February 8, 2021
How To Fix Your Marriage: 11 Strategies To Heal Your Marriage
Written by Sara Lane
Our relationships have incredible impacts on our everyday life.
Unless you’re a recluse, your life will include relationships with other people, from your parents to your significant other, children, friends, co-workers, and much more.
Naturally, relationship problems happen. We are human, after all.
We’re individuals with our own personalities and quirks, and keeping interpersonal connections strong and smooth isn’t always easy, especially in romantic relationships.
When you’re dating, it can be easy to make a new relationship the main focus of your life. But many of us know firsthand that in marriage, you have to juggle a lot–kids, jobs, chores, finances, and so on.
How you and your partner feel about each other can get swept aside as daily life makes demands on your time.
But your partner is your number one priority, so it might be time for you to address some of your problems and find out how to fix your marriage.
Common Causes of Marriage Problems
We are all problematic, one way or another. We, each of us, have flaws, and the person who deals with you the most is likely to address them.
At Eddins Counseling, we see a LOT of couples, and we have determined some of the most common issues that arise in any given relationship.
1. Poor Communication
Lack of good communication is the root of many relationship problems. It doesn’t just hinder building strong relationships; it has the potential to turn a conflict situation into an all-out disaster.
2. Money Disputes
Problems involving money can range from high wedding costs that keep affecting your marriage to keeping up with the Jones’. Being frustrated about earnings compared to others or not sticking to agreements when borrowing from family can turn conversations about money into no-fly zones.
3. Housework Hassles
Living with others may present problems with different opinions about cleanliness and orderliness.
- One of you may be a lot messier than the other.
- One may not like making their bed; the other tends to drop clothes everywhere on the floor.
- Often you may be too tired to handle housework.
4. Fickle Priorities
There always seems to be a tug-of-war about who gets the most attention. You may feel pulled in various directions — your marriage, children, parents, and work.
There are all kinds of things that can throw your priorities off balance. Time and attention become a luxury.
5. Lack of Trust
Without trust, you can’t have close relationships.
Maybe something happened that makes your partner mistrust you — your decision, your choice of friends, your love for them. Or perhaps unresolved issues from the past prevent you from trusting anyone.
6. Keeping Score
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to think, “why am I the one cleaning up the kitchen right now?” Maybe you’re cleaning the kitchen, but your partner’s schedule makes it easier for him to stop at the store.
The most important thing isn’t that you each have the same workload, but you’re both invested in making your relationship work.
7. Expecting Your Partner to Make You Happy
Long-term, committed relationships are so wonderful partly because of the joy that intimacy brings into your life. Even though it’s important to be happy in your relationship, if you’re not happy with yourself, to begin with, another person can’t make you happy.
8. Making Promises You Can’t Keep
You truly want your spouse to feel happy and supported. It makes sense that you might make promises about upcoming vacations or spending time with your in-laws; however, promises can cause problems in your marriage if they’re promises you can’t keep.
9. Expect Your Partner to Change
Sometimes, the things you first thought were endearing about your partner bother you when you depend on them daily. Maybe you start to think about all the ways you’ve changed, but to you, your partner doesn’t seem to be maturing.
10. Expecting Your Partner to Read Your Mind
When you’re both busy juggling work and family, it’s easy to feel like you’re on the same page when you might not be. Maybe you drop the kids off at school, believing it’s implied that your spouse will take the dogs for a walk.
If the dogs are still itching to go outside later on in the day, you might start to feel angry.
Relationships are beautiful, but they are not without their problems. Once you have identified what issues may be ailing your relationship, it will be much easier to distinguish what steps to take next.
5 Daily Habits for Maintaining a Healthy Marriage
Every day is an opportunity to participate in your relationship actively. Perhaps you have a good thing going, but you could use a bit of a refresher.
Here are 5 therapist approved tips to help you maintain a happy and healthy relationship.
Just like our car needs a tune-up now and then, our relationship can use a tune-up to keep a healthy marriage. When things seem to be going ok without major disagreements, it can be a great time to sharpen your relationship skills.
1. Show Appreciation
After years of living together, you find comfort in familiarities and routines. It’s natural and, to some degree, healthy. But they can be dangerous. Show your appreciation for the comforts you enjoy by adding a little extra passion and appreciation to your routines.
Considering couples counseling? Find out more here.
2. Give and Take
As time goes on, some things that used to be easy for you and your loved one to accomplish will become more difficult. Make your loved one’s life a little easier by being a good partner. Lend a hand if you can.
By the time you have been married for years, the idea of finding a balance between giving and taking seems to be an old habit. But as you get older, you may find that what’s important to give and take gradually changes. You may need to learn to apply the idea differently.
Put Some Action Behind Your Words
Talk without action may not be enough to save your marriage. Particularly when your relationship has suffered from infidelity or other deep rifts, talk can seem cheap. Back up your intention to save your marriage with concrete actions. Spend time with your spouse, pursuing their interests even if the activity isn’t your personal favorite.
Maybe your spouse is a big sports fan and would love a day at a Houston Astros baseball game. Or your spouse loves the excitement of bustling, thriving neighborhoods, and would love to have dinner in Montrose. Love is not just words, but sacrifice. Think of different ways you can express your desire to sacrifice for your spouse.
3. Maintain Your Own Life
Some couples are inseparable and happily so. More often, though, maintaining happiness involves enjoying a life of your own. Maintain your own relationships with friends. Engage in your own hobbies and past-times.
Be social on your own terms, not always as a couple. It’s one marriage of two people.
Also, your spouse looks at you more than you look at yourself, probably. Your appearance may not be all that important to you, and that’s fine, but a little effort once in a while can go a long way.
4. Natural Disagreements and Challenges
Who wants to be married to a wet rag?
Resolve to Fight Fair
Having a marriage in which you never fight may sound good, but it’s not realistic. It’s not even a good goal since facing and resolving disagreements can bring you closer together. But you owe it to yourself and your spouse to agree to fight fair. That means no bringing up the time he lost a job five years ago or the way she tells her annoying family too much. Keep your arguments focused on facts based on the present or very recent past.
Similarly, if you’ve already decided that you’re committed to working to fix your broken marriage no matter what, resolve not to bring up the “D” word (divorce). Threatening divorce—even if your marriage feels really hopeless at that moment—introduces an element of doubt and instability into your marriage. If you’re really determined not to get divorced, don’t let yourself even go there.
You don’t have to agree about everything, always, and having disagreements at times is healthy. It shows you’re still alive and that you are still your own person.
5. Mind the Small Things
Sure, some routines may have developed over the years. Maybe they have made you coffee every morning for years, or they shovel the sidewalk and mow the lawn. Practice good manners. Say “please” and “thank you”—every time.
As you have likely learned, small things add up. Paying attention to the small things adds up, too. Attending the small things shows you care.
How to Fix Your Marriage: 13 Pro Tips
If “daily habits” are not enough to fix a broken marriage or revitalize your partnership, that’s okay. Sometimes, we need to look at the fabric of our bond and make some fundamental adjustments.
Your partner is your number one.
They are the person who will see you through the ups and the downs of life, and if you are in it for the long haul, but that requires work.
Each relationship is not without turbulence, and things will go right just as they will inevitably go wrong. Here are 13 therapist-approved strategies to help you revitalize your relationship.
1. Be Trustworthy
Demonstrate your reliability. Carry your fair share of the workload, be consistent and keep promises. Don’t lie. Be sensitive, never say things you can’t take back, and don’t discount anyone’s feelings.
2. Value the Little Moments
Remembering to say “I love you,” for example, goes a long way in clearing the cobwebs that can sometimes accumulate in any long-term relationship.
Flashes of physical affection or a short note left in a coat pocket tell your spouse you’re thinking of him or her amidst the bustle of your day-to-day lives. It’s often in these small moments that we feel most loved and supported.
Eventually, you’ll look back and realize that the little moments meant more than the big ones.
3. Take Time for Yourself
For couples who feel bogged down by life’s demands, taking time for yourself to do something you love can help you return to your partner feeling refreshed and ready to give love.
Nurturing your own interests and friendships can increase your happiness and make the time you have with your spouse even more special.
You might also find that having new things to talk about and share is an exciting way to fall in love all over again.
From the Love Lab
Dr. John Gottman is a psychologist who has been researching couples for over 35 years. His research has included extensive videotaping of actual couples interacting day to day in his “love lab” and the Gottman Institute he founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman.
As a result of his research, he is 94% accurate in predicting divorce. His work is used frequently in relationship counseling. These tips are what he has found happy, stable, and successful couples do:
4. Ratio of 5:1 positives to negatives.
If you say or do one negative thing, it must be followed up with 5 positive comments or behaviors.
Three things he found this trick creates lasting change:
- (1) increasing overall positive atmosphere,
- (2) increasing positive thoughts, words, touches, looks, and actions during the conflict, and
- (3)decreasing negative thoughts, words, touches, looks, and actions during a conflict.
Work to hold a positive image of your partner. Do this, especially in the midst of a fight.
Think of and relate to your partner as if they are your best friend.
5. Create a “Love Map.”
Take time to know your partner, what they believe, what they desire, what their dreams are. For example, know details such as their favorite color, best friend, what they care about, their favorite food, what makes them laugh, and their most painful or joyous experience.
A love map looks something like a collection of intimate details about your partner through regular communication. For example, who is their favorite aunt? What was your favorite song when you were 16?
Even deeper questions can be included, too. What are your love languages? What are their deepest desires? What makes them feel seen?
Really Talk to Each Other
Remember what it was like when you were first married and you wanted to know everything you could about your spouse’s innermost thoughts? It may have been a while since you had those kinds of conversations. Now is the time to reach out and communicate that way again.
One of the first crucial goals of couples’ therapy is to learn how to communicate in a healthy way that your spouse can understand. We all have different filters that color the words we hear, and we may use destructive words when we’re upset. It’s time to get honest. If that sounds scary, the counselor’s office can be a safe place.
6. Use a “soft startup.”
When beginning to talk about upsetting things, start the conversation gently, especially by the female partner. Males’ physiology goes up and stays up for hours even after a mild disagreement. Gottman refers to this as “flooding.”
Both men and women experience this. It is very stressful and damaging to both, but males’ blood pressure, heart rate, and physiological alert responses (flooding) stay elevated for hours afterward.
A “soft startup” is saying 30-60 seconds of appreciation about your partner or the relationship before bringing up the difficulty, or whatever it takes to make your partner feel safe enough with you to keep from flooding.
7. Allow yourself to be influenced by your partner.
Listen to them, taking their opinions, thoughts, feelings, and needs into consideration. This is especially important for men to do because they more often tend to “stonewall,” that is, pulling away, withdrawing, and not looking at or talking to their partner.
8. Don’t criticize, attack, or hold your partner in contempt.
Complain instead. “I’m upset because…” is a complaint. Whereas “You never…”You always, You’re…” is an outright criticism and is attacking your partner. An example of contempt is feeling superior to your partner, rolling eyes, sighing, not liking, valuing, appreciating, or saying nasty put-downs.
9. Learn how to repair things when there’s been an upset.
Right away. Put special emphasis on regulating and de-escalating the conflict. Don’t let a disagreement about anything drag on. Either agree or agree to disagree and move along, but don’t dwell on the disagreement; find something better to dwell on.
10. Guard against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
These behaviors are predictors of divorce and include criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt.
The antidotes are:
- (1) criticism – change to gentle complaints,
- (2) defensiveness – hear what your partner is sharing as information instead of an attack, and accept responsibility quickly for your part,
- (3) stonewalling – learn to soothe yourself so you won’t feel so unable not to pull away, and
- (4) contempt – create a culture of appreciation for your partner.
11. Share your visions, dreams, and hopes with one another.
Then explore to find the meaning underneath for each of you. Consider their point of view of your future together and work to enrich it.
Support each other’s dreams, and create shared meaning in your relationship.
In the end, there will always be problems, but we can always work to improve our relationships. You can do your part to help prevent and minimize them (that includes seeking couples therapy).
Remember, stay realistic, recognize that other people have faults just like you do, and be willing to work on your relationships.
12. Establish Common Ground
You and your spouse need to talk through where you stand on the issues in your broken marriage. Do you both agree on the biggest problems? If you think the biggest issue is your lack of unity on parenting or financial matters, but your spouse thinks you aren’t having enough sex, those all need to be addressed.
Even worse, maybe one of you believes your marriage is doomed, while the other thinks everything is fine. (Believe it or not, it happens!) You both need to lay all your cards on the table. It can be scary to tackle this on your own, however, especially if communication attempts tend to escalate into an argument.
Start off by building on the positive aspects of connection with the tips above and bring your challenging conversations to a couples therapist who can help you mediate the conversation skillfully and respectfully so you build communication skills while understanding each other’s perspective.
How to Fix Your Marriage, with Couples Counseling
If you and your partner have been engaging in these patterns for some time, you may benefit from an outside perspective. It can be hard to change these behaviors for a variety of reasons.
Maybe you’re uncomfortable asking for what you need, or you’re keeping score because of a perceived imbalance in your relationship. It can make a big difference once you recognize a behavior pattern, but you also need to do things differently.
If you and your partner are feeling stuck, marriage counseling might be the best option. Through marriage counseling, you both can express your perspectives and needs and negotiate changes together with the assistance of a facilitator.
You may also choose to come in on your own to explore your resistance to doing things differently in your relationship. Individual counseling can help you explore your needs and help you get unstuck in your relationship.
To save your marriage, you may require a few therapy sessions with a relationship counselor who can help you find the intimacy and connection you desire. To get started now, give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
***Eddins Counseling Group welcomes ALL couples, including LBGTQ+ and same-sex couples.
Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship – What emerged from the Gottmans’ collaboration and decades of research is a body of advice that’s based on two surprisingly simple truths: Happily married couples behave like good friends, and they handle their conflicts in gentle, positive ways.
The authors offer an intimate look at ten couples who have learned to work through potentially destructive problems—extramarital affairs, workaholism, parenthood adjustments, serious illnesses, lack of intimacy—and examine what they’ve done to improve communication and get their marriages back on track.
The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships – A groundbreaking, practical program for transforming troubled relationships into positive ones.
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last – Psychologist John Gottman has spent 20 years studying what makes a marriage last. Now you can use his tested methods to evaluate, strengthen, and maintain your own long-term relationship. This breakthrough book guides you through a series of self-tests designed to determine what kind of marriage you have, where your strengths and weaknesses are, and what specific actions you can take to save your failing marriage.
Grounding & Self Soothing
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