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How to Save a Marriage That Is Falling Apart

How to Save a Marriage That Is Falling Apart

The majority of couples break up, as evidenced by the fact that the divorce rate is about 50% in western countries. These marriage statistics don’t include couples that break up after being in a long-term relationship without ever getting married.

So why is it that so many relationships and marriages result in breaking up?

While many relationships and marriages don’t last, there are things you can do to save a marriage. Here in this article, I’ll explain how to save a marriage that is falling apart.

1. Take Action Early If You Are Keen to Save Your Marriage

The most common mistake that a lot of couples make is they only begin to deal with problems when things have already escalated too far out of control (therefore sometimes it’s too late to save their relationship).

I would like to encourage you to take action as early as possible. Don’t wait until the state of your marriage is already feeling hopeless. Do something now, while you both have the belief that your relationship can be salvaged.

When you notice something isn’t right in your marriage, you need to do something about it immediately. This requires open and honest communication. Yes, this can seem challenging at times, however, a happy and fulfilling relationship requires effective communication followed by intentionally focused actions. If you act early enough, it’s not that difficult to turn your relationship around.

If money is an issue, you will need to have a financial plan and a weekly money date with your spouse when you check your personal finances together. This strategy is recommended by author Kate Northrup in her book Money: A Love Story.

2. Realize That You Will Often View Things Differently

When you are arguing with your spouse, nine times out of ten you’re trying to be right rather than choosing to be happy. Yes, you can be absolutely, positively right… from your own perspective. But if arguing your point doesn’t make you happy, what’s the point of having to be right all the time?

Look to see the humor in a situation when your opinions and perceptions are shown to be different. Research has shown that our brains can perceive a situation in hundreds of different ways – so it really is a miracle that we understand each other and agree on anything at all!

Knowing in advance that your brain is often going to misinterpret things, (as well as the intentions behind them) you can choose to see the humor of a situation instead of taking a resistant stance and stubbornly trying to prove that you are right. Technically, both of you are right from your own perspectives, so make it a priority that you seek to understand what your partner is trying to say and convey.

Often, you will find yourself starting to smile at the absurdity of a resistant stance you are taking but, you can’t seem to help yourself from indulging in being stubborn. You clearly see what your partner is trying to say, however, you are too invested in proving that their words are wrong and inconsistent with what they’re meaning to say. You’re too busy proving yourself right that you don’t correct this relationship sabotaging action before it escalates out of control. Overindulging in this childish game can lead to either or both of you becoming emotionally triggered and entering a full-blown argument… Just because you wanted to prove that you were right.

Stop being petty and instead, choose to enjoy your different modes of expression. This will help prevent issues from escalating out of control and is a major step toward saving your marriage. The good news is when you stop overreacting from a negatively triggered emotion, you will feel happier. And it’s a wonderful thing to choose to be happy rather than being right all the time. Hence, an effective method of saving a marriage that is falling apart.

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Using humor and stopping being petty are effective ways to cope with small problems in a marriage and dating coach Matthew Hussey agrees with that. During an interview with NBC, Hussey says,[1]

“The key to an amazing relationship is never stop flirting with your partner and seeing them in a new light.”

Using humor is one of the easiest ways to keep flirting, and you can use this technique to save a marriage any time your actions have encouraged unnecessary tension to rise between you.

3. Work on the Three Pillars of a Marriage

There are three pillars of a relationship: emotional connection, intimacy, and mutual benefits which can also be known as attraction alignment. When a marriage has all three pillars aligned, the relationship is balanced, happy and healthy.

When two pillars are going well in a marriage, it is viewed as a very good marriage.

When one pillar is going well in a marriage, this marriage is still sustainable.

You can evaluate which pillar (or pillars) require further work and improve those areas to save your marriage as soon as possible.

Pillar 1: Emotional Connection

First and foremost, if emotional connection is not strong enough, you will often feel distant and disconnected from your partner. This is when words and actions are most often misinterpreted and disagreements escalate. It generally means you are more focused on what you don’t like about your partner than what you love and appreciate in them.

There’s a part of your brain which filters out the millions of bytes of data coming in through your senses, so you don’t become overwhelmed. The problem is that these filters are determined and set by what you most often focus your attention on, and then make you notice more of it.

Are you focused on the best or the worst outcomes for your marriage? Where are your imagined conversations taking you, toward or away from a happy relationship with your partner? Are you imagining your relationship breaking down or are you disciplining your mind to look toward opportunities to create what you want?

To improve your emotional connection, remember to be thoughtful with your choice of words and especially the tone of your voice.[2] It is often the tonality of your voice which triggers your partner into an emotional reaction.

Praise and appreciate your partner’s efforts and focus your attention on creating the best outcomes for all concerned. Be forward thinking instead of constantly reliving past experiences where neither of you were at your best.

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To improve your emotional connection, focus on lifting each other up with your thoughts, words and actions. Focus on creating what you want.

You can also create more shared experiences with your spouse, for example going away for a weekend or vacation together, having regular date nights, and sharing your dreams for the future.

Pillar 2: Intimate Connection

In the second place, if things aren’t very good in the bedroom, it’s eventually going to cause an emotional divide and possible loss of desire and attraction in either or both partners. To truly restore a happy emotional connection requires building and maintaining a satisfying sex life. Sex is the one thing that makes you more than just friends and is an essential component of a happy and healthy marriage.

We’re not taught how to operate our bodies sexually, so there is a lot of guesswork involved in completing a sexual act. This results in 40% of men and women suffering from common intimacy problems with many couples giving up on being able to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling intimate relationship.

Frankly, this is the real reason why lots of couples don’t have children. The reason why they don’t have children is oftentimes not the reason they’ve given others on social media.

It’s more than communicating what you want and need. If your partner doesn’t know how to focus their attention correctly, they will continue to have problems. For example, too much focus on his partner will cause a man to lose his hard erection. For a fulfilling intimate life, both of you need to know how to increase your sexual stamina.[3] This will ensure you are able to enjoy your intimate time together and strengthen this important area of your relationship.

Building intimacy is something you both need to work toward together.

Desire for many women is based around emotional connection, so it’s important to take steps to stop sabotaging your happiness in the emotional and sexual aspects of your relationship.

Most men need sex like fish need water and is how they show their love and affection. If you hold back from connecting sexually because you’re not feeling enough of an emotional connection, it can cause a further divide. You must be the adult here and make the effort to connect emotionally and intimately with your partner. Once you make the decision to stop being resistant and start focusing on what you like and love about your partner, you will more easily come together intimately.

A lot of couples stop working on their intimacy after being married for several years, and sex-starved marriages are more common than most would think. This can lead to either partner leaving the marriage or having an affair. So if you want to save your marriage, make sure you work on the intimacy pillar.

Pillar 3: Attraction Alignment

Why does the honeymoon period end? Because we stop paying attention to all the details which attracted our partner in the first place!

NEVER become complacent and expect your partner to remain attracted to you. When you stop looking after yourself and/or have become lazy with your attitude toward being the best version of yourself, you start to lose your partner’s respect and admiration.

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Psychologists state that the first thing that people notice when they meet someone is this individual’s hair. Changing your hair is a simple way to start restoring attraction and bring variety to a marriage that is falling apart. Ginie Sayles, author of She Was a Bigamist, argues that a woman would be well-advised to change her hairstyle every two years. She discovered this technique when her husband took her to have dinner with another couple. After dinner, her husband said, “I’ve known this couple for many years. That lady is very nice, but she never changes her hair.”

In other words, men notice these kinds of things. So do women.

To be more specific, when a woman pays attention to the way she looks, men may or may not notice her attractiveness. But when a woman becomes stale, men will notice that. The same goes for men. As women, we take note of our partner’s appearance and the effort or lack thereof he (or she) puts in to keeping themselves attractive to us.

Complacency is the number one relationship killer and must be avoided at all costs. This also includes your actions toward fulfilling agreements in your relationship. If your partner mentions an issue that is upsetting them, I guarantee they have thought about it many times before mentioning it out loud. Respect the fact that they trust you enough to confide in you, then make an effort to pull your own weight in resolving the issue long-term.

Exploring new interests as a couple (and by yourself as an individual) is important to expand your relationship and develop and grow yourself as a person. Introducing novelty to your marriage can strengthen your emotional and intimate connection. A case in point is bringing variety to your relationship by changing your hair, taking your spouse to see an exciting movie and learning something new together, say salsa dance or a foreign language, etc.

I highly recommend attending a dance class together because that’s how you learn to communicate with your partner with your bodies; it helps to restore emotional and sexual intimacy as well. It’s especially effective when you two are learning tango, salsa or other partner dances which require the man to be the masculine alpha leader in the dynamics. Then, when you go out together and dance in public, there’s the feeling of pride and accomplishment and sharing a special connection which other couples don’t seem to have, which is quite magical.

4. If You Can’t Improve the Quality of Your Marriage, Hire a Marriage Counsellor or Relationship Specialist

Damage caused by unnecessary arguments can damage your relationship beyond repair and cause your marriage to fall apart. After one argument happens in a marriage, at least three positive experiences are needed in order to make a couple feel happy again. Thus, it is important to prevent arguments from occurring.

Do you want to be right or happy? Using a professional service to help you with your marriage is a smart move. Yet not everyone is willing to do it for various reasons.

For instance, when Kate Northrup and her husband Mike Watts had arguments frequently in their marriage after their first daughter was born, she asked him to see a marriage counsellor with her. Actually, when they got married, Kate had already told Mike that if something is wrong in their marriage, they will need to look for help.

At first, Mike didn’t want to see a marriage counsellor after their frequent arguments, as many men think asking for help is a display of weakness. But later, Mike realized that asking for help actually shows his strength because if something isn’t working in his career, he would talk to a career counsellor. Therefore, if something isn’t working in his marriage, he should see a marriage counsellor.

So, Kate and Mike consulted with a marriage counsellor and now they are still happily married.

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to ask for professional advice when a marriage is falling apart. But this world will become a much better place if all couples experiencing problems in their marriages would get professional help.

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While contemplating the value and cost of getting professional help to save your marriage, take into consideration that the average wedding costs $30,000 while the average divorce costs a lot more than that. Therapy can result in being a much cheaper option. And here’s Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting a Marriage Counselor.

5. When Compatibility and Chemistry Are Both Absent, You May Consider Moving On

Sometimes ending a marriage is the wisest decision. Yes, I understand that saving a marriage is paramount in most cases, but not every marriage should be saved. It can be more important to save your sanity when compatibility and chemistry are both absent in your marriage.

Compatibility means you and your spouse have the same, similar or compatible value systems which can improve communication in your relationship. Let me explain.

If both you and your spouse love reading books on personal development, that means you probably have similar values, i.e. knowledge and self-improvement.

Another example of having similar value systems is you like cooking and your spouse loves wine – both of you value the foodie culture.

As to compatible value systems, that can be something like you love writing and your spouse loves movies. In this situation, when you are writing, your spouse can be watching movies. You don’t necessarily have to do the same or similar activities together, but your interest doesn’t negatively affect your spouse’ interest.

Nevertheless, many couples have incompatible value systems. For example, a highly spiritual, health conscious, ethical person with no interest in football being married to a partying atheist who drinks a lot of alcohol and spends most of their spare time frequenting bars and watching football. As time goes by, resentment can build, as they have little shared interests to talk about.

As for chemistry, I know I’ve mentioned that you can improve intimacy in the bedroom. Yes, most people can work on their intimacy skills in the bedroom and rekindle their passion as well as a happy and healthy relationship. But no one can guarantee that 100% of married couples will act to restore a happy and satisfying sex life. This may be due to one partner refusing to get help due to feelings of embarrassment.

If your partner is not willing or able to step up to fulfill you, this will eventually affect your level of emotional connection and desire for this person. While it may seem like hard work or an emotional barrier you have to overcome, putting in effort for your partner’s sake is often the most essential step in saving your marriage.

When compatibility, values, chemistry and the desire to work together to save your marriage are absent, it’s time to end the marriage and move on.

However, remember that life is a journey. Every relationship you have will help you become clearer on creating the life you really want.

Featured photo credit: Jon Asato via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jacqui Olliver

Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

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Last Updated on July 15, 2020

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

“Entitlement is an expression of conditional love. Nobody is ever entitled to your love. You always have a right to protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being by removing yourself from toxic people and circumstances.” -Dr. Janice Anderson & Kiersten Anderson

It’s not always obvious if you have someone toxic in your life. A toxic relationship is one that is harmful to you. A toxic person can create distress to the degree you feel inadequate and isolated. So, what makes a toxic person?

A toxic person has toxic behavior, meaning it’s not that the whole person is toxic[1]. It’s what they do that counts. Most toxic people run from accountability and misrepresent reality to you. They misrepresent your worth and your ability to heal from them can be stifled the longer you keep them in your life. You have a role to play with it as well; if your values are dismissed by them and you don’t act on it, you have allowed room for toxicity to grow.

When you are in a toxic relationship, you feel less than. You feel as though you are not worth anyone’s time or effort. You feel unheard, and sometimes you feel unsafe. You don’t feel good about yourself in a toxic relationship, whether it be with a partner, friend, or family member.

You may stay in a toxic relationship for a number of reasons. You may believe yourself to be a burden, have a lack of boundaries, resist change, fear conflict, try to be a people pleaser, find yourself codependent, or are partially stuck in a pattern or unhealthy cycle of abuse.

Letting go of toxic people may not be easy. In order to do so, you have to know why or how they are toxic to you and read between the lines that they do not have your best interests in mind.

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Letting go of toxic people is hard because you are good and want to see the good in others. You think their apologies are authentic. You have trouble believing they are being dishonest. You don’t spend time healing from it. You get pulled back into the pain because you don’t want it to end. However, if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t right.

You should walk away from a toxic person because you need to preserve your peace. You need to feel like yourself again. And you need better support.

Letting go of toxic people can involve four major steps.

1. Recognize the Red Flags

Red flags are signs a person is being toxic. It’s when someone shows characteristics that you should feel caution about. It’s when you feel any level of dissatisfaction and distrust. Trust your gut. When you recognize red flags, you can evaluate whether a person is trying to manipulate you or not. This gives you some level of control over what you allow in your life. The earlier you detect these behaviors, the better off you will be.

Red flags can include:

  • They always put themselves first.
  • They point out imperfections and sabotage your self-esteem.
  • You may feel drained or used when you’re around them.
  • What you give isn’t reciprocated. They don’t return the goodness you provide as a friend.
  • They ignore your boundaries and get angry when you tell them “no.”
  • You catch them in half truths or outright lies when you confront them about anything.
  • You are the villain; they are the victim.
  • Second chances always lead to repeated patterns of behavior.
  • They may engage in abuse.

2. Set Boundaries

There are emotional boundaries that one can set, but there are also physical ones[2]. You can leave any time. Setting boundaries is also an important part of self-care.

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You shouldn’t walk on eggshells. Tell them how you feel. Are they respecting you, fulfilling your needs, and listening to you? If not, it’s time to set up a healthy emotional distance and start letting go of toxic people around you.

There are levels to this. You have your inner circle, which could include family, and then you have acquaintances and strangers. If a toxic person is in your inner circle, it’s time to pull back and put up some boundaries for them to follow. If they can’t hear you out, you can cut off the connection completely.

You can give second chances, but you have to be careful. If someone knows they can get away with something, they will do it again. If there’s any chance for the relationship, they have to know not to cross certain lines.

3. Invest in Yourself

You deserve to know you are worthwhile. Try to remember that things will get better and that anything is possible. How do you do so? Invest in yourself.

This means self care, goal setting, surrounding yourself with positive support, and feeling a sense of peace. Your greatest ambition should be to love yourself. Without self-love, letting go of toxic people will be difficult.

Every relationship is a risk, but if you know yourself and what you will allow, toxic people will have less of a hold over you. If you are a giver or people pleaser, you are most at risk to being in a one-sided relationship. You shouldn’t be punished for caring, but sometimes trust needs to be earned. If you have self-love, you are treating yourself the best way possible. You know that others need to meet your standards; otherwise, they don’t get to be a part of your life.

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It’s possible that you can love yourself and still not see the signs. It can be difficult for some to be aware that toxic people exist. However,, if you know how much you mean to others in your life and what you are worth, you will be less likely to take on a relationship that is harmful to you or repeat negative patterns. Self-love is how we get out of toxic relationships, but it’s also how they never begin.

4. Know When Forgiveness Is Possible

There are times a person will prove their worth to you. They may make a mistake that makes them seem like a horrible person. They may forget to be good to you because of their own issues. They may just have no example of what a healthy relationship looks like. They may have an inflated ego that really comes from insecurity. The list goes on.

If they apologize, that’s a start. Look at their actions. Are they changing for the better because they really want to change or just seeming to in order to manipulate you? A person may control others with their image or perceived personality, but if you see through them, you may be able to discern the degree to which they are willing to be there for you.

If they start to do the right thing, you may begin to trust them again. Don’t start forgiving them until time has passed and you are sure there is growth, even if they show vulnerability or remorse. You can give a second chance if they truly have an awakening. Otherwise, it’s best to get out. Don’t let them walk all over you; let them walk out the door.

If you do give a second change and they still refuse to change, you have every right to remove them and continue the process of letting go of toxic people. The moment you even want to leave may also be a good time to get out. You don’t have to compromise yourself in order to care for them.

Forgiveness is the release of resentment or anger[3]. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. You have to go back to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone. You don’t have to let them back in. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

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Remember, forgiveness is ultimately for you, not them. You don’t need that person in your life in order to forgive them, and if you give them a second chance, proceed with caution.

Final Thoughts

Recognize the red flags, set boundaries, invest in yourself, and know when forgiveness is possible. This is how you cope with a toxic person impacting your life. You have power in the direction of your life and the people who accompany you as you move forward. Use it.

If a person is worthwhile, they will prove themselves through their actions, not their words. If they cross certain lines that really harm you, you owe them nothing. You have every right to feel what you feel and to be upset. Honor your feelings and communicate them because it’ll only continue to keep happening if you don’t.

If this is happening to you, it’s time to put a stop to it. It’s time to take control. It’s time to live for yourself, not for what others say about you. It’s time to set your standards higher than they’ve ever been before. And most of all, it’s time to let go.

Resource reminder: A physically abusive relationship is ALWAYS toxic. There are resources for you. Always speak up.

If you are in such a cycle or domestic violence or abuse reach out for help. For example, there is The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) which can be reached at 1−800−799−7233. There are other ways to get help if you simply ask for it. 

More Tips on Letting Go of Toxic People

Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

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