Love, Heartbreak

9 Ways To Fix A Struggling Marriage Before It's Too Late

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How To Fix A Broken Marriage & Break Negative Patterns That Cause Relationship Problems

Marriages have their ups and downs and, sometimes, they can be a struggle. However, if you feel stuck in a relationship that is mostly down, learning how to fix a broken marriage may help you turn it around.

Don't just hang in there limping along because the two of you have put so much time into the relationship that it feels like it is too late to start over. Don't quit too soon without knowing that you tried everything possible to save your marriage before throwing in the towel.

Struggling periodically in a relationship is normal; being stuck in a constant negative cycle is not. The pathway to remaking your unhappy marriage will require both of you making a commitment to taking several steps.

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Learning how to fix a broken marriage is a process. It is doable, but it requires consistency.

And just be prepared before you start your journey together: Couples often do not experience linear growth. The old adage of taking "two steps forward, and one step backward" is the experience of most.

Here are 9 steps on how to fix a struggling, broken marriage and end your relationship problems before it's too late.

1. Face your problems head on.

Have a serious discussion together about the status of your relationship. If necessary, let your significant other know that you want to have a solution-oriented talk about the condition of the relationship. Don't have a gripe session about what is wrong or produce a list of your complaints.

It is time to get real about the difficulties and relationship problems you are both experiencing. It is a time to talk about the things you have valued about the relationship. It is time to discuss making a decision to chart a new course for your future and to determine if it will be together or apart.

2. Have a plan.

If you have determined you are hopeful things can turn around, then it is time to have a plan. The ways the two of you have handled life together to this point have not been working. Continuing what you have always done will give you the same dissatisfying results.

Have some ideas in mind before you have the "let's face it" talk and ask your partner to contribute their thoughts, as well.

3. Be prepared for a process.

Don't be discouraged if you don't "fix" your marriage problems or come up with all the right ideas with just one or two talks.

This is a process that will involve a series of actions steps for both of you. It takes work, effort, concentration, patience and forgiveness to break old, negative patterns.

4. Determine what you need most.

Agree to take the time to make a few notes about what you need most in the relationship. It may be one or more actions you need your partner to take on a regular basis. This is the "to do" list that you need.

You might also include some things that need to stop or change because they are hurtful. This is your "don't do" list.

Both of you need to make your lists and discuss them. For the positive actions you need, begin by saying how you feel and what it does for you when your partner fulfills this need for you. When you present the things that need to change, begin by explaining how you feel or how it hurts you when these things happen.

There are four rules to follow that will help this conversation about your relationship needs and problems go smoothly:

  • Rule one: Neither of you is allowed to get defensive.
  • Rule two: Stick to your script, make your point, and move on.
  • Rule three: Control your emotions, especially your anger.
  • Rule four: Take note of things you need to be doing and not doing to enhance your relationship.

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5. Work on your own stuff.

Once you know the things you need to give attention to in your marriage, it is time to begin working on them. Make it a point to do at least one of the things on your spouse's "to do" list daily.

Also work at eliminating behaviors on the "don't do" list. When you fail, acknowledge your screw up quickly, ask forgiveness and give your partner the time needed to recover.

6. Educate yourselves.

The truth is that many people do not really know how to have a healthy relationship or marriage. You may be good at certain parts of it, but most people “suck” at other parts of relationship building. Put any two people in the world together for any length of time, and irritations, misunderstandings and hurt will happen.

The truth is, you hurt each other in human relationships all the time. Sometimes, you do it on purpose; and at other times, you have no idea why your partner is so upset with you. As you both work at building a better marriage, begin an education plan that will help you avoid these relationship problems.

Get a book or two on marriage and develop a plan to read sections of it, and then talk about what you learned. Ask friends if they have found a helpful book or start with a book, such as The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which describes the ways in which people give and receive love.

If you hear of a marriage seminar in the community or at a local church, check it out. Some larger churches host marriage recovery sessions which often meet for eight to ten sessions.

However you choose to educate yourselves, find something that helps the two of you grow and gives you some outside expert input.

7. Don't give up.

While breaking out of the negative patterns that have been choking the life out of your marriage is possible, it is also hard.

Repeated patterns of behavior and communication form pathways in your brain — so even with your best efforts at changing your behavior and reactions toward your spouse, it is predictable that old patterns will emerge. This does not mean you have failed; it means you are human. This also means you have to keep working at it.

Forming new pathways in the brain is not only possible, but is a necessary part of remaking your marriage. These new neural pathways — built on new behavior — take time to form and get stronger as time passes.

Ultimately, a new pattern becomes the new normal. Massive change will not take place overnight, or in a week, or even in a month, but some changes should show up quickly as you work at them.

8. Encourage each other.

As you begin to notice the effort of your spouse is making to fix your broken marriage, you should comment on it. Let your spouse know that you can see his or her effort. Thank them regularly for the new, little things they are doing that have meaning to you.

The effort that each of you puts into thanking the other is a strong reinforcement for the behavior you have been craving. Letting them know you see and appreciate the renewed effort is strong motivation for it to continue.

9. Get outside help.

Often, couples find that they can rapidly speed up the process of rebuilding their relationship with outside intervention. You have both been working on saving your marriage for a long time and have given it your good effort. But sometimes, you can be blind to how your words and actions are holding back your relationship's progress.

A skilled relationship coach can spot those things and coach both of you on how to tweak things for a better outcome. The cost of hiring a good coach can quickly be offset by the days, weeks, and months of marital unhappiness and distress.

If you have been considering divorce as an option, you know how costly that can be. Before taking that step, consider investing in and learning how to fix your broken marriage with the guidance of a relationship expert. You have little to lose — and much to gain — if the effort brings the two of you back together in a loving and caring marriage.

RELATED: How To Fix A Broken Marriage (Before It Leads To Divorce)

Doctors David and Debbie McFadden are a husband-and-wife team of marriage counselors who help couples who are struggling to have a smoother, more fulfilling relationship and need help before giving up on their spouse. For more information on how they can help you in a tense or argumentative relationship, contact them through their website for a fifteen to twenty minute phone or skype conversation.

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