While a failed marriage is often the result of poor communication between partners, marriage experts say that you can save a marriage in trouble. Although every married couple experiences difficulties in their relationship at some time, it is possible to strengthen and rebuild a relationship. A study published by the Institute of American Values found that most of the couples in the research sample who divorced reported being no happier following the divorce. Yet nearly two-thirds of the unhappy couples who stayed in their marriages reported having happy marriages 5 years later.
Confess that there are problems in the marriage. Ask yourselves why your relationship has deteriorated to this point, and then openly discuss what you can do to solve your problems. According to the American Psychological Association, early intervention is one of the most effective strategies to preserve a marriage. Psychologists say it is imperative for couples to deal with their problems before negative attitudes become rooted in the relationship and resentment builds.
Think about the mistakes that each of you have made in the relationship. Keep in mind that a marriage is not a one-sided affair. Both spouses need to work on improving the relationship. The American Counseling Association reminds couples that it takes work for partners to develop trust in each other. Accept that each of you has his or her own faults and weaknesses. Avoid overreacting when things go wrong. Instead, prevent the small things from escalating into a bigger deal.
Accept your share of the responsibility for the problems in the marriage. David Hawkins, Ph.D., advice columnist for CBN.com and Crosswalk.com, suggests that partners consider their own parts in the conflict. Marriage counselors advise that couples need to be honest with each other and learn to accept disappointments. In most cases, problems can be resolved as long as a couple is willing to work together to settle them.
Talk to your spouse about the things that you are willing to change in order to make things work. Explain that you want to deal with the issues straight on. Listen to what your spouse has to say as you look for ways to solve the problems between you. Make an effort to understand the other’s viewpoint even if it differs from your own. Rather than allowing things to get blown out of proportion when emotions run high, try to keep any issues in perspective as you examine your problems.
Say what you really mean in order to prevent misunderstandings. Poor communication frequently leads to misinformation. If one of you isn’t sure what the other is saying, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Do your best to avoid anger and stress, and then deal with things calmly.
Ask for advice. Whether you talk to a marriage counselor, family members or friends, get advice from several different sources. But be careful not to get only one-sided opinions. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy points out that many marriage therapists now take a more aggressive approach in helping couples to save their marriages, emphasizing the importance of shared commitment between partners.
Rekindle the romance. Spend more time doing things that you both like. Focus on what the two of you still have in common (other than the kids). Work on being friends, not just partners. If you still love your spouse, don’t be afraid to show it. Remember what brought the two of you together in the first place, and then love your partner selflessly. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that more than two-thirds of the couples surveyed who put the other partner first rated their marriages as being very happy.