Every marriage goes through a few rough patches. For some of us, they might be a series of small bumps at the beginning, for yet others, a catastrophic event may lead to a prolonged drop in how we feel about each other, and in yet others, we might experience a long, slow slump that we never really seem to be able to recover from fully.
Whether the issues you are facing are big or small, realise that it is normal to sometimes feel that you’ve forgotten why you fell in love with your spouse. The good news however, is that with commitment and dedication, it is possible to get most marriages back on track again.
The very first step towards re-discovering your love for each other is to re-commit yourselves to your marriage. It takes persistence, dedication and a sincere belief that your relationship is worth saving to bring a marriage back on track. Think carefully about why you want your marriage to work. You could be doing this for the sake of your children; you could be doing this because despite it all, you still feel that your spouse is an important part of your life. In other words, understand your reasons for wanting to make changes and commit yourself to seeing them through.
Listen and Communicate
When a marriage falters, there are usually 2 very different perspectives about why this is happening. Accept that how you perceive each situation may be radically different from how your spouse perceives them.
In order to work together and to strengthen your marriage, you and your spouse need to agree on the true problem areas within your marriage. You need to be able to walk away from your own perceptions and biases and really listen to what your spouse is saying. You should try to communicate how you’ve been feeling without including feelings of hurt, blame, betrayal and disappointment. Being able to look at your marriage without all the negative emotions which may have built up over the years will help both of you to understand what you need to do in order to make it better.
Many couples find it helpful to seek advice from professional counsellors or to attend a marriage encounter workshop in order to break away from negative communication habits and to begin this process in a healthy way.
Rebuild Your Trust in Each Other
If you don’t trust each other, you cannot truly open yourselves up enough to love each other. You will both continue to maintain barriers within your relationship. Trust issues are some of the hardest to resolve within a marriage because they are such a fundamental requirement within any healthy relationship. Trust is the foundation upon which your sense of security, respect for each other, love, friendship, acceptance and support are built upon.
In order to trust each other, you will need to accept that your spouse is not perfect, that he or she will sometimes fail and that both of you need to be able to forgive each other in order to move forward.
If you can take the first steps towards forgiveness, then both you and your spouse will need to be committed to making a change. With trust issues, you will need to be willing to make all aspects of your lives an open book. Re-building trust takes a much greater effort than simply establishing trust, so you will need to expect that both of you will have to go the extra mile in demonstrating the changes you are willing to make and in being sensitive to each other’s feelings and insecurities.
Show You Care
When you first started dating, you couldn’t think of enough ways to make your partner feel loved and secure. When marriages grow stale or begin to disintegrate, we stop making the effort to show that we care. But if you feel hurt that your marriage isn’t working and if you are committed to make it work, then the reality is that you do care.
However, if you’ve lost the habit of demonstrating your love for each other, it is sometimes hard to start to do so again. Take small steps, but remind yourselves that sometimes, the action of showing you love someone can lead you to truly develop feelings of love for each other. Ask how your spouse’s day went, make time to be with them, reach out and hold hands, make eye contact, go for a date, give each other a hug, send an text message of encouragement when you know that work might be tough that day, fix that shelf that’s been broken for months. Do what you can to show that you think about your spouse and care about them too.
Learn the Skills You Need to Make Your Marriage Work
Marriage is more than just a union between 2 people, it is a skill too. The more you practice, the better you get at making it work. How you relate to each other, how you communicate, listen, deal with wider social circles, manage stress, share responsibilities, resolve conflicts and work as a team; all these are skills and capabilities too. Invest in understanding whether the 2 of you are good at all of these or if you need to work on some of them. Then take a good look at why you might be failing. Ask for advice, attend courses, read books, be willing to try new ways of relating to each other in order to test and build the skills which you are weaker at.
Be Willing to Change
Commitment to making the relationship work and being able to understand the root cause of the problems as well as the skills needed to make your marriage work are the first steps towards re-building your marriage. However, without the willingness to change yourself you will not be able to fix the things that aren’t working in your marriage. Both you and your spouse need to be willing to change how you relate to each other, some of the habits you have built over the years and maybe even your lifestyles and expectations in order to accommodate each other.
Think of it as a pruning process. When you have 2 trees which you’ve planted side by side, what worked when they were young might no longer be possible as they grow bigger. Branches interfere with each other, and their access to sunshine and water might not be ideal. When you prune your trees, you allow your trees to grow in harmony with each other. The same is true of any marriage. Over time, you need to re-assess your relationship and then decide what you need to change in order to create the space and environment for you to grow and develop in tandem with each other.