If you’re reading this article, chances are, you want to know how to save you your marriage.
Maybe you started growing apart. Maybe you are two people living lonely lives in the same house.
Or maybe there’s constant conflict and friction. You can’t seem to talk to each other without fighting.
Maybe you feel you are heading toward a divorce.
In many cases, you can fix a broken marriage. You can learn how to save your marriage.
A couple of caveats
I say “many”, because sometimes people have pulled too far apart, and one wants out, no matter what.
Also know that while these steps are helpful, if your marriage is on the rocks, there is infidelity, or you are feeling hopeless, talking to a marriage counselor can help.
Or even if you both are wanting to work on these steps, having a counselor to guide you can help you even more.
What if it’s just you trying?
It is true that these steps will work better if both parties are trying. However, even if it’s just you, just you putting these principles into practice can make a difference in your marriage.
Now to the steps. Here are seven steps to save your marriage.
1. Become friends again
When you were dating, you were friends. You made time for each other. You made your relationship a priority.
You talked like friends. You knew everything about each other.
Then you got married.
And life hit. Maybe a kid or two.
Now, suddenly, you don’t really know your spouse. When you talk, you never talk as friends, but just talk about issues, or the kids, or stuff that has to happen.
Too often in marriages, the friendship is put to the sidelines.
It’s not a priority.
Couples stop spending time with each other as friends. They get busy. They stop going on dates.
Their relationship becomes secondary to everything else.
Or maybe every time they try to talk as friends, someone brings up an issue, and it becomes an argument, so you just don’t talk.
Friendship is vital to your marriage.
Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg, in their book Fighting for Your Marriage, said they have found in their research that for many:
“the most important goal for their marriage is to have a friend and to be a friend.”
Dr. John Gottman in his book the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work says:
“At the heart of the Seven Principles approach is the simple truth that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company.”
Markman and the others also say that:
“the most powerful aspect of friendship is the feeling of deep intimacy and connection with another.”
Too often, in marriage, we lose that.
We let work, our schedules, kids, and conflict take over. We stop talking.
And so we drift and grow apart.
So how do you fix that?
You need to start being friends again and make it a priority.
In fact, the first principle in Dr. Gottmans’ book is “Enhance Your Love Maps.”
Having an enhanced love map means that you “are intimately familiar with each other’s world.”
Make your friendship a priority.
Make time to talk as friends. Put it on the calendar. Start going on dates again. Find someone to watch the kids, get outside the house, and do something together.
Set time to talk just as friends. Don’t allow issue talk during friendship time. Make it a rule.
One reason you may not talk as friends is that every time you do, an issue is brought up and you fight.
Save and protect that time from conflict. Call a “timeout” or “pause” and save the discussion on that topic for later.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How well do you know your spouse?
- Do you feel like you can tell anything to your spouse?
- Does your spouse feel safe saying anything to you?
- Do you talk with each other anymore besides the logistics of life?
- When’s the last time you’ve gone on a date?
- When’s the last time you’ve talked just to talk?
- Have you stopped making your friendship a priority?
Start dating again
Start dating again. Make alone time with your spouse a priority. Find a babysitter and make the time.
Markman and the others say that “Making time for friendship is one of the key investments you can make in your relationship.”
No one gets married to be able to handle conflict well. They want more than that. They want a friend. Be that to each other again.
Set time to talk as friends
Make time to do that. Put it on the calendar.
Don’t allow issue talk. Don’t get defensive or try to change each other. Never put down, judge, give unwanted advice, or be critical.
Just be friends and talk as friends – like you used to do.
What can you talk about?
What did you talk about when you were dating?
Here are some ideas:
- Share good news
- Offer emotional support
- Talk about work
- Share your dreams, ideas, hopes, and goals
- Tell funny stories of things that happened (at work, with the kids, with friends, etc.)
- Talk about a movie or tv show that you both recently saw
- Discuss something you are excited about
- Tell stories from your childhood
- Discuss current events (as long as it’s not something divisive)
- Talk about what you like to eat and your favorite restaurants
- Talk about where you would like to travel one day
- Talk about hobbies or other points of interest
For more ideas, check out 200 Questions to get to know someone. There are a lot of great questions that can spur some great conversations.
2. Make fun a priority
In the same way you used to talk as friends when you dated, you also had a lot of fun together – and you made it a priority.
Too often in marriages, couples put fun to the back burner. They don’t take time to enjoy each other’s company anymore – and that’s dangerous.
In fact, Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg in Fighting for Your Marriage said that “the amount of fun partners had together emerged as a key factor in predicting their overall marital happiness.”
They went on to say that “there’s no more powerful change couples can make quickly in their relationship than to agree to set aside time to have fun and agree to protect this time from conflict.”
So why do we stop having fun?
We get busy
Life happens. Kids happen. Work happens.
We take our marriages for granted
It can be easy to take our relationship for granted. When you were dating, you worked hard to get married. Once you get married, it can be easy to let things slide.
We let conflict intrude on fun time
If every time you try to have fun you end up arguing, you’ll stop trying to have fun together. Conflict is a killer of friendship, fun, support, and anything else when it’s not done at the right time.
So how do we fix it?
Make time for fun again. Make it a PRIORITY. Set aside time on the calendar every week to go on a date, alone, out of the house, and have fun.
Try to be free from distractions.
Turn off notifications, get away from the kids, and just spend time with one another.
Questions to ask yourself:
- When’s the last time you’ve done something fun together alone?
- When was your last date?
- If you aren’t going on dates, why not?
- What are some fun activities that you used to do that you don’t anymore?
- What are some fun activities that you would like to do with your spouse?
Brainstorm together activities that you can do together that you both will enjoy. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the park, visiting local gardens, or having a cup of coffee at a local cafe.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Schedule and make it happen. Make it a priority in your schedule.
You may have to remove or reduce other activities, and that’s okay.
It’s worth it.
3. Be a support for one another
Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg in their book Fighting for Your Marriage say that support is:
“one partner helping the other get through a tough time or handle an upset or just know there is support beyond the self.”
It’s important for all of us to have someone we can talk to. And it’s not just that we have someone to talk to, it’s that we know that there is someone available when we need it.
Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg also said that researchers have “discovered that believing support is available to you is even more important than the support you actually use.”
We all need someone that we know is there whenever we need them.
You should be that person to your spouse (and them to you).
Unfortunately for many, that’s not the case anymore.
Conflict, busyness, and other things have separated many couple’s relationships where they no longer see each other as a source of support.
Maybe when one seeks support, the other is quick to judge, criticize, or give advice.
Whatever the reason, the couple no longer supports one another.
And that’s damaging to your marriage.
What should you do instead?
Be a support for each other.
Be the person that your spouse can always go to when going through a rough time. Be the person they can come to without judgement, criticism, or unwanted advice.
Just be there to listen and offer support during their tough time.
6 Kinds of Support
According to Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg, there are 6 types of support.
The first kind of support is just being there for your spouse.
“Being there for someone means being physically available, whether in person or by email, text message, or phone.”
This may mean that you are just around without even saying anything, being there to hold your spouse, letting the other person know you are there for them, letting them know that you are available when they need you (and be there), and so on.
You can be a support by doing things for your spouse.
When your spouse is going through a tough time, you can do things to help take the load off your spouse.
You can help more with the housework, make supper, and help with other tasks to support your spouse while he or she is going through the tough time.
Giving encouragement means “rooting for your partner” and your relationship.
Letting your husband or wife know that you believe in them, that they can do it, cheering them on, and, that, though it may be tough, you two will get through it as a team are all ways to encourage your spouse.
Giving is another way to show support. It can be advice (when wanted), praise or admiration or appreciation, giving of your time, little tokens of love, gifts when they don’t expect it, and so on.
Talking and Listening
Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg say that
“emotional support is the most important form of support in terms of the benefits received, and that talking and touching… are the two most important forms of emotional support.”
Listening is a powerful tool to support someone.
All too often, however, we don’t use that tool very well. Instead of listening, we jump in with advice, judgement or criticism.
Or we interrupt with a story of our own. Or we don’t really listen; our minds are elsewhere.
Often, when someone is going through a tough time, all they need is someone to be quiet and really listen to them. They don’t want advice, they just want someone to hear them out.
Be that for your spouse.
Be there to listen without criticism, judgment, or unwanted advice.
Let the majority of your talking be you paraphrasing what your spouse says to make sure you understand what he or she is saying, and that your husband or wife feels understood.
Markman and the others said:
“Holding hands and giving a hug are two of the most powerful but simple ways of being supportive and loving.”
Touch is very powerful. We all need it.
In fact, studies have shown that just hugging, holding hands and being close to one another can “make a big difference in your sense of connection and your bodies’ abilities to fight stress”.
Be there for your spouse and touch one another. Hold hands. Give hugs. Massage. Sit by each other.
As Markman and the other say, even when you are discussing problems, holding hands can be a way of saying, “no matter what, we are in this together as a team”.
So how can we be more supportive?
Make time for it
If you know your spouse is struggling, be there for them. Check in with them to see how they are doing. Be there to listen if they need to talk.
Don’t bring up issues during these times. Don’t let an argument start. Call a “pause” or “timeout” and save that discussion for later.
Instead, just be there for your partner.
Make sure the support you give is what your spouse needs
Men, especially, can be quick to give advice when all his wife wants is for him to listen. Or maybe one is doing a lot for the other when the other one just wants him or her to be there for them.
Watch for what your spouse needs, and you can always ask, “What kind of support do you need?”
Be thankful for when your spouse is supportive, even when it’s not the kind of support you wanted
It can be easy to get upset at your spouse for giving advice when it’s not wanted or for giving another kind of support when you want something else.
Instead of being critical, be thankful that they are trying to show you support – and then ask them for the kind you want.
“I appreciate you trying to help me make this decision, but right now I just need someone to listen.”
“I appreciate you trying to help with the chores, but right now I really need you to just be with me and sit with me.”
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you see your partner as a source of support?
- Does your partner see you as a source of support?
- Have you been a good listener to your spouse?
- Do you only give advice when it’s wanted?
- Are you keeping conflict out of support talk?
- What can you do today to help support your spouse in what they may be going through?
Be there for one another
Make your spouse feel safe talking to you. Don’t allow conflict, judgement, criticism, negativity, or unwanted advice in the times when you are offering support.
Practice listening. Practice paraphrasing. Let your focus be on understanding your spouse, not to fix the issue or tell them how you think it should be.
Watch for what kind of support your spouse needs
Do they want you to just be around? Do they need extra help? Do they need encouragement?
Remember, you can always ask “What the best way I can support you right now?”
4. Deal with problems at the right time and in the right way
One reason relationships go south is because the couple does not handle conflict well.
Conflict talk done at the wrong time (and in the wrong way) can hurt all aspects of your relationship.
It’s important that we handle it well.
How do we do that?
First, make sure to handle it at the right time.
When someone is stressed, hungry, irritated, or tired is not a time to bring up and talk about an issue.
Right when someone gets home from work or right before bed is also usually not a good time to talk either.
When you are spending time as friends, having fun, supporting one another, or being romantic with one another is another bad time to bring something up. That’s a great way to kill the mood.
So, when do you bring up issues?
First, talk to one another.
Talk to each other about when and when not to bring up issues. If someone needs to decompress after work or when other things happen, make it a rule not to talk during those time.
Second, ask if it’s a good time.
When you want to bring up an issue, ask your partner if it is a good time to talk about “X” issue.
If it’s not, then set a time to talk about it later – or have it the responsibility of the person who said it wasn’t a good time to bring up the issue later.
Third, have a weekly couple’s meeting.
Having a weekly couple’s meeting can take a lot of pressure off your marriage and help keep you from feeling like you are walking through a minefield.
A weekly couple’s meeting is where you meet once a week to plan and discuss issues and problems in your marriage.
This can help relieve each other from the pressure of dealing with issues throughout the week knowing that you will have a time to talk about it at the meeting.
How do we do it right?
First, let’s look at how we do it wrong:
We start getting negative with each other and keep upping the ante. We move from trying to solve an issue to hurting one another.
We invalidate and patronize
We belittle the other person’s opinions, beliefs, and feelings. We may make sarcastic comments toward the other person.
We show contempt
We come at them with arrogance and a sense of superiority.
Instead of dealing with the issue, we attack and criticize our partner and their character.
We get defensive
Instead of listening, we quickly try to defend ourselves, often putting the blame back on the other person.
We focus on winning
We focus on winning instead of understanding. Even if you “win” the argument, you “lose” when it comes to your relationship.
We lay all the blame of the issue on the other person and absolve ourselves of responsibility.
We withdraw or avoid
We physically, verbally, and emotionally withdraw from the conversation. Or we don’t speak up to “keep the peace”.
We assume the negative
We assume the worst in our partners and assume the worst of intentions.
We exaggerate behaviors
We exaggerate what our spouse does (and diminish what we do). We may say statements like “You ALWAYS do this” or “You NEVER do that”.
We assume the other person should just “know” and so we shouldn’t have to tell them.
We are indirect
Instead of being clear about what we need to say – we say it indirectly and expect the spouse to “get it”.
We let issues build up without saying anything, then suddenly bring out of the bag everything they’ve done “wrong” for a long time.
We hold then explode
We stay silent and don’t speak up – until we explode at anger at the other person.
We verbally assault
We name call and insult one another.
We use blatant negative body language
We roll our eyes, cross our arms, and let the other person know we aren’t listening or don’t care.
All of these actions hinder good communication and can destroy your relationship over time.
Be respectful and kind always
Always be kind and respectful toward one another. Treat each other as you would like to be treated.
Assume the best
Always assume the best of intentions from your partner.
Seek to understand
Instead of seeking to win, defend or prove a point, seek to understand the other person’s viewpoint.
Focus on issues as a team
Too often the mentality becomes you vs. me. Instead, see yourselves as a team working together to solve an issue, not against each other.
Focus on the problem, not the person
Focus on dealing with the issue, not blaming or attacking the other person.
Accept your responsibility
In most cases, everyone has some fault in the issue, to some degree. Acknowledge it and apologize where necessary.
Truly listen to what your partner has to say. Don’t interrupt, judge, criticize, or give advice. Just listen.
So how do you have the conversation?
First, make sure it’s the right time.
Get somewhere private without distractions (as much as possible).
Then you take turns talking about the issue.
How do you do that?
Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg in Fighting for Your Marriage discuss the Speaker Listener Technique.
With the Speaker Listener Technique, each person takes turns with one person being the speaker and the other a listener.
There is an object that the speaker holds or a spot on the floor where the speaker stands that represents the speaker. Only the person with the object or standing in that spot is allowed to talk.
The listener is not allowed to speak except to paraphrase what the speaker is saying.
The speaker talks, and then the listener paraphrases what the speaker said to make sure he or she understands.
They go back and forth until the speaker is understood, and then they switch who has the object or spot. Or they can trade throughout to discuss the issue.
This is just an idea of one way to do that.
You don’t have to do it exactly like this, but having one person speak and the other listening and paraphrasing back is what you want.
Having an object is a good visual to help remind each other to take turns.
You aren’t trying to problem solve right now
The goal during this time is NOT to find a solution, but for each person to understand each other’s viewpoint.
In fact, you don’t work to resolve the issue UNTIL each person feels that their viewpoint is listened to and understood.
Make sure to separate the discussion of the problem and the solving of the problem.
Not every problem is solvable
Every marriage has problems, and many of the problems can’t be “fixed”.
That’s not bad, that’s normal.
What’s important is not that you have problems, but how you manage them.
When you take the time to listen to each other and understand each other’s viewpoints, you are able to find ways to manage and work around those issues more effectively.
Will this feel unnatural? Possibly.
But doing what is “normal” is why so many marriages are in such disrepair. Be willing to do the “abnormal” to save your marriage.
When you talk to each other about issues, use I-messages.
“I feel X when you Y because Z.”
“I feel frustrated when you leave clothes on the floor because it creates more work for me.”
“I feel frustrated when you leave the dishes in the sink because it makes the house look messy.”
Don’t use “you” statements. “You did this and you did that.”
“I” statements are safer because you are focusing on you and how it affecting you instead of blaming the other person or pointing out what they did “wrong”.
Use the core message
The core message is another option to use. I call it the core message because, once you melt down most of the messages different conflict books give, this is the core of it.
Make sure you are calm, your motives are right, and you have prepared what you want to say.
Start with the facts
The facts are least controversial. Start with what happened – not why you think they did it.
Tell your story and how it affected you
This is where you tell your assumptions – as assumptions
“It seemed to me…”
“I got the impression that…”
“It made me feel that…”
And tell how it affected you. Did it cause extra work? Did it frustrate you? Why?
Then ask for them to tell their facts and story
You then ask for their viewpoint and listen to what they have to say.
(Go back and forth as needed)
You only start this once everyone has said everything they need to say, and everyone feels understood.
After you take the time to discuss the issue and make sure each person understands the other person’s viewpoint, then it’s time to problem solve.
First, you brainstorm for ideas. Get a piece of paper (or a dry erase board) and write every idea down.
While you write ideas down, don’t criticize or put any down in any way.
Afterward, you go through the ideas and find a solution or solutions that you both agree on.
Then you decide who is going to do what. And then follow up. Make sure to set a time to check to see how the solution is working.
If it isn’t, it gives you the opportunity to find something else. If you don’t follow-up, things are likely to fall through the cracks.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How well do you and your spouse handle conflict in your marriage?
- Are you doing any of the negative behaviors?
- What negative behaviors do you need to start working on stopping?
- Are you (or your spouse) bringing up issues at the wrong time?
- Do you have a weekly couple’s meeting to discuss issues?
Talk to your spouse about it
Make sure to get with your spouse and talk about when is the best and worst times to talk about issues.
Set up a weekly couple’s meeting to be better able to plan together and to have a set time to deal with issues.
Set some ground rules
Decide how you want to start handling your conflict talk, if you want to do the Speaker Listener technique or something similar.
The put it into practice!
Remember, change isn’t instant. It takes time. Mistakes will happen. Be quick to forgive each other, laugh at your foibles, and move on.
5. Restore your sensuality and romance
Your sensuality and sexuality are very important to the overall health of your relationship.
In fact, Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg in Fighting for Your Marriage state that “it’s the sensual connection that keeps partners from feeling as though they are growing apart.”
There is a difference between sensuality and sexuality.
While sensuality can be a part of and lead to sex, sensuality can include the touching, seeing, tasting, feeling, and smelling that may or may not be part of lovemaking.
It could include cuddling, nonsexual massages, romantic talk, holding hands, and so on.
In the early years of marriage, many couples touch a lot, but over time, many tend to skip over the sensual and move to a more “goal-oriented sexual behavior”.
Markman and the others say that for many, “sex itself becomes more a matter of performance than of intimacy.”
They also discuss anxiety and the importance of protecting yourself from it.
“When you’re keeping your eye on your performance, you create emotional distance between you and your partner…. This kind of detachment can lead to the most common sexual problems people experience.”
Make it a priority
Restore the sensuality and romance in your marriage. Stop focusing on the performance and focus on the intimacy and pleasure between you two.
Make it a priority.
Talk about it. Talk to each other about how each person views romance.
It’s unreasonable to expect your spouse to “just know”.
Then focus on what pleases your partners.
Here are some other ideas on becoming more romantic:
- Read books on romance and being a great lover.
- Take care of yourself, exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep.
- Do special things for your spouse, unexpected things. Send flowers when they don’t expect it. Call randomly or text to just say “I love you”.
- Hold hands more often. Kiss more often.
Here are some other ideas for being romantic:
Questions to ask yourself:
- Have you let the sensual and romantic part of your marriage slip away?
- Is it more about performance than intimacy?
- Has this area of your relationship caused distance between you and your spouse?
Talk to your spouse
Talk about these issues with your spouse. Talk about what romance is to you. Ask your spouse the same.
Seek to please
Then start doing things for each other, to please each other. Send notes. Kiss more often. Hold hands. Do the things you used to do when you first got married and were excited.
Just get started
It’s okay to start small. Just start being sensual and romantic once again. The little things can add up.
6. Be committed to the long-term
Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg in Fighting for Your Marriage say that:
“Many of the mistakes couples commonly make stem directly from the partners’ failure to be mindful of their commitment every day; a marriage can’t thrive if the partners see commitment just as something they promised on their wedding day. “
They also say that:
“The kind and depth of your commitment have a lot to do with not only your chance of staying together but also your chances of being happy over many years together.”
Commitment to your marriage is important.
Many people “stay together” because of constraints on their marriage. Social norms, their religion, children, finances, pressure from family or friends, among other constraints, can cause a couple to “stay together”.
But constraints and “staying together” don’t make a happy marriage. It takes personal dedication and sacrifice to make a marriage that works and is satisfying.
Two people can live together in the same house and be strangers.
The dangers of lack of commitment
When a spouse doesn’t feel the safety of long-term commitment from their partner, that spouse may start focusing more on what he or she can get out of the relationship right now instead of what he or she can put into it for long-term benefit.
The spouse may also start to withdraw from the relationship more because of it.
People aren’t going to invest in a relationship when they are unsure of the commitment of the relationship.
So how do you be and show commitment?
Do the little things.
Do the little things that show you are dedicated. Be romantic. Be friends. Send the notes and flowers.
Handle conflict well.
When conflict is handled poorly, the relationship is hurt, and over time, dedication can diminish.
Make the choice.
Make the choice to be dedicated – and show it. Make your marriage a priority and base decisions on that.
Stop putting your relationship on the back burner.
Stop playing the “what-if” game.
Stop looking at the other options around you. Stop looking at other people and wonder “what if?”.
All that will do is erode your relationship. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence…above the septic line.
Every yard has issues. Stop looking at other yards and focus on maintaining yours.
Think “we” instead of “me”.
Think as a team. It’s not you vs. your spouse. It’s you together facing life and the issues you face.
Be willing to sacrifice.
If you want a happy marriage, you will have to sacrifice. If you are focused only on what you want and what you can get out of it, your marriage will suffer greatly.
In fact, Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg say that “our research has shown that people who are happiest in marriage gain some sense of satisfaction from doing things that are largely or solely for their partner’s benefit.”
Focus on doing things that benefit your spouse and your relationship.
Instead of asking “what can I get out of the relationship?” ask “what can I do to make the relationship better?”
See your relationship through the lens of long-term thinking.
Always speak, talk, and act as if you plan to be together for the long-run (and mean it). Plan together. Dream together.
Don’t threaten the relationship or mention “divorce” as an option or a threat.
See yourselves as a team working together on a long-term adventure.
Recognize the little acts of dedication that become “normal”.
Sometimes your spouse may be showing you dedication, but you just don’t see it. It’s an everyday “normal” event so you don’t take notice anymore. Start looking for those little acts.
Talk about it.
Talk to each other about your commitment and your long-term view. Ask how you can show your dedication to your spouse better.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are you dedicated for the long-term in your marriage?
- Have you been showing your dedication to your spouse?
- Have you been threatening your relationship in arguments?
- Are you thinking from a “we” perspective or a “me” perspective?
- Are you making the daily choice to be committed, keeping it as a priority?
- Are you willing to sacrifice to please your spouse and to benefit the relationship?
Reaffirm your decision
Reaffirm your decision to be committed for the long-term. Stop playing the “what-if” games.
Side note: This is in most cases. If a spouse is abusive or being unfaithful, there are more issues there. It would be wise to seek outside help, such as the police or domestic violence organization (if being abusive) or a marriage counselor.
Show your dedication
Find ways to show your dedication to your spouse. Don’t threaten the relationship, ever.
Do daily activities that show your spouse your commitment.
Talk from a long-term view
Talk to your spouse as if you will be together for the long-term. Plan together. Dream together.
Plan where you want to be years down the road or what you want to do when the kids move out.
7. See the best in your spouse
One of the big killers of relationships is assuming the negative about your spouse and focusing on the worst in your spouse instead of the best.
When we gain the negative mentality, nothing our spouse can do is right, and your relationship is damaged.
In fact, the second principle of Dr. John Gottman’s book the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is to “Nurture Fondness and Admiration”.
Focus on their strengths, not weaknesses
It’s important to see the best in each other and to assume the best. Otherwise, as negative events happen, those events will just tear you more apart.
You want to focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses.
Gottman says that:
“Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance” and that “Having a fundamentally positive view of your spouse and your marriage is a powerful buffer when bad times hit.”
So how do you start focusing on the positive?
Recognize when and how you focus on the negative.
Examine your thoughts about your spouse.
Do you assume the negative? Are you focusing on their weaknesses and failures? When you think about your spouse, do you dwell on the negative or the positive?
Change the negative thinking.
When you catch yourself focusing on the negative or assuming negative motives, focus on the opposite. Think about positive aspects of your spouse. Assume the best of intentions.
If you think about their weaknesses, start thinking about their strengths.
Write down what you appreciate about your spouse.
Every day write down the positive aspects of your spouse. Go over the list when you start thinking negatively.
Remember why you married your spouse.
Why did you marry your spouse? What qualities did and does your spouse have?
Sometimes what attracted you to your spouse later becomes a point of annoyance. Remember what about those aspects you appreciated on focus on that.
Tell your spouse what you appreciate about them.
Don’t just think it, say it. Tell your spouse every day something that you appreciate about them. Compliment them. Encourage them.
Focus on strengths, not weaknesses.
Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Instead of focusing on what your spouse is weak in, focus on the areas they are strong in.
Assume the best in your spouse, not the worst.
One reason arguments can turn so negative is that we assume negative intent by our spouse. We think we “know” the WHY of what they did, and we attack them or show disgust toward them for it.
Don’t assume the negative. Give the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself “why would a loving, reasonable person do or say this?”
Assume the positive. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Cherish your spouse.
Gottman says that cherishing your spouse means that during the day “you maximize thoughts of your partner’s positive qualities and minimize thoughts of negative ones.”
Don’t focus on the negatives or dwell on the negative during the day. Think about and focus on the positive qualities when you think about him or her.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you tend to focus on the negative or positive aspects of your spouse?
- What do you dwell on during the day?
- Do you focus on their strengths or weaknesses?
- What assumptions do you make about your spouse?
- Do you generally assume negative intents or positive ones?
- When your spouse does something you don’t like or forgets to do something, do you generally give him or her the benefit of the doubt or do automatically assume they did/didn’t do it because of malicious intent?
Start to change your thinking
Recognize when you are negative and switch it around. Every time you start thinking negative, think of the positive.
Dwell on the positive aspects that you like about your spouse, not the negatives.
Write out what you appreciate about your spouse. Make sure to tell them.
It may take time
It may take time to switch your thinking over, and that’s okay. Be quick to apologize and forgive each other. Every day work on seeing your spouse in a new and positive light.
Following these seven steps can help you save your marriage.
It’s not going to be overnight. It won’t be quick and easy.
But if you are willing to put the work in, encourage each other in it, and forgive each other when you make mistakes, you have a solid chance of restoring your relationship and having a happy marriage.
And once you get your marriage back on track, don’t forget these principles. Continue to practice them until death do you part.
Again, depending on your situation, you may also want to get the help of a marriage counselor. They can help guide you in saving your marriage.
Decide right now to be committed and to start putting these principles into practice.
Make your friendship, fun, and sensual time a priority.
Setup a couple’s meeting and work on handling conflict constructively.
Now to you:
What steps are you going to start today to save your marriage?
If you would, please share this with others (you can use the share links below). You could help save someone’s marriage.