How to Save Your Marriage 101: Expert Advice You Need

What is the No 1 rule for saving your marriage?
on April 08, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

We all dreamed of being superheroes when we were young, but did any of us ever think we’d be the ones swooping in to save our own marriages from destruction? 

If you’re reading this piece, it might mean that your worst nightmare has become your reality, and you're looking for a secret solution on how to save your marriage. Remember, despite what the superheroes might tell you, this feat doesn't have to be done alone.

For the sake of your mental health and well-being, we recommend taking a deep breath, practicing some self-care, and utilizing the effectiveness of marriage counseling. Even though we can’t provide you with a quick fix to saving a marriage, we can provide you with the kind of expert advice that might put you on the right path. 

So, with the words of wisdom from our In-House Relationship Expert, Moraya Seeger DeGeare, we’re help to help! 

Can I save my marriage? 

The infamous question asked by struggling couples throughout time. Can I save my marriage? Or perhaps more tellingly, is my marriage worth saving? 

When you first walk down the aisle, you aren’t thinking about any negative emotions or marital problems, as you’re wrapped up in the prospect of true love. (As you should be on your wedding day!) 

However, the reality of marriage can often be very different from the fairytale version that is offered to us as children. Perhaps tellingly, these stories usually end when they say the words ‘I do’ — ignoring all the hard work and dedication that a long-term commitment really takes! 

No matter how long you’ve been together when you’re on the brink of divorce, it can feel impossible to remember the happy marriage you once enjoyed. Even when you’re in the depths of a failing marriage, it is possible to save your connection. 

While no one wants to waste their time on a sinking ship, if you’re willing to tackle your marriage problems as a team — there is always hope. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it alone. 

What are the signs of a broken marriage?

Before you call in the big guns (yes, we’re talking about couples therapy), it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of a failing or troubled marriage. While in many ways it should be glaringly obvious if you’re unhappy, emotional abuse and toxic tendencies could muddy the waters — making it more difficult to recognize. 

So, these are the signs to look for, and when you see them, your healthy marriage could be more of a distant memory than you care to admit. 

  1. Lack of communication: Communication is the foundation of any relationship. When married couples stop sharing their thoughts, feelings, and concerns, it's a sign that their emotional connection is weakening. This can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and a feeling of isolation within the marriage.

  2. Constant conflict: While disagreements are normal in any relationship, an unresolved conflict that leads to resentment or contempt is a sign of deeper problems. This includes fighting over the same issues repeatedly without reaching a solution or compromise.

  3. Emotional distance: A growing emotional gap between partners is a clear sign of trouble. This can manifest as feeling indifferent towards each other, lacking affection, or not engaging in meaningful conversations or activities together. Greater still perhaps, is a total disinterest in finding that way to reconnect — as you consider it to be a waste of time. 

  4. Lack of intimacy: A decrease in physical intimacy is common in troubled marriages, but emotional intimacy is also crucial. When both forms of intimacy decline, it suggests a loss of connection and love between partners.

  5. Infidelity: Infidelity is often a symptom of underlying issues in a marriage, such as emotional disconnection or unmet needs. Even if physical infidelity hasn't occurred, fantasizing about being with someone else can indicate dissatisfaction with the current relationship.

  6. Avoidance: When one or both partners consistently prefer to spend time away from each other or engage in activities that allow them to escape the reality of their marriage, it's a sign that they're avoiding dealing with their issues. They may not want to go to couples counselling as they don’t want to tackle the problem head-on, or may not be interested in making the marriage work. 

  7. Lack of shared goals: Within a good marriage, both partners should be working towards shared goals — with their lives inextricably intertwined. However, if partners find that their goals, values, or life paths are diverging significantly without any effort to realign or understand each other, the marriage may be heading toward a breakdown.

  8. Breakdown of trust: Trust is another cornerstone of a healthy relationship. If there's been betrayal, such as infidelity, addiction issues, or if partners consistently lie to each other about small or large issues, rebuilding trust can be challenging.

  9. Resentment: If you’re stuck in toxic partners with your partner, your level of respect for them declines, meaning you can justify behaviors you never thought possible. If you find yourself mocking or disrespecting them, it can be a significant predictor of divorce. It denotes a certain contempt or resentment bubbling beneath the surface, and you may not be able to remember why you’re together in the first place!

  10. Talking about the marriage in a negative light: While you used to spend hours excitedly describing your date nights to your friends, you can’t remember the last time you actually said something positive about your partner. When partners frequently speak negatively about their marriage to others or focus on their unhappiness within the relationship, it reflects a lack of commitment to the issues at hand and a certain resignation toward the situation. 

What are the stages of marriage breakdown?

The breakdown of a marriage doesn’t happen overnight, nor can it be solved overnight!

There are a number of stages within the dissolution of a marriage, as you both slowly drift from love to indifference to resentment. 

  1. Disillusionment: While you may have once had a happy marriage, you slowly start to drift apart from your partner. This may not be noticeable at first, but over time what started as minor annoyances or disappointments in the relationship become more pronounced, leading to a feeling of disillusionment. The fairy-tale aspect of the marriage fades, revealing the reality of the partnership's challenges.

  2. Increased conflict: If you don’t address these smaller issues, with a lack of communication, things continue to spiral downward leading to increased arguments and conflict. These disputes can revolve around a range of issues, including finances, parenting, intimacy, or lifestyle choices. The conflicts tend to become more frequent and intense, with resolution becoming increasingly difficult as you struggle to see your partner’s point of view. 

  3. Emotional withdrawal:  As conflicts escalate without resolution, one or both partners may begin to withdraw emotionally, seeking to protect themselves from the pain and disappointment of the relationship. Instead of admitting that they need professional help, they turn inward to protect themselves. The emotional bond that once held the couple together weakens significantly.

  4. Living parallel lives: Instead of asking themselves ‘How do I save my marriage?’, the couple might focus on their individual interests and lives rather than deal with the problem. Without addressing the issues, accumulated grievances lead to deep-seated resentment between partners. They may begin to live parallel lives, sharing the same physical space but emotionally and socially disconnected from each other. 

  5. Normalization of dysfunction: The relationship's unhealthy dynamics become the new normal. Outside parties might try to be helpful, pushing the couple toward a marriage counselor or couples therapist, but the couple rationalizes or minimizes the severity of their issues. At this stage, they have accepted the dysfunctional state of their marriage as unavoidable. This is particularly dangerous because it hinders any motivation to seek help from marriage counseling or work toward reconciliation.

  6. Exploration of alternatives: If both partners have truly given up, they start to move forward mentally, even if technically they’re still together. They begin to contemplate life outside the marriage, whether it's imagining being single, thinking about dating other people, or considering separation or divorce. This stage involves a mental or emotional preparation for the end of the marriage, as individuals explore the logistics and emotional ramifications of a life apart.

  7. Separation: The decision to separate is finally made, and steps are taken to begin the process. This may involve discussing the intention to divorce, seeking legal counsel, or physically separating. This stage marks the acknowledgment that the marriage cannot continue in its current state. Emotionally, individuals may experience a range of feelings, including grief, relief, and fear. 

How do you save a broken marriage?

While moving through these stages paints a very bleak picture of the disillusionment of relationships, it doesn’t mean that we’re saying there is no hope.

No matter what stage you’re at, with the right marriage therapist and a lot of hard work, you can overcome these issues and move toward a happier future. Instead of resigning yourself to an inevitable breakup, you both have to be willing to work through your issues together. 

In fact, before you step foot into a room with a counselor, you both have to accept that there are problems present and have to take accountability for some of these issues. More than that, both partners need to feel like there is something worth fighting for and feel hopeful about the prospect of a better future for their marriage.

If all of these elements are present, you can learn how to save your marriage as a team — with the right relationship advice propelling you forward. 

To help you on the path to reconciliation, we’ve brought in the counsel of a licensed marriage and family therapist, our In-House Relationship Expert, Moraya Seeger DeGeare  — with her words of wisdom designed to help you through these tough times as a team. 

Expert tips to save your marriage 

  1. Keep an open mind to what you think your partner is feeling. 

  2. Be okay with things not being okay for a little bit!

  3. Change is hard and you won’t both change at the same time.

  4. You also won’t settle into a new situation at the same pace, and communicating that is vital.

  5. Holding a boundary with your partner is a loving act for you both!

  6. Challenge your defensiveness.

  7. Never stop doing the work to understand yourself. 

  8. Build your confidence every day!

  9. Interrupt your defensiveness. 

  10. Stay curious about your partner. If you notice your curiosity has stopped, ask yourself why!

  11. Be okay with being uncomfortable.

  12. Try therapy if it’s available if you don’t love the therapist try another or other types of healers, not everything can be understood in Western constructs. If you need to go to a more indigenous practitioner, do!

  13. Be open-minded.

  14. Be aware and understand your internalized racism, homophobia, heteronormativity, and gender bias. No matter how you identify. 

  15. Drink water if you have it available to you….dehydrated and hungry humans just aren't great overall. 

  16. Practice your pro-social behaviors.

  17. Continue moving towards a more secure attachment style every day.

  18. Allow yourself to feel loved by your partner.

  19. Don’t be scared of change, with every new understanding, our minds change, lean into it, share it with your partner, and change your mind from time to time.

  20. You can’t keep a spark alive if you are not alive, so do what you need to do to wake yourself up and live!

  21. Falling in love and staying in love are two different things, know the difference.

  22. Understanding your childhood attachment.

  23. Understand your inner critical voice.

  24. Ask your partners about their childhood. 

  25. Talk to your partners about their dreams, even if they scare you both.

  26. Don’t get in a relationship with someone you don’t like to make someone else happy!

  27. Learn how to talk about sex better!

  28. Keep learning.

  29. Be critical and kind about what relationship behaviors you brought from past negative relationships, and work on letting them go.

  30. When you understand your insecurities more share them with your partner.

  31. Ask for help!

  32. Forgiveness is key, even forgiving yourself for not being a perfect partner, you won’t be a perfect partner. 

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