Does this sound familiar: You’ve noticed issues in your marriage that you intended to address for a while. Maybe you’ve neglected the health of your relationship for a bit too long and finally accepted that it’s time to act. When you’re feeling ready to improve your marriage, you’re probably ready to spring into action right away. While some changes take longer before taking hold, there are impactful things you can start doing immediately.
The fastest way to fix your marriage begins with you. When you become the agent of change, you can motivate your spouse to follow your lead. You may need to shift your perspective and approach fixing your marriage in more productive, actionable ways.
Similarly, strategic goal setting will allow you to focus on where you want your marriage to be and work on making gradual and sustaining progress. When you put yourself in the driver’s seat, you’ll begin seeing positive changes in yourself and in your marriage starting today.
Change Begins With You
It’s common that partners blame each other for issues in the marriage. This blame is passed back and forth making the situation far worse. Before trying to fix your partner, check yourself first. Are you living up to your own high standards? Are you communicating effectively? Are you being compassionate and supportive? What could you improve in yourself that would bring a positive change into your relationship?
As a quick exercise, remember two or three interactions over the past week between you and your spouse which you could have handled better. Identify what you could have done better (i.e. be more patient, be less dismissive, offer more help, etc). Acknowledge these likely unintentional mistakes, and make a commitment to do better over the course of this week.
Bring Your A-Game
Marriage is 100/100 not 50/50. That means each partner ideally contributes all that they can most of the time. Marriage requires each of you putting in all your effort to sustain the relationship through rough patches. At some point, one partner will struggle, be it with work, health, and many other stresses. So by giving your 100%, you will bolster and motivate your partner, and keep your relationship strong.
For example, when your spouse has been home all day with sick kids, dive in and help as soon as you get home from work. This is not the time to divide and conquer. Figure out dinner, throw in a load of laundry and bring your spouse a cup of tea. Better yet, send your exhausted partner to rest for an hour while you feed the kids. Being caring and helpful is one of the ways to bring your A-game and will go a long way in improving your relationship.
Replace Blame And Judgment With Empathy
You may have heard the saying “Hurt people hurt people”. People who have been hurt tend to assume the worst of someone who hurt them. They act on this hurt by inflicting pain on others. But within marriage, it’s unlikely your partner meant to hurt you. Don’t be too quick to blame or judge your partner for any pain they may have caused.
Instead, be curious and approach your partner with empathy and an open mind. Don’t assume the worst and get yourself worked up before you know all the facts. Have a conversation and share thoughts and feelings. You may be surprised by what you learn. Compassion and understanding will heal and carry you through hard times.
Here’s a scenario that frequently comes up in couples counseling: The husband has been withdrawn and uninterested in spending time with his wife. She feels hurt and rejected, and accuses her husband for being neglectful and insensitive to her needs. Her anger and blaming make him more disengaged, and the relationship begins to suffer from his withdrawal and her resentment.
What if the wife’s anger was replaced by empathy? Instead of shaming and accusing her husband of neglect, the wife decides to try a more gentle and compassionate approach. “I’ve noticed you seem distant and depressed lately, and I’m worried about you. Is there something on your mind that’s worrying you? Anything I should know or can help with?” With this softer, more caring approach, the husband is more likely to feel at ease and open up about what he’s going through. Usually, the reason for his disengagement isn’t a disinterest in his wife, but something he’s uncomfortable talking about, like a health scare, looming loss of his job, financial worries, and the like.
Consider Different Parts, And Avoid Generalizations
People are complicated, and our emotions reflect complex, coexisting, and often conflicting parts of ourselves. Emotional intelligence and insight requires us to integrate these different parts. When we have a deeper understanding of the inner workings of our own emotional systems, we can better communicate and lead with empathy when dealing with others, especially spouses.
To illustrate the importance of considering these complex parts, let’s look at a case study with Pat and Susan:
Pat has been homeschooling the kids during Covid full time and now needs to get back into the workforce to help make ends meet. While Pat has been talking about updating his resume and starting to apply for jobs for the past 7 months, he hasn’t actually taken any steps toward those goals, and Susan is growing frustrated. Susan is tempted to shame Pat for being lazy and not doing his share but knows that won’t be helpful, and in fact, will only dredge up more hurt feelings.
Susan finds a quiet moment to address her concerns with Pat and does so with empathy: “Part of me is upset that you haven’t applied for any jobs yet but a part of me understands how scared you are of reentering the workforce after being away from a professional setting for 3 years. How can I help you move your job search forward? You know I’m a rockstar resume writer…”
As seen in the example above, it’s ok to acknowledge your negative emotions to your partner but it’s most constructive to lead with sympathy. When you have awareness of your emotions and empathy for your partner’s, you’ll be well on your way to fixing your marriage.
Goal Setting: A Fast Way To Fix Your Marriage
Another effective way to quickly fix your marriage starting today is to do some goal setting. This is an exercise to which both you and your partner contribute, and it’s a great way to begin a dialog about the shared vision for your marriage.
- Set a goal and paint the picture. How do you define a good marriage for yourselves? What does it look like? What does it feel like?
- Identify 3-5 ideal marriage qualities. This may seem obvious, but saying it out loud or writing it down helps to drive the point home. Common ideal qualities are things like trust, affection, comfort, fairness, support, understanding, etc.
- Rank each quality with a 1-5 star rating as it reflects your current relationship. You may have listed trust as one of the ideal qualities but can only rank it 1 out of 5 because of a recent infidelity.
- Discuss with your partner what each of you can do to increase the rating by just one point. In the example above, how can you move the needle even slightly to gain trust? It’s not practical to expect sweeping changes here. Incremental change is more far sustainable. It all comes down to consistent progress rather than perfection.
Professional Support Is Faster Than DIY Marriage Fixing
If you’re looking for professional support in speeding up your marriage improvements, consider enrolling in a private marriage retreat. Intensive couples therapy has proven to be the fastest way to fix a marriage. This is because the couple spends dedicated hours during an extended weekend to get to a resolution instead of stretching out counseling over weeks and months. If you’re ready to expedite your healing journey and get your marriage back on track quickly, see how LifeWise Marriage Retreats can get you there.