How to Save Your Marriage And Stop Divorce (Complete Guide)
How to Save a Marriage
Trying to work through marital problems can be a daunting process, and you might not even know where to start. Every marriage is unique, so figure out the specific issues at the heart of your conflict. In order to find solutions, you and your spouse will need to communicate openly and constructively. Try to stay positive, and avoid blaming, stonewalling, and launching personal attacks at each other. Rebuilding your bond will take time, so have patience. A marriage counselor can help mend the gap, so don't feel embarrassed about reaching out to a professional.
Addressing Your Conflict
Make a list of your differences and disagreements.Marriage struggles aren’t always related to major events, like cheating or heated arguments. You can't move forward if you don't know what's keeping you back, so take an honest look at your relationship issues. Try to be specific instead of listing things like “we don’t get along.” Ask yourself (and discuss with your spouse) focused questions, such as:
- Have you and your spouse grown apart? Do you have incompatible goals, desires, or visions of the future?
- Are your physical and emotional needs being met? What about your partner’s needs?
- Do you notice a lack of communication? Do you and your spouse listen when the other says something? Is your communication limited to short conversations about necessities?
- Are you dealing with a stressful life event, such as problems at work, financial problems, illness, or the death of a loved one?
Identify the issues that underlie major marital problems.If your conflict is centered on a major violation, such as infidelity, you still need to look for underlying issues. Identify and address those issues, or you and your spouse might fall into the same negative patterns in the future.
- Suppose you cheated on your spouse. In addition to rebuilding trust, you and your spouse must confront the factors that led to infidelity. Perhaps you’ve felt like your spouse wasn’t attending to your needs, or you became bored with your relationship.
- Keep in mind placing blame isn’t productive. Instead of saying, “I cheated because you were emotionally and physically unavailable,” say, “What I did was wrong, and I regret it. I’d like to work on regaining your trust and finding solutions to our difficulties.”
Look for potential solutions to your difficulties.Figure out if what you and your spouse can do to address the problems you’ve identified. What are specific changes both of you can make to improve your situation? Keep in mind both partners need to put an effort into resolving a relationship’s difficulties.
- Try drawing a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On one side, list things you could work on and, on the other, list things your spouse could do. You and your spouse could each make lists, then compare them with each other.
- For instance, you might write that you need to focus less on work, stop ordering your partner around, and be more affectionate. Maybe you’d like your partner to contribute more to maintaining your home and raising your kids.
Commit to working on your individual shortcomings.Keep your tone constructive when you discuss your lists of potential solutions. Focus on how you can contribute to a solution instead of emphasizing the changes your spouse should make. Likewise, your spouse should focus on what they can do.
- Try saying, “These some changes I think we could make. We’ll both need to put effort forth, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m just giving you a list of things you need to do. Let’s focus on our energy on what we can each do instead of demanding things from each other.”
Get help from a marriage counselor.A counselor can offer an objective perspective and help you develop the skills needed to mend the gap in your relationship. Try not to be nervous or self-conscious about seeing a counselor or therapist. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from professional.
- It’s particularly wise to seek counseling if you’re dealing with issues like infidelity, addiction, or contempt. Contempt is when partners express disgust, sneer, scoff, or attempt to demoralize each other with insults such as, “You’re a loser,” “There’s something wrong with you,” or “You’ll never be good enough.”
Provide constructive feedback instead of launching personal attacks.All spouses get annoyed with each other and complain about pet peeves. However, if you and your spouse launch constant personal attacks, being in each other’s presence feels like walking on eggshells.
- Instead of saying, “You always ignore me. There’s something wrong with you,” say, “I feel belittled and insecure when I say something and you don’t respond. I’d appreciate it if we could work on treating each other with more respect.”
- Constructive feedback addresses specific actions instead of targeting someone’s personality. If you want to save your marriage, you and your spouse need to learn how to discuss your problems respectfully and constructively.
Stop, breathe, and relax instead of yelling.No matter how frustrated you are with your spouse, do your very best to control your temper. In order to save your marriage, you and your spouse both need to keep your emotions in check. Inhale slowly, close your eyes, count, and remind yourself that you’ll only solve your problems with mutual respect.
- Whenever you’re about to blow your top, count to 10 before you say anything. As tough as it is, resist the urge to fight, and think about your spouse’s message.
- If your spouse is shouting, say, “I understand that you’re upset, and I feel like yelling, too. But screaming at each other isn’t going to get us anywhere. Let’s cool down and show each other respect.”
Set a “no stonewalling” rule.Stonewalling is when a partner shuts down or gives the silent treatment. You and your spouse need to communicate in order to resolve conflicts. If one or both of you shut down, you’ll never solve your problems.
- Try saying, “I know it can be tough to work through problems, and it’s easier just to ignore each other. If we’re going to make it, we have to set a rule that we talk things through instead of putting up walls.”
- Keep in mind it’s okay to take time to cool down instead of discussing things in the heat of an argument. However, don't just ignore each other. Instead, say, “I think we should cool down for a bit, then talk this through when we’re both calm.”
Avoid making assumptions about your spouse’s intentions.Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt instead of always assuming their words and actions are malicious. If they’re short with you or ignore you, try to understand that they might not be trying to attack you. Do your best to show them empathy instead of responding with anger.
- For instance, if your partner is short with you, maybe they had a hard day at work. If they aren’t talking to you, maybe they’re sad, not angry.
- Try saying, “I don’t want us to shut each other out, and we’re not going to get anywhere unless we open up to each other. We need to let each other in, and stop assuming that we know what the other is thinking.”
Strive to have substantial conversations regularly.Set aside a time of the day for you and your spouse to have a good talk. Try to keep distractions, such as TV, phones, kids, or work, to a minimum. Rather than discussing chores and necessities, talk about your opinions, feelings, curiosities, fears, and goals.
- It might take some time for deeper conversations to come naturally, so have patience. As you go about your day, note news stories, funny things you see, and other potential conversation starters.
- Additionally, let your spouse vent about their day to you. You don’t necessarily need to give them advice or analysis. Providing each other a shoulder to lean on can help you rebuild your bond.
Focus on the present instead of digging up the past.It can be tempting to bring up something that happened 10 years ago to back your argument. However, resolving conflicts with your spouse isn’t about winning a fight. Instead, aim to make your point calmly and rationally, and work with your spouse to find a compromise.
- If you constantly dredge up old dirt on your spouse, they'll feel attacked instead of involved in a discussion.
- As difficult as it is, try to forgive them for hurting you in the past. Focus on your marriage’s present and future.
Perform small acts of kindness every day.The little things in life make a bigger impact than grand gestures, so show each other kindness every day. Pay each other compliments, write each other notes or emails, and do other small, random acts that show you care.
- For example, you could slip a note into their bag before they leave for work that says, “Have a fantastic day! I love you.” You could let them know how nice they look, or do a chore they haven’t gotten a chance to do.
Go on fun, exciting dates together.Try to schedule a date night every week, or as often as you can. To alleviate boredom, do something new and exciting each time. You could try out a new restaurant or cuisine, go to a concert, go hiking, or explore a new part of your city.
- You could also go on day trips or weekend getaways. If you have kids, ask your parents, in-laws, or a babysitter to watch them so you can spend quality time with your spouse.
Try to become physically intimate little by little.It can be tough to rebuild a physical bond, so take it slow. Begin holding hands, hugging, and cuddling more often. As you grow more comfortable being physically intimate, work on touching each other, kissing and, eventually, having sex more often.
- Check in with your spouse to make sure they’re comfortable. You might say, “Do you mind if I hold your hand?” while watching a movie, or ask if they want a back rub after a long day.
QuestionMy husband had an affair after 18 years of marriage I fear that we are headed toward a divorce I'm not ready for. He says he doesn't want a divorce either. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRecognize that a divorce is not inevitable after an affair. Many marriages survive infidelity, but people don't talk about it much. Seek couples counseling.Thanks!
QuestionWhy is he always getting angry at things I don't mean to do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt sounds like it's time to evaluate your relationship. He sounds like he has anger issues. If you find yourself walking on eggshells around him, it's time to seek counseling, and have a serious talk.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I create confidence in our relationship?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGo out more often. Spend romantic time together to remind each other why you fell in love in the first place.Thanks!
QuestionMy husband does not want a traditional marriage after 33 years, but he wants to continue to live in the house that I pay for. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt sounds like you should divorce him and ask him to move out. If he isn't happy with you and doesn't aspire to have the kind of relationship that you want, then both of you should be willing to let the other find happiness elsewhere. If you're paying for the house, then he should find somewhere else to live.Thanks!
QuestionMy husband says he isn't sure if he's still in love with me. He wants to move out to get some space and clear his head. We have a 2-year-old and 6-month-old. I don't want him to leave; what can I do?Top AnswererUnfortunately, if he really wants to leave, there's nothing you can do to stop it. Even if you still love him deeply and want to continue, if he doesn't, it doesn't continue. However, you do have a right to get clarity from him. Try to agree to something that suits you both. Instead of moving out, consider sleeping in separate beds for a while, or agree to only talk about these matters on Thursdays, giving the two of you guaranteed peace of mind all the other days.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if my spouse complains about money and then spends it irresponsibly?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSit down with an accountant and make a budget. The accountant may have some good suggestions for you.Thanks!
QuestionMy wife has taken off her wedding ring and said it's over. What do I do to save this marriage?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell her that you love her and you will do the impossible to save this marriage. Tell her you are not sure what you did but apologize. Suggest counseling.Thanks!
QuestionIf sex is lacking in the relationship, how can it be restored?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDiscuss the concern lovingly and openly. Consult online marital counseling sites together or in person with a counselor open to discussing sexual concerns.Thanks!
QuestionIt's like my wife and I don't even talk anymore. When I do try to talk to her, she takes everything the wrong way, or it leads to arguments. What should I do?Joe MamaCommunity AnswerExplain yourself when she takes what you say the wrong way to avoid misunderstandings. If you can't communicate and the marriage isn't working out, seek counseling.Thanks!
QuestionAfter 25 years, my husband he doesn't love me. We have a 16-year-old special needs daughter. I don't want to lose the marriage and he won't go to counseling. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSometimes it can be hard to keep a marriage thriving after a long time, but it doesn't mean the marriage is lost forever. Both of you need to be willing to put in the effort to salvage your marriage. If your husband will not go to counseling, go see a therapist for yourself to get some advice and support. If things don't work out, you can still co-parent your daughter together; many people do this successfully.Thanks!
- You and your spouse both need to follow through whenever you say you’ll do something. If you say you’ll pick up the kids, do a chore, or go to the grocery store, be sure to do it. Following through is essential to rebuilding trust.
- Do your best to be cheerleaders for each other. Celebrate each other’s successes and support each other when things go wrong.
Sources and Citations
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