How To Fix A Broken Marriage, According To A Therapist

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unhappy couple sitting on the couch at home after a fight

When your marriage is in trouble, especially when it's gotten to the point that you're thinking about getting divorced, it's easy to feel hopeless.

But it's important to know that you can fix a broken relationship and save your marriage.

You can even fall back in love with your spouse — if you're willing to put in the work.

In the beginning of your relationship, you were probably mesmerized by the newness of it all and believed that feeling was so powerful it just might last forever.

You didn't see many of your partner’s flaws, so you never thought you would have to worry about one day finding yourself trying to fix them.

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Your marriage evolved, as marriages do, and that is entirely normal.

It's even backed by scientific research that, with time and age, all marriages go through their share of highs and lows, and any number of other fluctuations.[1]

But, if it feels like you and your partner are now on the brink of a divorce, you must invest in your marriage again if you want to make things work.

To help you through your rough patch, I've assembled a list of things you can start doing now in order to get your marriage back on track.

How to fix a broken marriage

1. Remember what made you each fall in love in the first place.

After being married for a while, it’s easy to forget what you like about your spouse.

What was it like in the beginning? What stood out? What did he smell like? Where was your first date? What made you realize that this was the person you wanted to be with for the rest of your life?

Write all of it down. Doing so will help you remember the positives, which will also help lift your spirits and change your mindset about your relationship.

2. Actively listen to each other again.

Listening is truly a gift you can give to your spouse that can help your relationship go deeper.

When you listen to your spouse without criticism, you convey understanding and support — which is what we all want more than anything in a relationship. This will help your spouse feel more comfortable opening up to you, too.

Ask questions that let your spouse know you are genuinely interested in them. For example, do you know your spouse’s deepest and darkest secrets? If not, this is a great time to ask.

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3. Make the little things count.

It’s the subtle things that make an enormous difference in your relationships, like turning your body toward your husband or wife when they're talking and making direct eye contact, rather than staying engrossed in your phone. A smile or simple "How was your day?" can also help create a more positive tone in your relationship.

And when you reunite at the end of the day, make sure you greet one another to let your spouse know you're happy see them.

Like the funny video below shows, it's easy to fall into habits where we forget that our partner is the most special person in our lives.

4. Don’t let distractions get in the way of your marriage.

Think back to how it was in the beginning of your relationship. Your partner was the most exciting part of your day and always came first.

But now that you've been together for a while, it's all too easy to let life get in the way of your marriage. You have kids, work, and a house, which makes it easy to put your marriage last.

That's why you need to start scheduling time for one another, and stick to it. If the phone rings, let it go to voicemail. This is your time for one another.

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5. Do something fun together again.

Fun is what keeps you together. When was the last time you laughed with your partner? And, I’m not talking one of those "haha" laughs. I’m talking about a good belly laugh that felt like it would never end.

Research shows that "laughter promotes relationship well-being,"[2] and yes as adults, we often forget how important it is to take time to laugh together.

The next time you have a chance, observe children on a playground. They laugh a lot! They aren't taking life so seriously or worrying about their next bonus or the next Tesla they want to buy.

Laughing and having fun together is good for your relationship and your soul. An easy way to get started is to reminisce about some of your favorite memories as a couple — the times when you had a good laugh together.

6. Change your expectations.

You aren't the person you were when you got married, and neither is your partner.

As human beings, we are complex and always changing. When you’ve been married for a while, it’s easy to rely on your partner for everything and expect things to continue being the way they've always been. And when they're not, it's easy to get disappointed.

But once you accept what has changed about your spouse, you can change your perspective on your relationship, too. This is a must because, if you don’t change your expectations, your partner will feel like you are trying to make them change.

This is likely to cause resentment in the long run, so be gentle with your partner and love them for who they are now.

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7. Make it a point to reconnect after fights.

When couples don’t get over an argument, the argument continues. And you can’t move on with your marriage if you haven’t repaired the damage that's been done.

One of the best ways to repair your relationship is to admit to what you have done wrong and apologize, yet, although this sounds easy, it’s one of the hardest things for many couples to do.

What matters is that your apology is sincere. Or, if it's your spouse apologizing to you, that you accept the apology and do your best to move on.

The truth is that there's no easy fix that will save your relationship or marriage in an instant.

It took you a long time to get to where you are, and it will take genuine effort to get your marriage back on track.

But if you're ready to start taking action and learn how to save your relationship without counseling, it is possible — all you have to do is start small.

Set aside some time this week for listening. After that, you can take any of these steps and add them to your relationship, one step at a time.

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Lianne Avila is a Marriage and Family Therapist based out of San Mateo, California, and the founder of Lessons for Love.