Have you ever wondered how to fix a marriage? There is a lot of advice out there to sift through, and some of it can be overwhelming. It can also be discouraging, because what if your husband isn’t ready to do the hard work of fixing your marriage? That’s why I’ve put together these tips for wives who are looking for ways to repair a marriage based on research from professionals and advice from married women from all walks of life. If you’ve ever wondered what you can do to fix your marriage, this is the post for you.
First things first: FOCUS ON YOU.
If you’re wondering about tips on how to save a marriage, you might not expect “focus on YOU” to be step one. If it takes two to make a marriage, how can you save it by focusing on yourself? However, when it comes to addressing issues in any relationship, the first step is to realize that you can’t make the other person change.
You can’t change the way your husband speaks to you when he’s angry. You can’t change the way he acts when he’s tired. You can’t even force him to start putting his socks in the hamper. What you can do if want to know how to fix a broken marriage is focus on changing YOU.
How do you respond when you’re angry?
How do you act when you’re tired?
What can you do create an atmosphere of peace in your home?
When it comes to a marriage, it’s easier to identify the problem behaviors in our spouse than it is to admit the ways we ourselves destroy our marital bliss. The best thing I’ve ever done to help my marriage was when I stopped making excuses for my own behavior. Instead of pointing the finger, I had to start recognizing when I was irritable, short-tempered, or difficult to get along with.
Of course, that makes it sound easy, like LOOK HOW GREAT I AM AT MARRIAGE!! But can I tell you a secret? It was hard. It was hard to squash my pride and begin apologizing when I was wrong. It was hard to keep my mouth shut when I wanted to complain or nag or make him feel bad for something he’d done or said.
It was hard because at first he wasn’t changing – it was only me. It was hard because for a while he didn’t even notice I was making an effort. And, can I be completely honest? It was hard to admit, even to myself, that I was part of the problem.
I didn’t want to be part of the problem.
I wanted to be the victim.
There are plenty of marriages where the wife is an actual victim of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. What I’m referring to is not that. In those cases, the wife needs to get out and seek professional help.
But I was not a victim.
I was just a jerk.
Yet over time, as I focused my attention on what I could do to help my marriage, my husband began to change as well. It was not an overnight thing, by any means. And we’re both still working to be better for each other. He still doesn’t put his socks in the hamper, and I still catch myself nagging at him sometimes, but we’re trying. That’s the important thing.
So it is hard, but it’s worth it. And you know what else? You can do it.
If you’ve come to this blog looking for answers to the “How do I fix my marriage?” question –
Even if you’ve just landed here on accident, but you want to know how to help your marriage –
That alone is proof you can do it – because you want to. Wanting to fix your marriage is truly the first step. Deciding that you will focus on what you can do to strengthen your relationship instead of focusing on all the things that your husband is doing wrong – that’s step two.
So now that you’ve been given permission to be as self-focused as you can in pursuit of a happy marriage, let’s see what’s next.
LEARN HOW TO ARGUE.
You’re probably thinking, “Wait, aren’t I trying to avoid an argument? Isn’t that what happy couples do: avoid arguments? But the truth is, couples in healthy marriages don’t disagree less, they just disagree better. Learning how to talk out your disagreements in a healthy way is a huge step toward learning how to fix your marriage.
With that in mind, there are three ways you can learn to argue better. The first one is the most obvious, but it might also be the most difficult:
- Be kind to your spouse during an argument.
Ugh, right? I know.
Yet there’s a reason the quote “Love is patient, love is kind” is such a popular passage to read at weddings. It’s because love is patient, and love is kind.
But if you’ve been married longer than five minutes, you know that the hardest time to express love through kindness and patience is during an argument. When tempers are flaring and old wounds are pushing to the surface, kindness is the last thing on your mind.
I’ve found in my own marriage that when one of us speaks angrily or hurtfully, the argument becomes more about what was said and less about the issue that caused the fight. We might stop arguing eventually, but the same issue, and likely those hurtful words, are guaranteed to come up the next time – and the next and the next, until we do something to break the cycle.
Kindness is the way to do that.
Instead of flinging out every insult and frustration that comes to mind when you’re in a disagreement, determine that you won’t say anything to intentionally hurt your husband. This will help you get off the “you said this, you said that” merry-go-round so that the conflict behind of your argument actually gets resolved.
If you and your hubs have a habit of turning arguments into personal attacks, this might take a while to change. Don’t give up. And he might not catch on right away, so don’t be discouraged when you are kind and he isn’t. Remember, in order to fix the issues that are causing your marriage trouble, you’ll be tackling bad habits the two of you might have had for years.
Breaking those habits will take time, but that’s okay. Each time you refuse to insult or degrade your spouse in an argument, you’re taking a positive step toward fixing your marriage.
Now, step two in learning to argue better.
- Stop keeping score.
We could rewrite this tip a number of ways. Stop keeping score. Stay on topic. Learn to let things go.
The easiest thing to do in an argument is to remind your husband of every single time he’s been wrong in the history of your marriage – especially if you find yourselves revisiting the same old issues again and again.
Unfortunately, the easy thing in an argument is often not the best thing. Keeping a mental list of your husband’s mistakes will not only affect the way you see him, but it will negatively affect the way he responds to you when the two of you disagree.
If he is constantly reminded of what he’s done wrong, he might think he can’t do anything right – in your eyes at least. That could lead him to quit trying.
The next time the two of you argue, stick to the current facts. Just like speaking kindly instead of harshly, this might be a hard habit to break. It might take your hubs a while to catch on to the new way of doing things. Even if he still wants to bring up things you did or said 2 years ago, don’t follow the same path!
It might not be easy, but you can do it because you want to fix your marriage.
- Examine your motives before you argue.
Before you bring something up that might lead to an argument, ask yourself, “Why am I really upset about this?” I often find that the deep-down reason I’m upset about something is different than what I thought it was.
For example, my husband made a joke recently about “having” to get up to fix coffee for me. My immediate response was defensive: “No one’s making you get me coffee. I’ll get it myself!” For the rest of the morning, everything he did annoyed me.
As we did our Saturday morning around-the-house chores, I found myself saying again and again, “I’m not asking you to do that. If you want to do that, fine, but it’s your choice.” My husband didn’t have a clue why I was upset, and truthfully, neither did I.
I finally realized that his joke about getting my coffee touched on one of my insecurities about our marriage. My husband shows love through acts of service. He likes doing things for people, especially his family. Sometimes I feel bad because he does so much and I wonder if I do enough. The joke he made triggered my insecurity – not my temper – but I couldn’t tell the difference.
These days, if I find myself getting upset about something, I try to search my heart to figure out why I’m upset before I start a fight about it.
Now that you’ve learned the importance of focusing on you, and a few practical tips to learn how to argue better, what’s the next step toward repairing your marriage?
RELEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE.
All experts agree that healthy communication is the key to a happy marriage. And the thing is, when a relationship is new, most couple are great at communicating. All those dates, texts, and phone calls. All those conversations about how you feel and saying “I love you.”
But marriage brings routine. It brings familiarity. We stop telling each other how we feel because we assume the other person already knows. We forget that over time, both of us grow, change, and mature.
Maybe when you were first married your husband flat out refused to do the dishes. You nagged and you prodded, but he didn’t give in. Now it’s been 10 years and you’ve quit saying anything about it, but you feel angry and annoyed that he still refuses to help.
What can you do?
Well, now that you’ve begun to speak kindly, stay on topic, and stop keeping score in an argument, you’re ready to communicate how you feel.
It could be as simple as, “Hey, babe, would you mind doing the dishes while I jump in the shower?”
Or, “I know you don’t really like doing dishes, but I was wondering if you would mind helping me with them occasionally?”
Chances are, he’s forgotten that helping with the dishes was ever an issue. While you’ve spent years being annoyed about it, he might not have given it a single thought. (This has happened in my marriage so many times!) Then again, he might truly feel like doing the dishes is akin to pulling out his toenails…
That’s when you need to remember that communication goes two ways. You communicate your feelings to him, but you also listen when he communicates his feelings to you. If he still feels strongly about doing the dishes, maybe it’s time to let that one go. My husband doesn’t mind doing his part of the chores, but he hates cleaning the bathroom – so I’ve stopped asking him to do it, or getting annoyed when he doesn’t.
Successful communication requires 3 things:
- Both sides express their feelings or needs.
- Both sides hear what the other has to say.
- Both sides respect the other person’s feelings or needs.
This video gives some great tips on how to improve communication skills in order to resolve conflict:
Sometimes lack of communication in a marriage isn’t about communicating needs and feelings. Sometimes it’s because you’re not doing any communicating at all. Couples easily get caught in the rut of daily life: hectic morning routines, kids/school/work, activities/dinner/fall on the couch exhausted before crawling to bed.
We stop communicating because finding time or even having the energy to talk to each other about our daily lives is difficult. That lack of communication becomes habit, years pass, and one day you realize you and your husband barely know each other.
Relearning to communicate is a vital part making your marriage healthy again, but you first have to make it a priority. Set aside time to talk with your spouse every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Ask him questions. Listen to his answers. Share your own thoughts. Tell him you want to spend more time together, and ask him to help you make it happen.
Improved communication leads to an improved relationship – every time.
Bonus tip! One practical way to improve daily communication is this: stop using the word “good” to describe your day.
When my husband gets home from work, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Him: “Hey, babe, how was your day?”
Me: “It was good. How was yours?”
Him: “It was good.”
*awkward elevator music plays*
Using the word “good” to describe my day tells my husband absolutely nothing about how my day actually was. Sure, it’s easy and convenient, but what does it really mean? Saying my day was good could mean anything from “I won the lottery even though I’ve never played” to “I dropped the shampoo bottle in the shower but thankfully didn’t hit my toe.”
My husband has rarely asked me, “Oh, yeah? What made your day good?” That’s because “good” doesn’t invite a response. It doesn’t encourage conversation. In fact, saying “it was good” is almost a surefire way to end a conversation.
Yet if I respond to his question with “interesting” or “productive” or “fan-freaking-tastic,” he’s likely to ask me to explain. I now have the opportunity to share something specific. Plus, when you describe your day as something other than good, he might be inspired to describe his day differently as well, which could lead to even better conversations that help you truly connect with each other.
Now we’ve arrived at my final tip on how to fix a marriage:
PRAISE AND ENCOURAGE YOUR HUSBAND.
Hopefully you think your husband is a great guy with plenty of good qualities. They’re the reasons you married him, right? Over time, however, we begin to take for granted all the things we love about our husbands, just as they do for us. We overlook their good qualities because of the stress of daily life.
How can you begin to recognize your husband’s good qualities? First start looking for things he does that you admire.
For example: Is he a generous tipper when you go out to dinner? Is he quick to help a friend in need? Does he stay cool in stressful situations?
Next, look for the positive ways he treats you.
A friend once said to me, “I always used to get annoyed when my husband insisted on opening doors for me. I can open my own doors! But then I realized that opening doors for me is his way of showing love and attention. It doesn’t matter if I can do it myself. He wants to do it, so I let him.”
Maybe your husband doesn’t open doors, but he does other things to show that he cares. My husband does chores around the house. Another friend’s husband holds her hand in the car. Those things might not seem like a big deal at first glance, but they are our husbands’ way of saying “I love you.” So start looking for the things that your husband does for you or with you to say “I love you,” then you’re ready for the most important step.
Tell him you noticed!
You’ll be surprised by what a change this can make in your husband. Just by recognizing the nice things he does for you, you’ll make him want to do even more. Decide that you will tell him something you admire or appreciate about him every day for a month, then sit back and watch him change!
Some couples in healthy marriages set aside time each day to say what they appreciate about their spouse. Just last night I told my husband, “I’m so glad you were able to fix your truck without taking it to the shop. I appreciate how handy you are.” Then he said to me, “I appreciate you getting the house ready for our friends to come over.”
It may seem simple, but knowing that he noticed the work I put into cleaning and cooking made me feel appreciated. Knowing that I noticed how hard he works to provide for our family encouraged him when he might otherwise have been annoyed that the truck had broken down in the first place.
Not only will praising and encouraging him motivate him to do even more nice things for you, but it will change the way you see him. When you look for positive traits you will find them. The same is true if you look for negative traits. When you choose to look for positive traits, you’re taking another step toward a healthy relationship.
Whew! There’s a lot of information here! But you’ve learned a lot about how to fix a marriage. None of these steps are easy, but they are worth it because your marriage is worth it. Remember, hard things are not bad. They’re just hard. While it’s easy to form bad habits that get a marriage into trouble, it’s sometimes difficult to break them. But don’t give up! You can do it because you want to, and wanting to save your marriage is the first step.
Make sure you come back to tell us all about your positive results in the comments. Did you think of other advice to give to wives who want to work on their marriages? Share them!