By the time most people get around to emailing me, their marriage has typically been in trouble for a while. It's so easy to just ignore the problem and hope that it will go away until it reaches a point where you can no longer do that. It's often only then that folks will sit down, roll up their sleeves, and try to "fix" what hasn't been working for a long while.

The problem with this strategy is that things have often deteriorated to the point that intimacy and empathy are starting to wane. Therefore, your results are likely to be delayed or skewed by this loss. Making this problem worse is the fact that often people will first try to make drastic changes to their marriage or to their spouse without realizing two things: First, you can not really and legitimately control anyone but yourself. Second, people generally will greatly resent being manipulated and will only resist you more when you attempt this. So, in the following article, I will discuss beginning to save your marriage by controlling what and who you can - yourself and your own actions.

Why Saving Your Marriage Starts With You: As I said before, often in the beginning, your spouse may have some difficulty and resentment if you try to manipulate, guilt, strong-arm them into seeing things your way, especially if they've been distancing themself from you for quite some time. And, even if you could do this, it really is not the best idea because although you would have gotten their cooperation, their heart is not really in it. This is not a decision that they made all on their own so the likelihood that this is going to "stick" or be lasting is much less.

You want for them to be a willing participant in every aspect of your marriage and sometimes this means letting them come to the place that you are at in their own time. Often this takes them seeing that things actually can change and that the process does not have to feel like "work" or require a great deal of sacrifice or discomfort.

So the easiest and best way to begin is to control what you can - which is you and only you. Start by taking a look at your own behaviors. Are you being the spouse that you yourself what want to have? Do you listen more than you talk? Give as much as you take? Make an effort to know what is going on with your spouse and do what you can to lighten their load? Do you show them understanding, appreciation, and spontaneous loving gestures on an ongoing basis? If the answer is no or "not enough" to any of these things, then you already know where you need to start.

You won't be able to do a 180-degree turn in one day, but if you make small efforts each day, you may be quite surprised at the transformation that occurs in a very short period of time. Once your spouse sees that things are better without much hardship, they will very likely be much more willing to pitch in.

Contrasting Today With Yesterday: When I was in marital counseling, the counselor gave me an exercise that both shocked me and helped me very much. She asked me to describe myself when I was my husband's girlfriend. And she wanted to know what it was like in the beginning. I had to admit that, during that time frame, I was outgoing, happy go lucky, enthusiastic, attentive, exciting, etc. After all, who isn't beaming and giving more than they take when they are first falling in love?

Then, she asked me to describe myself as I was now, as a wife. This excise was very hard. Deep down, I know that I was hurried, stressed, overbearing at times, and a whole lot less happy. But, she was having a hard time pulling this out of me. So, she picked up her phone, took a photo of me before I knew what had happened, and pulled it up on her phone. She handed the phone to me and then pulled out a photo of our wedding day. The contrast was striking and painful.

I was expecting my husband to feel the same intensity toward me, yet I was not in any way putting in the time and effort that I used to. The counselor assured me that I should not use this exercise as an excuse to blame myself. She was trying to point out that often it's the circumstances that change more than it is our feelings that change. And, she wanted me to know that I had direct control over the circumstances from my end. (I changed my stance after this and it did make a difference. That story this is here.)

Beginning To Take Control Of Yourself And Your Marriage: So many of us make the mistake of sort of floating along with our marriage - like we are holding onto a raft but not really steering it. We're floating along aimlessly in the sea of discontent but we aren't able to see this clearly until we've floated out and are facing the sharks and the harsh sun. We're so weakened and tired now that pulling or getting our self to shore is going to be much harder than it needed to be. You really no longer have to live this way.

Start changing this by just becoming more aware. What is your day to day married life like and what does it lack? See, you know what it takes to get your husband's interest to a high enough level that he "falls in love." You've already done it once. But chances are the somewhere along the way, you took for granted that he was yours and that you could turn your attention to other things that are equally as important - like paying the bills and raising the kids. But what we all fail to realize is that if we let our marriage slide, this act and omission are going to bleed into everything else in our lives and then everything starts to change and corrode.

So, identify those things that have begun to slide and take control of them slowly but surely. If you find that the two of you don't really talk anymore, remember that you are changing yourself and start a conversation. If you feel there isn't enough affection, start changing things with you and begin demonstrating more spontaneous touching, back rubs, etc. Begin by giving more of what you yourself want. Once your spouse begins to enjoy these changes and sees that the process isn't really going to back-breaking hard work, he will likely slowly start to reciprocate and once you have to people focusing on themselves, then you are really getting somewhere.

There was a time that I thought my marriage was truly at its end. My husband had totally checked out, had made clear that he was no longer "in love" with me, and would not lift a finger to help me reconcile the marriage. Thankfully, even though I had doubts, I decided to try one last thing, to give a little more, and to approach it from another angle (by focusing on myself) and this eventually worked. You can read my that story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/

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