Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Save Your Marriage

As individuals, we really should learn to be happy with ourselves.  But we’re human; we’re wired to want and need companionship.  When we enter into a good relationship, the world can be a brighter and more beautiful place.  But when we’re part of a good relationship that sours over time, things can go dark and ugly pretty quickly.  Any relationship may begin happily and with the best of intentions, but as things go along, misunderstandings may arise due to any number of factors – ego, personal issues, or external situations that take their toll on the relationship.  When things come to a breaking point, one or both parties in a couple may decide that the relationship has run its course.

Divorce or separation can affect both the social and personal aspects of each person involved. It may be surprising to know that even when problems do come up, the marriage does not need to end. Most issues can be addressed and managed with some hard work and dedication. I have coached and counseled many people with relationship problems, and here are five of my favorite pieces of advice for couples with fractured relationships…

1. Understand and agree the problems exist. We’re not talking about giving or receiving blame and fault at this stage of the game; let’s just focus on the idea that there are problems, and things need to change.  Too many people will live in denial all the way up until the last possible second – and by then, it's often too late. Be honest with yourself and your partner. Try to identify what the issues are in your relationship so that you can make an effort to improve them. Denial is not your friend.  Instead of retreating, practice acceptance.  With acceptance comes the ability to prepare for the challenges you'll be facing.

2.  Communicate without fear or judgement.  Author George R.R. Martin is quoted as saying “The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome." When it comes to marriages good or bad, this concept is always true. Whether there are known and concrete problems, or things just "seem off” in your relationship, there is no better solution then to start a dialogue. Give your spouse many chances to open up and try to get his or her perspective.  Even if your partner is unwilling to discuss problems with you, persevere. However, know that sooner or later they will need to start opening up if they wish to save the marriage too. In the meantime, watch and listen carefully for cues and clues.  And don't forget to be transparent in your own feelings.

3. Never underestimate the importance of passion. Problem-solving should be your biggest priority, but reigniting that flame of passion that you once shared is also one of the most important parts in salvaging a damaged relationship. This does not mean that you need to force yourself to have lots of insincere sex or to fake orgasms. What it does mean, though, is that you need to reconnect in fundamental ways. Remember what attracted you most to your partner when your relationship was young. Encourage your partner to share what attracted them to you as well.  We may have a few extra gray hairs on our heads and a few more pounds beneath our belts, but essentially, you are still that lovable "you" that once took their breath away. Strive to relive those moments and feelings.

4. Seek help. Marriage counselors, coaches and therapists are all fabulous resources in the quest for saving a marriage that is mostly good. There is nothing wrong with seeking help and learning the tools that you need in order to mend something that needs some reinforcement.  Getting help is a sign of strength, never of weakness.

5. The most important tip that I can give you is to have patience. You did not get into this mess overnight, and you won't get out of it overnight either. Be consistent as well as persistent. If you love your spouse, and you feel that your marriage is worth saving, work together in order to make that slow and steady effort.  Give it time.

My bonus tip for you is that while it only takes one person to want to end a relationship, it takes both people to want to save it. At the end of the day, it truly doesn't matter whose fault it is that things aren't perfect, who did what, or why it happened.  Both people need to be on board with repairing the relationship, and both people have work to do in order to make that happen. There will be times when walking away is the only option; but until or unless your sure that it is, it's not too late to try turning the tide.

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