Deborah is a writer, healer, and teacher. Her goal is to help people live their best lives every day by sharing her joy and love of life.
Don't let this happen to your marriage
10 Steps to Save Your Relationship
You can retrieve your marriage from the brink of divorce, despair, and "I don't care". All is not lost. Follow these easy steps and restore the love, passion and energy that you shared early on.
Whether you are married or in a serious and committed relationship, these tips help you bring your best self to the partnership and improve the quality of the time you share with a person you care deeply about.
Remember, you have chosen to walk with this person. This person has chosen to walk with you. You are in a relationship, you are married, because you like each other. You want to spend time together. You didn't get married to make yourself or the other person miserable.
Your relationship ought to bring out the best in you and the best in your partner. You can help that process by bringing your best self to the scene. These ten tips will help you remember what you came here for.
Let it Go
Find Inner Peace
1. Be at peace with yourself. Your spouse cannot make you happy. You cannot make your spouse happy. What you can do is work on changing your own mind set. Being peaceful or happy begins in your own mind. When a situation provokes your ire, remind yourself that you can choose to see it differently. Seek peace in any given situation. A person at peace with himself has more energy to be at peace with those around him. Practice saying this mantra to yourself: "I can see peace instead of this".
Your perception creates your reality. If you perceive peace around you, then your reality becomes peaceful. If you perceive conflict and strife, then you react to situations and people in a manner which produces more strife. There is truth to the saying, "Peace begins with me." What you see is what you get. If you want a happy, peaceful life, then begin seeing it as such. Treat your partner in a loving, gentle way. Act as if the world around you is at peace and it will be.
Things come up every day that can irritate or annoy you. You can choose to be annoyed or you can choose to continue moving forward peacefully. Pick your battles. Is it really a big deal that she doesn't take out the trash? Is it worth fighting over, if you don't like the way he helps with the homework? Why does it matter, if she leaves hair on the counter, or he leaves dirty socks on the floor. Yes, you might have a preference that the sink be wiped down or the socks be picked up. You can state your preference, but in the end, you are the one who chooses to maintain your own peace of mind. You can see hair in the sink, or you can wipe down the sink and remind yourself to see peace instead of strife. You can see socks on the floor and grow irritated, or you can pick them up and remind yourself that peace begins with you.
The important thing is to realize that a marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. You are in this together, for the long haul. With that in mind, choose carefully what you will allow to upset you. Remember, nothing can ruin your day, unless you let it. You and you alone have complete control over how your day will go. Will something ruin your day? Only if you let it. Will dirty socks or hair or trash or homework ruin the entire rest of the day? The outcome rests entirely on your shoulders.
When a person accepts responsibility for his or her own actions, behaviors and thoughts, then there is likely to be less strife in the family. Take an honest look at yourself. Rather than choosing to get annoyed, you can breathe deeply and choose peace in any given moment. Remind yourself that peace is a choice that you can make at every given moment, no matter what is happening all around you.
2. Take responsibility for your contentment. A lasting relationship is based on the choices you make today. You have the power to choose your response to circumstances and people around you. If one of you takes responsibility for your own behavior, then you begin to change the cycle of blame, anger and resentment. Choose for today, for yourself. Only you can make you happy.
In any given moment, you have a choice. You choose how you will respond to your spouse, your children, your employer and your friends. Regardless of what is happening, you always have a choice. There is great freedom as well as great responsibility in choosing your own happiness. You have the power.
You alone are responsible for your well-being. It is not your wife's job to make you happy. It is not your husband's job to make you happy. You are in charge of your own happiness. Do you want to be happy? It's simple. Be happy. There is no secret to happiness. The secret really is quite simple. If you want to be happy, then by all means, be happy. Literally. Just be happy. You don't need something outside of yourself or someone else to make you happy. Happiness is internal. It reflects externally as we express our inner delight.
Don't give your power away. When you try to make others responsible for your happiness or mental well-being, you set yourself up to be a victim, and nobody deserves that role. Instead, empower yourself by choosing happiness, in spite of outward circumstances. Don't let yourself be a victim of the world around you, and don't choose to be a victim of your internal saboteur. You are strong. You have power. You get to decide exactly how you will show up in your life and in your relationship. You deserve happiness, and your partner deserves a happy spouse.
What did you mean by that?
3. Improve Communication. The best way to improve communication is to shut your mouth. No really. Listen. Let your spouse speak uninterrupted. It is difficult to really listen while formulating a response. Instead of preparing your rebuttal, slow your brain down, and just listen. Repeat back what was said, and ask if you heard correctly. When you repeat what someone says, it confirms and validates the feelings behind the spoken word. While repeating may seem trite and somewhat condescending, realize that it conveys a depth of understanding and caring that may have been lacking. And when you speak the words that your partner just uttered, you may hear them differently. You may finally understand what they were trying to say all along.
Listening is the most important and hardest tool for improving communication. Rather than listening to defend yourself or explain a situation, listen with a heart for understanding. Allow your partner the freedom to speak their peace of mind. Don't judge what they say. Listen. Allow. And after you have heard, then respond.
Another way to improve communication with your spouse is to be honest and open. You don't like that she doesn't wipe out the sink after she brushes her hair? Then tell her. Maybe she doesn't know. If you hate that he leaves dirty clothes draped over a chair, then let him know. People can't change something if they don't know it is a problem. Be careful, how you choose your battles. Is the issue you want to raise really that important? Is it a matter of marital bliss, or do you just want to boss your partner around and show them who is in control? Choose your words and your battles with great care.
Be clear and honest in your speaking, using "I" statements that describe how you think or feel. Instead of saying, "You always..." Perhaps you could say, "I would prefer..." It is important to take ownership for your feelings and words. Don't throw accusatory words at your partner. Let them know how you really feel. Let them know your heart.
Don't use your words as a weapon to tear down and destroy the person you love. Your words should encourage and strengthen your relationship. Hurtful words cannot be withdrawn. Like a tube of toothpaste, once uttered, those words are out there, for better or worse. Let your words be used to edify. The dagger, once thrown, is not easily removed from the heart of the person you love.
Improving communication begins within. Know what you want. Speak your truth. When you speak your truth, not only do you honor your partner, but you also honor yourself. Be honest, first with yourself. What do you really want? What are you trying to accomplish? What do you need? If you can't be honest with yourself, how can you possibly speak your inner truth to someone else? Get clear, in your heart, about what you truly want. Then speak with truth and love.
When you communicate clearly, it opens the door for both of you to have a healthy relationship. When you pout, stew and simmer over things, small irritations can fester into large wounds that take much longer to heal.
It's okay to be honest with your spouse. You married this person. You should be able and willing to speak truthfully to him or her. Be honest, not only with your spouse, but with yourself. That is the best way to improve communication in any relationship.
You Can Set Boundaries
4. Set clear boundaries. It is important in any relationship to clearly define how you will treat others, and how you will allow yourself to be treated. If your marriage is shaky, perhaps you have failed to set appropriate boundaries. Setting boundaries allows others to respect who you are as a person, and sets you apart as separate and unique from them.
You are worthy of respect from others and from yourself. Setting appropriate boundaries helps ensure your receive that respect. In order to stand your ground, you must be willing to speak your truth with love. Speaking respectfully, you can be reasonable, firm and calm. This helps not only you, but your spouse as well. It is healthy to set boundaries in relationships. Boundaries define what will and will not be tolerated. If someone treats you in a way you don't like, you have a responsibility to yourself to speak up and let them know that you will not allow that type of behavior.
Setting boundaries can be scary, if you've never done it before, but it is important. When anyone in your life treats you disrespectfully or unkindly or otherwise abuses you, you must speak up. If you allow poor treatment to continue, then you volunteer yourself for the victimization that you will likely feel. Don't be a victim. Choose to stand up for yourself. You choose how others treat you. You define the boundaries of behavior that determine what happens in your relationship.
You don't have to be angry or unkind. You can simply say, "Please don't speak to me like that." Let the other person know your limits, and stick to them.
Open, honest communication will help you set appropriate boundaries, not only in your marriage, but in your life.
It Is Not About Me
It's Not About You
5. Realize that your spouse is not necessarily irritating you on purpose. Sometimes, people behave in ways that are annoying. Don't take it personally. They may not deliberately try to annoy you. Remove yourself from the situation and realize that it is not about you. Their behavior is about them. They are seeking something, whether it be attention, love, affection. Their behavior has nothing to do with you. Let it go.
Unless your spouse in passive-aggressive, and he or she is deliberately trying to irritate you and get under your skin, their behavior is their own. You do not have to own it. And the same goes for you. You are not trying to hurt, or annoy, or irritate your partner, correct?
Each person is living his own life. You are responsible for yourself. When you become part of a family, then your responsibility shifts outward to include your spouse and children. However, you are still responsible for your own behavior. And you cannot own what others do.
Your wife is not leaving her hair in the sink just to irritate you. She probably doesn't even notice it. And if it bothers you so much, then wipe out the sink. And let her know that your preference is to have a clean sink. Then leave it at that. You don't have to walk around all pissed off, because you think she deliberately left hair on the counter, just to ruin your day. It's not about you.
Your husband is not leaving his dirty clothes lying around just to annoy you. Maybe he wants to wear them tomorrow, so you don't have to do so much laundry. You can choose to put them in the hamper or leave them be, but you don't have to choose to become irritated. Let him know your preference and then remind yourself that it is not all about you.
Don't own other people's stuff, positive or negative. Life is not all about you. Your marriage is not all about you. Don't "nit-pick" over every little comment or behavior. Instead, let it go. It is not all about you.
Show Me You Love Me
|Say It||Write It||Do It|
I love you
Put a note in her car before she leaves for work
You mean the world to me
Leave a love note in his lunch
Clean something... anything
I want you
Send a sexy text telling them what you want to do tonight
Make a meal
Shower the People You Love With Love
6. Give lots of praise. Try to praise your spouse three times a day, with specific instances of praise. This will do wonders for your relationship. Not only is it a huge energy boost for your spouse, praising them will remind you exactly why you like them in the first place. It motivates and brings out the best in your spouse and in you.
When you praise someone for something, not only do they feel better, but you feel more confident in who you are and in who your partner is. Encourage and edify your partner. It will strengthen the bond between you in ways too great for words. Lift them up, each day. The world is a hard place. Home can be a sanctuary, where your partner comes to be refreshed and restored. Allow yourself the freedom to praise your partner sincerely.
Criticism drills a hole in your emotions, which allows energy to drain out. Praise helps meet two basic needs, the need to feel significant, and the need to feel secure in your closest relationship. Stop focusing on the bad and highlight the good. When you focus on negative behavior, then not only does your partner feel drained, but you sabotage the relationship, and leave yourself wondering why you got married in the first place. The world will tear you down. It will eat a hole in your heart. When you come home, you want to feel safe, appreciated and loved. The best way to help your partner recover after a day in the world is to let him or her know how much you think of them.
You might think it sounds fake or artificial, but if you think about it, there are easily three things you like about your spouse. You married this person because of all the things you like about them. Use your imagination. Remember all the good qualities. It is easy, after a while, to see only the negative. Instead, find the good things and build your partner up. You could thank him for getting the kids ready for school. You could tell her how much you appreciate breakfast. Try praising him for working hard and taking care of the family. Tell her you are proud of her.
These are little things, but in the end, it's the small things that make a huge impact on our lives. With small doses of praise, your marriage will become stronger and happier.
We're just different
We're All Doing the Best We Know How
7. Realize that your spouse is a great parent. The picture may not look exactly as you think it should, but realize that deep down, everyone is intimidated by parenthood. Even after many children, it doesn't get any easier. Each step with a child is like a trip down an unknown road. Every child is different, every circumstance is different, and nothing ever works out exactly as planned. That is the beauty and the horror of being a parent.
Rather than see every mistake as a personal slight, realize that your spouse is doing the best they can today. Each person had a unique childhood, with different experiences and parenting styles. This doesn't make your spouse wrong. Just different. You each do the best you can, with what you have learned. No one tries to be a crappy parent.
You learned your parenting skills from your own parents, for better or worse. Along the way, you might read books or be inspired by a real life mentor. You come into parenthood with a tool box given to you by your family, then honed by your experience. Your skills and attitudes develop differently, as your experience shapes you.
As parents, you make choices and decisions that you hope will benefit, not harm, your children. You bring the experiences of your own childhood, and your own parents. You bring your own expectations and your own hopes and dreams for your children. You want your children to be better than you were, and to have a life better than the one they came from. Yet the only thing you have to offer is yourself.
Maybe instead of getting angry or annoyed when your spouse parents differently, you can have a conversation with them about parenting, and about what you both hope for your family. It is also important to communicate your expectations to your children, so they are clear on what you want. When you become a parent, you have a responsibility to communicate your desires to your partner. You also have a responsibility to communicate your expectations to you children. Vague and ambiguous desires lead to unfulfilled outcomes and frustration for you, your spouse and you kids.
Don't beat yourself up for your mistakes as a parent. Don't beat your spouse up for his or her mistakes as a parent. Our children will survive our parenting skills, and they will grow into adults. They may blame us for the things they didn't like, but ultimately, each person has responsibility for his own life. Do your best, tell your kids that you love them, and keep moving forward.
You Don't Have to be Right
8. Resolve conflict. Realize that every marriage has conflict, and it can be dealt with in a positive manner. How you handle conflict can bring you closer together, or drive you further apart. Most conflicts arise from misunderstandings, unmet needs, and unspoken expectations.
First, be clear about your own needs in the marriage. It comes back to communication. Be clear first for yourself, about what you want and need out of a relationship. Then, convey that information to your spouse. How can she know what you like, if you don't tell her? How can he know what you want, if you don't ask him?
And remember, you are in charge of your own happiness. Having a walking partner through life is a beautiful gift. But the responsibility for your happiness and fulfillment ultimately rests on your own shoulders. Release your expectations and you will release your suffering. While you may have preferences and desires, don't allow them to dictate whether you will be happy.
Speak your truth. You owe it to yourself and to your spouse to be honest, straightforward and clear. Once you have clearly communicated your expectations and desires, then you can work together to meet each other's needs. Again, while you can have hopes and desires for your relationship and for your partner, don't attach your own peace of mind to a particular outcome. Allow space for your partner to exist as an individual, and allow yourself to grow. When conflict arises, meet it with calmness and balance. Don't strive to get your own way, instead seek a peaceful resolution that will help you both feel understood.
There is no solid right and wrong in conflict resolution. There is compromise and reconciliation. You don't have to be right. Your partner doesn't have to be wrong. Your thoughts on issues are different. Find a common middle ground that you can both work from.
Once the two of you are on the same page, you can work to meet your family's needs. Issues with children will always arise. Issues in your marriage will always arise. When you begin from a place of mutual understanding and agreement, it becomes easier to navigate the treacherous waters of life with another person. Marriage is not easy. Life itself is not easy. You have chosen to walk with this person, and certainly issues will arise. Remember that you love him. Remember that you love her. Remember that nothing is so great that it can't be worked through and resolved.
Conflict should be resolved as your partner reveals their feelings and needs. As soon as an issue arises, deal with it. Withdrawing into yourself creates fear, confusion, and more misunderstanding. Stand firm, face your spouses needs and work toward restoring intimacy. It seems uncomfortable, but facing the beast head on, and genuinely working to resolve the issues will lead to deeper understanding for both of you.
A strong relationship is based on courage and truth. Be courageous in the face of fear and discomfort. Speak your truth with love, and allow your partner to do the same. Don't allow your unspoken fears to dominate the beauty of the relationship you have created together. Take a deep breath and move forward with confidence, courage and kindness.
My response is my responsibility
9. Enhance your intimacy. Intimacy does not equal sex. Emotional intimacy means sharing your feelings, dreams, and fears. Opening up to your spouse on an emotional level means you trust him or her enough to be vulnerable. When you are intimate emotionally, the door opens for physical closeness. Your marriage is strengthened when you become intimate, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Marriage is based on intimacy. You ought to be close to your partner, but sometimes, fear, anger and resentment get in the way of intimacy. Don't allow yourselves to drift apart. People crave intimate relationships, and if you are unfulfilled in your marriage, then you or your partner may seek that closeness elsewhere.
Physical intimacy does not always mean sex. Physical intimacy means touching and communicating with your spouse in a way that no one else does. You can enhance physical intimacy by touching your spouse throughout the day. Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning and heading straight for the shower, take a few moments to cuddle. There is nothing more important than reconnecting, and it's a wonderful way to start your day. Lightly touching his back as you pass by, rubbing her back, touching his hair; these are all ways to become physically intimate, without being overtly sexual.
Women especially respond to meaningful touch, but it is also great for men. Non-sexual affectionate hugs, pats and kisses are pleasing and healing for both partners. Remember to kiss your husband as he walks out the door. Give her a warm hug when you see her after work. Hold hands. Walk arm-in-arm. If you don't feel comfortable touching in public, that's okay. Not everyone is into public displays of affection. Just be sure to touch each other throughout the day and evening. It brings you closer and helps bridge the gap when you aren't feeling close.
Physical intimacy includes sexuality. It is important in a marriage to maintain a close sexual relationship. Each of us has a responsibility in our marriage to meet the needs of our best friend and love. The beauty of a marriage is that it offers complete acceptance and support in this area. We don't want to be rejected by the very person to whom we are the closest. Meeting our partners sexual needs draws us closer, in a way that no other relationship can offer.
Spiritual intimacy can be achieved through seeking a higher purpose, sharing philosophical and spiritual texts, ideas and insights. Share with your spouse the lessons you learned today. You could try praying together.
Spirituality takes many different forms. As you grow along your own spiritual path, don't expect your spouse to walk exactly where you are. We all mature differently. We all walk a unique path toward God. The important thing is to share where you are. Share what you are learning and what you struggle with. Every day brings new challenges and new opportunities for growth. Allowing your spouse to take part in your spiritual journey will increase your intimacy and help your marriage grow stronger.
Emotional intimacy grows when you share your heart with your partner. What are your dreams, your fears, your hopes and desires? Don't be afraid to share them. Be honest, be courageous and allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner. This vulnerability is how you build emotional intimacy and draw closer to the person you love. And when your partner shares his dreams with you or her fears with you, don't belittle them or make light. Just listen. Allow them to open to you without being judged. You don't have to act. Just listen openly and love them completely.
Be Yourself, but be Your Best Self
Be Your Best Self
10. Bring your best self to the marriage. No matter what else happens today, you can control your emotions. Not only do you not have a right to be "pissy" or grumpy, you have an obligation to be happy for your family. Your family deserves to see your best side.
Often times, people save their best selves for work, or for friends or for clients. Sometimes, unfortunately, complete strangers get to see you at your best, while your family suffers with your intolerable moods. Why do this to the people you love? You can set the tone for you household and your family by choosing to be happy and by leaving your junk behind.
Sure, you had a rough day at work. Yes, the kids were loud all day. That does not give you the right to act like a jerk when you see your partner at the end of the day. Of course, you can tell them about it. Of course, off-load. Share your frustrations. Express your guilt or anger or resentment. And then let it go. Allow yourself to rest in the comfort and safety of your partner. Remember to choose peace now, instead of clinging to the negative energy of your day.
Treat your spouse as if you love him or her with your very last breath. Think today, and everyday, of how you can make life more pleasant. Be the kind of person that you would like to come home to. The goal of marriage is peace and happiness. When you begin to act peaceful and happy, amazing things will happen in your marriage. Remember, death comes to every man, but not every man lives a full life. Part of living that life is to keep in mind that it will be over before you know it. In this moment then, embrace the fullness of your relationship. Remember why you got married. Remember the many things that you love about your partner. Don't blink, or it will all be gone.
This is your life. You have a choice about how you will live it. If you show up unprepared and pissed off, then you won't enjoy your marriage and neither will your spouse. Bring your "A" game to your marriage and to your life. You can choose to have exactly the life you desire.
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Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on October 15, 2018:
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this article. You are absolutely right. Many people are hesitant to express affection. Both people feel more connected when the other is affectionate. Don't withhold. It only alienates your partner.
Shadi Mangalam on October 11, 2018:
"Show Me You Love Me" this is the title which I like most in this article because many people are shying to express their love. And because of this, they lost their partner.
Superb article! Thanks.
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on September 10, 2018:
@Carrie Lee Night,
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article. I appreciate it.
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on September 01, 2018:
Very detailed and well written hub :) Thank you sharing.
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on May 09, 2017:
Thanks for reading and commenting, Matty. I hope you found the article useful.
Matty Navarro from New Jersey on May 03, 2017:
Thanks! Education is everything, you can't fix anything if you don't know how to.
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 25, 2016:
Thanks for that comment. A good marriage is not a given. It takes commitment and dedication from both parties for it to really work.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 23, 2016:
You shared good advice, helpful to marriages indeed! A marriage is not only about love. Useful and most informative. I Tweeted!
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 21, 2016:
Thanks for reading, and for your input, kiddiecreations. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.
Nicole K on January 20, 2016:
We are responsible for your own contentment. Yes. So true! Thank you for your insights.
Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on July 23, 2013:
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on July 28, 2011:
Thanks for reading, I appreciate all the kind comments.
Onelove on July 20, 2011:
I like the last one especially. Bring your best self to the marriage. We seem to forget everything we did to make our lover feel special and wonder why our relationship fizzles out. This hub is a keeper!
Jordan Riley on February 20, 2011:
Love these top 10 lists. Thanks for this.
tdarby on May 27, 2010:
Fantastic Hub--starting with number 1, how many people would be so much better off if they could just get this one thing right. Thank you
Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on May 03, 2010:
Rock solid words of wisdom. Great hub Deb. Mahalo
Matthew Frederick Blowers III from United States on May 02, 2010:
Dr. Demander might very soon be in demand for her and him...
sound advice for those on the brink of sounding off and ending years of love and commitment. Silence is golden, and one should be King Midas when the other is talking. I like that, saves wear and tear on the jaw muscles and the brain. ~~LOL~~~MFB III
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on May 02, 2010:
Thanks for stopping by Neil.
Thank you for your kind words Ictodd.
Linda Todd from Charleston on May 02, 2010:
I like #2,3 and 4...being able to shut up and listen is key.Being able to communicate without being upset is a way to learn. Taking resposibility for actions is also key. I actually like everything you have said. Thanks for sharing.
Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on May 02, 2010:
Great Points -- I love the way you began "Your spouse cannot make you happy. You cannot make your spouse happy."
Love - Light - Laughter
Deborah Demander Reno (author) from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on May 01, 2010:
Hey Mickey, maybe you should have tried electro-shock therapy!
Lynda, thanks for all your support and guidance.
Thanks for coming by Ethel.
sharongilo on May 01, 2010:
Good thoughts for any couple ... I think the readers here would like my little book, "A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage" --
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on May 01, 2010:
All very sound advice. Marriage can be hard as well as satisfying
lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on May 01, 2010:
Great hub, Deborah. Thanks for reminding us we are in control of our lives, our relationships and ourselves. Lynda
Micky Dee on April 30, 2010:
You couldn't restore mine with CPR. Now- if I had this hib back then...