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.
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,
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) requires further work and improve those areas to save your marriage as soon as possible.
Pillar 1: Emotional Connection
First and foremost, if the 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. 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 was at your best.
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. 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.
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.
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’s 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.
Originally Published on lifehack.org