No matter what movies tell us, even the happiest marriages don’t always look like happily ever after. And, that's the best case scenario. For many couples, it simply doesn’t happen. No one teaches us how to have a loving marriage. And, for those of us who didn’t see our parents living happily together, then we really have no model for it.
Marriage is not one-size-fits all, but there are general commonalities between a less stressful married life. The initial honeymoon phase of any relationship does not last forever, and eventually, people realize that certain changes have to be made in order to live in harmony with another person. No matter how much you might feel in sync with your other half, there will always be things that you both disagree upon. This has nothing to do with relationship strength or whether or not you’re in a good marriage, but rather with the complexities of human nature, personality, and attachment traits.
Many couples start to grow apart as years pass because they have no idea how to strengthen and maintain emotional bonds. This can not only affect life at home by increasing stress, but it can also affect their work performance and social interactions. If the distance between partners is not addressed when it surfaces, but rather is left lingering for too long, the relationship may often end up with a breakup or a divorce. As a result, the couple may be left with deep emotional scars, a long grieving process, and a state of shock.
So, what if you find yourself in an unhappy marriage? How to fix a broken marriage and save your relationship? What about online therapy?
If you are interested in learning how to save a marriage, reassessing needs is the best place to start. As years pass, partners’ expectations from each other change as well. What your partner needs in the first year of marriage is not necessarily what they need in the seventh. While their unconditional love for you might not waver, life has changed. For example, taking care of household work or children might become more important in later years of marriage rather than scheduling frequent social events. Similarly, instead of making breakfast, they might prefer you make the bed after you get up. These are simple things, but when added together, they can either make or break a marriage.
Commit to your marriage being number one, agreeing that anything else comes second. If your partner and your marriage are at the top of your priority list, this will inherently prevent less friction in your relationship. At least for a period of time, until the marriage is in a more stable place, put your career, hobbies, and other interests aside to make way for focus on your partner and relationship.
Unfortunately, all too often, people tend to see marriage as an accomplishment and end-goal. Marriage is more like a continuously unfolding adventure that keeps both partners excited and interested. So, keep things interesting between yourself and your partner and have fun! Small surprises never hurt anybody. Occasionally buying your partner flowers or showing some other token of gratitude may help keep the love budding between the two of you.
The experience that any couple has while cooking a good meal can be more rewarding than just ordering a pizza. Make cooking together an occasional habit. This can help you get in sync with your partner, and the sensory experience of cooking could also strengthen the bond and relationship further over time.
Relationships are not a game, so there is no point in keeping scores. Doing something for your partner only if he or she did something for you will not work. Similarly, fighting with your partner because they fought with you only creates barriers among couples. Couples who keep score rarely have a lasting and meaningful relationship. Therefore, try respecting your partner’s personal space, and if they hurt you in any way, try your best to discuss it instead of fighting/ Oftentimes, although not always, forgiving is much preferred.
Similarly, many couples play the blame game and do not have mutual respect, leading to a pursuer-distancer dance that causes one partner to chase the other around. After a while, they are no longer addressing the issue at hand and enter into a vicious cycle of resentment, frustration, and anger. The recipe for failure in a marriage is waiting for the other person to change. Rather than giving up on their marriage, couples need to lean toward each other. It’s the dissatisfied partner who usually is motivated to change. If you don’t take some new action on your own behalf, no one else will do it for you.
While it’s natural to want to give up a successful relationship when your partner becomes distant, reacting expands the divide between you. Instead, take responsibility for warming things up and increase positive reinforcement. You can say things like, “You’re so thoughtful to clean the kitchen” which highlights your partner’s positive qualities and things you admire about them. Emotional attunement can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. This means turning toward one another, listening, and showing empathy rather than turning away. Consider a 5:1 ratio of interactions – meaning for every negative interaction, you need five positive ones.
Most of the time, people believe that what is done is done, and there is no point in talking about what happened. This can be harmful in a lot of ways. Yes, there may be no point in fighting about the same problem over and over again, but there is value in taking some time to sit down and politely express each other’s feelings to one another while reflectively listening to each other, validating their emotions, and creating any (possible) solutions together. This will help create connection and a deep sense of understanding between the parties.
With time, some couples might grow apart and forget the love they once had. It’s the little things that matter sometimes, so try to remember those small, yet significant things that made you fall in love with each other all those years ago. Take out old pictures. Reminisce on memorable vacations and life events. This can help solidify the bond couples have together as it helps the couple jog up past, positive memories together.
While walking down memory lane, do a “relationship autopsy.” In other words, how did the marriage start to decline? 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.
Compliments are the anchor to any marriage. Many couples report that compliments later in married couple life actually mean more than compliments in the earlier days of marriage. It feels good to feel appreciated so make sure you find the time to praise them. If they are working hard or if they did something different for you, don’t forget to mention it and what it means to you.
It takes two to tango in a healthy marriage. 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. When 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.
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.
This is an obvious step, but is often overlooked to avoid uncomfortable confrontation. You can’t map out a plan for the future if you don’t even talk about your problems. 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. While your spouse is explaining their point of view, just listen to them. Don’t talk. Don’t interrupt them. Instead, stay calm and try not to get defensive.
In order to rebuild your marriage, things obviously need to change – on both sides. Both of you need to write down, and talk about, what needs to be changed in the marriage. 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. Consider writing a “contract” between the two of you and sign it. This shows commitment to each other for change.
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 joining each other in shared interests and activities is imperative. Believe it or not, 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 detrimental. Make sure you put that down and talk to each other on a regular basis.
If you’ve tried hard to reconnect and rekindle your marriage on your own, and aren’t seeing the progress you’d like, it might be time to seek out a marriage counselor. Marriage isn't an exact science, but some professionals do study it for a living. These psychologists, therapists, and counselors get paid to watch and analyze couples.
Marriage counseling, also called couples therapy, is a type of psychotherapy. Marriage counseling helps couples of all types recognize and resolve marital conflict and improve their relationships. Through marriage counseling, you can make thoughtful decisions about rebuilding and strengthening your relationship or going your separate ways.
Marriage counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees — and many choose to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
Marriage counseling is often short term. Marriage counseling typically includes both partners, but sometimes one partner chooses to work with a therapist alone. The specific treatment plan depends on the situation.
Rebuilding a marriage is not easy, but it can be done. The easiest way to have a happy marriage is to not let it break down in the first place. Seeking marriage counseling early, before the perpetual problems start, is the best way to make a marriage work.
Advekit can help you get matched with a marriage counselor today.