How to Save a Marriage
If your marriage is in trouble and you want to save it, what can you do? Fortunately, there’s lots even just one partner who wants to know how to save a marriage can do to increase the odds your marriage will survive -- and thrive.
I have worked as a psychologist for over 30 years and I’ve helped hundreds of couples to save their marriages. Here’s an example of how to save a marriage based on a common story I see in my private marriage counseling practice.
Pam was furious at Ashton, and Ashton was equally fed up with his wife. Years of bickering and quarreling had corroded their love. To end the fighting, they had grown apart, living like barely civil roommates, building separate lives, and even succumbing to alternative lovers. But was ending the marriage the only option? Hadn’t they once loved each other?
Pam decided it was time to shape up or ship out. She said to Ashton, “That’s it. I’ve had it with our old marriage. I’ve given up and am totally finished with that one. But I want to keep you. As angry as I have been about the many things you do that I don’t like, I actually do still value much about who you are.
And Pam made this proposal, the key first step to saving a marriage. “Let’s end our old marriage, keep each other, and build a totally new kind of marriage together!”
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Fortunately, Ashton agreed. Divorce felt like failure. Besides, he’d be lonely and had no desire to start a new life on his own. In addition, divorce would be so expensive. Did he want to cut his net worth in half? Absolutely not. Most importantly, Ashton’s parents had divorced, causing him and his siblings years of pain and strain. He was determined not to pass a similar burden on to his own children.
Pam and Ashton were in the right frame of mind. They were looking for a new relationship. The question was, what next?
When I meet with couples like Pam and Ashton, I recommend using the 3-L’s cure:
Pam took the initiative here. She decided to stop trying to prove she was right. Instead of insisting on her way when they had differences, she would listen to her husband’s concerns. Instead of defending herself against his complaints, she would take seriously what seemed to bother him.
To Pam’s surprise, Ashton noticed the difference and he also started listening more and being less defensive.
Loving is appreciating. Loving is enjoying. Loving is gratitude. Love is sharing personal thoughts. Love is admitting mistakes. Loving also involves giving out dollops of positive energy in every way by helping with housework, by hugging each other, by offering and receiving sexual attention, and by radiating positivity, playfulness and affection toward each other. The more loving energy you radiate, the more that others, including your spouse, will want to be around you. No need to gush. Just emanate light, not darkness. Love and positivity are key ingredients to saving your marriage.
Marriage is a high-skilled activity. It's not sledding where you point your sled down the hill, hop on board and push off. It's more like skiing where you need to learn technique to make it down the hill without falling or being dangerous to other skiers. Learning how to save a marriage takes time and practice. Learning to talk in a consistently considerate and open way with each other enabled Pam and Ashton to launch a new era in their relationship--and insured that their new goodwill would last.
Pam and Ashton now have a totally new marriage. You can too. Open your ears to listening. Open your heart to loving. And open a Power of Two Online membership to learn powerful new skills for fixing broken relationships.
Dr. Susan Heitler