It’s a helpless, frustrating feeling that consumes your mind. Ravages your heart. Steals your sleep. You desperately want to save your marriage, but you don’t know how.
Or even if it’s possible.
Especially when your spouse says repeatedly that it’s over. He gets furious when you try to talk about it. Sometimes he yells it, other times he displays no emotion, but the message is always the same, “You’re making it worse and driving me to leave faster when you try to do anything to save our marriage.”
The person that you love, who once so deeply loved you, now treats you as if you are the enemy. You long for any sign of affection; a hug, a smile, even a kind word. You pray that it will be once again what it once was. You ache in a way you cannot explain, a pain that never subsides during the day and that wakes you at night.
If you can fall asleep at all.
You want to save your marriage. You constantly worry, “What can I do? Can I say the right thing or find some miracle that will save my marriage? I know I was told to stop trying, but I don’t want to give up…”
What makes it worse is that the departing spouse is right when she says that your trying to save the marriage pushes her away. It usually does. She will get more aggravated with you, become meaner in what she says, and find a faster way out if you keep trying.
Does that mean there is no hope? Should you give up and accept that it’s over?
“Well,”you might be thinking, “if there is hope and I shouldn’t accept it’s over, are there magic words, some amazing thing that I can do that will suddenly and miraculously change my mates’mind?”
Did I just contradict myself?
Allow me to explain.
What Won’t Work
1. Giving Up
You can give up. Some of your friends, maybe even your counselor, may tell you that’s exactly what you should do. Though I spend my life helping people salvage what others consider unsalvageable marriages, even I agree that there is a time to accept the inevitable and start moving on with your life. If your spouse leaves you and moves on, there can definitely come a time to accept that your marriage is over and find the path to a different life and a new relationship.
However, in my experience working with couples, giving up usually occurs far too early. There is a definite consequence when you accept that it’s over and emotionally, mentally, and physically disconnect from your spouse. That won’t bring him or her back to you.
2. Clinging and Begging
You can push harder, demand, cling, beg, and do all sorts of things to pressure your spouse to stay. Most people tend to do that because they love so deeply and desperately want to save their marriages.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.
In actuality, it drives the other person from you even faster. Think of it this way, attraction draws people together, repulsion drives them apart. No one is attractive when he or she falls apart emotionally, cries, whines, or begs. While human compassion generally drives us toward helping a person in pain, it also drives us away from a person whose pain is caused by us when we have no intention of stopping the action causing the pain.
Though the emotions you feel that lead you to these actions are powerful, they are ineffective in helping you save your marriage.
3. Allowing Yourself to Be Manipulated
You can give in to all your spouse’s demands and let him or her determine the path you follow. I see it regularly with spouses who refuse to seek help or who yields to every demand because the departing spouse becomes angrier or threatens to take the children or bring about financial penalties. Somehow the mate longing to save the marriage buys into the idea that if they just go along with everything, the departing spouse will come to his or her senses and renew the marriage.
It doesn’t work.
The manipulation through anger or threats serves the purpose of freezing you into inaction so that the departing spouse can get do things to leave with the least amount of difficulty.
What Will Work
1. Hang in There a Little Longer
My experience over twenty years with thousands of couples tells me that most people who give up do it too soon. I don’t blame them for reaching a point of pain where they simply don’t want to go any further. Yet, I’ve witnessed the success of those who hung on a little longer…but that success came only if they did the right things. In other words, staying just to stay may have a positive effect, but staying and doing the right things has a far greater chance of saving your marriage.
2. Work on the PIES
No, not literal pie. PIES. In my book The Art of Falling in Love I explain them more thoroughly.
P = physical
I = intellectual
E = emotional
S = spiritual
Those are the four general ways that we are attracted to another person.
Physically attractive is easy enough to understand.
Intellectual attraction means that we have enough in common that we understand each other, but also that we stimulate each other’s minds.
Emotional attraction happens when a person does things that evoke emotions within us that we enjoy feeling. They make us laugh, feel special, feel safe, or any other emotion that we enjoy.
Spiritual attraction doesn’t mean specifically religion but the beliefs and values that a person holds. Unless we are rebelling in some fashion, we tend to be drawn toward people we perceive as having beliefs and values similar to ours or that we perceive as better than ours. (When rebelling or “acting out”that tends to be just the opposite.
Rather than begging or whining, get to work on yourself.
It doesn’t matter what age you are or what body type you have, your spouse was attracted to you physically at one time, so make yourself as physically attractive as you can at your age and situation in life. You can’t be 21 again if your 42, but you can be the best 42 year old you can be.
Stimulate your mind by finding new ways to learn. Take a class. Get in a book club. Read the magazines that honestly make you think and expand your mind (maybe one specific to an interest such as science or culture, etc.). When you talk with your spouse, rather than talking about your problems, engage him or her in discussions that involve both your minds. (This means you are not in any way talking about marriage or relationships, or you may find your spouse doesn’t want to be in the discussion.)
Remember what you did that evoked positive emotions in your spouse and do those again. However, do NOT do anything that you feel he or she may see as manipulative. (Don’t bring flowers to her if she wants to leave you; that will backfire.) For example, if he used to like walking with you, ask him to go for a walk with a casual promise that you won’t bring up anything about your problems: It’s just a walk.
Live up to your spiritual state from the time in your life when you best liked what you believed and valued. Don’t parade it. Simply be the best you that you’ve ever been.
3. Be as Understanding and Accepting as You Can Be
The key to love is acceptance. When a person feels accepted as he or she really is –rather than having to live up to someone else’s expectations –they feel truly loved. Unfortunately, your spouse’s wanting to leave is something that you don’t accept. Nevertheless, if you can accept what he or she feels without arguing or explaining the error of those feelings, you can begin to develop relationship again.
I witnessed a wife do this so effectively as her husband make his plans to depart to be with his lover that he came to the point of telling me that the only two people who understood him were his lover and his wife. He said that his wife was becoming his best friend because he could talk with her about anything…including his desire to be with his lover.
Admittedly, that’s a VERY tough thing to do on the part of the wife. However, it worked. Her amazing strength in accepting him, though she never indicated any acceptance for his adultery, brought him back into relationship with her. He ended his affair, asked and received his wife’s forgiveness, and together they made their marriage good again.
Bonus: Be Willing to Forgive and Learn to Love Again
For many years I’ve personally witnessed people doing the things above and those actions led their spouses to return to their marriages. That didn’t immediately solve all their problems; they had more to do to make their marriage what it should be. It’s a process, not a magic pill. However, the process works if you love enough to do what it takes to change the course of your spouse’s intentions.
Will the things I suggest above always work? We both know that it does not. It works most of the time. How can you make it work for you?
What Can You Do Now?
Whatever issue your marriage is facing, it did not occur overnight. And in a short article, I cannot explain all the nuances of the points above that have evolved over time in your marriage. But I can offer you this: hope.
No matter the situation, I have seen many, many people save their marriage from the most dire of circumstances. What set these people apart from those who headed towards destruction? They had hope, and their hope propelled them to do all the right things to save the marriage.
If you wish to know more, and are willing to do what it takes to salvage your marriage, I offer two courses of action. The first is for those whose spouse is having an affair. Click here to find what we offer to help you.
The second is for everyone, and is the most effective thing I’ve ever encountered for salving seemingly unsalvageable marriages. It’s our intensive three-day workshop for marriages in trouble. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation.
The best option is our Marriage Helper 911 workshop. But if you and your spouse cannot attend a Marriage Helper 911 weekend or your spouse refuses to get any marriage help, there is still hope. Check out our Save My Marriage Course – where you’ll learn how to bring your spouse back to the marriage. Click the banner below to find out more about it.