How to Save Your Marriage

How to Save Your Marriage

Maybe you’re feeling as though your marriage has taken too big a hit. Or perhaps it’s the slow progression of several things that feels like your relationship’s downfall. Whether a situation like infidelity, recurring conflict, or anything in between, there is hope to save your marriage or relationship.

Reasons Why Marriages Fail

Marriages and long-term relationships fail for many reasons, and it’s usually quite complex. Often in struggling relationships, there is a multitude of things to point to. But there also seems to be one prominent reason why marriages fail.

1. Lack of commitment

A 2013 study on reasons for divorce found that 75% of couples divorced due to lack of commitment. Lack of commitment can mean different things.

Commitment issues. A partner may have internal reasons why they lack commitment. Commitment issues are not uncommon. They can be attributed to attachment issues or fear of intimacy. All of which are personal problems rather than resistance to commit to that person.

Lack of attraction. It can be hard to commit fully if something else is lacking, such as the romantic interest in your partner. If the physical or emotional intimacy is a problem, overall commitment to the relationship can gradually erode.

Major hurt. Negative events such as infidelity can dramatically decrease the levels of commitment. It might seem like the damage done is insurmountable and so one or both partners are no longer willing to work on the relationship.

2. Constant arguing or conflict

This boils down to poor communication. Of the couples citing constant arguing and conflict as a reason for divorce, they indicated that conflicts were not resolved calmly or effectively. When smaller conflicts are not resolved appropriately, they can build and lead to more and more reasons for conflict. Small things easily turn into big things. Arguments only become worse over time.

3. Infidelity

Another major contributor to divorce is infidelity. It is often described as a critical turning point, or final straw to an already problematic relationship. Whether it’s emotional or physical, infidelity can erode the key components that keep your relationship healthy, such as trust.

In addition to the top 3 reasons why marriages fail, other reasons include:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Financial problems
  • Being unresponsive to the other's needs
  • Substance abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse

The last three reasons, pose a great risk to a person’s well-being and therefore may be a reason to end the relationship without attempts to remediate it.

Establish Quality Time Together

You and your partner should want to spend time together. It’s not always easy because life can fill up your calendar. But despite obligations and responsibilities, you should work to find time for just the two of you. It doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as the attention is on each other. Quality time is about prioritizing each other and your relationship.

It’s important to note that “quality time” and “quantity time” are two very different things. The latter refers to giving your partner your undivided attention no matter what you are doing. Quantity time is about the amount of time you are together. For example, you may spend a lot of time in the same room or even the same bed, but are you connecting during that time? It’s about making that time count. Quality time is what boosts intimacy, a key ingredient for a healthy relationship.

Ways to create quality time with your partner:

  • Remove distractions

Quality time is about being fully present when with your partner. To do that, you’ll need to remove the things that might take your attention away. This means not looking at a screen when your partner talks. Make it a point to put away technology during quality time. This simple gesture will show your partner that they are your priority.

It’s not always an iPhone that prevents you from being 100% available. It may be the stresses of life - thoughts of work or finances that are taking you away from the moment. If this is the case, let your partner know what’s on your mind. Talk through it with them or let them know you need time to clear your head before giving them your undivided attention. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy”.

  • Develop a routine

Schedule time with your partner the way you would anything else. You’re much more likely to develop a habit when it becomes a regular event. Spending quality time with your partner is no exception to the rule. Whether you commit to a daily walk, weekly date night, or monthly weekend away, make it a regular thing on the calendar.

  • Share an experience together

Research has found that sharing experiences brings couples closer together. This could be sharing something entirely new (try a new hobby) or choosing to do something you both already enjoy. Travel is a bigger example of how you can make memories with your partner. But you can also achieve this on a smaller scale such as a road trip or a drive out of town.

Bonus: Quality time can improve your sex life!

When you consistently spend time together you’ll feel closer to your partner and you’ll find them more attractive too. This combination makes for great sex! Research shows that sexual satisfaction for men is 3.3 times greater and for women is 3.5 times greater simply because of making the commitment to connect with each other on a regular basis.

Invest in Your Relationship

The number one way to save your relationship is the genuine commitment of both partners. It is not a coincidence that the opposite (lack of commitment) is the leading reason for divorce. General commitment to each other is necessary for a successful longtime relationship. However here, we are talking specifically about commitment to saving the relationship

  • Be mindful of their emotional needs

Our core needs are not negotiable. Pay attention to your partner’s need for connection. We can’t always know what our partner needs from us at that moment, especially when it’s ever-changing. It’s okay to ask your partner what they need from you. For example, you can ask them if they are seeking comfort or solutions. Sometimes we need advice. Other times we need to vent. Or we may need reassurance through physical affection or quality time. Knowing what your partner’s needs are, is only the first step. The next step is fulfilling them.

Remember that this goes both ways. Do not suppress your own needs or put theirs before yours. It is a two-way street. Be open with your partner about your own needs. Mind-reading is not usually successful here. Sometimes your needs will conflict with each other and you’ll need to come to a compromise. Compromise is important to have in a relationship because it helps you see your partner’s point of view and shows that you respect their needs.

  • Express appreciation daily

Showering your partner with gratitude is what might come to mind. However, expressing appreciation for your partner is more of an internal act. While it’s certainly good to compliment your partner and remind them of the ways you appreciate them, more beneficial is to think about all the ways your partner has invested in you and your relationship. When you fill your mind with these things, you come away with a more positive perspective on your relationship. This will naturally lead to your expressing appreciation for them.

Learn to Communicate Effectively

Undeniably, communication is one of the most important parts of any relationship. Communication is how we get our needs met, validate one another’s perspectives, and show that we care.

Ways to improve communication:

1.) Practice active listening

How you listen is as important as the words you say. Active listening is so much more than just hearing words. It’s about being intentional and making your effort apparent so that your partner feels understood. Active listening is a loving act that will surely bring you closer.

How to practice active listening:

  • When your partner talks, lean in and make eye contact. Be aware of your body language. Make sure it’s open (ie. avoid crossing your arms).
  • Refrain from preparing your response or offering advice. Focus on what they have to say. Affirm and validate them. Ask open-ended questions to learn more.

2.) Try to see their point of view

This is an extension of active listening. Attempt to put yourself in their shoes and see their perspective. Doing so will help you explain your side better. If you’re struggling to see where they’re coming from, ask more questions. Your partner will appreciate the effort and it will help close the divide between you.

3.) Use “!” statements

Instead of using blame with “You this” and “You that”, you can come off less critical with “I” statements. Tell your partner how you feel. Your partner will be less likely to get defensive this way. You can get your point across in a more effective way, and your partner won’t feel attacked.

Make Time for Romance and Intimacy

Similar to date nights, romance and intimacy have to compete with everything else going on in your busy lives. While it may feel unnatural, some couples find success in planning out their time to be intimate. Designate certain times for “distraction-free connecting”. Go to bed at the same time each night. Schedule “sexy-time”. Pencil in dinner dates.

Work Through Conflict and Negativity

Believe it or not, conflict can be good. If both partners “fight fair”, you can come away with a stronger bond.

Ways to have healthy conflict:

  • Avoid blame
  • Be direct
  • Be respectful and kind
  • Respond to negative actions with positive ones
  • Stay on track (don’t bring in past conflicts)

Deal with Underlying Issues in a Marriage

The recurring issue that you’re constantly arguing about probably has nothing to do with that subject because it’s deeper than that. It’s not actually about you being late, the dishes in the sink, or that parenting thing you don’t agree on. It’s only when you identify the root causes of the problems that you can make real change.

Next time you find yourselves in a recurring argument, stop and ask questions.

  • Why are we fighting?
  • How does ___ behavior make you feel?
  • What are your expectations of your partner?

Overcome Insecurities and Trust Issues

Your own insecurities are connected to your ability to trust your partner. Saying to your partner, “I trust you”, you are saying I believe in your good intentions and therefore I’m open to being vulnerable with you, explains Marni Levy, a therapist with the Couples Center. Individual counseling can help you work on the insecurities that are holding you back from trusting yourself, and thus, your partner.

It’s important to acknowledge how past hurts may influence your ability to trust in the present. Even after trust has been broken, it can be built again.

Build Respect and Compassion

Respect allows both partners to feel valued and safe. Respect is established when we choose to trust, communicate well, and take responsibility.

You can show respect by:

  • Speaking with kindness
  • Valuing their needs and feelings
  • Talking openly and honestly
  • Assuming your partner has good intentions
  • Honoring your partner’s boundaries
  • Compromising

Compassion comes from understanding and empathy. It can be practiced through active listening, putting yourself in your partner’s shoes, and accepting them for who they are.

You can show compassion by:

  • Regularly engaging in small acts of kindness
  • Frequently expressing affection and respect
  • Forgiving
  • Practicing attunement

Seek Professional Help When Necessary

Couples therapy is a big investment. It requires time and money, but more than anything it takes effort, and a lot of it. With the therapist as a guide, both parties need to put in the work and be open to trying new things. With both people on board, therapy can completely transform your relationship for the better.

Knowing When to Seek Counseling

Couples counseling can be beneficial for any and all couples, including those without big problems. Therefore, there’s no reason to wait to see a counselor. Still, some people are hesitant when it comes to attending therapy. Some people need to have a more concrete reason to go to counseling.

You might be ready for couples therapy if any of the following are true:

  • You’re revisiting the same argument again and again
  • You’re avoiding conversations and pretending everything is perfect
  • You have intimacy issues or feel a lack of connection
  • You had an experience of betrayal or a loss of trust
  • One of you is considering a breakup or divorce
  • You want to improve your connection

Benefits of Working With a Marriage Therapist or Counselor

Couples counseling can improve your relationship by helping you:

  • Develop skills to communicate more effectively
  • Develop skills to understand (and meet) your partner’s needs
  • Gain practical skills to manage conflict with your partner
  • Improve intimacy
  • Decrease judgement
  • Increase positivity and appreciation
  • Decrease recurring conflict and arguments
  • Understand the difference between solvable and perpetual problems in the relationship
  • Replace negative patterns with positive ones
  • Understand your partner’s attachment style (as well as your own)
  • Understand and accept your own emotions
  • Learn to accept and understand your differences
  • Gain the ability to tolerate some conflict
  • Learn how to fight fair
  • Heal past wounds that affect the relationship today
  • Reconnect to the love you previously felt for each other

Choosing the Right Therapist or Counselor for Your Situation

When it comes to choosing a therapist, you’ll want a therapist who:

1.) They specialize in the area you want to focus on

2.) You feel comfortable with them

It can take a few meetings to know if the fit is right. It’s okay to decide it’s not a good fit and make a switch.

The Couples Center has an extensive pool of therapists from which to choose, all with different skills, expertise, and personalities.


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