7 Unsexy Ways To Revive An Unhappy Marriage

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couples eating ice-cream

If you're wondering how to fix a broken marriage, you're not alone.

This type of relationship anxiety affects so many couples who swore they would be happy together but then wound up in an unhappy marriage, wondering what went wrong.

If your relationship has hit a rough patch, don't panic — there's some marriage advice that could help you learn how to save your marriage and keep you both from the brink of divorce.

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Debunking the myth of the perfect marriage

The bliss of “dating/engagement/wedding” is hardly a trustworthy predictor of a marriage’s success post-honeymoon phase. Saving an unhappy marriage may not be on a wedding-day radar, but it sometimes becomes the unexpected goal not too far into the future.

Anyone who has ever aspired to grow old together has witnessed at least one iconic couple so interwoven at a soul level that the partners are “one.” They speak and move in unison, respond with impeccable timing, and somehow, inexplicably, look alike.

The deeply-entrenched love of elderly couples who have been together almost their entire lives can be so inextricable that the spouses can’t live without one another. Literally.

The stories of spouses dying within months, weeks, or even hours of one another are so poignantly common that they have their own name: the widowhood effect.

Whether these beacons of hope are grandparents, friends or movie characters, their mastery of commitment gives witnesses pause to consider their “tricks.”

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Was it as happy as it looked?

Were they always this happy? Did they ever fall on tough times? Did they ever get bored or angry with one another? Did they ever have to worry about saving an unhappy marriage?

Relationships are organic in the sense that they are always in motion. Even stagnancy bears an undertow of change. Love relationships course through different forms of love. Many are to be expected — the giddy stage of romance, the power-struggle stage, the sunset years.

Most couples, however, commit during the romantic stage of love when they are marinating in matchmaking brain chemicals and hormones. They see all that is perfect and possible and brush off the negatives like dandruff off a shoulder.

Give them a couple of years, however, and that chemistry starts to wane. Suddenly reality sets in, and, even if the spouses aren’t incompatible, they don’t “recognize” their relationship. It doesn’t look or feel as it did early in their relationship.

They have power struggles, and discomfort is often mistaken for unhappiness and/or boredom. They fight to “get back to where they once were” instead of embracing the course of love and working together to keep it vital.

Suddenly they are second-guessing their decision to marry and wondering if it is worth saving an unhappy marriage. Because they don’t recognize where they are in their relationship, they may be convinced there is nothing to do to save the marriage. And not having the “feeling of being in love” can cast a dread on the prospect of working on their commitment.

Some couples, of course, allow years to go by while negative emotions fester and morph into contempt, criticism, and defensiveness.

RELATED: 15 Top Signs Of An Unhappy Marriage You Don't Want To Ignore

What would a renowned relationship guru say about it?

According to marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, couples wait an average of six years before seeking help for their issues. Perhaps one or both partners believe they shouldn't (or don’t) need help at all.

So the big question is this: Is saving an unhappy marriage possible?

The answer is a cautious “yes.”

The caution is because the success of saving a marriage is contingent on the commitment of the partners to honor their commitment. Surprisingly, if even one person in the relationship is committed to growth, change, and working together, there can be great hope for the marriage.

RELATED: How To Save A Marriage When Your Husband Or Wife Says, 'I Want A Divorce'

Here are 7 unsexy ways to revive an unhappy marriage

1. Seek couples counseling when resentment emerges

Don’t wait for those negative emotions and behaviors to take root. It is far easier to guide couples in developing compassionate communication skills than it is to untangle resentment that has had plenty of time to deepen.

2. Make a real effort to listen to (and hear) your partner

This is so important no matter how silly it sounds. It is so easy when falling in love to hear what you want to hear and to move forward in the spirit of everything being rosy.

But too often people don’t know how to truly listen — to themselves or to their spouses. They get lost in blame and a need to be right and fail to hear with their hearts.

Everyone has triggers, fears, and painful memories. By learning to communicate those deeper realities with responsible expression and compassionate reception, intimacy and love grow.

Too many relationships are lost simply because people don’t feel heard.

RELATED: 8 Communication Skills That All Happily Married Couples Know

3. Re-establish your marriage as a priority

Saving an unhappy marriage takes work. And making that investment can seem like a contradiction in terms if one or both of you is really unhappy.

But if you are committed to making your marriage work, you will need to infuse it with dedicated time and energy.

Even 10 minutes a day that is completely devoted to emotionally connecting with your spouse can work wonders. Remember the power of listening discussed above.

RELATED: 5 Signs You're Trying Way Too Hard To Make A Bad Marriage Work (And Should Probably Give Up)

4. Replace the 'divorce' mindset with a 'marriage' mindset

This means you will make an effort to choose your thoughts.

Remember that you didn’t get to this place overnight, and you’re not going to get out of it overnight, either.

Take the time to rediscover the reasons you got married in the first place. And repeat them and expand on them ... over and over.

As you work from this commitment mindset, you will likely discover new reasons to add to the list.

5. Work on yourself with no expectations of your spouse

Yes, the objective here is for both spouses to be committed to the recovery of the marriage. But your work can’t be contingent on your spouse’s.

That may seem like a big risk — and it is. “What if I do xyz, and s/he doesn’t do her/his part?” Yep. Could happen.

Or maybe you won’t both evolve or “get it” at the same time.

But if the character and behavior traits you are working on are all positive traits, how can you lose? And if you start growing and demonstrating the results, your spouse may take notice and begin to change.

Either way ... do your own work.

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6. Accept responsibility for your role in the conflict

This can be so difficult, especially if your spouse has done something that you believe is more egregious than anything you have done. But relationships are always a common ground where two people come to work out their lives by learning, struggling, and growing.

There is always responsibility on both sides. Owning up to yours will help to diffuse defensiveness on the other side while sharpening your self-awareness and -accountability. That goes for the little things as well as the big things.

7. Be transparent and accountable for your actions

Leave your pride at the door. Transparency and accountability require self-reflection and an examination of your thoughts, behaviors, and intentions.

There is no room for convenient omissions of details and information.

Your goal needs to be bringing you and your spouse onto the same page. Your intentions, therefore, need to be pure and for the relationship's good. Your personal commitment to this — especially if you have violated your spouse’s trust — will speak volumes about your commitment to the good of your relationship going forward.

Saving an unhappy marriage is a commitment to a lot of hard work. But assuming that the marriage is not abusive and you can still see through the misery to the memory of loving light coming through, there is hope.

Seeking help for saving an unhappy marriage can help define areas that need work while giving you tools for working on them.

It’s amazing how the “impossible” becomes “possible” when problems are identified and a plan of action is made to overcome them.

RELATED: 20 Signs You May Need Marriage Counseling

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach whose writing on marriage and divorce has appeared on MSN, Yahoo! & eHarmony among others.

This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's website. Reprinted with permission from the author.