Just about every marriage begins with a huge wedding celebration.
Couples surrounded by friends and family as they start their lives together. They are madly in love with each other, starry-eyed at the thought of spending the rest of their years by each other’s side.
You have to admit, watching the love in the eyes of a newly married couple can warm the heart of the hardest hearted person under the sun. Seven years later… Fast forward to seven years later, that is the year psychologists say is the hardest year for couples.
They can’t stand the sight of each other. They are constantly bickering at each other. They are convinced the marriage was a big mistake. The only way to go is divorce. With divorce rates in America now standing at about 50%, you could be forgiven for feeling that it is normal.
If half of the marriages in the country are ending up in divorce, it just means that yours could fall on one side or the other. It’s like tossing a coin. Heads it lasts forever and tails it ends in divorce. There is nothing you can do about it if it falls on the divorce side right?
Marriage cemeteries need not be so crowded
Well, I beg to differ. While some couples experience totally irreconcilable differences, a good number of marriages that end in divorce could have been saved. If only the couple changed their attitude and made efforts to rekindle the marriage.
A common quote tells us that the fact your marriage is ailing doesn’t mean it is failing. Just because you are ill with a painful stomach infection, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to certain death.
You can easily get treated with the right medication and recover fully. This is the same attitude we should hold towards ailing marriage. These are some marriage counselors’ top prescriptions for a breaking or broken marriage. Here’s how to rekindle a broken marriage.
How to Rekindle a Broken Marriage
We start with this because it is so basic yet astonishingly powerful. Just being kind to your partner in your actions and your words go a long way in rekindling what you once had.
Research shows that being kind and considerate to someone else has a positive effect on both parties. When you go out of your way to be genuinely kind and generous to your partner, you feel more in love with them.
At the same time, the recipient of these kind words, actions, and general ways feel loved and appreciated.
If there was any tension between the two of you, it begins to ease even if nothing has yet been done to solve the problem. When this kind of behavior is maintained, it helps to keep love alive and fosters deeper intimacy.
2. Analyze Problems
Many married couples have been to school for years on end studying different professional fields. Who has been to school to learn how to build a happy marriage?
In business school, we are taught how to analyze the business and identify what is causing it to fail or stagnate. Not to trivialize the institution of marriage but it would be useful to analyze an ailing marriage like you would an ailing business.
When dealing with a business, you start by establishing where you are now. What were the last quarter’s profits? Why were they so much lower than those from the last quarter and previous months? At what point did profits start dipping? Asking these questions helps you figure out exactly what is ailing your business.
In the same way, when you and your partner have committed to rekindling your marriage, it is important to have discussions where you both ask yourselves questions like ‘when did I start to feel like unloved and unappreciated. What was going on at that time? What other surrounding circumstances contributed to the situation?
This way you can join the dots to establish the problem and its roots. Once it is correctly identified, it is half solved.
If for instance you think back and realize that you first started feeling neglected 6 months ago. You can describe the specific actions of your partner which made you feel as such.
You may now connect that these feelings began when your partner got a promotion at work. They subconsciously began putting a lot more time and energy into their work leaving you feeling neglected and themselves exhausted. With these realizations, it is easier to come up with solutions and strategies to deal with the problem.
3. Write Down What You Love About Each Other
Take time to think about the qualities you love or admire in your partner. It could be strong, ethical characteristics like honesty and loyalty. It could be their love for animals or a seemingly insignificant characteristic like the way she tilts her head when she laughs. It could be anything.
Make a list of what you love about your spouse and let them do the same. Once you are done, share the list with your spouse. How does this help? For one it forces you to focus on positive aspects of the other person. In the process of thinking about these things and writing them down, it creates feelings of love and closeness towards them.
It reminds you of what you have to be thankful for in them. Secondly, sharing these details helps your partner learn what you appreciate about them. Chances are, you have listed certain traits and habits which they never knew they had. If they did they didn’t know how much you appreciate or admire these traits.
Let’s say for instance your partner lists that one of the things they love about you is that you are a good listener.
You are always willing to offer a listening ear in times of distress. You may never have been intentional about listening. It is just something you do. Now that you know that your spouse appreciates it so much, next time they need to talk about something, you will be listening with an extra zeal knowing how much it means to them.
Once this exercise is done, keep the lists. Read them every so often. Add to them if need be.
4. Create an Anger Journal
By the time a marriage breaks, there is probably a lot of anger and pain in both parties.
Anger from things their partner did or didn’t do. It is amazing how painful memories have a way or remaining etched in our memory for years. You may forget your new colleague’s middle name even though you see her every day but far be it from your brain to let go of that night when your spouse said some extremely hurtful things to you.
This is where an anger journal comes in. This is a unique kind of journal because it is created for the sole purpose of then destroying it. It can be easy to keep grudges but this never does anyone any good.
It continues to hurt you, the grudge keeper and keeps the offender at arm’s length forever. If you have been keeping grudges against your spouse from years ago, it is time to create an anger journal.
Here is how it works: Pick up a notebook and write down as many words, incidences, actions that angered you or hurt you. Describe them in detail if you like.
Allow yourself to feel the emotion you felt at the time. (Your notebook may be drenched in tears at some points but that is fine). Now set a timer for a fixed period of time.
It could be a couple of hours, a few days or several days. Within this time let yourself really wallow in the misery of these details. Allow yourself to talk about it, feel the anger, cry, or scream… whatever feels necessary.
Once the set time elapses, tell yourself they are now gone. Tell yourself that you will never think about them again. As far as you are concerned they have been deleted from your memory.
After that, take a match and burn the notebook. Let it burn completely.
What this does is release you from carrying the load of grudges. It also releases your spouse from the unseen shackle of guilt you create every time you remind them of something terrible they did in the past.
5. Imagine the Funeral
Now here is an unconventional one. Death is one of those topics which is considered taboo. We generally prefer not to think about or discuss it. This method requires you to shed some of those beliefs.
Imagine your partner passed on. Imagine yourself standing in front of a crowd of people reading his/her eulogy… which you wrote. What would it say? Write it down.
Despite being somewhat unsettling, these thoughts force you to think hard about the positives of your partner. Rarely do people mention a person’s negative traits in a eulogy so you are more or less restricted to the positive.
You don’t have to write it all at once. Take time to notice certain things and add them gradually.
Think back over the years. When did your spouse make you laugh until your ribs ached? When did they make you shed tears of joy? What are the most memorable moments of your life together?
Picturing this scenario helps you learn to appreciate your spouse more.
Self-introspection can be defined as a process where you look inward. Analyze yourself, your thoughts, your habits, your beliefs, and even your feelings. The aim of self-introspection is to achieve greater self-awareness.
The American Psychology Association defines self-awareness as focused attention or knowledge of the self. It has to do with knowing what you are feeling right now as well as knowing your personality. Do you really know yourself?
For instance, one person may come to a realization that they have a tendency to lose their temper when they get into an argument with their spouse. When this happens they cannot have a cordial conversation and both find themselves in a hurtful shouting match.
Another person may realize that they tend to recoil when a disagreement comes up.
They quickly apologize for anything and everything whether or not they were at fault or not. They will do anything to avoid confrontation. Neither of these is healthy and can do a lot of harm in a relationship.
When you make the decision to rekindle your marriage, it is essential to be familiar with your personality- based habits and the role they played in the breaking down of the marriage in the first place.
You can then work on yourself to deal with the negatives.
You are not perfect but you are no devil either. There should be some positives to be identified in yourself. Don’t ignore these. Work on yourself to strengthen them and capitalize on them to build a better stronger marriage.
7. Don’t Be Overconfident
Confidence is a good thing. Overconfidence is not. That applies in virtually any area of your life. Let’s think about it in the context of marriage.
A pre-marital counselor tells of how he asked couples to estimate the current rate of divorce in the country. Most of them correctly estimated about 50%. He then asked individual couples to estimate the chances that their unions would end in divorce. All answered zero.
Although confidence and a positive attitude are great when getting into marriage, overconfidence can be quite the opposite. It creates complacency. You see you and your partner are not any better than the many couples who have found themselves going down the divorce road. They are not any less human than you are.
You too could fall into the same traps, make the same mistakes as they did and end up the same way.
It takes effort to make sure it doesn’t happen. As long as there is no perceived risk of failure, no work will be put into maintaining the relationship. Don’t assume that because you are married and you love each other, everything else will fall into place. Make a consistent effort to keep the romance alive.
8. The Sex Factor
We cannot possibly talk about rekindling a marriage without talking about sex. Its value in marriage cannot be overemphasized. There are many ways to rekindle intimacy but sex has the potential to be the most powerful way to reconnect. This is if it results in feelings of emotional closeness, fulfillment, and better communication.
Think back to when the relationship started to take a downward turn. Chances are your sex life was among the first to suffer… or die altogether. Now that you know how essential it is to a healthy relationship, ask yourself exactly what went wrong and work together to find solutions for specific challenges.
Take time to have conversations about your individual expectations in the bedroom.
9. Must have sex conversations
Couples who can discuss ‘uncomfortable’ topics like what is really going on in the bedroom are 10 times more likely to have a lasting marriage than those who choose to sweep these matters under the carpet. Here are a few conversations which always help to make things better.
When one of you is just not in the mood. As great as it is, the truth is that sex is exhausting. If one partner has had a long day and is just too exhausted it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with either of you.
Agree on how to communicate a situation like this so that neither party feels that their feelings or needs are not being considered. If you are too tired to have a good roll in the sack, communicate the same to your partner in a loving and gentle way.
This way you don’t feel pressured into something you are not up to and they know that it is not because of a problem you have with them. Reschedule and follow through with the reschedule to make sure you are both happy.
Preferred frequency. At this point, you may be thinking about how utterly unromantic this is. Aren’t we supposed to just go with the flow? Have sex whenever? Well, that may not always work.
Studies show that the average American couple has sex a little more than once a week. It is now up to you and your spouse to decide how close you want to be to that average.
Have a candid conversation to find out how often each partner would like to have a good, heated session in the sack. One partner may say, ‘honestly I’m very happy with one quality session per week.’
The other may say they prefer it if were a few times a week. Whatever the case, the point is to be aware of your partner’s preferences. Then you can work towards an arrangement which works for both of you.
This kind of openness makes sure the one partner who prefers to be intimate more often does not feel deprived. The partner who is happy with lower frequency does not feel pressured to meet the other’s needs.
Discuss sexual limits. Sex therapists are all for experimenting. They are always going on about the importance of trying new things in the bedroom.
While this can be a lot of fun for couples, it also puts you at risk of going too far. You could have a very embarrassing situation where you try something new and what you get is a shrieking ‘Oh my god what are you doing!’ Needless to say, it is not a pleasant experience for either of you.
Limits are very personal and individual. What is acceptable to you could be far from okay for your partner. Take time to discuss your limits so then neither party feels violated.
Top Tip: Nurture Yourself
Too often we spend all our time and energy taking care of the people we love.
We believe that this is what love is. Giving of yourself. While it is great to give your time and energy to your spouse, don’t forget to spare some for yourself. They say you cannot fully love someone else if you haven’t learned to love yourself. This is where self-nurture comes in.
It is a deliberate act of self-love. Learn to prioritize and protect time set aside for activities that rejuvenate you. It could be relaxation time, time with friends or fitness sessions.
It doesn’t matter what it is, the point is that it rejuvenates you and helps you destress.
You could look at it as though your heart and mind are a pot filled with all the love and energy you give to your spouse and other loved ones. It is possible for your pot to run dry.
It needs to be replenished and one way to replenish it is by taking time for yourself.
When you think about it like this, you can then stop feeling selfish when you spend an entire afternoon at the spa or on the golf course. It will help to strengthen your relationship because after that emerges a happier, saner version of you. This version makes a much better half in the ‘us’ equation you are trying to build.
In the same way, encourage your partner to go out and do what it is that rejuvenates them. At the end of the day, you benefit from it as well. Who wants to have a tired, grumpy partner all the time?
Many people believe that marriage is about spending the rest of your life with the right person.
That is where all the talk about Mr. Right and Miss Right comes from. When life as a couple is less than perfect they resort to ‘I married the wrong person. I should have married someone else.’
Others just settle with the idea that marriage is not for them.
We choose to look at it differently. While there is a place for compatibility in couples, marriage has little to do with marrying the right person and more to do with doing the right things with the person you married.
Rekindling a broken marriage, therefore, requires hitting a reset button. It takes taking time to analyze the problems and working together to find mutually beneficial solutions.
Putting all the negative experiences behind you and capitalizing on your strengths. Kindness in your words and your ways is fundamental while the not-so-easy topic of sex cannot be ignored.