If you’ve been asking yourself “Why won’t my husband fight for our marriage,” that is such a painful place to be. It’s bewildering when the same man who once said “For better or for worse” appears to have changed his mind. Trying to figure out what to do when your spouse gives up is baffling.
If he’s not communicating much, or at all, you might be trying to figure out exactly where he stands and what the signs are that he’s given up on your marriage. You may be wondering how to fight for your marriage when you’re already separated.
Even if you’re in that uncertain situation, there is good news: You can single-handedly make your marriage last and thrive, even if it seems hopeless right now.
Here are five ways to save a marriage when only one is trying.
1) Skip the State of the Union
There’s one major pitfall almost every woman makes because she doesn’t know to sidestep it: having a state-of-the-union address with your man to figure out what’s in store for you.
In working with thousands of women, I have yet to hear one report that a state-of-the-union helped her relationship. But they do report that when they couldn’t resist this temptation, the talk degenerated into shopping for pain (and getting it), shaming and blaming, clinging or begging.
None of which is very attractive, unfortunately.
It is natural to want to know where he stands, what his intentions are for this relationship. That seems like vital information to help you decide how to proceed.
But what if it’s not?
Your husband’s current intentions actually have very little relevance to the future of your relationship.
That’s because, as the woman, you are the keeper of your relationship.
If he has changed his mind about being with you, he can change it again. Imagine if you had the power to single-handedly create the culture in your marriage. Would you want a culture of mutual respect and mutual gratitude?
What if, by conducting some experiments, you could do just that?
2) Believe in Magic
If you are ready to step into your power as the keeper of your relationship, I invite you to reach for the first—and most important—tool for your experiment.
A magic wand.
If it’s going to take magic for this to work, you might be asking, then what’s the point?
That’s a valid question. To paraphrase Thomas Wolfe, miracles not only happen on my campus, they happen all the time.
And they all start with the same ingredient: vision. That’s because what you focus on increases. If you focus on the fear that he doesn’t love you anymore, even if that’s what he said, that increases. If you focus on your vision for a playful, passionate marriage, that’s what increases.
So, when you wave your magic wand, what do you see? How is he showing up? How are you showing up? Can you envision it all in crisp detail? What do you wish for your marriage to be like a year from now?
Your vision may falter as it gets clouded with fear or emotional turmoil. That’s only human.
When it does, grab that wand of yours and go wild then start gathering the evidence that it is happening. The more you can get in touch with your vision, the more you will increase it.
3) Nurture the Person You Can Control
Even if you practice Intimacy Skills™ that don’t require your man’s conscious effort, that doesn’t mean that the breakdown is all your fault. It takes two to tango, and it’s unlikely that his dance steps have been flawless.
In other words, he’s behaved very badly!
If you’ve been through something incredibly hurtful, like hearing that he doesn’t love you anymore or him leaving or seeing someone else, how are you ever supposed to get over that?
My amazing students now attest by the thousands that it is possible to trust him again if you want to. And, again, it’s not so much about him—it starts with you.
Being kind to yourself goes a long way toward healing from past hurts. Ask Jessica, whose husband was having an affair. She just couldn’t continue living with the heart-wrenching pain she was in.
So she decided to change course to one of perpetual self-care. If she wasn’t working or sleeping, she was doing—get this—whatever she wanted. Really! She filled the freezer with food for her teenagers, quit cooking, and went out all the time, shopping, taking craft classes, eating out, visiting friends, going to the movies or park or lake.
Understandably, Jessica had been carrying a hefty load of resentment on her shoulders. Until one day, she remembers, when it just lifted.
Doing all these kind things for herself allowed her to feel the same kindness toward her husband and, remarkably, even get past his cheating. All the grace she was giving herself empowered her to extend it to him. It was a relief that she could actually stop resenting him, which isn’t all the enjoyable.
Not to mention, all this self-care increased her magnetism so much that her husband started crashing her adventures looking for her then inviting her to do things with him, like going out on his boat or taking trips together.
Not once did she have to drag him to a couple’s cooking class or discuss what common interests he wanted to cultivate to attract this time together. Keeping her cup full did give her plenty of fun things to talk about when they got together.
As Jessica found out, a wife with the Skills trumps a mistress every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
4) Pump Oxygen Back into Your Relationship
Sandra was just as lonely and afraid as Jessica had once been. Her husband was done. He was pushing her to sign divorce papers. They had zero contact, as he would not speak to her or even meet her in public.
She did not want a divorce, and to make matters worse, signing those papers would be against her religion.
Drastic circumstances called for a drastic decision. She wanted to show that she respected her husband’s thinking, so she decided to do the unthinkable and sign the divorce papers.
She knew that respect is like oxygen for men, and expecting the best outcome—despite the huge bait he was throwing at her—was a major form of respect.
After going all out with her self-care, Sandra managed to show up at the divorce attorney’s office full of fun and light.
After she signed the papers, contact was restored. Her husband started calling to ask about her family’s health. Then inviting her out for coffee. Then resuming their physical intimacy. This incredible turnaround all happened within just six months of her starting private relationship coaching.
The very thing she dreaded—signing divorce papers—was the ultimate in relinquishing control. Doing it with a smile instead of kicking and screaming was also a demonstration of her trust in her husband who thought this was best. Doing what every fiber of her being screamed against was the key to show she respected his thinking.
How can you show respect for your husband?
If he’s telling you about an idea for a new business venture, can you say simply “I hear you,” biting your tongue against reasons why it won’t work?
If he’s disciplining the kids in a way you don’t appreciate, can you walk away instead of correcting or criticizing him?
If he loads the dishwasher creatively, can you receive his help as is and resist the temptation to redo it “correctly”?
5) Learn to Speak Man
Since you’re doing your homework on how to repair your marriage, you already know all about the importance of honest communication. But, now that you know the importance of respect—not controlling or criticizing, dismissing or demeaning your man—how are you supposed to communicate honestly and respectfully?
There is one failsafe approach…
Believe it or not, your man wants to be your hero. Nothing makes him feel more successful as a husband than seeing you happy. So expressing your appreciation for all he does goes a long way toward making him feel successful.
You may be thinking “If only!” If your man is doing a lot less to pitch in than he used to, what’s blocking his hero gene?
In my case, the culprit was that I’d forgotten how to be pleasable. When John would wash the dishes, instead of thanking him, I’d say “Now how about wiping the counter?”
Eesh, I cringe now to remember what a poor receiver I was.
I thought it was my job as the wife to give and give to be helpful to him, then I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t showing appreciation for all my sacrifices.
Turns out, my husband doesn’t want to be provided for so much as he wants to provide. The more I did, the less he did. That’s because I wasn’t allowing the space for him to step up and lighten my load.
Once I quit being the kitchen elf, he started doing the dishes. When I give him the space to help out, it turns out I don’t have to do dishes. At all. There’s a new kitchen elf in the house (who prefers to be called the “Dish Ogre”).
And that fills me with gratitude, which I make a point of letting him know. I express my appreciation for at least three things a day, big or small, and tell him how taken care of and loved they make me feel. Now that I’m so pleasable, he makes a point of piling on even more to make me even more grateful.
It’s a virtuous cycle that we both love.
Even if your husband’s hero gene seems broken at the moment, what could you express gratitude for? Is he handy or a good provider? Does he make great burgers or always put the toilet seat down out of consideration for you? Is he a rockstar with the kids’ bedtime, even if he does get them riled up?
I can’t wait to hear how it serves you to reignite your husband’s hero gene.
Now that you know these five ways to single-handedly save your marriage, which one will you experiment with today?