I received an email from a very frustrated and confused wife who told me that her marriage was falling apart and she had no idea how to proceed because everything that she tried only seemed to make things worse. She'd tried confronting the problem head-on. She'd tried having a deep, heart to heart discussion with her husband. She'd tried lavishing him with affection and attention. She'd tried to downplay the issue hoping that it would get better on its own. And, as a last resort, she'd tried to play hardball - becoming angry and demanding to know exactly what it would take to get through to her husband. I understand why these tactics seemed reasonable at the time. I tried many of them myself. (More on that here.) But, many of the tactics that seem perfectly right at the time backfire on you in the end. In the following article, I'll tell you what I've seen work the best (time and time again) to save a marriage that is falling apart.

Don't Get So Caught Up On Why The Marriage Is Falling Apart: I know that it may sound contradictory when I say this, but many people focus too much on the "why" and not enough on the "how." What I mean by that is that many spouses will assume that if they can just pinpoint the pivotal issue and fix it, then all of the other issues and tension will fall away. So, they corner their spouse and try to talk them to death. They ask a million questions, offer up countless scenarios, and try to force the spouse to open up their soul at that particular moment in time.

Here's the problem with that. It's very common that your spouse can't exactly put his or her finger on the exact problem or what it would take the fix it. More often, what you'll get is vague answers like "I just don't want to be married," or "I'm just not happy," or "I'm just not feeling it anymore." Many people will assume that these answers mean that their spouse is being deceptive, or doesn't really want to work things out. This is not always the case. Often, people don't really know the EXACT reason that they are feeling disconnected. They just know that something is "off" and that things feel tense and wrong. They are feeling many more negative than positive emotions right now and they want to escape this so they distance themselves or check out.

Often the heart of most marital problems really comes down to lessening intimacy and connectedness and a breakdown of communication. This is usually the precursor to all of the other secondary and negative things that will come after it (fighting, misunderstandings, tuning out, infidelity, etc.) However, these problems usually intensify when the issues are attempted to be fixed in the wrong way. Frustration mounts and then the spouse who has pulled away retreats even more because he or she is being forced to delve into something they're trying to avoid in the first place. There is a way to work through these issues by coming at them in a different way that often gets a more welcome reception, which I will discuss now.

Break Saving Your Marriage Down Into Little Positive Pieces, Day By Day: Very often, I see spouses panic and try to fix everything in their marriage overnight. They will bombard their spouse with attempts to "work" or "talk" things out. Please know that what your spouse is hearing is the word "work." This sounds more negative than positive so it's likely that they aren't going to embrace this. You want to offer them a solution that they can be excited about. This is half the battle.

So, you want to tell them straight up and always imply that from now on, you just want things to be better between you. Stress that you aren't going to engage in behaviors that will run counter to this and that you can't bear the tension and the stress. Explain that you both deserve to be happy and although you know that you can't fix everything overnight, what you can control is your day to day interactions.

As simplistic as it sounds, your goal right now is really very simple. What you want and need to do is to create as many positive and light-hearted interactions as you can. What you're trying to do is to change how your spouse associates you and the marriage. Because right now, they very likely have quite negative associations that are getting worse all the time. Your job is to make sure that they experience positive feelings when they think of you and the marriage. This may seem like a tall order, but you're going to break it down into small steps, day by day.

In truth, you know what it takes to make your spouse happy. You once made them so happy that they married you. Take some time and really ponder who your spouse fell in love with and contrast that to the person that your spouse is sitting across from today. I don't ask you to do this to make you feel negative or bad. But, when I did this exercise myself, it was a huge eye-opener for me. My husband fell in love with a positive, happy go lucky, light-hearted girl who understood, valued, and listened. What he had now was a scattered, fearful, nagging woman who was acting as she was because she didn't want to end her marriage (but her actions were reading negative all the same.)

Come at this from a positive place, as someone who knows, understands, and values your spouse and wants to lighten their load. You already know how to do this. But, somewhere along the line, life became more hectic and complicated. That's OK because you're going to change that right now. Always remember that at the end of the day, your spouse wants exactly what you want - a healthy marriage with a spouse who understands you, appreciates you, and values you. If you give your spouse these things on a regular basis and focus on creating positive interactions, I suspect that things are going to start looking better in the very near future.

When my own marriage was falling apart,  I did not understand these principles, I focused on the negative, and my husband retreated.  When I changed this stance, things changed. That story is at http://isavedmymarriage.com/

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