On your wedding day, after you’d walked down the aisle and were saying your marital vows, you thought that was it.
All of your romantic troubles were gone forever and you were about to live happily ever after next to your loved one.
After all, this is the scene where all the fairy tales and romantic movies end. The protagonists managed to overcome all the obstacles and are off to their perfect life.
However, nobody tells you what comes next.
Nobody tells you about the problems which await you, about the fact that you can easily be trapped in an unhappy marriage and nobody warns you of the situation where your relationship is falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it.
When you were listening to stories about marriage, nobody mentioned that one day, you would be sitting in your room, silently crying and wondering, “How can I save my marriage before it becomes too late?”
Well, that’s why we’re here—to give you that answer you’re so desperate to find.
First and foremost, you have to stop trying to figure out how to fix a broken marriage alone.
In fact, if you want a healthy marriage, you’ll have to team up with your spouse and you’ll both have to invest your entire selves into making it work.
And here is exactly how to do so in 15 steps.
1. Identify your marriage problems
Before resolving any problems you might have and trying to repair your unhappy marriage, firstly you have to know what you’re fighting against.
It’s the same with your marital problems; before anything else, you need to identify your problems.
See whether you and your spouse are on the same page. Do you have a similar point of view on your marriage and do you consider the same things to be your marriage problems?
There is a possibility that you see something that occurred between you two as a big deal, while the other person observes it as completely irrelevant.
If this happens, you two will have to find the middle ground and get to the terms with what your most significant issues are.
Was it infidelity? Emotional, sexual, verbal or physical abuse?
Or was it a lack of communication and attention? Was it emotional neglect or did your marriage fall into a rut?
What led to you two being here in the first place? What was the initial cause and the main trigger?
Be careful when trying to identify your problems and have in mind that in many cases, the ones you’re having now are actually just a consequence of an issue you both thought you managed to leave behind ages ago.
It could be a deeply rooted trauma you repressed or something you never saw as relevant.
2. Communicate honestly
Either way, the point is that none of your marital problems are irrelevant.
Don’t be ashamed to tell your partner exactly what’s bothering you just because you think that they’ll think of you as too weak or overly emotional.
In fact, rebuilding healthy communication is the first step toward rebuilding your marriage. Forget about holding grudges, about passive-aggressive behavior and about insults.
You simply have to find a way to talk to each other as honestly as possible, without a fear of being judged.
Speak your mind and tell one another everything that lies on your heart, everything that’s hurting you and bothering you.
There is no good marriage without good communication and you can’t expect to make something out of yours until you learn the importance of opening up to your partner and until you realize that not every disagreement has to produce a fight.
Remember that the two of you are allowed to have different opinions about certain matters and it is up to you to find a common ground when that happens, without allowing this situation to escalate into a bigger confrontation.
3. See whether there is anything to fix
After you know what’s mainly wrong with your relationship and after you’ve talked about it directly with your significant other, it’s time to be honest with yourself as well.
Let me warn you—fixing a failing marriage is hard work; it is a long-lasting process which doesn’t only take a lot of time but it also requires much effort, numerous sacrifices and it can cost you more of your patience than you might think.
So, is all of this hard work really worth it? Don’t get me wrong—I’m not implying that it’s not and neither am I advising you to ditch your entire relationship without a fight; I’m just begging you to think things through as thoroughly as possible before making any final decisions.
Is your marriage worth saving? Is it worth the trouble you’re certainly about to go through?
Can it be fixed? Can you expect to have a happy marriage after you’re done with this crisis or are you fighting in vain?
These are all the questions both you and your partner should ask yourselves. Take as much time as you need and please, be realistic while coming up with answers.
Even if you two still love each other deeply, can you be certain that your love will be enough?
Of course, you’ll take your emotions into consideration but don’t disregard your reason either.
If you happen to decide to say your final goodbye to your spouse, focus on making your divorce a painless experience.
Focus on rebuilding yourself instead of your marriage and on moving on with your life.
On the other hand, if you’re certain that both you and your partner have a desire to make this marriage work and that you both believe that it will succeed, go for it.
Forget what other people say, follow your gut and give it another shot!
4. Remember why you two fell in love
So, your marriage is in big trouble, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, would you?
The person sleeping next to you has probably been annoying you for years and there were even moments when you felt like you despised them and when a mere look at their face made you sick.
It’s true—none of these emotions is beautiful but don’t feel guilty for having them from time to time.
It doesn’t mean that you really hate your spouse or that you would indeed enjoy seeing them miserable.
However, if you’re trying to rebuild your marriage, it’s time to put all of these negative feelings aside and concentrate on something else.
For a change, try remembering why you fell in love with this person in the first place.
After all, you two didn’t always have a turbulent relationship. There were times when you got along perfectly, times when you didn’t fight and times when you were convinced you’d live happily ever after.
Yes, you both have probably changed with time but the essence of your personality had to remain at least similar.
Can you see any traces of the man or woman you fell for so hard?
Can you remember the vows you made on your wedding day? How you promised to stay together through bad and good days, through sickness and health, through thick and thin?
Well, the bad days have come and while I’m not saying that you should put up with someone treating you poorly or giving you less than you deserve.
If you already decided to try and make this marriage work, stick to your promise and don’t back out at the first sign of trouble!
5. Walk a mile in your spouse’s shoes
You have to be aware that in every scenario, there are two sides of the medal.
Even though you might have a hard time accepting this, you’re not always right and your point of view is not the only true one.
In fact, your spouse probably has their own side of the story and it is time to hear them out.
Don’t let them manipulate you and change your opinion but try hearing them out.
Put an effort into putting yourself in their position and walking a mile in their shoes.
See what it is that you’re doing wrong, how your words and actions impact them and how your spouse feels in this entire drama.
After all, you’re trying to save a romantic relationship which is a two-way street. The goal is not just for you to be okay with the outcome, it is to make you both feel better and more satisfied.
If you can’t make yourself do this, for a few days pretend that you’re a bystander who observes your marriage objectively.
Forget about your emotions and see what you would conclude if you were not a part of this relationship and if you had the chance to look at it from the outside.
Trust me—this approach will expand your horizons and it will give you a completely new perspective on things.
6. Find time for each other
I know that you and your spouse both have busy lives and your daily obligations often stand in the way of your marriage.
Outside of this broken marriage, you have a job, your friends, parents, hobbies… and your partner is the same.
If you have kids, your duties are even bigger. You want to earn enough money to afford a better life for your entire family, you want to be a good parent, you need to keep the house clean and in order and of course, you need some time or yourself.
Naturally, after all is done, you have no energy left for your spouse.
Be honest—how frequently do you two spend time together, without anyone else and without any disturbances from the outside world?
What was the last time you just chilled next to each other, without talking about the mortgage, the kids’ sports practice or what you’ll cook for dinner tomorrow?
You can’t remember, right? Well, that’s one of the problems and something you have to change ASAP if you want to see some progress in this marriage.
It doesn’t matter how but you have to find time for the two of you.
Take a day off work (or wait for the weekend), find someone to babysit the kids and spend a few hours with your husband or wife, without anyone or anything interfering or standing in the way of your marriage.
However, don’t make this a one-time thing. Instead, if you want a successful marriage, make sure you make it a habit and you’ll see how beneficial this time will be for both of you.
Don’t forget that besides being responsible co-parents and career people, you two are still a couple!
7. Take responsibility…
When things go downhill, one of the hardest things for everyone is to take responsibility for their actions.
We all prefer passing the buck to the next person, thinking that they’re the only one guilty for the failure of our relationship and the mere thought that we also carry a part of the weight kills us.
Well, the truth is that you both are responsible for the state of your relationship.
Of course, if your spouse cheated on you, for example, you can’t be to blame but I’m sure that both of you have done some things the other person didn’t like during the course of your marriage.
So, start behaving like two adults and take responsibility for your actions.
Admit that you hurt your spouse in the past (even if it wasn’t deliberately) and accept the fact that you contributed to this situation, one way or another.
Stand behind your actions and give your partner the apology they’ve been waiting so long for.
Of course, tell them that you expect the same treatment in return.
Naturally, you can’t change the past and nobody is asking you to do so. You can’t magically erase your mistakes but acknowledging that you made them is much better than pretending to be flawless.
By avoiding responsibility, you’re deepening your significant other’s wounds.
It was more than enough that you did something that hurt them and not having the decency to admit that you were wrong is even worse.
8. … but avoid the blame game
However, don’t turn this process of taking responsibility into a blame game because it won’t get you anywhere.
Accusing your spouse of being the only guilty one or putting each other’s mistakes on a scale is pointless and will only make your confrontations nastier.
Remember—after the two of you own up to your mistakes and after you accept each other’s apologies, there is no turning back.
There is no holding grudges, no revenge or rubbing it in their face.
Doing something to make the other person suffer even more for their misdeeds is a clear sign that you haven’t managed to forget them, even though you claimed you did.
9. Shift your focus
When your relationship is in crisis, you only concentrate on the bad things going on.
You talk to your friends about your spouse’s awful treatment, you can’t help but think of all the bad stuff they’ve done to you and all of a sudden, you see them as the worst person walking on this planet.
Well, even though I’m not saying that you’re exaggerating, if you want to save the marriage, it is time to change your focus.
Instead of only seeing the things that are bothering you and giving them an extra thought, put an effort into noticing your partner’s positive behavior.
You can both get a journal in which you’ll write your significant other’s nice gestures every day.
Write down how they came and picked you up from work, how they surprised you by showing up on your lunch break, how they bought you exactly what you wanted for your birthday or simply how they smiled at you without any specific reason.
Yes, all of these things are normal in a relationship and shouldn’t be seen as miracles. However, you and your spouse need to change your views on each other and this is the way to do so.
You can also write down your partner’s positive qualities every day.
This advice is effective in more than one way. Firstly, it will help you see that despite what you might have thought, your marriage isn’t as bad as it seems.
You’ll realize that there are still more than a few good things about it and knowing this will without a doubt change your entire mindset and attitude toward your relationship.
After all, I’m sure you wouldn’t still be next to this person if they were entirely bad.
Another benefit of this journal is that you can reread it every time your spouse annoys you or does something to hurt you.
It will serve you as a reminder that you’re married to a great person and it will help you remember all the good things they have done for you.
10. Act on your problems
Many people do a lot of talking when they’re trying to figure out how to save a marriage that is broken.
They promise both themselves and their spouse that they’ll be better and that they will make all the changes required of them.
All of it sounds great in theory. However, when it comes to the practical part, most back out after they understand that they promised much more than they could accomplish.
Please, don’t be one of those people. Yes, communication is crucial but that doesn’t mean that you should spend days, weeks or even months blabbing about your issues without actually doing anything about it.
Instead, it is your and your partner’s job to act on your problems and to find a solution to them which will fit both of you.
For starters, forget about empty promises; make a concrete action plan and stick to it, no matter what.
What are the things you want to change, how exactly do you plan on changing them and up until when should some kind of progress be noticed?
What do you demand from the other person and what do you promise to do?
Sounds a lot like a business agreement, I know. However, sometimes it is the only way to move from a dead spot and to actually start doing something, instead of just talking about it.
11. Start dating again
When was the last time you and your significant other went out for dinner or to the movies without any special occasion?
Just the two of you, without the kids, your friends or parents?
If you’re one of those people who thinks that married couples shouldn’t go out on dates, please change your mind and consider the option of dating your husband or wife all over again.
You two can engage in some role-playing and pretend that you don’t even know each other and that this is your first blind date or you can just start dating like two lovebirds who are already in a long-term relationship.
Determine a date night every week and stick to it, except for all other plans or emergencies which might occur.
Dress nicely, pick a fancy place (it doesn’t have to be anything expensive but it is not a date if you stay in your living room) and do everything by the book.
This is especially great for those couples who already stopped living together but still haven’t filed for divorce and instead decided to give their marriage a second chance.
In this case, you can text each other between dates and act like two people who are just getting to know each other.
Trust me—this game will freshen up your entire relationship, it will remind you what butterflies feel like and it will help you remember why you fell in love with each other in the first place.
12. Work on your intimacy
I won’t lie to you—sex is an important part of every romantic relationship and its significance can only increase with time.
Of course, it is not the only thing which can preserve a relationship but when things in the bedroom stop working, they usually reflect on everything else as well.
However, despite knowing this, many married couples disregard sex and after a while, even kick it out of their life.
They get bored of each other, tired of everyday life or have some other reason but the fact is that most couples who are on the brink of divorce testify that their sex life has been nonexistent for some time.
And I’m not talking about sex here only. I’m talking about other forms of physical intimacy you should make a habit of doing as well—about kissing, hugging, cuddling and so on.
Well, even though resolving your arguments under the sheets equals to brushing things under the carpet and is anything but healthy, have in mind that working on your marriage also means working on your intimacy.
To begin with, get more physical with your spouse. Let your bodies get used to each other again; start sitting next to them, use every opportunity you can to accidentally touch them or give them a hug or a kiss on the cheek, if nothing else when you pass by them, without any special reason.
Trust me—each one of these little things is actually huge for your marriage.
It brings you two closer and it deepens your bond and that is exactly what you need in a moment of emergency like this.
13. Learn from your conflicts
Believe me when I tell you that even the happiest couples fight. In fact, it wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t have some sort of confrontation every now and then with someone you share your life with.
After all, you two are different people and it is natural that you disagree on certain aspects.
Also, a married couple should be in love with each other and if you’re never bored with something the other person does, it might be a red flag that you’re completely indifferent toward them and that you can’t be touched by their words or actions.
So, nobody is asking you to stop fighting if you want a successful marriage.
However, according to most marriage experts, the main difference between unhealthy and healthy relationships is in the way that the latter learn from their arguments.
Therefore, if you plan on saving your marriage, you have to make your fights productive.
Use them as a platform to help you improve your relationship and realize some new things about your partner.
Remember—calling each other names, insulting each other and saying things below the belt are never acceptable.
At the end of the day, you can always agree that you disagree, like two mature adults.
Also, it is important to know exactly what you’re fighting about. Is the unfolded laundry the real problem or are you keeping your anger about something from before bottled up and you explode at each other about any nonsense?
Either way, please don’t forget that it should never be you two against each other. In fact, it’s you two against the problem.
It doesn’t matter who is right; what is important is to come up with a solution which will be beneficial for both of you and the best option for your relationship. There are no winners or losers here.
Put aside your ego and join forces even when you’re arguing! Admit if you’re wrong and don’t let your broken self-esteem ruin your chance of having a healthy marriage!
14. Build a new marriage
The sad fact that you’re trapped in a failing marriage tells you the painful truth—it obviously isn’t working.
I’m not saying that you and your spouse aren’t meant to be, that you can’t succeed or that you don’t love each other enough; I’m just pointing out the obvious—your relationship, the way it has been up until now, is not a functional one.
Don’t put any effort into reviving it. Don’t try to make things the way they used to be because if everything was in order, you wouldn’t be facing this problem, would you?
Accept the fact that your marriage will never be the same. However, that is actually a good thing because it means that if you play your cards right, you probably won’t be in this situation ever again.
So, instead of rebuilding your old relationship, build a new marriage right from scratch. Turn over a new leaf and start afresh, like you two have just met.
Make some new rules, forget about the past and focus on the future. Leave your emotional baggage and traumas behind you and pretend like this is some other person you should try to live with for the first time.
15. Pay a visit to a marriage counselor
Marriage counseling or turning to a family therapist are things many couples avoid for different reasons.
Some are ashamed of their surroundings or are afraid that everyone will know that their marriage is going downhill and some can’t admit that they couldn’t figure out how to fix a broken marriage without counseling and need professional assistance in getting their relationship back on its feet after all.
Have in mind that there are numerous certified marriage courses led by experienced marriage experts which can give your marriage help it needs and find the best solution for all of your marital problems.
Well, let me tell you that seeking help and going to marriage counseling or paying a visit to a family therapist is the right thing you should do if you want to resolve your issues in the healthiest way possible.
No, this step doesn’t mean that you and your spouse are a couple of failures who are not capable of doing everything on your own—it is only a sign that you’re mature enough to know that marriage counselors and family therapists are trained experts who have the capacity and the ability to show you the right path.
Most importantly—this is a sign that you are both serious in your desire to save the marriage.