The question, “How to save a marriage,” is often asked in a dire situation when the marriage is in a state of crisis and is falling apart.
Be sure to watch the video above all the way through FIRST and then read the article below to the end. Take your time.
I know what you’re going through.
I’ve been there and I have observed thousands of situations of married couples who were there as well.
If there were a contest for “most true sayings of all time,” I’d say that “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” would be among the most true and best.
I suspect you agree.
This crisis is when you are focused on saving your marriage and are looking for the “how to” articles that will give you the secret to saving your marriage quickly.
How To Rescue Your Relationship If Only One Is Trying
While I can’t promise you a time frame or that your marriage will be saved as quickly as you want it (instantly or at least by tomorrow I’m sure), I can tell you that what I suggest in this article, “How To Save A Marriage,” will give you the best chance possible based on my two decades in the relationship-recovery service.
Here is what you need to do if you want to save it:
First, Do No Harm To Save The Life of Your Marriage
The first thing you must do to save your marriage is to be sure that you don’t hurt your efforts by what you do to try to save it.
What I mean is, if you do things that push your spouse even further away from you and toward divorce in your efforts to win him or her back, you would have been better off doing nothing at all to try to save the relationship.
So whatever your plan is to save your marriage, it should first do no harm.
What Not To Do If You Want To Save It
These things harm your efforts if you want to rescue your marriage relationship:
People beg when they feel that they have no power.
Begging is basically asking for mercy from the other person who we believe has all of the power.
For example, if a dictator decided he was going to take away your home and all of your money, you would have no power to say, “No, I don’t think so.”
All you could do would be to beg for mercy.
That’s why we should never give another person that kind of power.
Republics and democracies should not give their government the power to take away their homes and their money so that they won’t ever have to worry about that happening to them.
Have you made your spouse your dictator?
Stay with me here.
A dictator sees the person begging as beneath her/him. Why? Because that person is begging.
Begging itself puts you in the very unattractive place of unworthy of the leaving spouse.
That’s what can make that person your dictator.
It’s fine for your spouse to know that you are hurt and that you want the marriage to work. In fact, it’s a good thing when you are clear on that.
If you want to save your marriage on the brink, however, do not beg as if you have nothing to offer or as though you feel hopeless about it.
The difference between begging and revealing the desire to save the marriage is confidence.
Confidence is attractive and gives your spouse something to think about when you aren’t chasing and begging.
Confident people can move on (at some point) and we want your spouse to at least know that you are capable of moving on at some point.
You certainly can’t have your spouse thinking that you will wait around forever alone.
It’s not attractive for them to think that they can take their time and if they ever do want to come back that you will be patiently waiting for them.
That might seem loving and even poetic, but in reality it’s not attractive and removes the positive kind of pressure that is helpful to restore your marriage.
That’s why you shouldn’t beg.
If you already have done that, don’t panic. Simply stop doing it and stop acting as though you can’t live without your spouse or can’t move on at some point.
You probably don’t feel that you can live without him or her or that you can move on if they don’t come back.
Fake it until you make it.
Or better yet, project that image.
Act and behave as though your marriage is being saved or will be.
That’s how you can get to that point in the future.
Do your best not to be cold or show anger toward your spouse.
Note that I said “show.”
I’m sure you’re angry, so I’m not telling you how to feel.
It’s not my place and you probably have a right to be angry and hurt.
At the moment however, focus on what I mentioned earlier in terms of projecting.
The way to change your attitude, and then your behavior, is to be an example for yourself.
Anger and angry statements will not only push your spouse further away, but will reassure him or her that they are making the right decision.
Angry statements toward your spouse while you are separated or while they are pursuing a divorce could cause him/her to think something like this:
“After the divorce I won’t have to put up with this anymore.”
Or, “This is why I want this divorce in the first place.”
Plus, it could cause them to doubt any kindness you might show at another time.
Finally, anger shows lack of confidence.
Remember, confidence is your polar star in that you can just about always ask yourself, “Will doing this project or demonstrate confidence?”
Or, “Would someone who is confident that they can save their marriage say or do this?”
I’m not at all suggesting that you be arrogant, cocky, or aloof.
I’m suggesting that you keep yourself in an attractive state by showing confidence rather than begging or showing anger.
Don’t Threaten or Manipulate
I want to ask you a question.
If you used your children, money, property, or spouse’s reputation to manipulate or even blackmail your spouse, do you think that would endear you to him/her?
Do you think your spouse would truly want to save your marriage because he or she loved you?
No, it would be to avoid the threat coming to fruition – and they would still be looking for an opportunity to escape.
Cases I have seen fail miserably have been:
- where people threaten to take their spouse’s children away from them,
- threaten to share embarrassing information about the spouse who wanted to leave,
- threaten to be ruthless in terms of trying to financially hurt the leaving spouse,
- to make up fake spousal abuse in order to get a restraining order felony on the spouse’s permanent record if they don’t come back (that’s a lot harder than it used to be and the faker is punished in many states now),
- or where the hopeful spouse told the leaving spouse that they aren’t attractive enough to find anyone else.
So if someone suggests you play “hardball,” with your spouse who wants to leave, ask yourself how many marriages in crisis your friend, favorite aunt, mom or random person on the internet has observed and saved.
Playing hardball is not the answer.
Second, Use The Limited-Contact Rule
The Limited Contact Rule or Intelligent Contact Rule (similar to the No Contact Rule) can help you save your marriage in a few ways:
- It prevents you from making costly mistakes that can push your spouse further from you.
- It can increase attraction from your spouse toward you by showing strength, confidence, and creating some mystery.
- It allows your spouse to experience some of the consequences of what they think they want (your absence).
- It can give you both a break from arguing, bickering, and yelling so that you don’t further hurt each other and the relationship.
Limited Contact When You Have Children Together
If you have children with your spouse, limited contact can be more challenging but there are some guidelines that will help you maintain the benefits of limited contact while also speaking with your spouse when necessary.
Don’t be mean.
Meanness usually causes your spouse to feel that their decision to leave you is validated and was the “right decision.”
It can cause them to resist saving your marriage or trying at all because they feel that the situation is hopeless in terms of their potential happiness.
Examples of being mean if you have children with your spouse include:
- Making important decisions about your children without your spouse or independent from them.
- Taking away from the time your spouse has with the children.
- Saying insulting things about your spouse in front of your children (whether it gets back to him/her or not)
- Leaving him or her out of important events in the life/lives of your children (birthday parties, holidays, graduation, sports, important discussions (like the sex talk), piano recitals, medical issues, school, etc.
Don’t try to punish your spouse for leaving you by hurting him or her through your children.
Not only is that a cruel thing to do, but your spouse will likely feel deep hurt from your actions and will feel validated by their decision to leave you in addition to any lingering feelings of love, closeness, and warmth likely being obliterated.
Limit contact to matters related to the children.
Inform your spouse of events, achievements, or concerns but don’t use that as an excuse to reach out to your spouse.
They will sense that and it will count toward you trying to get them back and can be processed as though you are begging.
If possible, let your children do the contacting about those matters.
Be polite and brief.
Demonstrate to your spouse that you value their role in your child’s life and that you honor them as your co-parent.
Do not speak negatively of your spouse in front of your children.
The risk of it getting back to your spouse is too great and not only will that harm your chances of saving your marriage, if your spouse has a lawyer (assume they do even if they haven’t told you), that information will be used against you and will likely have legal consequences.
Read more about The No Contact Rule To Get Your Husband Or Wife Back.
Saving Your Marriage Is A Process
It’s important to embrace and realize that stopping your divorce and saving your marriage is a process.
It won’t happen over night.
In fact, time is part of the recipe.
For example, as a boy, I experienced both happiness and frustration when my mom would bake a cake.
The happiness was, well, because cake was coming.
The frustration was because I had to wait for it to bake.
I often attempted to educate my mom, as most children do, by telling her that if she simply turned up the temperature of the oven, the cake would be ready sooner.
As a child, I didn’t understand why simply turning up the temperature wouldn’t bake the cake faster.
It made sense to me, but didn’t work in reality.
The cake would simply burn if we turned up the heat.
The same is true of your spouse’s feelings and desire to save your marriage.
Time is part of the equation and you can’t force it to happen sooner by trying to talk him/her into it.
So that brings us to the third “Don’t” on the list.
Third, Don’t Try To Talk Your Spouse Into Saving The Marriage
Trying to talk your spouse into staying in the marriage is about like trying to talk someone out of feeling pain.
“Your arm doesn’t really hurt, even though it’s broken.”
Trying to tell your spouse that things are great and the marriage isn’t broken is the same sound to their ears.
Promising you will change, if done too often to the point of begging, is usually falling on deaf ears as well.
If you have already told your spouse that you want to work on the marriage and save it, that’s enough.
The rest has to be accomplished by increasing the attraction your spouse feels toward you and the marriage.
The main reason you can’t talk your spouse into saving your marriage is because what you are actually trying to do, without realizing it, is talk your spouse into being attracted to you enough again or into loving you again (or enough) to stay in the marriage.
While it might work when children do it to get their way, you can’t talk, argue, or reason people into those intense, personal, and internal feelings or willingness to commit.
Winning an argument doesn’t make someone say, “I thought I didn’t love them but they proved me wrong.”
Think about it, if you see someone who is physically unattractive, no amount of talking or reasoning will make you attracted to that person in a physical way.
Because it was not a decision but, instead, a reaction or instinct.
The same is true for emotional attraction.
If someone doesn’t connect with you, is irritating, immoral, harsh, mentally unstable, immature, too easily offended, narcissistic, etc., you are turned off.
Being turned off by that is not something you can be talked out of.
It will take time for emotional attraction to come back and if you try to force that process, you will push your spouse away and he/she won’t feel that they can speak to you about the marriage without getting the full-court press from you.
Does This Apply If My Spouse Is Having An Affair?
Yes. If your spouse is having an affair, the pull to speak to them for fear of them getting ever closer to their lover is likely intense.
If this is you, you would serve yourself well by learning about the concept of limerence and how it contributes to your spouse having an affair and impacts the mind of your spouse.
I suggest that you open the link in the previous sentence and read it AFTER you finish this article completely.
If there is another person, everything in this how-to-save-your-marriage guide still applies.
The limited contact rule protects your standing with your spouse.
It allows for curiosity and concern to take hold because you are being a mystery to your spouse by not chasing, begging, pleading, and not trying to talk him/her into getting back together.
This can often result in your spouse pulling back from the lover in small to large part.
Usually, in this case, the lover will press your spouse about the distance that they feel is there.
This can annoy your spouse as he/she becomes tired of saying that nothing is wrong and their lover becomes tired of hearing that answer because they know it’s not true.
This can make you look more mature, more valuable since you are the one who is scarce, more confident since you are not the one pestering your spouse, and more attractive in general.
If your spouse fell in love with you before, he/she can again.
Let them come to you.
The Limited Contact Rule can help you do that.
Work on making yourself as attractive as possible.
That’s not shallow, it’s just human nature.
I’m not only referring to physical attraction. I’m referring to physical attraction, intellectual attraction, and emotional attraction.
The whole package.
Also, spend time with people.
The ones I strongly suggest are friends and family – those who won’t try to divorce you.
Your spouse needs to know that you are living your life and if you are social instead of staying at home, your spouse will likely know even if it’s just by assumption.
If Your Spouse Wants To Talk About Their Lover
This is difficult to hear if you are the one who was “cheated on.”
Remember how I mentioned projecting who you want to be?
This is where you be a good example to yourself.
If your spouse wants to talk about their lover – anything about them – unless you feel your spouse is intentionally trying to hurt you, be a good listener.
At some point while you listen, you’ll need to respond.
You can say simple things like, “I’m sorry that’s happening. I know that hurts.”
Or, if they are talking about how much they care about this person, you could say, “I know how you feel.”
No need for more.
Just allow them to speak and to know that you are listening.
If you allow your spouse to open up to you about the lover, you allow intimacy to build between you and your “straying” spouse.
It’s an odd phenomenon, but it’s reported to me often that a spouse who is having an affair can feel intense intimacy be reunited with their spouse by sharing information about their relationship with the other person.
It isn’t really that odd when you understand how intimacy really works.
Intimacy is when you share facts and feelings about yourself.
It’s when you don’t hide but, rather, open up to the other person.
It’s being naked in front of someone, not just physically, but emotionally as well.
That’s what happens when you allow your spouse to open up about their affair partner.
It’s a difficult thing to talk about, but do your best to be a good listener and to avoid the temptation of saying, “I wouldn’t do that to you,” or “I would be better to/for you,” etc.
Listen without judgement.
You might have to scream into a pillow or pound a punching bag after, but remember the projecting strategy I mentioned above.
Some people can’t stay if their spouse has had an affair. Others can.
In my article on limerence that you are going to read next (if you haven’t already, open that link in a new window so that you can read it after you finish this one), you’ll learn that it is a mental state that usually isn’t permanent.
Most affairs are what is called a “limerence affair,” which, in the majority of cases, last between two months and two years. But usually they are on the lower end.
Especially if you follow this guide.
Fourth, Protect Yourself Legally To Save Your Marriage
That’s right, getting “lawyered up” and making sure that you are treated fairly if divorce proceedings happen is not just for you but can help rescue your relationship with your spouse as well.
Again, refer back to what I said about not manipulating or threatening.
Seeking legal counsel is not about going after your spouse or trying to take full custody of the kids.
Being represented by a lawyer is about making sure you are treated fairly – not favorably.
And it’s also about demonstrating to your spouse that you will not be run over.
If you allow your spouse to run over you, it will appear weak.
It will put them in that dreaded place of being a dictator that I mentioned above.
Losing is not attractive.
You also should not attempt to use your attorney to make yourself the dictator either.
So don’t think that you are scoring points with your spouse or making progress on saving your marriage by not protecting yourself with the help of an experienced divorce attorney.
Your spouse needs to see that you are strong and will not allow them to treat you unfairly.
When Your Spouse Reaches Out
If you use Limited Contact, the odds are good that your spouse will reach out to you.
When they do, don’t be flippant.
If your spouse says that he or she misses you, you shouldn’t ignore it or be cruel by saying, “Well I haven’t missed you.”
Again, playing hardball will only make you enemies (or greater enemies) with your spouse.
It’s not attractive.
I talk more about this in my Emergency Breakup Kit, but if your ex says that he or she misses you, it’s okay to say, “I miss you too.”
If it’s a text you could say, “It’s good to talk to you too,” or something similar.
You just can’t come across as cruel, fake, or worse, manipulative.
If your spouse thinks you’re just trying to get at them to scare them into thinking they’ve blown it with you, you’ll likely push them further away.
When your spouse is reaching out, your goal is to get him/her face to face.
That’s when you can be your most attractive because you have all of your attractive elements available.
Those attractive elements are physical attraction, emotional attraction, and intellectual attraction.
Face To Face With Your Spouse
If you have followed the guide above on how to save a marriage, you will likely get to this spot.
Your spouse has reached out and asked to have coffee or lunch with you.
That is good news!
People who don’t have two decades of experience in the relationship recovery service might tell you to “play hard to get” and to reject your spouse or ignore them.
That would be, perhaps, the worst thing you could do.
Partly because it will look like you are trying to play a game or manipulate your spouse.
It can send your spouse backwards and remove the progress you have made of re-attracting her/him.
It can destroy the momentum or, in the worst of cases, make the salvation of your marriage a hopeless endeavor.
Or your spouse could just think that you are a jerk or (insert other word here) who they are now seeing they just want to escape.
Accept your spouse’s invitation to meet.
Treat the situation as though you are meeting to catch up.
Be in a good mood. Smile.
Be polite and even be playful.
Ask questions, share some interesting things that have happened to you.
Think of funny things you saw or were involved in.
Think of interesting news stories or new things you are doing (hobbies, classes. Etc.).
Have an exit Strategy
Allow for an hour or so to visit/meet with your spouse.
Don’t panic if your spouse doesn’t say, “I want to save our marriage,” or “I want you back.”
It often happens slowly, with your spouse seeing how he/she feels seeing you as a step towards wanting you and the marriage back fully.
Your spouse can also simply not know what to say or he/she may not yet have the courage to say it to your face.
You don’t have to get your spouse back on the first face-to-face meeting in order to save your marriage.
Once that hour is over, say something like, “It’s been great seeing you, but I need to get going.”
Smile and give your spouse a hug.
Lean back from the hug and take a second to smile at your spouse so that you leave the window open for them to go in for the kiss.
Count about three seconds and then casually leave as you said you were going to.
If the kiss happens, allow it for about three seconds.
Then pull back, smile, and say, “It’s been great seeing you. Let’s do this again soon.”
That way your spouse gets to experience physical intimacy with you in the form of that kiss but doesn’t get to exhaust the experience.
Give a taste but leave them wanting more.
A kiss is usually an excellent thing for them to think about going forward.
It was a positive experience and that is how you move forward toward total reconciliation and saving your marriage even if that idea seems hopeless right now.
This article has been a basic explanation of how to rescue your relationship.
More detailed guidance is provided in my Emergency Marriage Kit, if you have received the news that your spouse wants a divorce. That kit is exceptionally powerful for married couples in danger of separation or divorce.
I truly wish you the best.
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