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How to Fix a Broken Marriage And Save Your Relationship

How to Fix a Broken Marriage And Save Your Relationship

When you are a child and dream of your “happily ever after,” it never dawns on you that your marriage might not end up that way. I mean, let’s face it – all the Disney movies in the world never, ever hint to the fact that Cinderella and her Prince Charming would ever have any problems, right?

Well, Disney movies aren’t real life. Although we all know this on a conscious level, we still – in our hearts – hope that we will be the exception to the rule. We think that we will be one of the lucky ones who have a lifelong, happy marriage.

However, for many couples, it simply doesn’t happen. Why is that? Well, the reasons are many, which I will go into in a minute. But no one teaches us how to have a loving marriage. And if we didn’t see our parents living happily together, then we really have no model for it.

So, what if you find yourself in an unhappy marriage? How to fix a broken marriage and save your relationship?

Reasons that Lead to a Broken Marriage

I really wish all of us could take a class in school called Relationships 101. But no one is ever formally taught how to have a good marriage (or any relationship for that matter). What is the result? The result is that all of us just sort of fly by the seat of our pants and wing it when it comes to relationships. But if you want to have a happy, healthy, successful marriage, you can’t do that.

Here are some of the causes of a broken marriage.

Laziness

Everyone says relationships are hard and take a lot of hard work. Well, think about it. Anything in this life that is worth having takes effort, right? I mean, unless you win the lottery, you won’t become rich without hard work.

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Relationships are no different. You have to put in effort into your marriage. If you don’t, and are too lazy to keep it alive, it will die.

Selfishness

Many people are selfish to some extent. But when it comes at the price of a healthy marriage, then it’s a problem. You can’t always put your needs first. You have to put your partner’s needs at least equal to – or before – your own. Otherwise, resentment will keep building endlessly.

Neglect

This goes hand-in-hand with laziness and selfishness. If you are lazy and don’t put in effort, and you are constantly selfish, then you are neglecting your partner – and your relationship as a whole.

Relationships are like plants. If you don’t water a plant, it will die. If you neglect a marriage, it will eventually end as well.

Children

As much as we love them, children are hard on a marriage. If you are honest with yourself, you know it’s true. Children take a lot of time and energy – time and energy that could spent on your marriage. So, when couples don’t stay connected because children get in the way, then your marriage will break down.

Poor Communication Skills

Knowing how to talk to your partner to express your feelings and needs is essential. However, both people need to do the same and have empathy for the other person.

If empathy (the ability to identify with and see the other person’s point of view) doesn’t exist, then it’s virtually impossible to have a healthy marriage.

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How to Fix a Broken Marriage (without Couseling)

Sometimes, we feel hopeless when we’re in a bad marriage. You wonder if it is ever possible to rediscover the good relationship you had in the beginning. The answer is yes, but you have to put in some work.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have the financial means to go to counseling. However, if you do, I would suggest that as a first step.

Even if this is not an option, here are some steps you can try:

1. Take a Good Look at Yourself

It takes two to tango. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before. In other words, problems in a relationship are rarely the sole responsibility of just one person.

Take a look at your behaviors and speculate how they might have contributed to the state of your marriage.

These tips are useful for you: How to Save a Marriage That Is Falling Apart

2. Take Responsibility for Your Own Actions

Now that you know what you did to contribute to your marital problems, own up to them. Tell your spouse how you feel, and then commit to changing your behavior immediately.

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3. Be Honest with Yourself and Your Spouse

Sometimes it’s easier to put your head in the sand and ignore the problems. But your marriage won’t get any better if you do this!

Sit down and be honest with yourself about the state of the marriage. Then, take your feelings to your spouse and have a deep, heart-to-heart talk.

4. Have a Talk

This is an obvious step, but it needs to be done. You can’t map out a plan for the future if you don’t even talk about your problems to begin with.

5. Each Partner Explains His/Her Perception of the Problems

Perception is reality

. In other words, your spouse probably sees the marriage in a very different way than you do. So, you need to listen to your partner’s point of view.

6. Just Listen

While your spouse is explaining their point of view, just listen to them. Don’t talk. Don’t interrupt them. Instead, stay calm and don’t get defensive.

7. Make a List of Things That Both People Want to Change

In order to rebuild your marriage, things obviously need to change – on both sides. So, both of you need to write down, and talk about, what needs to be changed in the marriage.

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8. Write out a “Contract”

It’s easy for people to say they are going to change, but it’s another thing for them to actually follow through with it. So, it’s best to write a “contract” between the two of you and sign it. This shows commitment to each other for change.

9. Spend Quality Time Together

You can’t rebuild your marriage if you aren’t spending time together! It seems obvious, but you need to rediscover each other, and spending quality time talking and doing things is imperative.

10. Ditch the Technology

Believe it or now, technology is a huge culprit in the downfall of relationships. Whether it’s the TV, cell phone, or video games, spending too much time with technology and not each other is the kiss of death. Make sure you put that down and talk to each other on a regular basis.

Can You Fix a Broken Marriage Alone?

This is a very common question that I am asked, which does not have an easy answer. In fact, my first instinct is to answer “it cannot be done.” I truly do believe it takes two committed people to rebuild a marriage. However, if you don’t have a willing spouse, you can try these steps if you are desperate enough to try to go it alone:

Take a Look Back at What Happened in the Marriage

Do a “relationship autopsy.” In other words, how did the marriage die? Just like a literal dead body is dissected after death, you can look at your marriage and see what went wrong.

If you find that a lot of the causes were because of YOU, then you can change your actions.

Notice Any Common Patterns That Have Emerged over the Years

Relationships always develop patterns. Some are good, and some are bad. So, you need to look for recurring themes in your marriage that may have gotten you into trouble. Once you identify them, try something new instead of repeating the same actions in the future.

Final Thoughts

Rebuilding a marriage is not easy, but it can be done. The easiest way to have a healthy relationship is to not let it break down in the first place. However, since that’s not an option, all the tips in this article will definitely put you both on the path to resurrecting what was lost.

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Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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