Oftentimes, couples will come into my office and explain that they feel like their marriage is failing, or that years of their life have been wasted on a relationship that has left both people in a state of feeling miserable. There are always different reasons for this. Maybe one member has suffered abuse, addiction, infidelity, trauma, or family crises; the possibilities are endless. Perhaps the issue is more of a relational one in which the two people struggle with communicating well or managing conflict. Nevertheless, the question still remains: What do you do when it feels like your marriage is failing? In the remainder of this post, I would like to offer up a few starting points that could completely change the trajectory of your relationship with your spouse.
- Find a therapist. It is crucial, especially in cases of trauma, infidelity, or abuse, to seek professional help. However, any couple that feels like their marriage is failing can benefit from therapy. The key is to engage in the process and be open to making changes.
- Look inwardly. If you go into therapy, or into marriage in general, hoping that it will change your spouse into the person that you wish they were, then your marriage will indeed fail. Countless studies have shown this to be true, as do the scriptures. The key is to look inwardly and be open to how YOU might need to change while trusting that the other person will do the same. This may seem difficult, but it is the only way, and I have seen it work countless times.
- Pray together. Praying together as a couple is a great way to build unity back into your marriage. I encourage couples to pray together daily, if possible. Not only is this a shared activity that two people can do together, but it also seems to bring couples to the point of being on the same page. In other words, they end up asking for the same things, in my experience. Trusting God and leaning into the healing power that he offers is a great first step toward healing a broken marriage relationship. While you may not be comfortable praying out loud or this activity may seem awkward at first, it can greatly increase your intimacy- and that is worth feeling a little bit awkward.
- Go back to the basics. Remember that time in your relationship when you first fell in love? Maybe you were high school sweethearts, or maybe you met later in life. Regardless, you both loved each other enough to want the relationship to last for the rest of your lives, so you got married. If you really thought about it, at least some (if not most) of the things that you were doing to win your spouse’s affection during that time period have probably fallen by the wayside over the years. Maybe you had kids and they took your attention, or maybe work, school or house chores have taken priority. A great way to build back intimacy, trust, and love is to do the things that you did to make your spouse feel that way in the first place. Are you still going on weekly dates? What about opening the car door for her? What about surprising him with his favorite meal? When was the last time you sat down and talked for hours about nothing in particular? This can look different for different couples, but it is a great way to find restoration in your marriage.
Practicing these things may not fix your marriage immediately, but they will start you on a path of success. It is important to remember that Rome was not built in a day, and your marriage will not be healed in a day. Many couples are in therapy for 6 months or more, and that is ok. 6 months is worth it for a lifetime of happiness instead of divorce, hurt, and brokenness. Do not let yourself be discouraged, but continue practicing helpful things and building good habits. Time does not heal- time spent practicing the RIGHT things does.
By Noah Watson