How to Fix a Marriage in 10 Ways that Will Surprise You and Change Your Relationship
Since you’re here, I’m gonna guess that you’re in full-fledged crisis mode or you want to restore your marriage in some way. Things aren’t what they used to be. I understand, but the good news is you’re HERE to get help and it is possible to learn how to fix a marriage, but it will take a lot of effort from both sides.
You can restore the love and respect. In fact, you can grow to love and respect your husband even more than you do now. You can renew the relationship and give it new life.
Right now, you are taking the first step towards mending your relationship and I want to commend you for that! You’ve made the decision to fight instead of giving up. In this article, I’m standing by your side to support you in your effort to fight for your marriage.
Are you wondering how?
I’m going to share several steps to fix a broken marriage. While I know my suggestions may not be perfect remedies, hopefully they will provide you a starting point and make a lasting change in your relationship.
I want you to remember that just as it was a process for things to progress to where they are now, it will be a process to restore the relationship. But with a bit of faith, prayer, a humble spirit and a heart that longs for restoration, you can see your situation turn around.
Before we dive in deep, I want to ask you where it all started.
A Starting Point to Fix Your Marriage
After my son was born, my relationship with my husband changed. It went from being fun and carefree to being stressful. There was so much more stuff to think about. While we had a household to run before our son was born, there was an added level of pressure and responsibility after his arrival. That stress transferred directly into our marriage.
The Bump reader, jiffymama616 says, “If someone tells you that their marriage didn’t change, they’re not being honest with you. When you go from just you and your spouse to you, your spouse and a baby, things will change. Change isn’t a bad thing—at least not always.”
The Bump calls these drastic changes 180s – saying, “you knew that things would be different after baby came along-but nothing prepared you for these total 180s.”
“So, how did you two meet…”
In the middle of all of that craziness, my husband and I documented the story of how we started — in business terms, I guess we would have called it our origin story or how we met. We had done it before, several years earlier, but this time, I wanted to record videos of it.
Full Disclosure: we recorded because I was blogging. It wasn’t that I thought telling our story would be romantic. While on maternity leave, I decided to start blogging again, and I asked him to help me re-record our story.
I didn’t feel like recording it while we were recording it. As I remember, I may have been annoyed at him before, during and after filming, but there was something heartwarming about just remembering how it all started.
Now, I’m not sure if you’re reading this article alone or if you’ve convinced your husband to go through it with you, but either way, you can take a bit of time to remember way back when. Remember how things were.
Sometimes, in the all the craziness of life, we forget why we made the decision to marry the person we married. Thinking back should hopefully help you answer that question.
Get a video camera and record. Write it in a journal. Record it in the audio app on your iPhone. Make a scrapbook. Use magazine cutouts. Tell it in your own way.
If you don’t want to do it because it’s romantic (and I get it, you may not have room in your heart right now for romance), do it for your kids.
If you don’t want to do it for your kids, do it for yourself just in case you develop Alzheimer’s one day. Just do it!
Even if you feel a strong dislike for your husband right now, you might find that you can still look back fondly at your beginning.
You did say “I do” at some point in time so you must have seen something good in him. Go back to that moment and recount it. Don’t spare any of the details. Get it all out.
So before we start with the nitty gritty, how did you two meet?
How Did We Get Here?
Okay. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s jump right in.
This might be the part that you’re much more passionate about – remembering how you got to this place to need to fix your marriage. People seem to love pointing fingers and remembering the bad things that other people have done to them.
Now, this isn’t about blame, it’s simply to let us know how to address what’s happening.
Starting with your origin story and going forward, what has changed in your relationship? What’s made the big difference?
Sometimes it’s hard to really put your finger on. You may find that your husband has slowly pulled away or maybe you’ve pulled away and you don’t know why.
Think back through the timeline of your relationship and track what may be going on. When did the bickering and snide remarks begin? When did you develop resentment? Can you track it back to anything specific?
I can think of a dozen reasons why you may find yourself in this situation. Check out this list of common reason why marriages fall apart. Do you see yourself as a couple reflected there?
Now, don’t invent new reasons to be mad at one another! Just check to see if any of the reasons sound familiar.
Common Reasons Why Marriages Come Apart
As you’re reading the list, I want you to raise your hand if any of them sound like you. You might be sitting alone in your kitchen, in your bed or on the train. Just put your hand up…even a little bit. If you’re afraid the people around you will look at you funny, you can pretend that you’re just scratching your head. Own it sister girl. Which one(s) of these describe(s) your marriage?
1. The marriage changed and the people in it didn’t.
Marriages change. They may start out with boyish good looks and up with George Clooney style and swag. But we have to let those changes take place and be patient in the process of getting there.
According to Psychology Today, “For many of us, this is the root of so much of our suffering. We want people and things to stay the same, to not change, to be permanent, and our lives prove to us over and over again that everything changes.”
One of the main reason the marriage changes is because marriages have stages. They grow and mature. They don’t always stay in that blind, honeymoon phase.
2. We don’t prepare ourselves for the changing stages in marriage.
When we make the decision to get married, we’re usually in a goo-goo, gah-gah honeymoon phase. The person can do no wrong. We’re blissfully, passionately in love. The problem is, people expect the relationship to always stay this way. However, with the progression of life, the reality of familiarity and the confrontation of bills, relationships often move to other stages.
According to Michele Weiner-Davis MSW, there are five stages on the “Marriage Map”.
Stage 1 – Passion Prevails
Stage 2 – What Was I Thinking
Stage 3 – Everything Would Be Great If You Changed
Stage 4 – That’s Just the Way He Is
Stage 5 – Together, at Last
Stage 1 and Stage 5 are what we imagine the whole journey is about, but it’s also about everything in between.
When talking about Stage 5, Michele says, “It is really a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to stage five, when all the pain and hard work of the earlier stages really begins to pay off. Since you are no longer in a struggle to define who you are and what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony. You start “liking” your spouse again.
By the time you reach stage five, you have a shared history. And although you’d both agree that marriage hasn’t been easy, you feel proud that you’ve weathered the storms. You appreciate your partner’s sense of commitment to making your marriage last. You feel more secure about yourself as a person and you begin to appreciate the differences between you and your spouse. And what you don’t appreciate, you find greater acceptance for. If you have children, they’re older and more independent, allowing you to focus on your marriage again, like in the old days. And you start having “old day feelings” again. You have come full circle.”
It’s often hard to look beyond where we are right now to anticipate things to come.
3. Lack of trust
Trust is the very foundation of a relationship and when this is gone, it can be a miserable situation for everyone – not just the person who was wronged but also the person who did wrong as well.
“Lack or loss of trust is one of the most harmful contagions to a couple’s long-term success. Without trust, a relationship misses two of the key anchors to a strong bond: safety and security.”
Even if you’re the spouse who wants to right the wrong, you may find it hard to withstand all of the questioning.
Understanding how to fix a marriage after trust is broken is a challenging thing.
4. Lack of communication
Communication is the lifeblood of the relationship. Without it, we’re just left to interpret grunts, sighs, eye rolls and silence, and if we’re left to decipher everything we think our husband is trying to tell us, we’re likely to get it wrong every time.
According to marriage.com, “…When you’re not really talking to one another it can cause bigger problems in your marriage. You might find that you’re not really mindful of making each other a priority, and so when the communication starts to slip the marriage can head into a danger zone. It doesn’t mean that you can’t fix it, but you want to be sure that you never take good communication for granted.”
5. Giving up and giving in seems to be the way things go
If you watch any of the popular TV shows, divorce, cheating, sleeping around and scandal seem to be the primary plot lines. Once we turn off the TV, we don’t have to look much farther than family and friends for examples of couples who have given up and thrown in the towel. Finally you just start thinking, maybe it is all too hard after all. Giving up seems to be the norm so it’s no big deal if I do it too.
Often, giving up in marriage can just seem like a contagion that you catch. Hang around too many people doing it and you might do it too. It’s not so much that giving up in marriage is due to peer pressure, it’s more like giving up as almost been normalized and justified.
6. Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems – Money problems
This one probably needs little explanation. Imagine two people who grew up in different households, with different socioeconomic backgrounds, who learned vastly different things about money having to come together and manage money together. It’s almost a guaranteed recipe for disaster!
According to Dr. Howard Markman, co-director of the centre for marital and family studies at the University of Denver, “Financial differences are the leading cause of marital discord today.”
So with all of this pressure and with these problems staring us in the face, is there any hope? Can we possibly stand up to the forces that are fighting against the success of our marriages? Here are a few jump off points that can get you started on the journey to bringing healing to your relationship.
How to fix a marriage in crisis
Marriages can’t be fixed like machines or the leaky faucet. A lot has happened to get the marriage into the state it’s in. A lot will have to happen to make it a happy and functioning marriage. Unlike a broken car or a faulty machine, there’s no guaranteed prediction for how your husband will react and ever circumstance is vastly different. Here are some things that will move the needle in the direction of restoration.
1. Remember, you can only change yourself and your behavior
One of the most empowering things is to remember that you can only work on yourself and your behavior. While on the one hand it can be discouraging because if anything needs to be changed in your husband you’re powerless to do it, it also takes the pressure off of you. It’s not your responsibility to do it. It’s so much easier to worry about controlling one person instead of worrying about controlling two – especially when the other person may be resistant to change.
That being said, people often react to the things we do and the circumstances we create. Our actions influence them. They react to what we do or say. So we can stimulate change by what we do we just can’t force it. Knowing this will have a lot of impact on how you approach this process.
2. Prioritize your marriage
There are a million things you need to be doing right now. Yes! Right this very second while you’re reading this article. Don’t stop reading it, just know that by saying yes to this, you’re saying no to something else. Start saying yes to your husband and to your marriage. The laundry will be there and so will the sweeping. People are gone so quickly from our lives, sometimes so unexpectedly. Love and cherish your spouse while you can.
3. Remember your origin story – how you started
Remember where you came from and what brought you together. It may seem very distant from where you are today, but it might be closer than you think. Sometimes, as spouses, our hearts get so cold towards one another. Remembering where you came from can melt even the coldest of hearts.
I’m sure the story will be filled with moments of laughter. You’ll laugh as you try to remember the details. You’ll laugh when you remember the obstacles you had to overcome, and laughing is a good place to start when you’re trying to jumpstart a relationship that’s floundering.
4. Remember your purpose as a couple
What did you want to do or accomplish when your relationship began? Try to make a list of those goals again.
When you remember your origin story, you’ll be reminded of your purpose as a couple. Remember those late night conversations when you used to dream about what you would accomplish together? Remember the people you said you’d help or the financial goals you said you’d reach. Remember how you said you wanted to take vacation once a year or volunteer? Remember what you envisioned your life looking like when you were old and gray together? Are you doing that consistently? Are you living out your purpose as a couple? Sometimes, when you move away from this, your relationship is out of sync. You’re not living in your purpose as a couple. Try to make sure you’re living in your purpose.
5. Try to get out of debt.
This could mean downsizing before you can build back up again. Money is one of the number one reasons why people fight. It’s such a contentious topic. It’s a topic that at its heart is really about power and control, and it’s hard for people to relinquish either one of those.
Debt can be one of the most debilitating things in a marriage. It can make you feel so helpless and out of control. It might feel like you can never get from underneath it. Because of it, many couples fight. If you need help getting out of debt, you can try a program like Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps for Getting Out of Debt or other Financial Counselors.
6. Show Respect
No matter how it feels in your marriage right now, respect your husband. Avoid name calling or petty games. While it may help you blow off some steam now, it’s not worth it in the long-run. Imagine that one day your relationship will be healthy again and you don’t want the memories of name calling and disrespect to cloud the future of the relationship. It’s childish and immature, and it’s better just to avoid it. Life is challenging enough as it is without name calling and disrespect. This is true whether you have kids or not, but especially if you have children. It’s a very negative thing for them to see.
7. Put phones down and have real conversations
Phones have such a hold on our society and culture nowadays. But when you’re looking to fix your marriage, you will do yourself and your husband a service by putting them down when he’s around. Treat him like a person. Pay him attention. Look him in the eye. Don’t make him feel like he’s a second priority after your phone. Who’s on there that’s so important anyway?
Give the phone a rest and have real conversations with your husband, especially when you’re in the same room. It makes him feel important and that he matters. Your husband might not ever be able to articulate this in words, but it’s likely that he feels this way.
Imagine yourself before you were married. You’re having a conversation with someone you’ve just met for the first time, who’s absolutely gorgeous. You have a deep longing to get to know him better and for him to pay you attention. You’d put everything down to look deeply into his eyes and have a conversation with him. Now, put everything down and pay your husband attention in the same way.
8. Marriage Mentor Couple
This one might be more challenging because you have to get someone else involved. This one involves you being courageous enough to share your relationship with someone else. It requires vulnerability. It requires taking advice.
Is there any couple you know who’s been married for a long time who you trust? I’m suggesting you find a Marriage Mentor Couple — an older couple who’s been through the various stages of marriage like you have and can give you a bit of guidance and wisdom. Make sure it’s a couple that’s wise, who has a marriage you admire. Understand they won’t be perfect, but they may have principles you can apply to your marriage.
I have witnessed couples in the throes of divorce who have refused counseling. I’ve heard their reasons and I’ve tried to be empathetic, but I’ve always felt if there is one more way that your relationship might be restored, why won’t you try it?
I’ve seen counselors several times after relationship break-ups. It’s just helped me get my mind sorted and to think with more clarity.
If going to see someone in an office is too overwhelming for you, why not talk to an online counselor. They’re trained counselors.
10. Surprise your spouse by extreme listening
It may seem like the simplest thing in the world, but you can surprise your husband with extreme listening. Show him you’re listening by what you buy for him to eat or by the chores you do in the house. Don’t just parrot back the words he says to you, but carry out the things he says. He’ll be so blown away by the fact that you’re truly taking in what he has to say.
Should We Get a Divorce
The dirty “D” word.
I don’t want to make this article all about pie in the sky. The reality is married folk get divorced. It happens all the time. People may think that divorce is so common that it doesn’t hurt anymore but nothing could be further from the truth. Divorce stinks. It hurts. It impacts people and has implications that go beyond the two people signing the papers. Children, in-laws, work colleagues, neighbors, your pets, your community…and the list goes on.
Few words in the English language carry as much weight and consequence when spoken aloud. That’s why the word should not be spoken casually in your marriage.
One of the first ways you can “fix” your marriage is to not harp on its demise. Don’t threaten its end. In doing so, you might unwittingly speak it into reality.
Making the decision to get a divorce isn’t one that should be made lightly. Consult with your pastor or priest or a trusted, impartial friend. Don’t make the decision after an all-day bash-your-husband-session with your girlfriends. In fact, just avoid those all the time at all cost. Nothing good can come from them anyway.
So, should you get a divorce? That’s a decision you should make prayerfully and with a lot of thought and counseling.
Just as an upfront disclaimer, as you start down this road of fixing your marriage, know that things may not be exactly as they were. You and your husband have grown since that experience. You’ve changed as people. You may restore the joy and the love but be willing to accept that you won’t teleport yourself to your the relationship’s beginning. If you were to travel down the exact same road, you’d find yourself right back in the same situation. You can, however, restore the love and respect. In fact, you can grow to love and respect your husband even more than you do now. You can renew the relationship and give it new life.