- Recognize what is still working. Can you see and do you know what you DO still have together? “All marriages have low points,” says Chute, LMSW. “What brings people out of the low points is their ability to be open to the positives.” One way to do this is by changing your inner dialogue when you’re unhappy with your partner. For example, instead of thinking I’m so irritated that they’re never home for dinner try saying, I’m grateful they have the weekends free to spend time with the family. Reframing your mindset to be more positive, allows for more acceptance and may help rebuild the friendship and trust that feels gone.
- Remember why you fell in love. When a marriage is failing, it’s important for both partners to try to recognize and remember the things that once attracted you to each other, says Dr. Erica MacGregor, a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples therapy. Sit and talk about what attracted you to each other and recall some of the fun times you had together. MacGregor says, “there is a glimmer of hope” if you can both remember.
- The past is the past…accept it! There may have been deception, adultery, or a great mistrust that was created by one or both of the partners. If you have both committed to moving forward, then do so. Grieve the loss of the ideal you had in your mind of what a perfect marriage was and let life give you a new adventure together. Nancy Dreyfus, author of Talk To Me Like I’m Someone You Love, agrees, “You don’t want a patch-up job,” she says. Instead, “recreate something fresh, with more transparency than before.”
- Be open-minded. Even if you disagree with each other, you need to learn to listen and be willing to adapt to change. While it may feel uncomfortable, “you are not betraying yourself,” says Dreyfus. Instead, what you are doing is validating your partner’s truth, bringing you one step closer to rebuilding your partnership.” Relationship expert and best-selling author John Gottman believes every couple has their own set of conflicts that will never be resolved. “These conflicts come up again and again in a relationship,” explains MacGregor. MacGregor says that couples should come to an understanding regarding the deeper meaning of each other’s position. “That understanding creates intimacy and connection,” she says.
- Make time for yourself. “We cannot expect our partner to fulfill all our needs,” says Kelley Kitley LCSW psychotherapist and author. In order to have a healthy marriage, “we have the responsibility to live dynamic lives including socializing, friendships, and activities that ensure we are living our best life,” she explains. When you are happy with yourself, it’s easier to be happy in the relationship. Alongside this, both have to be willing to put their relationship first. Kitley recommends asking yourself, “Am I putting effort into this relationship or are we just living parallel lives?” She says some marriages just need a “tune-up,” and recommends date nights or going away on an uninterrupted weekend together to help regain lost intimacy.
McGregor says repairing a marriage can take months or even years-each couple and situation is different. The truth is, everyone has their bad habits, annoyances, and unique problems. “If each partner realizes that they will have conflicts no matter who they are married to, this bodes well for the success of the marriage.”