Healing a Troubled Marriage – Tips and Advice
I get a lot of emails from wives (and sometimes from husbands too) outlining a marriage that they define as “troubled.” They want some ideas or tips on how to heal the marriage and bring it back from a place of neglect and apathy to a place of love, appreciation, and affection. Sometimes, only one spouse has this wish, while the other spouse is ready to walk out or has really given up.
Still, typically the spouse who wants to heal the marriage can separate things as they are now from things as they used to be. They truly believe that if they are able to say or do the right things, little by little, they can begin to bring the marriage back from the dead. I believe this too. I’ve seen so many marriages that were only bitter shells of themselves reborn through a little effort and through sheer determination. Often, it takes more than a desire and well wishes to make this happen. You also need a plan that is actually going to work. So, in the following article, I’ll offer tips and advice on healing your troubled marriage.
Why I Really Hate The Phrase “Troubled Marriage” (Hint: It’s A Sabotaging, Self Fulfilling Prophecy:) To be honest, I cringe when someone repeatedly chooses the world troubled to describe their marriage. This word choice really implies that the marriage is like an old, rapid dog that either must be rehabilitated through some miracle or put out of its misery. This does not make the whole thing seem exciting or desirable. In essence, your word choice can’t help but influence your feelings about this entire situation before you’ve even begun to carry out the plan that I’m about to give you.
So, stop dwelling on the negative and describing or thinking about your marriage in the state that it is now. Instead, think of it in the terms that you want it to be in the future. You don’t want to approach your spouse from a place of beaten resignation. You want to approach them from a place of being excited about the future. This is a huge difference between the two and this will often greatly affect your outcome.
Act “As If” And Know That You Don’t Need To Give Them A Play By Play Of What You’re Doing: OK, let’s think about this for a second. Right now, your goal, very simply, is to get from point A to point B. Point A is where you are right now in your marriage and point B is your goal and what you’re shooting for. Theoretically, you need your spouse’s cooperation and enthusiasm to get where you want to go. But, I often tell people to realize that you likely aren’t going to get this cooperation until much later. And, you really don’t need it in the very beginning. There is quite a lot that you can do on your own.
Many people make the mistake of sitting their spouse down and asking for their help in “working on” their marriage. Again, I cringe at this terminology. When most adults hear the phrase “working on,” all this sounds like to them is, well, work. And, we are so time strapped and stressed today that many of us are not going to get overly excited when we’re told that we’re being given yet another task to put on the daily plate of life.
Again, the use of words affects how your spouse is going to look at what you’re asking them to do. And frankly, if your marriage has already reached this point, they’ve probably stopped listening to your promises and solutions. They’ve heard this before and they know it doesn’t work. So enough with all the words. You’re going to have to start focusing on action. And, you want to package it in a way so that you can both get behind it.
So, you want to tell them (very briefly) that you’re saddened by the state of your marriage and that you’d just like to simply focus on having more fun together. You are tired of living in drudgery and you think that both of you deserve better. Tell him (or her) that you’re tired of walking on egg shells and always analyzing and trying to fix everything. That process is tiresome and you want to abandon it for light hearted action. This does a couple of things. It lightens the tension which quite frankly is probably draining your marriage. It takes a lot of the pressure away and it postpones the difficult conversations that they were probably dreading (and vowing to ignore) anyway.
Putting Off The Hard Stuff Until You’re Strongly Bonded Again: Many readers tell me that the plan makes sense, but still, they just can’t understand how they’re actually going to heal this marriage when I’m telling them to delay the work part. Well, I don’t mean that you have to put it off indefinitely. However, the first step toward healing is changing your attitude. Both you and your spouse must change your perception of your marriage away from something that is struggling or just barely hanging on. This is done through a series of positive, shared experiences.
You want to move toward a place where both you and your spouse are having fun together and are again experiencing affection, anticipation, and appreciation. Because once you are here, you’ll have a much better chance of having both of you equally on board and then committed to doing “the work” necessary to getting things back of track.