In this piece I’m going to share my best 3 tips for how to save your marriage alone.
So the first thing I want you to wrap your head around is that it is absolutely possible to change your relationship if you are the only one that wants to.
Yes, even if your spouse is completely checked out, unplugged, and doesn’t seem to give a damn about trying to save your marriage.
I’m not going to bore you with the theories and evidence behind my declaration that you can save your marriage alone. But trust me, it’s been shown over and over…one person can change a marriage alone.
Take a few seconds and notice how good it feels to know that you can be the brave agent of change that turns your marriage around.
What will it mean to you to save your marriage and be a happy couple? Keep this feeling in your awareness, as it will help you in the first action tip below.
To be clear, I’m not saying that you’re the only one that needs to change in order to have a great relationship.
The mess you’re in is not all your fault. And no one is suggesting that it’s all your responsibility to fix. Ultimately you’ll both have to show up differently to be a happy and secure couple.
The point is, someone has to be the first one to start the change that you want. You can start a positive chain reaction by being the first one to do a few things differently.
The key is to get into action. New action. Different action. Remember, when you do the same things over and over, nothing changes.
You want to save your marriage? Then you’ve got to change some of the things you do.
To get out of the place where you feel like your marriage is in a terrible rut and destined to failure, you’ll have to change some of the ways you typically react. You’ll have to step out of your place of comfort, shake it up, and take a risk.
These 3 tips for how to save your marriage alone are all about the simple changes you can start making today:
1. Remember your “why?”
The first action step has to start in your head. Take a minute and really think about this question: Why do I want to save my marriage?
Really. Get clear on why you want to stay together and have a happy marriage.
Is it because you made a vow? Because you don’t want to divorce? Or because you don’t want to break your kid’s heart? Because you have a deep abiding love? Is it because it will be expensive to break up? Or maybe because you know that if you guys fix a few problems you can have an amazing relationship?
What else? Get specific.
Now take out a piece of paper and at the top of the page write down this question: “Why do I want to save my marriage?”
Then write down all the answers you came up with. Be as thorough as possible.
When you’ve gotten down your “why?” put the paper in a safe place. Then you can refer back to it when you’re feeling discouraged. In the meantime, stay focused on your “why?” as you move on to the next two steps.
2. Stop focusing on the problems!
I want you to have the guts to stop focusing on your marriage troubles. I know this seems backwards, but I assure you it’s not.
If you’re going to fix this, you have to stop talking about all the things that are wrong. Here’s how to do that:
- Stop talking to your spouse about your marriage problems.
- Don’t tell him what he’s doing wrong.
- Don’t tell her what she should be doing differently.
- Stop blaming your partner.
- Quit giving your friends a play-by-play of your last fight.
Ruminating about the problems, rehashing conflicts, endlessly analyzing the unhealthy patterns, blaming your spouse for everything that’s wrong, and repeatedly arguing about the same things—these are some of the things that are actually keeping you stuck.
Take a break from those habits and watch what happens.
When thoughts about your marital problems start creeping in, and you find yourself focusing on them again, here’s what I want you to do. Redirect yourself in these ways:
- make a gratitude list
- go sing a song
- crank up the tunes and dance
- do a chore you’ve been putting off
- call a friend
- take 10 slow deep breaths
Doing these types of self-care activities (what I call a stop-focusing-on-the-problem detox) will help you relax, become more creative, find joy, see what’s going right, uncover hidden solutions, and get clarity on what you really want and need. How does that sound?
3. Do a 180°
What’s a one-eighty? Well, what I mean by “do a 180°” is to make deliberate choices to do the exact opposite (a 180° angle) of what you’ve been doing in response to being worried about your relationship.
In times of relationship distress people typically respond in one of two ways. People tend to either get more clingy to their partner or to distance more from their partner.
Would you say that your reaction to your current relationship problem is that you’ve gotten more clingy or more distant? Are you pursuing your partner, or are you trying to get time and space away from your partner?
In either case, this action step is to do a 180. You’ll need to start doing the opposite of what you’ve been doing recently.
If your natural instinct is to cling to your spouse in times of trouble (trying to get your spouse to talk, be affectionate, spend time together, plan a date-night, have sex, text during the day, or do an activity together) I want you to have the courage to take a step back.
What I want you to do right now is take a deep breath and focus on yourself without doing anything.
And have a little heart-to-heart with that younger part of yourself that’s so afraid of being abandoned. Tell her that she’s going to be okay, and that this is the way to get more of what she needs.
If you’ve been clingy and holding on tightly, my advice is to hold on loosely but don’t let go.
You can do this by taking yourself on one of these adventures:
- go out with a safe friend for dinner
- join a yoga class
- get a new book to read
- take a bubble bath
- call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time
- go for a walk
- write in your journal
- resume a hobby
- take a class you’ll enjoy
The important thing is to loosen-up the death grip that you have on your spouse. I promise it’s driving him bananas!
If, on the other hand, you’ve been isolating and you haven’t been willing to connect with your partner because you’re afraid that she’s going to do you wrong, you need to step in and move towards her.
You can start by taking a deep breath and having a reassuring chat with your inner child (who is probably afraid of being overwhelmed, consumed, or scrutinized by your spouse). Let that younger part of yourself know that you can always get some alone-time when you need it.
After you’ve soothed that part of yourself, you’ll need to be brave and move toward your partner.
Yes, I’m serious! It’s time to start engaging and reconnecting with your partner again. I don’t mean every minute of the day. But do at least one thing every day that moves you in the direction of your spouse.
Some of the ways you can move toward your partner are to:
- take her on a date
- send him a couple of out-of-the-blue texts when you’re at work
- offer to cook dinner together
- surprise her by playing “your song” and dancing in the living room
- give him a long welcome home hug
- talk about your days
- cuddle on the couch
- exchange shoulder or foot massages
- tell her you miss her
- write your spouse a love letter
- hold hands on a walk
Now that you know the 3 tips for how to save your marriage alone, I encourage you to try them out. But if you still feel frustrated that you have to be the one to work on changing or you’re concerned that your spouse isn’t going to even notice, these are signals that it’s time to talk to a professional.
I’m a Denver couples therapist and I’m here to help you save your marriage.