7 Last-Ditch Ways To Save Your Marriage (When You Feel Hopeless)

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I'm a specialist in marriage rescue, and I'm here to help you learn how to save your marriage.

You can tell that your long-term marriage probably needs saving if you've been feeling angry about what has been happening and/or hopeless about your ability to change the situation for the better. The good news is that feelings like anger and hopelessness can offer important clues and a fresh point of view.

These negative emotions give you insight that can help you clarify what you do — and what you do not — want in your relationship. Let’s focus on using these negative emotions to guide you to a better marriage.

How can I save my marriage by myself?

While, yes, one partner putting in all the effort to save a marriage is possible, if you find yourself in this situation, know that doing so isn't a good indicator of your partner's commitment to your relationship.

However, there are certain actions one spouse can take in their efforts to save the relationship.

For instance, think about how you react in certain situations. What can you do to react with more empathy, love, and understanding your partner?

It can feel like a huge weight to carry, so be sure to pay attention to this factor when you're the only one willing to put the work in.

RELATED: How To Fix A Broken Marriage When It Feels Like Your Husband Doesn't Care Anymore

How do I know if my marriage is worth saving?

When both partners are willing and able to do whatever it takes, that's a great sign that a failing marriage is worth saving. Of course, not all couples are the same, and neither are marriages.

Because of fear from facing the reality of a separation or divorce, feeling sorry about a failed marriage, many couples struggle to answer this question.

But a marriage is worth saving if your relationship is not toxic, trust can be rebuilt, you share the same values after all this time, and still have the utmost respect for one another.

When you fell in love, it may have seemed like this was the glue holding you together. But it goes much deeper than just being in love, because love alone cannot fix a relationship.

Can every marriage be saved?

With a divorce rate between 40-50 percent, it's clear that not every marriage can be saved. But most marriages can.

Because every couple is different and has their own set of issues in their marriage, it comes down to the reasons you want to fix your relationship in the first place. Are you having trouble communicating? Does your spouse's family come between you? Is your partner quick to criticize?

These are all examples of situations that, more or less, can be worked through together.

However, there are some situations that complicate things, like a partner with an addiction, a partner who cheated and broke trust, or a partner with mental illness.

Can bad marriages be saved?

The state of your marriage matters.

If a marriage is toxic, or physically or emotionally abusive, pay attention: this was never a relationship that could be saved. In fact, experiencing abuse or toxic behavior in your relationship should point you towards the exit door.

Toxic or abusive relationships aren't just bad, they are harmful — to you, to your children, and to your future.

As for whether or not a marriage can be saved, first, ask yourself why you think your marriage is bad. Is it because you and your partner fight often? Do you have resentment towards your spouse? Do you hate some of your partner's bad behaviors?

While none of those necessarily point to a "bad" marriage, they are certainly components of a relationship that couples can work through.

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How to Save Your Marriage in 7 Steps

How do you save a marriage when you feel hopeless?

Most of my clients are couples who come to treatment feeling chronically angry at their spouse, and hopeless about their relationship’s challenges. Many are on the brink of divorce. By the end of treatment, they have created great marriages that last long-term.

Here is the seven-step pathway for couples who want to save their marriage.

1. Make a list of all the issues you argue or feel hopeless about.

Anger does not mean it’s time to fight. Hopelessness does not mean you should just give up on saving your marriage and get divorced. Anger and hopelessness do indicate that there’s a problem, a bump on your marriage path.

So, begin by asking yourself, “What do I feel angry or hopeless about?”

Write out a list of all the issues you have been arguing about or giving up on. Include on your list the issues that concern your spouse as well as the ones that irritate and frustrate you.

2. Shift the focus back to yourself.

Notice that when you feel angry, your focus will tend to be on your spouse, on what she or he does or doesn’t do that frustrates you. This second step requires a shift in focus, from focusing outward on your spouse to focusing inward on your own concerns and desires.

Circle back to your list, asking yourself, “With regard to this issue, what do I want?” or, “What is my concern?”

Be sure you aren't writing about what you want your spouse to do differently. If you have been writing “I want them to...” you have yet to shift your focus. List only phrases that start with, “I want to...”

For example, writing, “I want them to stop being so messy and to clean up after themselves” focuses on your spouse. Writing, “I want to find a way to make the spaces I spend time in, like the kitchen and our living room, to be more neat and orderly" focuses on yourself.

Attempts to change your partner only invite defensiveness. That strategy will get you nowhere.

Instead, use your energy to figure out what you want and then what you might do differently to get it, becoming "self-centered" in the best possible sense. When spouses look at what they might do differently to get what they want, they make progress toward saving the relationship.

You can also use visualizing techniques you can use to help you with implementing these first two steps. Visualizing enables you, by closing your eyes, to see more deeply into your subconscious thoughts and understandings.

This video illustrates first how to use visualizing to identify the situations that have been creating your feelings of anger and/or or hopelessness (i.e., depression). Visualizing then can help you to clarify how, without changing the other person, you might find better ways to get what you want.

3. Cut out the negativity.

The negative muck you give each other is totally unhelpful.

Negative comments to each other only taint a positive relationship. So, no more criticism, complaints, blame, accusations, anger, sarcasm, digs or snide remarks. No more raised voices or anger escalations either. Stay in the calm zone.

Exit an argument early and often if either of you starts to get heated. Calm down so that when you re-engage, you only talk calmly and cooperatively.

Marriage researcher John Gottman has found that marriages generally survive if the ratio of good to bad interactions is five positive for every one negative.

But do you want to survive, or do you want to thrive? If thriving is your goal, aim for a ratio of a million to one. That means do not sling mud.

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RELATED: What To Do If You Hate Your Husband But Want To Save Your Marriage

4. Express your concerns constructively and make decisions cooperatively.

A simple way to stay constructive in sensitive conversations is to pick from the following trio of potential sentence starters:

"I feel..."

"My concern is..."

"I would like to..."

Understanding each other’s concerns is essential for the two of you to begin doing what I call that the win-win waltz.

The goal of the win-win waltz is to reach solutions that please you both. No more aiming to get your way. Aim instead for both of you to feel comfortable with your plan of action.

To do the win-win waltz, notice you have differences, which probably will become evident because you are beginning to argue or to feel hopeless. Express your underlying concerns. Ask about and list your partner's concerns. Have empathy for your spouse.

Then, create a plan of action responsive to the concerns of both of you.

5. Eliminate the three 'As' that ruin marriages.

Affairs, addictions, and excessive anger — you don't have to read advice from relationship experts to know that these are relationship deal-breakers. They are out-of-bounds in a healthy marriage.

If you are indulging in one of these self-defeating and relationship-destroying habits, get the habit out of your life. If your spouse is the one with the problem, trying to learn how to save the marriage may be a mistake.

Either build a new kind of marriage where these do not occur or end the marriage.

6. Radically increase the positive energy you share with your partner.

Smile more; hug more; have more sex; be more appreciative; spend more time dwelling on the things you like about each other; help each other out more; praise each other more; laugh more; agree more; do more fun things together, start paying more attention to one another.

The best things in life really are free. The more positives you give, the more you'll get.

7. Go back to the basics.

Study up on the skills required for a successful marriage.

Would you expect to drive a car without first taking driver's ed? Find books and marriage education courses to learn the communication and conflict resolution skills for marriage partnerships.

You'll find that your anger and hopelessness fade, helping you transform your marriage a loving success.

RELATED: The 12 Common Problems That Threaten Even Happy Marriages

Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is a marriage counselor, author, speaker and innovator who specializes in teaching couples the skills they need to enjoy a strong, long-lasting and loving partnership. Visit her marriage communication skills website, Power of Two, for more information.