Being in an unhappy marriage is disheartening and confusing. You’ve probably asked yourself “how did my marriage get so bad?” many times but haven’t found a satisfactory answer. That’s because there are usually multiple factors which contribute to issues in a relationship. Also, relationships erode over time. This process may be difficult to notice day to day, but when you step back, you may see how much your marriage has suffered.
Couples often assume that the likely outcome of a dying marriage is divorce, but that’s not necessarily so. In all my years counseling couples, I’ve seen more marriages survive than crumble. Better yet, when couples really commit to turning their relationship around, their marriages often blossom and thrive. With the right knowledge and tools, you can turn a faltering marriage into a strong, satisfying relationship.
Stages Of A Dying Marriage
Marriages don’t turn bad overnight. It’s a gradual process where poor communication and unmet needs are allowed to snowball out of control. There are typically 6 stages of a dying marriage:
- Feeling lonely and unhappy
- Lack of intimacy
- Poor communication
- Conflict escalation
- Disengagement and apathy
- Considering divorce
Generally, couples who catch themselves in the first few stages and take action tend to have a better chance of fixing their relationship. The longer you let things go from bad to worse, the tougher it will be to get your marriage back on track. So if you are not happy with where you and your partner are at, I encourage you to begin working on your relationship right away.
How To Fix An Unhappy Marriage
Communicate Your Feelings
The first and most important action you can take today is to discuss the state of your marriage with your partner. Share your thoughts and impressions and give your partner every opportunity to do the same. These are difficult conversations, so set aside some time when you can talk without interruptions or being pressed for time. Let the dialog unfold and don’t rush through it. Similarly, don’t try to rush toward solutions or start writing up a marriage-saving to-do list. Allow these sensitive conversations to unfold organically, giving yourselves time to process along the way.
Make Each Other A Priority
Chances are, at the beginning of your relationship you and your partner were each other’s top priority. Gradually, other life priorities muscled their way in and required you to redirect your attention away from your spouse. Children, family, careers, health and financial concerns require more and more of your attention. It’s easy to put your relationship on the back burner while you’re dealing with other important matters.
In order to sustain a solid relationship, you must treat it as a top priority in your life. That means setting aside time just for the two of you, going on regular date nights, and taking advantage of every opportunity to reconnect. Even a small ritual like drinking coffee together for 20 minutes before the kids wake up will do wonders and will help resolve intimacy issues over time.
Reconnect Through Peak Experiences
Think back on points in your marriage when you were at your happiest. What made it so? Are you able to tap into those reserves or recreate those circumstances and peak experiences? It’s unrealistic that you’ll be able to replicate those stages of your life, but there are likely aspects which you can bring into your current life if you can remain flexible and adaptable.
Sharing experiences and visions for the future will allow you to reinvigorate your marriage and re-engage with one another. When you’re ready to deepen your connection, discuss what you can do to spice up your relationship, in and out of the bedroom. Fantasy can be a great tool for reinvention and rediscovery.
Seek Out Professional Support
Repairing a marriage is a complicated process. Working with a professional couples counselor is often the best way to ensure you’re moving in the right direction and learning essential relationship skills along the way. Even when working with a therapist, expect ups and downs along the way, so don’t get discouraged if you get a little stalled or the process takes an unexpected turn.
There are many counseling options available. Educate yourself and your partner on counseling resources available to you, and explore whether you would benefit more from traditional therapy or a marriage retreat. Even if you think your marriage is in crisis, it doesn’t mean that it’s over. Almost no one is taught how to have a happy marriage, so before calling it quits, learn and consistently apply the right skills. It is possible to repair your relationship as long as you and your partner are both committed to making it work. If you’re ready to get your marriage back on track, LifeWise couples counseling is here to help every step of the way.