When faced with problems in their marriage, more than 40% of couples make the choice to throw in the towel and go their separate ways. But, what about those who are able to save their marriage? How do their marriages survive, how did they get so lucky?
They manage to have successful marriages by sticking with it through thick and thin. They view their marriages as a refuge, their safe place and they know it is up to them to keep it that way. They view their marriage as worth the effort of solving problems in the marriage as they arise.
Are you trying to do the same and find solutions to problems in an attempt to save your marriage? Your first step should always be to seek professional help by seeing a marriage counselor. If, for some reason, marriage counseling is not an option following the seven steps below should help find a solution to those marital problems and help you and your spouse move forward in building a more rewarding marriage.
7 Steps to Saving Your Marriage With Problem Solving Skills
Name the problem.
In naming the problem, you have to be specific. Saying, “he/she never helps around the house” will get you nowhere. If you want your spouse to help around the house you need to outline what specific tasks you need help with. For example, you need help with the laundry, or you wish your spouse would help clean-up after dinner each night.
You can't name general problems. You need to be specific about the problem before you can find a solution to the problem.
Be honest about how you are feeling.
Often, we keep our true feelings hidden out of fear of hurting our spouse. Be willing to communicate your displeasure over your spouse’s behaviors and be willing to listen when your spouse communicates his/her displeasure in your behaviors. Marital problems aren’t solved if both spouses aren't willing to accept and acknowledge that they both play a role in the problems.
And, it's imperative that your marriage is a place that you can both feel safe in expressing negative feelings. Before there is honesty there must be feelings of safety.
Leave no stone unturned.
Communicate with each other by asking questions. What might improve the problem? Are there any books we can read that will help? Don’t dismiss a suggestion from your spouse because you feel it a silly suggestion.
Make a list of what you feel are solutions and put them to work.
- 4 Suggestions for improving problems:
- See a marital therapist.
- Read books that help build relationship skills.
- Take a relationship course online, together.
- Talk to a marriage enrichment coach.
Evaluate whether or not the “solutions” are working.
Solutions are only solutions if they are solving the problem. Keep in mind, though, problems aren’t solved overnight. Evaluate whether a solution is working by assessing your mood. Are you in a better mood, are you feeling closer to your spouse? Is your spouse in a better mood, are they feeling closer to you? Discuss with each other what you feel is and isn't working.
If so, you’ve hit on a solution that is working…just give it time. If not, put your heads together and come up with another solution.
You should be seeing results.
If you’ve done the work, you should be seeing results. Either the solution worked and your marriage is back on track. Or, you’re still having problems and feeling stuck. If so, go back to step one and start the process over again.
It may take a few go-rounds to define and come up with a solution to your marital problems. In the end, the work you do will be worth it if it means saving your marriage.
Eliminate the following phrases from your vocabulary.
When engaged in conflict how you choose to respond to what your spouse says, says a lot about whether you respect your spouse and the relationship.
- "You never" or "You always"
- "I can’t" (always substitute "I won’t")
- "I’ll try" (usually means "I’ll make a half-hearted effort but won’t quite succeed")
- "You should" or "You shouldn’t" (these are parent-to-child statements).
Make good communication part of the solution
Good methods of communication are the best preventative you can have as a couple to keep the inevitable problems from interfering with your marriage. When problems do arise, seek understanding first. Marital research shows that about 80% of problems don't even have to be solved when the couple talks through the issues and reaches a mutual understanding.
Only the most difficult problems will require the use of problem-solving communication methods. Even then, understanding is vital. Beneficial communication methods include the following:
- Start the discussion in a positive way. Most discussions end in the same positive or negative manner that they are started. Choose to make a positive start by speaking for yourself and not pointing the finger at your partner. Phrase the problems as questions to invite solutions and cooperation. If you are having problems talking, use written notes to communicate until you can talk.
- Use questions to invite solution to the problem. For example, say "What can we do together to solve this problem?" or "In what ways might we solve this problem?" Questions like these can be a positive way to start, and a productive way to continue the discussion.
- Employ active listening skills during your everyday conversations. It's a good idea to practice paraphrasing, mirroring, and other active listening skills when there isn't any stress because otherwise they may get lost when you're under pressure.
- Use time-outs to cool off if the pressure gets to be too much to stay positive. Remember that whoever calls the time-out must set a time to continue the discussion. You don't want to start a pursuit - withdrawal cycle.
- Treat each other with respect and kindness always. This is especially important when problems raise emotions. It will be easier to maintain kindness and respect when you are well practiced.