3 Steps To Save Your Relationship When You've Drifted Too Far Apart

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how to save your marriage

Most of us entered marriage with some sort of picture in our minds of how married life would be. For some individuals, the picture is very clear and easy to describe. For others, their ideal image of marriage won't become clear until they begin to think about things that aren’t happening.

Things can slowly deteriorate, and learning how to save your marriage seems impossible. That's when they realize they really did have expectations for what married life would be like. 

Life happens! Within a few short years of getting married (and the time seems to pass very rapidly), our time and energy are taken up by many things.

RELATED: 21 Small (But Crucial) Pieces Of Marriage Advice I've Learned After 10 Years Of Marriage

Once children are born, they have many needs; and as they develop, they get involved in lots of activities that take up parental time — shopping for them, helping with homework, taxiing them to the next place they need to go, arranging doctor appointments, attending concerts, school events, recitals, and so on. Even with the best intentions and with determined intentionality, it can still be difficult for couples to maintain closeness, intimacy and enough time together to grow the relationship. 

If this is descriptive of your life, you may find yourself wondering if this will ever change, and if your marriage has a chance to make it long-term. The answer is "yes, your marriage can last!" if you take some of the following steps:

1. Take time to think.

Take some time with the following questions, and write down your main conclusions so they are not forgotten and evaluate your relationship. Depending on your personality and thought patterns, you may be able to do this while driving or involved in an activity, or you may need to have time alone with no distractions. You know what works best for you.

Ask yourself this: Just how bad does it feel to be in your relationship right now? Does it feel simply like you are drifting apart, but it could easily be fixed? Does it seem like you are living as roommates? Do you find that you are arguing way more than ever before? Do you or does your spouse seem to have tons of anger and resentment which make it difficult to ever engage in meaningful conversation? 

Come up with a number on a 1-5 scale regarding your relationship. You are a 1 if it feels like it could easily be fixed, and you are a 5 if there is a ton of resentment and someone has dropped the “D” bomb (divorce).

Think about the approachability of your spouse. As stated earlier, “Life happens!” Think about what is happening in life right now. If either one of you is under undue stress or facing gargantuan deadlines, it may be better to postpone an intervention or to carefully plan it out. However, don’t put it off for long, or it may never get done until it is too late.

2. Take time to plan.

Based on your evaluation of things, it is now time to plan your next steps.  This step may take some time, depending on how damaged you feel, and how damaged you believe your marriage is at this point. If you are a 4 or 5 on the relationship scale, you may have difficulty believing that things can be any different than the current status. 

Here are some things to think through and jot down:

  • What do I want? You don’t like things the way they are, so what DO you want? Even if it does not seem possible, at least think through and answer this question: "What do I want in our marriage?"
  • What do I need? This could be another version of the previous question, or it could have a different answer. However, think it through and write it down.
  • What does my spouse want? You have been married for a while, so put on your thinking cap. Write out what you believe your spouse wants in your marriage that is not there right now. The answer to this one may be as simple as making a list of the common complaints you hear from your spouse.
  • What does my spouse need? This can be a very different answer from what they want. You know this person; you know their life, their personality and the way they approach life and the stresses of life. 

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What are the top 2 or 3 things that you KNOW would be helpful to your spouse RIGHT NOW with the things being faced in life?

Strategize how to discuss these things with your spouse. If things are going to change either way, for the better or for worse, someone needs to try to get things out on the table where they can be discussed. If the two of you have not had much success in attempting discussions of this type, then you need to do it in a different way than you have in the past. 

You could discuss this with a friend to get some input, but be careful in doing this. Your spouse may not like the fact that someone else knows the struggles you are facing, and you don’t want to discuss it with a person who has trouble keeping confidences. 

If you are involved in a religious community, try turning to someone who has been a mentor or advisor in the past. The goal is to come up with a way of entering into a discussion regarding your evaluation of the relationship and determine how to change it for the better.

3. Take time to act. 

At some point in time you will need to suck in some air, say a prayer, and initiate the discussion. When you do this, do not be surprised if things take off in directions that you never expected. In fact, you should be prepared for this and fight the tendency to defend yourself. 

If you want to understand how to save your marriage, you have to take time to think this through. Your preparation should mean that the emotional edge has been taken off of your presentation, and it is now a little more factual than it was at first. Your spouse has not had the time to do that, so strap yourself in and hang on and allow for some emotion to be blown off at first. 

Let your spouse know you have been thinking about things they may want in the relationship. When you give them the list of things you thought would be important to them, ask what you missed and allow time for the discussion.

Tell your spouse that in addition to wants they may have, you believe there are also things they need. Make it clear how you will be able to help with those needs.

These are some initial steps in addressing a relationship that is drifting apart. Don’t expect to solve everything in one discussion, and don’t be too hurt or let down if there is little to no change in your first attempt at this.

Both of you are caught up in life as it has been for a while. You both have patterns to your day, week and month.

Even if you both want to make small or even major changes, it may not be possible for a period of time. Appointments, meetings and activities tend to get scheduled far ahead, so try to bear in mind that it can take weeks and even months to free up time and energy to do something as important as investing in each other again.

Don’t give up.  

RELATED: How An Affair Saved My Marriage

Drs. David and Debbie McFadden are a husband-and-wife team specializing in helping struggling and distressed couples throughout the US and Canada.  Contact them for a free 20 minute consult to learn about their couples’ intensive program.

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