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How To Fix A Broken Marriage

How To Fix A Broken Marriage

Marriages, like any significant relationship, go through phases of ups and downs. When the downs seem to overshadow the ups, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to move forward. Understanding the mechanics behind a strained relationship and knowing actionable steps to mend it can be empowering. Here’s a guide to help you navigate through these challenging times and work towards fixing a broken marriage, informed by treatment modalities like the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), and the Gottman Method.

Understanding the Root Causes

To effectively address and fix a broken marriage, it’s crucial to delve deeply into the root causes. Understanding these underlying issues can help create a targeted approach for resolution.

Communication Breakdown: Effective communication is more than just talking; it’s about active listening, empathy, and understanding non-verbal cues. When communication breaks down, it often stems from ingrained patterns of misunderstanding or conflict avoidance. PACT emphasizes the importance of “cross-tracking,” or attuning to your partner’s nonverbal cues and responding appropriately. Practical steps to address this include:

  • Active Listening: Practice reflective listening by paraphrasing what your partner says to ensure you understand their perspective. EFT encourages validating and empathizing with your partner’s emotions. 
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, as these can convey more than words. PACT trains couples to read and respond to these somatic signals. 
  • Scheduled Discussions: Set aside dedicated time for open, uninterrupted conversations about important issues, ensuring both partners feel heard and valued. The Gottman Method recommends having these discussions in a “soft startup” way.

Loss of Intimacy: Intimacy involves emotional closeness, physical connection, and shared experiences. The erosion of intimacy can result from various factors, such as stress, busy schedules, or unresolved conflicts. EFT views the loss of intimacy as a result of a negative interactional cycle where partners feel disconnected and react in ways that push each other further away. To rekindle intimacy:

  • Emotional Intimacy: Share your thoughts, dreams, and fears with your partner. Engage in meaningful conversations that go beyond daily routines. EFT encourages partners to openly express their attachment needs. 
  • Physical Intimacy: Physical touch, such as holding hands, hugging, and cuddling, can foster closeness. Plan romantic activities that encourage physical connection. PACT emphasizes the importance of “micro-connecting” through brief intimate moments.
  • Shared Activities: Engage in activities you both enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, or travel, to create new memories and strengthen your bond. The Gottman Method encourages building “love maps” by staying curious about your partner’s inner world.

Trust Issues: Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. When trust is broken, it takes consistent effort to rebuild it. Trust issues often arise from infidelity, dishonesty, or unmet expectations. The Gottman Method identifies trust and commitment as one of the “Sound Relationship House” levels. To rebuild trust:

  • Transparency: Be open about your actions, whereabouts, and intentions. Transparency helps to reassure your partner and rebuild trust over time. PACT encourages couples to “stand together against the world.” 
  • Accountability: Take responsibility for past mistakes and demonstrate your commitment to change through consistent actions. EFT helps partners express the underlying emotions and attachment needs behind trust violations. 
  • Forgiveness: Work towards forgiveness and letting go of past grievances. This involves both partners being willing to move forward without holding on to resentment. The Gottman Method emphasizes the importance of repair attempts and accepting influence.

Financial Stress: Money problems can be a significant source of conflict in a marriage. Differences in spending habits, financial priorities, or unexpected expenses can strain the relationship. The Gottman Method identifies financial issues as one of the common “solvable problems” couples face. Addressing financial stress involves:

  • Budgeting Together: Create a joint budget that outlines income, expenses, and savings goals. Regularly review and adjust the budget as needed. PACT encourages couples to approach financial decisions as a team. 
  • Financial Transparency: Share financial information openly, including debts, assets, and financial goals. This builds trust and ensures both partners are on the same page. EFT can help uncover the emotional meanings behind money for each partner. 
  • Professional Advice: Consider seeking advice from a financial planner to help manage debts, investments, and savings effectively. The Gottman Method recommends seeking professional help for persistent financial conflicts.

External Pressures: Relationships can be affected by external factors such as family dynamics, work stress, or societal expectations. These pressures can divert attention away from the marriage and create additional stress. PACT views the couple as a “two-person system” that needs to navigate external pressures together. To manage external pressures:

  • Setting Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with family, friends, and work to protect your relationship. Communicate these boundaries respectfully and assertively. EFT can help partners express their needs for support and understanding. 
  • Prioritizing the Relationship: Make a conscious effort to prioritize your marriage amidst external demands. Schedule regular time for each other, even during busy periods. The Gottman Method emphasizes the importance of “turning towards” each other. 
  • Stress Management: Develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Supporting each other in managing stress can strengthen the relationship. PACT encourages couples to co-regulate each other’s nervous systems.

How To Fix Your Marriage

Addressing and resolving the issues in a marriage requires commitment and effort from both partners. Here are some strategies informed by somatic PACT, EFT, and the Gottman Method:

Effective Communication 

Effective communication is foundational to resolving marital issues. It’s not just about talking but about meaningful dialogue. Create a conducive environment for conversation by choosing a quiet, neutral space where both partners feel comfortable. Focus on expressing your feelings and perspectives without blaming, using “I” statements, such as, “I feel neglected when we don’t spend time together,” instead of, “You never spend time with me.” Practice active listening techniques by making eye contact, nodding, and verbally acknowledging your partner’s statements. Repeat back what you’ve heard to confirm understanding, for instance, “What I’m hearing is that you feel overwhelmed with the current situation.” PACT emphasizes the importance of “truth without blame” in communication, while EFT encourages partners to express their underlying emotions and attachment needs. The Gottman Method promotes the use of “I” statements and the avoidance of the “Four Horsemen” (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) in communication.

Seeking Professional 

Help Seeking professional help from a marriage counselor or therapist can provide valuable guidance and a neutral perspective. Look for a therapist who specializes in couples therapy and has experience with your specific issues, relying on personal referrals or professional directories. Therapy requires time and effort, so attend sessions regularly and be open to homework or exercises suggested by your therapist. Apply the techniques and strategies discussed in therapy to your daily life, which could involve practicing communication exercises, engaging in shared activities, or exploring personal growth. PACT, EFT, and Gottman therapists are specifically trained in helping couples improve their relationships through evidence-based interventions.

Rebuilding Trust 

Rebuilding trust with consistent and intentional actions is crucial. Establish transparency by sharing your daily schedules and being open about your whereabouts and activities, such as checking in more frequently throughout the day or sharing calendar events. Create a safety net by agreeing on practical ways to reassure each other, like sharing passwords or being open about social media interactions. Trust is rebuilt through consistent, small actions over time, such as making and keeping small promises like being home at a certain time or following through on agreed tasks. The Gottman Method emphasizes the importance of “Trust and Commitment” as one of the levels in the “Sound Relationship House,” while PACT and EFT focus on fostering secure attachment and emotional safety in the relationship.

Rediscovering Intimacy 

Rediscovering intimacy requires effort and intention. Establish small daily rituals that promote connection, such as a morning coffee together, a goodnight kiss, or a five-minute debrief at the end of the day. Start with non-sexual touch, like holding hands or hugging, and gradually build up to more intimate activities, discussing and respecting each other’s comfort levels. Plan romantic experiences by taking turns planning surprise dates or weekend getaways. These don’t have to be elaborate; even a simple picnic in the park can reignite the spark. PACT emphasizes the importance of “micro-connecting” through brief intimate moments, while EFT encourages partners to express their attachment needs and respond to each other’s bids for connection. The Gottman Method promotes building “Love Maps” by staying curious about your partner’s inner world.

Collaborative Problem-Solving 

Approach issues as a team with a focus on collaborative problem-solving. Together, pinpoint the underlying issues behind your conflicts, using tools like root cause analysis to understand deeper problems. Sit down and list potential solutions to your problems, encouraging each other to think creatively and consider all options. Choose a solution to implement and agree on a timeline to evaluate its effectiveness, remaining flexible and willing to adjust your approach as needed. The Gottman Method distinguishes between “solvable” and “perpetual” problems, offering strategies for each. PACT and EFT focus on helping partners co-regulate each other’s emotions and work together as a secure team.

Practicing Patience and Understanding 

Change takes time and persistence, so practice patience and understanding. Set realistic expectations, understanding that progress may be slow and that setbacks are normal. Celebrate small victories and milestones along the way. Show empathy by making a conscious effort to understand your partner’s feelings and perspectives, putting yourself in their shoes, and responding with kindness and compassion. Encourage each other to pursue individual interests and personal development, as a healthier, more fulfilled partner can contribute positively to the relationship. PACT, EFT, and the Gottman Method all emphasize the importance of patience, understanding, and empathy in the process of relationship repair and growth.

Maintaining a Healthy Marriage 

Fixing a broken marriage is just the beginning. Maintaining a healthy marriage requires ongoing effort and dedication. It’s about creating sustainable habits that foster a strong, lasting connection. Here are some strategies to ensure the health and vitality of your marriage over time, informed by somatic PACT, EFT, and the Gottman Method:

Regular Check-Ins 

Schedule regular times to discuss the state of your relationship and address any concerns before they escalate. These check-ins can be weekly or monthly, depending on what works best for both partners. During these sessions, create a safe space where both can express their feelings, needs, and concerns openly. Discuss what’s going well and what areas might need improvement, ensuring that both partners feel heard and valued. This proactive approach helps prevent small issues from becoming significant problems. The Gottman Method recommends having regular “State of the Union” meetings, while PACT and EFT emphasize the importance of ongoing attunement and responsiveness to each other’s needs.

Keep the Romance Alive 

Small gestures of love and appreciation can keep the spark alive in a marriage. Surprise each other with thoughtful acts, like leaving a love note, planning a special date, or preparing a favorite meal. Regular date nights are crucial; they provide an opportunity to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company without the distractions of daily life. Try new activities together, such as cooking classes, hiking, or traveling to new places, to create shared experiences and memories. PACT emphasizes the importance of “adventure” in keeping the relationship alive, while EFT encourages partners to continue expressing their love and affection. The Gottman Method promotes “Turning Towards” each other and building “Shared Meaning” in the relationship.

Support Each Other 

Be each other’s biggest supporter. Celebrate successes together, whether they are personal achievements, career milestones, or family accomplishments. Offer comfort during difficult times, providing a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear. Show empathy and understanding, recognizing that each partner may face different challenges and stressors. By being a reliable source of support, you strengthen the bond and trust in the relationship. PACT views the couple as a “secure functioning team” that supports each other, while EFT emphasizes the importance of being emotionally responsive to each other’s needs. The Gottman Method identifies “The Positive Perspective” as a key principle in maintaining a healthy relationship.

Continue Personal Growth 

Encourage each other to pursue personal goals and interests. Personal growth can contribute positively to the relationship by bringing fresh perspectives and experiences into the partnership. Whether it’s advancing in a career, learning a new skill, or pursuing a hobby, supporting each other’s individual endeavors can enhance mutual respect and admiration. Attend workshops, take classes, or read books together that promote personal development and growth. PACT, EFT, and the Gottman Method all recognize the importance of individual growth and self-care in maintaining a healthy relationship.

Maintain Balance 

Ensure a healthy balance between work, social life, and your relationship. Prioritize time for each other amidst busy schedules by setting boundaries around work and personal commitments. Establish rituals that allow you to connect regularly, such as having breakfast together, taking evening walks, or unwinding with a shared activity at the end of the day. Balancing these aspects of life helps prevent burnout and ensures that your relationship remains a top priority. PACT emphasizes the importance of “secure functioning” in all areas of life, while EFT encourages partners to create a safe haven in their relationship. The Gottman Method promotes “The Positive Perspective” and “Manage Conflict” as key principles in maintaining balance.

A broken marriage can be mended with effort, understanding, and a willingness to work together. By addressing the root causes and implementing these strategies, informed by evidence-based approaches like somatic PACT, EFT, and the Gottman Method, couples can rebuild a stronger, more resilient relationship. Remember, it’s not about perfection but about progress and the commitment to grow together. Embrace the journey with patience and dedication, knowing that a healthy marriage is an ongoing process that requires continuous nurturing and effort from both partners.