Does this sound like you?
You’ve had ongoing problems in your marriage for a while now. The same issues seem to be argued about over and over, and the atmosphere between you and your spouse is frosty at best.
The thing is, while YOU want to work through your problems and get your marriage back to a happier place, your spouse is not interested. He or she thinks there is nothing wrong with their behavior, and that everything that has gone wrong with the marriage is entirely your fault.
They have become emotionally distant and unwilling to even TRY to talk things through. They may have even walked out on you, saying that they “need space” or that they are “not in love with you anymore”.
You live in constant anxiety about whether your spouse is really going to leave and are continuously walking on eggshells, in fear of being attacked. And when you try to express YOUR needs to them your spouse just gets defensive and nothing changes.
You may have suggested marital counselling, but your spouse was not interested. You’ve read self-help books, but your spouse is unwilling to go through the exercises with you. You feel completely lost and have no idea of where to go to from here.
What can you do in this impossible situation?
If you are committed to saving your marriage, even in the face of hardship and resistance, this is a great thing. This means that you have not given up and still have love left for your spouse. Because once you give up and let go of hope, there is nothing left to prevent your divorce from happening.
Trying to save your marriage alone will involve a lot of courage and some self-sacrifice. It is going to be hard work. It is going to involve some change. And it is going to take time.
But it CAN be done with determination and perseverance.
Read below to find out the steps to getting your distant spouse to break down their walls and give your marriage another try.
You’ve probably been in battle mode for a while now. But constantly butting heads with your spouse hasn’t worked and it’s time to change your approach. You’re not in the frontline anymore.
It’s time to stop fighting and allow yourself to gain the strength and resources you need to rethink the situation and try again. You need time to clear your head and regain your emotional resources.
Living under constant stress takes a lot out of you, and makes you fight with desperation rather than with reason and logic.
Try repeating some self-loving affirmations to yourself during this time, such as:
“I love myself for who I am”
“I am a kind and generous person”
‘I have a lot to give to others”
“I am a loving spouse”
“I am a strong person”.
2. Identify what it is that is driving your marriage apart
Once you have self-soothed and calmed down enough in order to be able to think clearly, it’s time to think through the marital problems you are having and try to identify the underlying causes of these.
Identifying the causes of the problems in your marriage can be difficult, especially if your spouse is unwilling to open up and share his or her feelings with you.
However, there are some things that you can do by yourself to start making the groundwork for mending your marital problems and finding out what is really upsetting your spouse.
Try to be more observant on what is going on between the two of you. When is it that your spouse seems to get the most angry or distant? Is there a major theme in your arguments? A particular topic that keeps coming up? For example, sex, money, housework, or not feeling cared for?
Perhaps yours and your spouse’s views on a topic are to do with differences in the values and lessons you learned through your childhood experiences - or simply differences in your personalities. For more information, see Facing gridlock in your marriage conflict?
At this time, it’s also important to get in touch with your own needs. What is it that makes YOU really angry or upset in your marriage? Why is this? What is it you are needing from your spouse?
It’s important to understand what it is you are needing, in order to be able to express these needs rationally to your spouse, without firing weapons like anger and contempt.
However, also bear in mind that because you are the one trying to save your marriage, you may need to place your spouse’s needs at a higher importance to your own right now.
Once they are back on board, they will be a lot more receptive to understanding and taking steps to meet your needs. But for now, focus on listening and being responsive to what your spouse is needing from you.
3. Listen to your spouse
When you have identified the root of the problems in your relationship, it’s time to try to initiate talk with your spouse about these issues, and listen openly to what they have to say. This is an essential part of the problem-solving process.
In order to be able to reduce negative emotions towards each other and come to a solution or compromise, you need to take a step back and consider things from your spouse’s perspective.
The first thing when approaching this situation is to let your own defensive barriers down. Because when we are in defense mode, often a person’s words get distorted by our own feelings and biases.
Hearing your spouse out, even when it hurts, is probably one of the biggest challenges in saving your marriage on your own. By doing this, you are opening yourself up to more potential pain - i’s extremely hard to hear your flaws and mistakes being pointed out to you.
However, it’s essential that you are able to listen to all of what your spouse has to say, without retaliating, if you want to save your marriage.
Your spouse might be angry in this discussion, but if you can be strong and not rise to their anger, eventually their fuse will become burnt out and they will calm down enough to talk about things more rationally. This is a necessary part of the healing process.
So using a calm, soft and unguarded approach, ask your spouse to share his or her thoughts on the current issues you are facing in your marriage. Let them know you WANT to listen to all they have to say.
When your spouse is talking, try to identify what their NEEDS are that they feel aren’t being met. Are they feeling neglected in some way? Why is it that they feel so strongly about a certain issue?
Make sure you understand everything your spouse says, and ask for clarification if you need it. For instance, ask them if they can help you to further understand how something you do (or don’t do) makes them feel.
Avoid blaming, judging or criticizing your spouse for what they have to say. Although you may think that some things are unfair, there will be a reason that your spouse is feeling upset by it. None of us are perfect, and part of being in a marriage is continuous personal growth.
Sometimes we do things that annoy or hurt the people close to us without even realizing it, and it takes a lot of guts to take this on board. In a healthy marriage, both spouses need to be open to taking on each other’s advice and using it to become a better self and relationship partner.
If you find your spouse is completely unwilling to talk even after trying different approaches, go straight to Step 4.
4. Take a look at what is hurting the ‘we’ component of your marriage
A marriage involves three components; the ‘we’, which is you and your spouse as a couple and how you relate to each other, the ‘me’, which is yourself as an individual and how you relate to yourself, and the ‘spouse’, which is your spouse as an individual.
When trying to save your marriage alone, you have the ability to make positive changes to both the ‘we’ and ‘me’ components of your marriage.
Firstly, focus on the ‘we’ component. Is there anything in your lives at the moment that is working directly against the ‘we’ in your marriage? Take into account anything your spouse has told you is upsetting them.
For example, perhaps you currently have conflicting work hours which have majorly reduced your time together. Or maybe you are under financial pressure because of debt and overspending.
How could these roadblocks be reduced or removed? Are you in a position to be able to change your shifts at work to be more compatible with your spouse’s, or would a change in job be a viable option?
Can you identify ways in which your household expenses could be reduced? Perhaps you could get professional financial advice from your bank in order to be able to work out a manageable budget.
As well as the practical issues, it’s also important to look at how the emotional wounds between you and your spouse can be healed.
Both you and your spouse have emotional needs which currently aren’t being met. In order to try and save your marriage alone, you need to re-learn how to meet your spouse’s emotional needs.
The key to identifying what your spouse’s unmet emotional needs are lies in what they have expressed to you during your marital discussions and conflicts.
For instance, their complaints about your sex life may be expressing that their need for physical affection is not being met. A complaint about your long work hours may be expressing that their need for quality time is not being met.
Although the practical issues in your marriage may need to be addressed first, you can start to formulate a plan as to how you can take little steps towards making your spouse feel loved again, in the ways that they need.
As you are doing this, think about the things that you do still love about your spouse. Trying to fill yourself with loving feelings, despite the current turmoil in your marriage, will help you relate to your spouse better.
Think also about the things that have brought you closer together in the past, and how you could use similar strategies at this time.
5. Identify ways to improve the ‘me’ component of your marriage
The next step is to identify what you can do to work on the ‘me’ component. When you make positive changes to yourself, this has benefits for the ‘we’. By learning to relate to yourself better, you also learn to relate to your spouse better.
Firstly, by getting rid of any negative thought patterns or beliefs that have taken hold in your mind. In order to be loved by others, we have to learn to love ourselves first. When we do not love ourselves, we RELY on positive feedback from others to feel good about ourselves and maintain a positive self-image.
This is not a healthy way to be, as it means than when our close relationships are in conflict, our self-image crashes. Which means we have very little emotional resources to work with and start reacting out of fear and desperation.
Self-deprecating thoughts will only hold you and your marriage back. In fact, what we believe about ourselves becomes our reality. So if you think that you are powerless, unattractive and boring, you will BECOME powerless, unattractive and boring.
But if you choose to IGNORE these thoughts and instead focus on your strengths and attractive features, such as your caring personality, great smile and good sense of humor, you will naturally start to become a more positive person who others want to be around.
In a marriage, it’s important to always still have your own goals and interests. Personal goals give us a sense of purpose in life, and help to keep us satisfied and well-rounded as individuals. Unfortunately, it is easy to let these slide when you become wrapped up in everything that is going wrong in your life.
Have a realistic think about what your relationship was like when you and your spouse first got together. What were the things that attracted your spouse to you? What has he or she always said they love about you?
You may have grown older, but are you still that same person today? Do you still have those qualities? How could you enhance or develop your positive qualities?
Are there any aspects of your behavior, lifestyle, or appearance you could improve? If you are constantly stressed, tired, or not giving your body the nutrients it needs, you can lose the parts of yourself which others love about you.
Perhaps it may be time to consider a lifestyle change. For instance, a reduction or increase in work hours, a change to a healthier diet, taking up a new interest, or giving up a bad habit such as smoking.
6. Show your spouse you’re serious about change
Once you’ve taken a good look at the root causes of your marital problems and what is holding you back from being the best spouse you can be, it’s time to take action.
If there are any immediate changes you can make, get right onto making these happen. And come back to your spouse with any further proposals of change you have come up with, which you believe will help your marriage.
Even if your spouse doesn’t think these changes will make a difference, go ahead and start making them anyway. By showing your spouse how far you’re willing to go to make positive changes in your marriage, you may just change their mind about whether it can be saved.
For instance, say you’ve promised to your spouse that you are going to cut down on your work or other outside commitments in order to be able to spend more quality time with the family and doing chores at home.
Your spouse may say that it’s too late and this won’t make a difference, but if they actually see you go ahead with it you may really take them by surprise – it make be these actions, rather than your words, which will finally make them believe.
7. Stay positive
Trying to save marriage alone can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, but if you just keep trying and don’t give up, you will eventually see results.
It’s really important to stay positive and keep up hope. If your current approach isn’t working, try a new one. Pull back a little, or push harder. Don’t give up on trying to figure out exactly what is upsetting your spouse, as there may be something you have overlooked.
The truth is, you probably will face resistance from your spouse along the way. But this doesn’t mean that part of them is not still open to reconciliation. They just need may need more time, more convincing and more solid proof of your commitment to saving your marriage.
If you keep trying to open conversation with your spouse in new ways, you may eventually have a breakthrough and find they finally open up to you, or react to something you’ve done or said.
If your spouse is still reacting with emotion, take this as a good thing. It is when they become completely disengaged emotionally from your marriage that it becomes a lot harder to win back their love.
Working on yourself and your own goals will help you to feel positive and give you the strength you need to fight for your marriage. If you let your marriage problems consume your life and give up on all of the things that you enjoy during this time, you will soon find you don’t have the mental or emotional resources to keep trying.
Keep working on yourself, and maintain a positive and resilient outlook. This is important because it shows your spouse that you truly believe your marriage can be saved. And as you’re fighting for the both of you right now, if you give up, all hope may be lost.
By doing all that you can to try and save your marriage, you will grow as an individual and as a relationship partner.
And at the end of the day, if you find that your marriage was not able to be salvaged, you will be able to take comfort in the fact that you did EVERYTHING you could to try and save it on your own. There will be no regrets about giving up too soon.