How to Save a Marriage When Only One is Trying


Every marriage goes through rough patches and more often than not, issues are eventually sorted out with both partners making an attempt to find common ground. However things become that much harder when there is a mismatch of priorities too so that saving the marriage becomes the concern of only one partner. Under such circumstances, you may be tempted to give up on the relationship but take heart that things can still be turned around even if you are only one trying to save the marriage.

Make another attempt

In the past, you may have tried speaking to your spouse about the need to resolve the issues troubling your marriage but met with a negative response. And now you may have taken it for granted that there is no use in trying again. But if it has been some time, say a month, since you made the initial effort, how about trying again? For all you know, his/her perceptions may have changed in the time being and he/she may be waiting for you to ask again. Even if they haven’t, avoid making your spouse’s reluctance to deal with issues an excuse for your own inertia. It will help nobody if you keep postponing having a meaningful conversation with your spouse – the sooner you face issues troubling your marriage, the sooner you can do something about it. However when you decide to make the attempt, focus on doing something you have not done before – if you have never expressed your feelings previously, decide to do it this time. On the other hand if you find both you and your spouse engaging in the same argument over and over, decide that you will not rehash the issue and try another approach.

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Prepare for a difficult conversation

If you are planning on asking your spouse another time to do something to save your marriage,  first of all get a grip on the situation yourself. Focus exactly on the issues that you think are troubling your marriage and what has happened to make you think so. If necessary write down about previous instances and actions which made you feel that you both need to do something more like see a marriage counselor. Decide to talk about specific events and behaviors and not feelings and perceptions. If you are having doubts about the wisdom of making so much effort for something on which your partner is already to give up, make a list of all the things you love about your partner now. When you are ready yourself, set an appropriate time and place for conversation with your husband. As far as possible ensure that you will not be distracted and have a reasonable level of privacy. Don’t choose a time when your spouse is tired or has other things on his/her mind. Talk about what is bothering you but remain non-confrontational. Don’t let the conversation turn into a blame-game with each of you accusing the other of the wrongs that he/she did in the past. Keep the focus on the topic and clarify how the problem is impacting your marriage. While emphasizing that you love your partner, express your fears about the future of your marriage. Talk about what you want in your relationship, not about what you don't want. Discuss what makes you both happy and fulfilled. Invite him/her to discuss solutions to the problem, one of which could be marriage counselling.

Set a time frame

Before you close the conversation, see if you both can agree to set a time frame to re-evaluate how things are going. While you cannot talk your spouse into loving you like before, you might be able to convince him/her to try by suggesting that he/she give you four months of their time. And during these four months, you would do everything in your capacity to become the person your spouse would like to be married to. If, after four months, he/she sees no improvement, assure your spouse that he/she can leave and you will not try to stop him/her. If, after four months, however, there is some improvement, then you both can extend the trial date another four months and another and so on.

Let the change begin with you

If your spouse agrees to a trial period, you have a real chance to make things better. Get to know yourself and look at your own attitudes, memories, behaviors, expectations, hopes, concerns and fears, not only in the marriage but also as an individual. Ask yourself how long you think you can stay in your marriage if things don't improve. Accept the fact that you can surely change yourself and your own reactions to your spouse’s intractable behavior. And for all you know, changing your own behavior may trigger your spouse to want to make changes.  A good idea may be going to a counselor on your own. This will not only prevent you feeling depressed or helpless but also go a long way in helping you to understand your role in the conflict in your marriage and to clarify your plans for your future.

Face the facts

If despite your best efforts, your spouse still remains reluctant to do anything to save the marriage, perhaps it is time for you to face facts. The bitter truth is that you cannot force another person to change, much less love you enough to stay on with you. Finally you need to reevaluate your priorities, both as a partner and an individual. If there are children from the marriage, consider what level of conflict they are being exposed to and to what extent a divorce will affect them. If they are already unhappy because of their marital conflict then trying to avoid a divorce, “because of the kids” does not make much sense. Asking yourself questions like “is this a temporary crisis or the end of your marriage”, “what is the best and worst thing that could happen if you decide to divorce” and “what is the best and worst thing that could happen if you decide to stay together” may help to make things a little clearer. Above all don’t endanger your safety or that of your dependents by remaining in a violent and abusive relationship.

In the end, there are no easy answers when your spouse wants to leave and can see no reason for saving the marriage. Some situations can be dealt with and other situations are deal breakers. Only you know what you can tolerate and still be true to yourself.