There are so many reasons people get divorced, and every situation is unique. You might be 100% sure that divorce is right for you, but then again, you might be wondering if there’s even the slightest possibility things can work out. You might be asking, “How do you save a marriage that is falling apart?”
I think I can help you.
Did you know that there are countless couples that end up getting divorced and they didn’t truly want it? The sad thing is, they got divorced because they just didn’t know what else to do.
If you’re contemplating divorce right now, but deep down you still love your spouse, you are proud of the life you’ve built together and the family you’ve raised together, and you’re wondering how to save a marriage that is falling apart, I have great news for you.
You absolutely can save a marriage that feels like it’s falling apart.
Here are my five tips to not just saving your marriage, but to moving your relationship in a positive direction and being authentically happy together.
1. Stop complaining to family, friends and coworkers.
This is one of the most destructive things people do and they don’t even realize it. It’s understandable that you need to vent about your anger and criticisms of your partner, and people close to you will validate how you feel because they only hear your side and they think they are being supportive. “What a jerk, I wouldn’t put up with that, you have to tell him….blah blah blah”. But complaining to others too much can hurt your marriage. How?
Nothing gets solved by venting and it only creates more negativity and more distance between you and your spouse. I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to vent. Venting is healthy, at times. But venting all the time and not taking any action is very unhealthy, both for you and for your marriage.
2. Stop blaming your spouse for everything.
I know it’s not easy. No one is perfect. He isn’t perfect and neither are you. But this issues you have in your marriage are the result of what each of you are doing and have done over many years. It is never one person’s fault. I am not condoning physical, verbal, sexual or financial abuse, or cheating. These things are wrong and unacceptable. That said, don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and take accountability for certain things you might have done that could have played a role in your marriage breaking down. Relationship patterns and the negative cycles you’ve been stuck in are the result of each of you reacting to the other in an unhelpful, unhealthy way.
The good news is, these negative cycles are nothing more than practiced patterns that can be changed. Yes, it takes work and effort, just as it does to change any habit, but it’s entirely possible. When you focus on the pattern, NOT the person, it becomes easier and more motivating to work together to change things.
3. Be clear about what you want.
If you’ve been unhappy in your marriage for a long time, it’s easy to see what you don’t like and what you don’t want. But, too often couples have no idea what they actually DO want.
When I work with clients the first thing they want to tell me is about all the things that are going wrong. They want to give me all the details of the past and tell me all the faults s their partner has and the ways he has mistreated them.
And when I ask them what they want it to look like, they are stumped. They can’t answer the question because they haven’t actually thought about it. Not intentionally. When we are stuck in negative emotions for so long, our brains don’t think about solutions or ideals. In other words, you forget what you need to be happy.
Yet this is the very thing that you need to identify if you want your life to be different. Without a vision or idea of what you want your marriage to look like, it will be hard to get there. Imagine having a goal in which you want a better job. What does “better” mean? What does “better” look like? Does it mean a higher paying job? Does it mean a different career? Do you want to work in a different industry? Do you just not like your manager? How will you get a better job if you have no idea what that means to you?
4. Be committed.
If you really truly want to make your marriage work you have to be all in on the decision. A halfhearted commitment will yield halfhearted results.
Couples will sometimes secretly have one foot in and one foot out of the marriage. When things are going well, both feet are in. If their partner does something that frustrates them or something that is reminiscent of the past, then they go back to having one foot out.
It’s difficult to make progress when there is always the threat of separation or divorce looming in the background. I always recommend taking divorce off the table for at least 6 months while you are working on the marriage.
Doing the work to save your marriage doesn’t happen in a straight line. It usually looks more like 2 steps forward 1 step back, one step forward, one step forward, 2 steps back. It is a process that takes time and will include making progress and dealing with setbacks. This might sound like a tedious and depressing process, but it truly isn’t. There is so much learning going on, and there are some lovely moments that start taking place, and the goal is that more and more of those start to appear throughout the process. Yes, there could be tears and anger and frustration, but these negative emotions become less and less prevalent as the work continues.
5. Get support.
That means seeking professional help from either a licensed therapist or a marriage coach. Most importantly, make sure the person you’re working with is trained and skilled in working with couples. Many well meaning, individual therapists work with couples not knowing that the skill set for couples is completely different than for individuals.
As a former therapist, I made a decision to focus my practice solely on saving marriages that feel like they are falling apart. I’ve worked with many couples who have been to therapy before working with me, and therapy (with an unskilled therapist) either made matters worse or they made no progress at all.
Make sure the therapist or coach has a process they can clearly articulate, that they will take you through to improve your marriage. Clear goals and assignments to work on between sessions.
If after a few sessions you find that there is no clear path forward, you keep rehashing the fight of the week, then it may be time to seek out different support.
I am truly dedicated to helping couples not just save their marriage, but to create an entirely new partnership, and to get to a place of great communication, thoughtfulness, desire, and the healthy kind of love. Feel free to schedule a free consultation here.
Denise Fitzpatrick, LMHC, M.A. is a marriage and relationship coach for couples and individuals. With more than 20 years experience as a therapist–10 years specializing in marriage and relationship coaching, Denise is the founder and of My Marriage Works, which is dedicated to helping couples save their marriages and/or have better marriages.
Whether it’s couples and individual coaching, working with Denise will teach you how to get to the real issues, empower yourself, manage your reaction and understand your partner’s perspective. Her goal is to transform your marriage into a thriving and healthy partnership.
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