5 Steps to Healing Your Marriage
Starting on the path to repair your marriage
Marriage is a complex, evolving entity. As we change over time, it’s only natural that our marriage will change too. Happy times and sad times, moments of love and moments of anger, all of life’s experiences create layers on our hearts. As we move through life, unhealed wounds get overlooked then reappear in unexpected ways. Until one day you discover that your wounds are so deep and painful, they cannot be ignored any longer.
This post will walk you through the 5 steps to heal your marriage. The journey laid out in this process may seem unconventional. That’s because it is. Healing any relationship, especially one as intimate as marriage, doesn’t begin with healing the external circumstances. As with all pain, healing begins inside of us. The simple truth of our emotions is this:
All the emotions we seek must originate inside of us
Love, joy, peace, acceptance, safety, security….all of these emotions must come from within for us to experience them. When we associate a feeling with someone else, it is because they helped us to find that feeling inside of ourselves. They cannot give us an emotion, good or bad. All emotions come from within.
This process is about reconnecting to ourselves so that we may experience true authentic connection with others. When we understand ourselves, we can identify and address our emotions in ways that are healthy and productive. This clarity allows us to interact with our husband in a way that reduces defensiveness and resentment. In the absence of resentment, transformation occurs.
Step 1: Get Clear about the state of your marriage
Before you can change the direction of your marriage, you need to get real about what is and is not working. Try to view your marriage from an outsider’s perspective. Take the time to give an honest assessment how your relationship has evolved. How did you contribute to this slow derailment? How did your husband? How is this playing out in your relationship today? If you continue this way, what does the future look like?
After you’ve identified the trouble spots, consider the positives in your marriage. What made your marriage happy when you were newlyweds? What are the strong points? What is your dream for your marriage in the future?
Knowing where you are now and where you want to go is crucial to changing your relationship. Zig Ziglar said it best, “You cannot hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” Once you have clarity about what you want for your marriage, you can make decisions and take actions from the intention of hitting that target.
Step 2: Uncover your beliefs
While most people associate belief with religion, there are subconscious beliefs that exist within us and impact every area of our life. Beliefs are thoughts, judgments, and expectations that determine how we experience our reality. Our beliefs affect how we perceive the world, the people around us, and ourselves. The only way to change anything in your life is to change your belief about it.
Beliefs can be either empowering or destructive. While some beliefs are easy to discover, such as the thought, “I am not good at sports”, they can be tremendously sneaky. Ideas such as “it’s rude to correct someone when they’re wrong” or “I’m a perfectionist” are actually rooted in a beliefs about self-worth.
The quickest way to determine your beliefs is to connect to your emotions. Whether we feel upset or happy, angry or peaceful, behind the emotions lies a belief that is creating that emotion. An expectation has gone met or unmet. That expectation created a judgment that either aligned with our belief or against it.
Once a belief has been identified, the process of changing it can begin. The solution is simple but not easy: to change a current belief you must choose a new one. You must decide that the old belief no longer serves you. You pick a different one and decide to intentionally see the world from that new perspective.
Uncovering beliefs is a lifelong process but it doesn’t have to take a lifetime to experience the benefits of changing your beliefs. As Louise Hay so eloquently states in Experience Your Good Now, “Know that whatever your beliefs are, they can be changed in this moment.”
Step 3: Reconnect to yourself
As children, we all had big dreams for how our life would look one day. We had hobbies and interests that we loved. Things that excited us by the mere mention of them. As we grew older and experienced more of life, our dreams and hobbies fell to the wayside. We changed from being free unencumbered beings to women who spend their lives carrying labels about who we are or who we should be in order to get approval.
Eventually, that little girl inside of us becomes lost under the layers of labels and painful experiences. That separation creates a void in our life. We turn to the outside world to find the joys and confidence that were once an essential part of our being. We become dependent on a steady stream external circumstances to meet our internal needs.
There is a huge problem with this method: it is impossible to find outside ourselves that which does not exist within us. We cannot have outer peace until we have internal peace. We will never truly find external acceptance until we accept ourselves.
Connecting with our inner self is not a part of mainstream society. Busy-ness and distractions are pervasive temptations that keep us from finding the quiet space required to reconnect. Practicing mindfulness, meditation, journaling, and yoga allow us to silence the outside noise and hear the soft whispers from within. Walking in nature has a soothing effect on our soul. Exercise brings about mental clarity.
It is essential that we have a solid connection within in order for us to experience true connections with others.
Step 4: Reconnect to your husband
When attempting to reconnect to your husband, there is one crucial element that must be ruthlessly pervasive. It’s simple yet complex. Do all things in love. This one motivation is the cornerstone of all good relationships. This is not the same as sacrificing our wants, needs and desires to please our spouse. It is intended to remove the anger, bitterness and frustration behind our thoughts and deeds.
One of the best techniques to foster love is to practice gratitude. Start a daily gratitude journal in which you write down 3 things that you appreciate about your husband. Be diligent about looking everyday for something to write about in your journal. As you begin to see your husband through the eyes of love, it will spark a transformation in how you respond to him. As writer Kristin Armstrong [link] says, “When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.”
While developing our gratitude for our husband, it is essential that we learn to practice compassion and grace towards him. This encompasses both forgiveness for past hurts and acceptance of their human faults. Empathizing with their hurts and allowing them to be imperfect provides our husband with space they need to feel accepted and worthy. Acceptance does not mean that we allow our husbands to violate our boundaries. It means that we respond in love and without judgment.
Within a marriage, conflict is unavoidable. These intense discussions can quickly spiral out of control into full-blown arguments. Or they can end abruptly without resolution if one spouse shuts down and refuses to work towards a compromise. The secret to productive outcomes of a disagreement is to practice what John Gottman refers to as “the Magic 5 to 1 ratio.” In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman explains that for every negative interaction during a conflict, there should be five or more positive interactions. Some examples of negative interactions are criticism, deflecting, passive-aggressive behaviors, and stone walling. When one spouse interacts negatively, it is easy to respond the same way. Responding in a positive way helps to slow or prevent the escalation. John Gottman suggests responding with acceptance of your partner’s perspective, empathy, and genuine concern as a way to handle the conflict. Continue to seek positive interactions outside of conflicts to help you reach the “magic ratio.”
True connection with your husband cannot be reached without adjusting the level on which you are communicating.
Communicating with our husband on a deep level can be scary. If rejection and dismissive attitudes are present in the relationship, we can often default to communicating on a safe, superficial level. Ed Smalley describes the 5 levels of communication in his book, Secrets of Lasting Love:
- Clichés – to a stranger, “nice weather, isn’t it?”
- Facts – to spouse “the garbage disposal is broken. Should we call a repairman?”
- Opinions – “I hate my new boss”
- Feelings – “The other Moms are meeting up for a fitness class but they didn’t invite me. I don’t know why they don’t like me. I feel rejected.”
- Needs – “I need to feel like someone enjoys me and wants me around.”
Most couples stop at the Opinions level. True connection occurs at the feelings and needs level. This requires vulnerability. If you are not feeling secure enough to have soul bearing conversations, start small by sharing your feelings in a non-confrontational discussion. If your husband responds with a habitual reply, give him grace and allow him time to break this pattern. When your husband expresses his negative emotions, respond with love and empathy. Over time, the tension in your talks will begin to ease.
Step 5: Stop Sabotaging behaviors
As marital tensions increase so do destructive behaviors that subtly sabotage the relationship. Here are common ways couples perpetuate the problems that exist in their marriage.
- Criticizing – When we are upset with our husband, it is easy to be critical of them and their behaviors
- Defensiveness – If our husband is critical, we react defensively without pausing to consider his complaint
- Deflection – To ease the pain of a personal critique, we deflect the negative attention by returning the criticism
- Stonewalling – As the miscommunication increases, we may walk away abruptly to end the conversation
- Passive-Aggressive actions – in an attempt to avoid conflict, we rebel against expectations as an attempt to find empowerment
These behaviors become so ingrained in the way in which we conduct ourselves that they often become an unconscious habit. As with any habit, the key to ending it is with awareness and intention. Persistent and deliberate love-based action will dramatically transform the hurts that divide you and set you on the path to unity.
Healing Your Marriage
Finding healing within your marriage may seem overwhelming. Past hurts rise up to proclaim that a restored marriage is not possible. We are biologically created to believe these thoughts. Our brains seek to protect us from harm; including emotional pain. When our mind convinces us to fight it out or run away, the result is only continued hurt and pain.
The path to ending loneliness within a marriage requires courage and hope. Bravely facing the fear of rejection and judgment from our spouse opens the door to possibility. When a wife reconnects to herself and chooses new beliefs about herself and her husband, she invites in the opportunity for true marital transformation.
Taking action from a place of love for both her husband and herself, a wife can slow down the momentum of destructive habitual behaviors. As she decides to perceive her marriage from a place of empathy, she can shift her feelings from antagonistic to compassion. It is through compassionate empowerment that a wife is able to transform her life and her marriage.
Marriages are as diverse and complex as the people within them. Each spouse brings their own hurts, fears and beliefs into the relationship. When each partner takes action from a place of fear and self-protection, the divide between spouses grows. Complicated emotions can further exacerbate the problem.
Healing begins when one spouse chooses to let go of actions motivated in fear; instead choosing to act out of love. The power to take this brave step is rooted in the internal strength that can only be found by reconnecting to ourselves.
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Hi, I'm Danielle.
I help women overcome loneliness and restore connection with their husband so they can have a marriage & life they love.
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