I often write articles about saving marriages. Maybe it’s because wives do more research on this topic than men, or maybe because women are more proactive in their marriages, but wives (and some husbands too) contact me more often and say something like, “Our relationship “He’s in real trouble. We may be headed for a divorce. I want to save my marriage, but my spouse doesn’t seem to want to. He’s distanced himself from me, disconnected me, and just doesn’t seem to care.” In this article, I’ll offer techniques and tips for getting your husband’s (or wife’s) attention in order to get him to participate in saving your marriage.
Be careful how you communicate your marriage salvation message:Let’s think about this for literally a minute. When you want to salvage your marriage, if you could put your deep thoughts into words, you would really be saying something like, “I love you and value our marriage. I don’t want to lose you. I would like us to work together to find a way to change what is going on. I want to feel close to you again. What is happening hurts me deeply.”
But often this is not what people are really saying with their words or their actions. They become desperate, argumentative, or defensive. They try to blame, manipulate, debate, or forcefully arm their partner. Think for a second about the message your actions have been sending to your husband (or wife).
When I did this exercise myself, I was horrified. Because I would move from one extreme to the other. When I was desperate and scared, my actions said, “Please don’t leave me. I can’t survive without you. I’m not strong enough or self-sufficient enough to be alone.” Of course, now when I am able to see this from a distance, I realize that it was not attractive at all and was just driving my husband away.
And, when this didn’t work, he often moved on to another tactic that was just as flawed. I would get angry and threaten or just offer ultimatums. My actions said, “Go ahead, leave if you’re going to give up so easily. How could you do this to me? Who do you think you are to want anything better?”
Of course, these actual angry words would never have come out of my mouth, but they might as well have, because my actions spoke them for me. My husband listened to these messages even though I didn’t take them literally. Once I realized this, I stopped, and from then on, I said what was really in my heart. The point is that too often our pride, our fear of failure or rejection, or our defense mechanisms prevent us from telling our husbands how we really feel.
Don’t make the mistakes that will get them offline: If you’ve been able to identify (even a little) in any of the above examples, know that these things ensure that your husband (or wife) eventually learns to disengage from you. After we reconciled, my husband admitted that my desperate words used to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to him. Just noise he wasn’t hearing. So how can you reverse this trend so that he actually pays attention to you? Drop what you’re doing and change course. Once he sees that you’re not attacking him in the same way, he’ll likely drop his defenses a bit, and that’s when you get your “in”.
Show them you mean what you say: This is where many people fail. Finally they manage to change what their actions say, they get the spouses to listen, but then they show them the same interactions as always. Instead, show him something that probably isn’t new, but is something he really misses. I have spoken to many men (and women) on the brink of divorce in my research. Almost everyone wants the same things. They want their spouses to appreciate them. They want their wives to show them affection. They want to feel desirable, smart, and worthy. And they want to know that you will make time for them. They want her husbands and wives to look at them with adoring eyes the way she used to when they first met.
We are all very busy today. We have so many responsibilities that it is difficult for us to fulfill. I understand why things fail because I’m as guilty as anyone. And it almost cost me my marriage. I’m sure you already know this, but nothing is more important than marriage and family. Everything else is secondary, really. Very often, we know this, deep down, but our actions say something else.
Just for today, take a look at what your actions are really saying to your husband. Because if they’re desperate, angry, or contradictory, take a step back and see this from an honest, candid angle. I bet you won’t regret it.