Marriage Advice

Can One Spouse Fix a Broken Marriage?

Elise was at the restaurant, very much looking forward to spending an intimate evening with Jeff after dinner. But when Jeff arrived, he was distracted and seemed ill at ease. Then without warning, he said, “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been thinking a lot about my marriage and I realize I still love Sandra.  I’m going to try to fix our broken marriage.” 

But you said…” Elise’s voice cracked.

I know what I said, Elise”, Jeff interrupted her. “That was back then. Now my conscience is telling me that our affair has to end. My marriage needs fixing, and my relationship with you is not helping.” He looked at her without averting his gaze.  “I was lost, desperate for love and attention, and you happened to be there. But continuing our affair is not going to make me happy. For me, winning Sandra back is what’s going to make me happy. I’m sorry.” 

Jeff left $150.00 on the table to pay for dinner and put on his coat. He took both her hands and kissed her on the forehead. “You deserve someone who can be emotionally available for you, Elise. Please forget me and move on, as I try to salvage what’s left of my marriage.” 

Elise watched him as he hurried out of the restaurant. She had dreams that she and Jeff would build a future together. He had told her when they started dating that he and his wife were leading separate lives, that the love was gone, that there was no longer a connection. What made Jeff change his mind?

Elise was sure that Jeff’s marriage was on the rocks. Not once did she think that a broken marriage could be fixed.

Or could it?

Are both spouses willing to fix their broken marriage? 

There’s a much better chance if both spouses agree that the marriage needs mending. It takes two to tango, the saying goes, so combining their mental and physical resources to save their union would make the fixing a do-able task. No debate there. If husband and wife mutually want to fix what’s broken, that’s a good starting point.

But what if only one spouse wanted to fix the broken marriage? What are the chances of putting back the pieces together?

The chances are slimmer.

A marriage counselling site in Toronto said that talking to couples for over 20 years convinced them that even if only one spouse was committed to fixing the marriage, it was still possible to save the relationship.  The spouse who goes for counselling learns to see himself or herself in a different light. Marriage counsellors ask questions about the marriage that people never thought about before, and make them “see the light”.

Counsellors say that when spouses change their thinking and behavior, and are sincere in wanting to re-connect, often the other spouse reacts positively and slowly learns to appreciate the other’s efforts. The unwilling spouse may consider – at a later time – to go for couples counselling. It is when the other half makes significant behavioral changes that the other begins to notice. Reconciliation could very well happen.

Here’s an example: a wife wishes her husband would talk more after he comes home from work. She likes to talk about how her day went, about how stressful it was dealing with a colleague. But the husband doesn’t seem interested. He mumbles, “my day was okay, I guess, the usual” and then turns on the TV, killing the conversation.

Over time, that lack of exchange would provoke feelings of uncertainty and even suspicions that the marriage is doomed.

Let’s assume that only one spouse is willing to fix a broken marriage. There are four questions that may help trigger memories of past behaviors – behaviors that led spouses to distance themselves from the other.

  1. Is your marriage broken because of constant arguments over money?

You’ve heard comments like, “my wife (husband) is a big spender.” Many men and women are appalled by undisciplined spending. One woman we know said that her husband liked to go bar-hopping with friends, buying everyone a round of drinks. When there’s a mortgage, children’s braces and summer camps, medical expenses for aging parents, and credit card payments, frivolous spending seriously harms the marriage.

Suggestion: Meet with a financial planner. Ask for budgeting tips. Even while in your 30’s, you may want to discuss retirement, and how much you would need as pre-retirement income to continue the lifestyle you’ve grown accustomed to. We’ve seen how some couples re-think their spending when retirement planning is on the agenda. The financial figures can be an eye-opener. Eliminating the money conflict can help fix a broken marriage.

  1. Are harmless flirtations becoming a fly in the ointment?

Watching your spouse flirt with others is irritating. Repeat, it is irritating. No flirtation is ever harmless when it is habitual and frequent. Who wants to be in the sidelines when the other is having fun, enjoying the ego trip?

Suggestion: Speak up. Assert yourself. Have an intelligent conversation and explain why the flirting makes you unhappy. Don’t accuse your spouse of infidelity without proof. But do remember that what might begin as harmless flirting can lead to something more intense, like meeting for coffee first and then…

  1. Are the children or the in-laws encroaching into your time for intimacy?

Let’s face it. Children are adorable. In-laws can be a big help when in a crunch. But you shouldn’t let them rain in your parade. Your marriage needs heaping teaspoonfuls of TLC.

Suggestion: Set aside a date once a month or every 2 weeks for a “just us” evening. Re-kindle the romance. Laugh. Welcome the intimacy and make your spouse feel that for this evening, he or she is all that matters.

  1. Have you neglected your fitness and health?

You can argue all you want and say that one’s physical appearance isn’t important. After all, looks are superficial, right? But wasn’t it physical attraction that drew you to your spouse in the first place? It was the “trigger” for your well-rehearsed approach: “I’d like to get to know you better, how about dinner sometime?”    

Regular dates made you know your spouse better, that he or or she had other qualities you admire. And those qualities convinced you that the next logical step is to get married.

Think back to when you first met. There was that physical attraction, that pull.

What happened to the fit, healthy and well-groomed person you fell in love with?

Danielle Anne, on physical attraction, says: It should not be your biggest concern when it comes to relationships, but it does pose as an initial basis for whether a person will end up liking you or not. No matter how you first started out, whether online, pen pals or a blind date, your physical appearance will always be scrutinized by your potential partner. 

We’ll add to that: “…will always be scrutinized by your spouse.”

Suggestion: Take care of yourself. Look after your diet, exercise program, and appearance. No matter how comfortable they are, and unless you’re going for a jog, don’t wear your oversized and tired-looking sweat pants too often.

There are many other reasons why a marriage breaks but the four discussed above are the most common reasons why spouses gradually lose interest in the relationship.

One spouse who tries to fix a broken marriage is a worthwhile endeavour. It shows you’re committed. It shows you love your spouse. It shows that you’re not just about to throw away what you’ve built together.

You’ve both come this far, your investment in each other has paid handsome dividends.

Why give it up now?

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