Before you head to divorce court, make sure you've done all these things to save your relationship.
Thinking about throwing in the ol' marriage towel? I get it — that thing is often sweaty, dirty and tired. But before you give up on your relationship, be sure to exhaust all of your resources for saving your coupledom. Dr. Stephanie Knarr of The Relationship Repair Shop shares on a few tips to keep your marriage from hitting the rocks.
1. Log a complaint.
"Most marriages are on the rocks because one (or both) spouses have not resolved each other’s relationship complaints," says Dr. Stephanie. She advises couples to visit the "Customer Service Counter" for their marriages and literally log complaints with each another like a car in a repair shop.
2. Ring the alarm.
Dr. Stephanie encourages couples to ring the alarm bell which is necessary to give each other an opportunity to resolve their relationship complaints.
3. Be specific.
"Tell your partner what resolutions you need to see in order stay in the relationship," says Dr. Stephanie. Consider it your wish list or your needs list, but either way, be clear about what you need from your relationship and be prepared to listen to your partner's needs as well.
4. Make your actions speak louder than words.
Get their attention with your behavior because some people do not react to words, explains Dr. Stephanie. "For example, tell them you are going to take some space for the weekend or for a few days to give them time to think about your complaints and your resolutions," she suggests.
5. Give an ultimatum.
"Sometimes an ultimatum can be a positive step," says Dr. Stephanie. "Explain that you need changes and resolutions to happen or you may leave permanently," she explains. "Taking these steps is ringing the alarm bell because you have told your partner you are thinking about ending the relationship — and you have told them exactly why."
6. Visit a marriage counselor.
Make like Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick (yes, the reality couple) and get yourselves to a marriage counselor, pronto. "Even if your spouse won't go, it's a great idea for you to go alone to discuss possible changes that you can make to change the dynamics in your marriage," explains Dr. Stephanie.
"I have coached people to make behavioral changes in their marriage that have ultimately led to better outcomes, even while meeting with me individually." Also, if a couple as chill as Kristen Bell and Dax Shephard are vocal about hitting up the counselor's couch, we all should be so lucky.
7. Be the change you want to see.
"Remember, for marriage and family relationships to change, it's normal for one person to push for the change to occur while the other person resists," she says. "In some cases, you have to be willing to withstand conflict and resistance in order to see the changes you desire."
8. Be persistent.
"Some people have only filed a complaint one time even though they are ready to end the marriage over it," says Dr. Stephanie. "But you are worthy of receiving good service at the Marriage Customer Service Counter! So keep filing your complaint until it gets resolved."
9. Focus on the outcome.
With all this talk about complaints, it's easy for couples to get trapped into thinking that complaining just to complain is productive. Instead, Dr. Stephanie advises couples to log the complaint but focus on the outcome of the behavior they hope to see changed. "I encourage people to keep the complaint brief — and to focus instead on asking for the desired resolution," she explains.
10. Re-frame whining.
Dr. Stephanie is adamant that complaining, fighting and whining can have a positive purpose in a marriage. "Whining actually has a positive side," write Dr. Stephanie on her blog. "This may seem silly, but some of this stuff is a part of intimacy." She encourages her clients to use the 5:1 ratio suggested by Dr. John Gottman and to be sure to have 5 positive interactions with one's spouse (like a hug or a compliment) for every 1 negative one.