Saving your marriage even after you have tried therapy, counselling or even retreats can seem hopeless. I have heard so many people say :…but there’s too much water under the bridge.” My response is quite simple – as long as we still have a bridge, we can repair your marriage. The longer your relationship, the more water there will be under that bridge, it’s only natural. The key to saving your marriage, is to focus on the bridge and not the water.
End the arguments
Communication is the corner stone of all successful relationships. The way we speak to each will ultimately make or break a relationship. It is important to be very aware of how you are speaking to each other. Words are only a fraction of communication. Non-verbal cues such as tone, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, proximity and posture are all critical aspects of communication.
Non Verbal Cues
- Tone – the tone, volume & pitch of your voice send auditory cues to your recipient. Harsh tones (such as yelling) will create a defensive or fear based response. Much like the a babies cry, we can predict a mood based solely on the tone.
- Gestures – most frequently, hand gestures will speak volumes. Clenched fists depicts anger or hostility, flailing arms demonstrate excitement.
- Facial expressions – my kids say I have a “mom look” when I am angry (I have never seen it because I have never run to the mirror in the heat of an argument). My husband agrees that I have a very stern look when I am making a strong point in a conversation. Most commonly, brows are furrowed, lips are pursed & eyes are narrowed. However; the opposite is also true, as you can tell when someone is happy, fearful or focused just by looking at their face.
- Eye Contact – In western civilization, direct eye contact is a sign of respect and trust. A lack of direct eye contact can sometimes translate to shame, fear or dishonesty.
- Proximity – We all have a safe bubble of space around us (usually an arms length). Communicating inside this bubble with joy, excitement or feelings of love will be reciprocated as such. Communicating inside the safe zone with anger or hostility will invite either anger or fear.
- Posture – We also read a lot of information simply from body posture. Head up, shoulders back shows confidence. Arms or legs crossed displays a barrier or lack of interest. Chest puffed out promotes fear or intimidation.
Understanding non-verbal communication
We all read our partners non-verbal cues, but few of us actually pay attention to the cues we are sending. Think back to the last argument you have with your spouse, were your non-verbal cues in-line with your verbal message? As the conversation heated up, could you feel your body language changing to match the tone of the conversation? This is where a conversation escalates to an argument when one person responds to a conversation by either matching the level of anger, or responding in fear. (If you find yourself responding in fear, please reach out to your local abuse shelter – you should never feel afraid in a relationship).
You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to.~Unknown
The key to ending an argument is to simply not respond in anger. Do your best to remain calm, or if needed, remove yourself until you can be calm. Pay very close attention to your own non-verbal cues; relax your posture, maintain appropriate space, facial expressions should project concern or empathy, reduce your gestures and remember to breathe.
The most common mistakes
Changing the trajectory of your marriage starts and ends with you!! If you are reading this, you are part of the problem. I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. It takes two to tango is an old expression, but still valid. If you are in a marriage that is struggling, you need to accept 50% of the responsibility. Please note that I did not say blame, I very intently said responsibility and there is a huge difference. Allow me to explain further in these very common marital mistakes:
- Blame – we point fingers and make accusations.
- Projection – we hold our spouse accountable for the mistakes of others
- Internalizing – we take things personally
The “blame game” will never end well. Be accountable for your part, acknowledge where you went wrong and make amends. This is the quickest way to get back on the bridge and out of the waters below. Your spouse may not meet you here initially, but over time it will come. It needs to start somewhere – it might as well be you.
Often times we project the pain, fear or disappointment from the past onto our spouse. A past boyfriend cheated on you leaving you with trust issues or your high school crush got drunk at a party and abused you leaving you with a fear of intoxication. You have stored this information in your memory and our minds are designed to ensure our survival. Any cues we get that this may be repeated will spark those old emotions, even if you know that your spouse is not the same person, you will still treat them the same way. This is projection and it will destroy a marriage. We all have skeletons in our closets. Try to find a way to openly talk about these skeletons so they no longer have the power to destroy each other.
One of the hardest changes that must be made is internalizing what has been said in an argument or taking everything personally. Things said in the heat of an argument should not be taken personally. They are not a reflection of who you are, but a very clear reflection of how your spouse feels about themselves. When the name-calling or the finger pointing begin, listen to what they are saying as if they are speaking about themselves. This will allow you to respond with empathy instead of anger.
Saving your marriage
Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place to give, not a place to take.~Tony Robbins
Saving your marriage is possible, but first you must be willing to heal yourself. Growth is an integral part of marriage and you can either grow together, or grow apart. Choosing to grow together means that each of you takes a look at your own history. Clean the toxicity, heal the wounds, make amends to remove guilt. Shine a daily light on the bridge you have built. Be grateful you still have a bridge and appreciate all the water that is under that bridge (as long as the water is under the bridge, you cannot drown).
Healing needs to start somewhere. As long as you are willing to heal yourself, you will never fail. If your marriage is salvageable, your partner will soon join you on the journey of self-growth. You will not grow at the same pace, so please be patient & respectful of each other.
If your partner is unwilling to grow, or does not see any fault in their own actions, it may be time to explore other options.
If you are uncertain where to begin your journey of self-discovery, please follow this link to schedule a FREE Power Hour. We will reconnect you to your inner drive, inspire passion and create possibility in one very short, extremely profound hour!
You may also schedule a FREE Couples Discovery Session that will help you explore the areas of your marriage that should be enhanced and the areas that may need some TLC.
This is a simplified version of saving your marriage, but it is an excellent start. If you have questions or simply want to offer feedback, please email us. We will respond as soon as possible.
Much love to you on your journey,
Andrea & Maggie
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