How To Save Your Marriage When It's On Serious Life Support

You can still choose to save your unhappy marriage.

Last updated on Jun 11, 2024

Couple relationship headed towards divorce, save marriage - YuriArcurs | Canva

I read a lot of articles and books on self-help and leadership. I’m regularly amazed at how pertinent the advice given in these materials is to relationships. I read an article attributed to the late Jim Rohn that has wonderful advice for an individual to improve their life. But what I think is even more interesting is how this same advice for improving your life is helpful for how to save your marriage. Here are 13 tips for how to fix your broken marriage before it ends in divorce so you can have the relationship and love you need.


Here's how to save your marriage when it's on serious life support:

1. Face your fears

If you’re honest with yourself, one of your biggest fears is that you’ll always be unhappy in your marriage and that your dreams of happily ever after were just pipe dreams courtesy of Disney and all the other fairy tales you heard as a child. This fear, like any other, doesn’t disappear just because you try to ignore it. You need to face your fear and conquer it. Either you put your all into making your unhappy union better or you continue to live with the disquiet of knowing you are settling for what is because you’re too afraid (lazy?) to do differently.


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2. Exercise your willpower to change direction

If you know that your marriage is heading in the wrong direction you must take action and choose to change things. Will it be easy? Probably not because there’s some inertia to overcome, but the alternative is to accept mediocrity and I know you didn’t marry to live a mediocre life together.


Here’s how to create lasting change in your marriage.

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3. Admit your mistakes

Yup, you’ve made mistakes along the way and will probably make more. The quickest way to put the mistakes behind you and prevent them from festering in your spouse’s heart and mind is to admit when you’re wrong as soon as you realize it and then apologize to your love. Yeah, it might be difficult to start this one off especially if you believe that your mate has more to apologize for than you do, but be the model on this one. Bravely set the standard for how your marriage will be from this moment forward.


4. Refine your goals

The dreams you both had for “happily ever after” when you married probably need a bit of upgrading now that you’ve been together for a while. So sit down together and figure out what your new “happily ever after” can and should look like so that you’re both proud to call each other spouse again. Your spouse isn’t ready to do this yet? Well, there’s nothing to stop you from upgrading your expectations for the marriage and then start working toward them.

5. Believe in yourself

One of the easiest ways to keep yourself motivated to reach your goal of turning an unhappy marriage into a happy one is to have self-confidence. Believing in yourself will enable you to continue doing what you need to do to make your marriage vibrant again (or know there’s nothing else to try to save your marriage). (Oh, and one of the most attractive things about anyone is self-confidence. Just saying that in case you’re feeling a tad unattractive which is one of the most common complaints of someone in an unhappy marriage.)

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6. Ask for wisdom

You don’t have to have all the answers and neither does your spouse! Get the help you need in the form of books, articles, marriage counselors, or even a coach. Use their advice and suggestions as a jumping-off point for improving your marriage.


7. Conserve your time

One of the things that I’ve learned in my (second) marriage is that there’s only so much time in a day. I don’t need to spend any more time than necessary being unhappy or arguing with my husband. We’ve learned how to express ourselves and not fall into the trap of inflaming an argument. Our trick? We’ve adopted the motto “Work the problem.” Keeping this thought in mind when we express the problem allows us to stick to what’s at the root of the disagreement. Then, after we’ve each expressed and acknowledged the emotions, we can quickly move on to solving the problem.

8. Invest your profits

In a marriage, profits mean more than just money. They also include personal wins, happy times with your children, and happy times together. Investing all of these profits means saving and building on them. One of the easiest ways to invest the profits of the happy times is to spend time together reviewing each day’s positive events. And if your spouse isn’t up to doing that with you just yet, you can always start a journal and start the practice with your children.

9. Live with intensity

At its best, life is a vibrant kaleidoscope of love and amazing experiences, but only if that’s how you approach it. Remember how vibrant life was when you first fell in love? Well, you can get at least some of that back if you start investing in living your life again instead of just going through the motions.

@jessicaaaowennn 5 ways to elevate your life today. The time is now🌱 #elevatedchitchat ♬ original sound - JESSICA OWEN

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10. Find your place

A marriage is a partnership. Many times an unhappy union is rooted in unmet expectations and an imbalance in contributions to the marriage. Find the best place and way you can contribute to the success and happiness of your partnership. Your best place isn’t doing it all and your spouse’s best place isn’t doing it all either. Find where you both excel and capitalize on those strengths to improve your partnership and eliminate those nagging hurt feelings about unmet expectations and unfair distribution of work.

11. Demand integrity from yourself

Integrity is critical to the success of a marriage. The most common marriage vows include something along the lines of “to love, honor, and cherish.” It’s impossible to fulfill these vows if you’re not being honest with yourself and your beloved.

12. Welcome the disciplines

No matter what the fairy tales told us when we were kids, the truth is marriage takes work. It requires discipline. Yet, the reward for having the discipline to work on your marriage Every. Single. Day. is the fairy tale ending of happily ever after? I don’t know about you, but that reward is enough for me (and my hubby) to work on my marriage every day. And yes, that does mean even those days when I’m not feeling my best because an “I love you” said with a stuffy nose still means a lot.

13. Fight for what’s right

If you’re spearheading the effort to shift your marriage from unhappy to wonderful, you can expect some pushback from your spouse. They’ll push back because you’re changing things up and that means they’re going to need to change. And, honestly, they might believe it’s easier being lazy and living with the status quo or even that things really can’t get better. But you and I both know the truth of the matter. If your marriage is right, it’s worth fighting for. So keep moving forward and fight the good fight. 


Your honey will start adapting to the new when they’re ready (and if they don’t, then you know the better fight is to move on in a different direction). These tips for improving your marriage are complete, but they don’t get down and dirty and give you the exact steps to take to turn around your unhappy marriage. So be willing to experiment. Look at them regularly and see what new inspiration they spark and then roll up your sleeves and get into action.

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Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.