Before you put your partner up for sale on eBay, try these 4 tips to save your marriage.
Marriage is a series of growing apart and growing back together again throughout your entire marriage. Only you can decide if the chasm during the growing apart stage is so far out there that you don’t want to make the effort to come back. But with a few authentic, self-reflective moments and a few rounds of communicating (and arguing) effectively you can come back from the dark side and find your marriage stronger then when it went off the rails.
1 – Learn to Communicate Effectively When Arguing
Whenever you speak, be aware of your tone of voice and your choice of words. Choose words that are respectful and not sarcastic. No yelling or speaking over the other person.
Actively listen to your partner. Paraphrase back to your partner what they have said. By paraphrasing it indicates to your partner that they have been heard. It does not mean you agree with what is being said, only that you understand what they are saying. If you find yourself arguing, take a timeout before continuing.
No blocking. Everyone is allotted equal time to speak. Only one person speaks at a time. Stay in the present. Discuss only one item at a time.
No Judgement. Do not judge, put words in their mouth or jump to conclusions. Wait until your partner is finished. Paraphrase what they just said before you respond.
No “Why” Questions. When you ask “Why” it causes the other person to feel they are being attacked or judged.
Own your Feelings. When you are corresponding with your partner, it is important that you use language that does not offend or put up a wall, that will shut down any productive communication. The best way to do this is to communicate with “I” statements: I feel, I need, I see. Do not use “You” statements, stay away from: You always, You never. “You” statements are accusations, and are “heard” as you are attacking them. This can lead to arguments and conversations spiraling out of control very quickly.
2 – Focus on Key Elements That Make a Marriage Work
Ask yourself the following yes/no questions, and answer them honestly, even if you are mad at your partner right now.
I believe my partner has good qualities.
My partner and I share the same basic values.
My partner is one of my best friends.
My partner and I have several of the same dreams and goals.
My partner and I have a lot of common interests.
If you answered “Yes” to 3 of these 5 questions, then you have the foundation to rebuild a strong marriage.
3 – Understand your Partners Love Language
Feeling loved, understood and respected are primary human emotional needs. When we don’t communicate effectively we often are left to feeling unappreciated and unloved.
Once you have made the decision to work on your marriage, talk about how each of you feel loved and appreciated in the marriage. Make a commitment to each other that you want to do a better job of meeting each other’s needs.
There are several books on the subject you can pick up to help you understand how your partner feels loved. Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” breaks down our human emotional needs into five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical touch.
If your partner starts speaking your love language by responding to your requests, your positive emotions toward your partner will return and in a short amount of time your marriage can be reborn.
4 – Be Willing to Start Over-Get Back to Basics
Know the foundation of what made you work as a couple in the past. Remind yourself what is was about your partner you fell in love with, and allow that person to come through again. Remind yourself daily of the commitment you are making to one another to rebuild a strong connection.
Set a time to unplug from electronic distractions. Make a commitment to sit down at least one night during the week, and talk. Commit that you will put down the phones, internet, and TV for 1 hour of conversation or activity. Select a topic for each week. A few suggestions would be;
- Pull out a favorite card game or board game that allows you to just be together.
- Engage in hobbies, such as painting or sculpting, while listening to music.
- Open a bottle of wine and read together by the fireplace.
- Plan a weekend outing at a romantic hideaway or plan a picnic at your favorite beach or park.
Now that you are armed with some tools to help you through the dark times, you get to take the next step. Both of you must decide if you are willing to invest and do the work to make your marriage better than before. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a Marriage and Family Therapist that can help you with the process of reconnecting.