If you want to know the secret for how to fix a marriage,
try to be a fly on the wall of your home.
Well, a fly on the wall would be able to hear whether or not this particular corrosive element is evident in your marriage—but a fly can’t tell you how to fix a marriage that has it.
Developing Awareness to Pinpoint Marriage Explosive Points
In lieu of strategically placing yourself on the wall of your home in order to capture your own conversations with your spouse, let’s try a different tactic: awareness.
Let’s face it: at some point in our lives (maybe even as often as daily), we get frustrated with things that happen (or don’t happen). It may be something our spouse says, or something he or she does, that leaves you frustrated. Or maybe it’s something that your spouse neglects to do. Whatever it is, you’re only human, and at some point—you’re going to make your opinion known.
Now, this is what separates the good marriages from the marriages that are aimed for a concrete wall: how you bring up the issue with your spouse.
In an ideal marriage, the spouses are able to voice a complaint in a way that invites cooperation from their spouse. It is delivered clearly and respectfully, with an eye toward resolving the issue they’re having.
If you want to know how to fix a marriage that’s experiencing a lot of strife—you will want to model that style of interaction. However, many couples who are in crisis seem to go about expressing their complaints in the worst way possible: they swing for the fences, laying out their partner by criticizing their actions or words, and sometimes even displaying a sneering contempt of their partner.
Does this invite cooperation, when the approach is done in such a heavy-handed way? No, not at all. The person on the receiving end of this expression of opinion feels the need to defend himself or herself—and you gain no ground in getting the issue itself resolved.
For example, let’s say your spouse forgets to take out the trash this week, and it’s something that frequently happens. You’re in the position of reminding your spouse each time it happens.
You’ve had a rough day at work, and there the trash sits, piled up in the corner of the kitchen. Your spouse is getting ready to turn in for the night, and you storm into your bedroom and explode:
“You’re always forgetting to do what you’re supposed to do, leaving it for me to do, or putting me in the position of being your parent. You behave just like a child, needing its mother to remind it to put shoes on before going out in the snow and basically having not a care in the world. I guess it’s a good thing I’m here to think about these things, since you apparently can’t be bothered or are suffering some kind of dementia related exclusively to trash. You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”
Wow, right? Now, even though you are “in the right” in the sense that your spouse may depend on you to provide backup “reminders,” the way to go about bringing up this issue—and finding a permanent solution for it—would have to be an approach that brings your spouse closer to you, rather than alienating them (or running for their life).
Using the same example from above, here are three tips for how to approach the issue with your spouse in a productive way that helps you fix a marriage that has lost its foundation of love and respect:
Three Tips You Use To Relieve Marriage Stress
Tip #1: Calm Yourself First
If you feel your rage creeping up—take a timeout. Approaching your spouse when you’re seeing red will only be counterproductive: You may feel good in the short-term, but in the long-term—your message will be lost.
Tip #2: Express Yourself Succinctly
Get right to the point: “I’m upset that you’ve forgotten to take out the trash. It makes me feel as if you’re relying on me to remember, and I thought we had divvied up the household chores equitably. I feel pressured to remember for you.”
Tip #3: Ask for Help in Resolving Issue
Then, seek cooperation from your spouse by asking, “Is there something you can do to help yourself remember?” This places the ball in the court of your spouse. Sure, forgetfulness can happen to any of us, but if it’s a consistent issue for your spouse, they need to come up with a way to be their own backup reminder and not rely on you to take on the additional responsibility.
As you can see, this way is not accusatory, nor is tip #2 taking that sort of tone. It’s seeking help from your spouse in resolving an issue that seems to crop up frequently.
My best to you as you learn how to fix a marriage that has lost its way.
After trying to be a fly on the wall to your conversations with your spouse, are you aware of an undertone of contempt or criticism?
Which of you needs work on how you communicate your complaints?
Have there been times when you blew up at your spouse? Did it help you resolve an issue, or put you a step behind?
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,