving your marriage is to restore your emotions to a place of calm.
After restoring yourself to an emotionally empowered state, you are then able to get clear on how you want to feel and stay focused on what you want to create. This makes it much easier to communicate with your partner and understand what is important to them as well as you.
With a new shared direction, you can make any necessary adjustments to your own actions and work together to recreate a happy and satisfying marriage.
Amy Waterman, M.A.
Host, Your Brilliance
Your marriage is in danger. You have to save it. You have to fight for it. But what if the language you’re using is dooming your efforts from the start?
Cultivate your pleasures
The mindset of battling for your love is not the mindset of restoring love. Your love isn’t under threat – it’s just gone into hiding. When you look at your marriage from that perspective, you have faith in your love. You believe in what you cannot see. And your belief is what brings it back again.
To remember your love, take a break from solving your problems and focus on cultivating your pleasures. Mutual pleasure in each other’s company is what brought you together. But right now, all you’re seeing is the pain.
Instead of devoting all your energy to understanding and fixing that pain, could you switch gears and try to find small moments of pleasure in each day? Pleasure is what lures love out. Pain sends it into hiding.
No, pleasure won’t make your problems go away, but it will put them in perspective. There’s no enemy to defeat. There are just two people who want to be happy.
Dr. Enchanta Jenkins, MD, MHA
Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialist, Ellehcal OB/GYN, Inc.
- You need to decide that saving your marriage is the only option.
- Decide that you will focus only on the positive and speak only about the positive things your spouse does.
- Decide to only look at your behavior, especially since that is the only behavior you are totally responsible for.
- Take action to obtain marriage counseling or mental health counseling to discuss your specific problems and be open to real solutions. Go to counseling alone if your partner will not go with you.
- Be consistent about your actions, never forget that staying together is the only option, focus on changing your response to life circumstances, and start (and continue) treating your spouse like a highly regarded and honored official with great power.
- Acknowledge your inner strength and power, and remember you are worthy of being loved (and thus you must love yourself first) and love yourself enough to allow someone else (your spouse) to love you in the way that they are capable of loving you.
- Don’t judge your spouse’s actions or words.
Relationship Expert, Feely Feelings
Find the problem
When you know what the marital problems are and are in a position to fix them, if there is a true desire to save the marriage, then do it. Many of the “fixes” can be as simple as lowering expectations and knowing that if your partner is incapable of or unwilling to live up to your needs, there are two choices.
You can fight about it or stop asking and demanding things that your partner is unable or unwilling to give. That said, it’s important to remember that since it takes two to make a marriage, one cannot expect to save it alone.
Remember the good times
Reminding your partner or spouse that you are unhappy is not at all helpful and will do nothing to save the marriage, and pointing out their faults will also do nothing but make matters worse.
In addition to lowering your own expectations if that is possible, try remembering what brought your two together, and offering a sincere compliment now and then with a gesture expressing your love and appreciation, can often go a long way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my efforts to save my marriage alone aren’t working?
If your efforts don’t seem to be making a difference, it’s essential not to lose hope. First, assess the situation to determine if you have given your actions enough time to have an impact. Change often takes longer than we expect, and patience is key.
Next, consider seeking professional help through couples therapy or individual counseling, or joining a support group. These resources can provide valuable guidance and support along the way.
Finally, remember that you can only control your own actions. While giving your best is crucial, you must also accept that some relationships may not be salvageable.
What other resources can help me save my marriage on my own?
Several resources can help you on your journey to saving your marriage alone. Books, podcasts, and online articles focusing on relationships, communication, and personal growth can provide valuable insight and tips. Support groups, both in-person and online, can give a sense of community and a space to share experiences with others facing similar challenges.
Professional help from therapists or counselors, either individually or as a couple, can provide expert guidance and help you develop strategies to improve your relationship. Remember to look for resources that resonate with your situation and are consistent with your goals for your marriage.
How can I show my spouse that I’m committed to saving our marriage, even if they are not yet on board?
You can show your commitment to saving your marriage through consistent action and open communication. Share your intentions and goals for the relationship with your spouse in a non-confrontational and honest way.
Take responsibility for your behavior and take steps to improve the areas where you may be contributing to the problems in your marriage.
Practice patience and understanding, as it may take time for your spouse to recognize your efforts and be willing to work on the relationship. Lastly, be persistent in your efforts because a consistent approach shows you’re committed to saving your marriage.
How do I know when to stop trying to save my marriage alone and consider other options?
Knowing when to stop trying to save your marriage alone can be difficult. However, there are signs that it might be time to consider other options, such as consistently feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, or your mental health deteriorating.
If your best efforts to save the marriage have not led to any positive changes, it may be time to seek professional help or reevaluate the relationship. Remember, it’s essential to prioritize your well-being first and consider what is best for both you and your spouse in the long run.
How can I manage my expectations when trying to save my marriage?
Managing expectations is critical when trying to save your marriage alone. Recognize that change takes time and that your spouse may not respond immediately to your efforts. Be patient with yourself and your spouse and focus on small, consistent improvements rather than expecting drastic changes overnight. Set realistic goals for your personal growth and progress in your relationship. Remember to celebrate small successes and acknowledge your efforts to save your marriage.
What are the signs that my efforts to save my marriage alone are making a positive impact?
Some signs that your efforts are making a positive impact may include improved communication between you and your spouse, increased trust and emotional intimacy, and reduced conflict or disagreements.
You may also notice that you and your spouse are more willing to compromise, show more empathy, and express appreciation for each other. Keep in mind that these changes may occur gradually. Therefore, it’s essential to be patient and give your efforts time to work.
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