How to Save a Marriage When Only One is Trying

Many people come to us asking how to save a marriage when only one is trying ? In these situations, we understand that relationship improvement or repair can seem daunting.  The good news is, it IS POSSIBLE for one person to push a marriage out of the pit of being taken for granted, or worse.

And while it will take some work, it’s a better outcome than the alternative.

The Only Person You Need to Control is You

The first thing you need to come to terms with is this: the only behavior you have control over is yours – not theirs.

The second thing you need to understand is that using blame or being self-righteous won’t help.

The key to success is to figure out where you are lacking in your contributions to the relationship, then change yourself.  As you change, your spouse will consciously or unconsciously notice these changes and is likely to start changing as well.

Relationships are Work – The More You Work the Better

Just like at a job, if you are told by your employer how well you are doing and how much you are appreciated, you automatically feel better and work as hard or harder.

If you’ve ever been at a job where you were only ever criticized for your work and never recognized for your accomplishments, you probably got into the habit of doing only the bare minimum to stay under the radar.  Or you may have quit altogether.

Relationships take consistent work to stay positive and healthy.  Just like at a job, if you want to keep getting a paycheck, you have to keep putting in the hours.

Begin by working to help your spouse feel heard and appreciated.  Everyone feels better if they are told they are important.

Don’t Nag, Just Talk

The next important concept to keep in mind is how to save a marriage when only one is trying and to avoid becoming (or continuing to be) a nagging spouse. Nagging at its best is irritating.  Nagging at its worst come across as criticism.  None of us like to be criticized, and if it’s all we ever hear, we tend to lose motivation even to try.

If your spouse has stopped “putting in the hours” it may be because he or she has given up trying to get it right. If you start to focus only on the good things and give positive feedback, over time, you’ll find they are starting to do more themselves to help the marriage too.

Change the way you talk to your spouse.  Make sure your overall communication doesn’t include any nagging, criticism, blame or shame.  Doing so will help to make your spouse feel more at ease around you.

One way to accomplish this?  Surprise him or her with praise when he or she is least expecting it.  For example, if a regular argument you have with each other involves unloading the dishwasher, wait until he or she has forgotten too, then unload it yourself while complimenting him or her on something else that has happened.

Not only will you surprise them by not scolding or blaming, but you’ll also be brightening their day with a compliment or verbal pat on the back.  Who knows?  They may even take over the unloading job for you.

The ease will help you both start to work together, often without them realizing it.

The goal is to make the environment, especially at home, a safe one where you can openly share your feelings and work together to sort them out and fix them.

Schedule Time to Listen

If you find your schedules make it difficult to talk, try scheduling a time to discuss things.  Once you’re there, don’t put pressure on keeping the conversation about serious relationship subjects.  Starting off just by asking about their day will get the ball rolling.  Once you start, you can bring up other issues or subjects.  Just be prepared to back down if your spouse isn’t in the mood or not ready to get into a whole-hearted conversation.

Baby-steps are still steps to opening up the lines of communication.

Professional Help is an Excellent Resource

Once you’ve gotten to the point where your spouse is more open to working on the relationship too, you may be able to broach the subject of seeking professional assistance.  If you choose to bring this up, be prepared for some hesitation or even downright resistance.

That’s OK, this is normal.  It’s difficult for some people to express their feelings to people they don’t know.  To help them get comfortable with the idea of professional help, support your spouse’s concerns, openly take responsibility for your role in keeping the marriage stagnant or stressful, talk about your desire to change and that you could use the help from someone who knows how to guide couples through the process.