marriage restoration synonyms

How to Rebuild Your Marriage in 7 Steps

Doing the right steps, in the right order, can make all the difference for saving for your marriage rather than ending it.

marriage crisis opportunity for saving your marriage
It is easier and results are longer lasting when you use several small steps to resolve your marriage crisis.

When people are having a marital crisis, they often try to directly change their spouse’s thinking, feelings, or behavior. While that may be necessary, this single step approach will typically be met by resistance because people don’t like to be changed.

If you do manage to get your spouse to change using a single step approach, the change is likely to be temporary. That will leave you in the position to try to create the same temporary change again.

The more you try that, the harder it will become to create even temporary change. Most people eventually give up on their spouse making any lasting change. That is when they begin defensive distancing. This deteriorates the relationship to the point of roommates or divorce.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you use a multi-step approach to rebuild your marriage, you will accomplish more than temporary change. You will end up enhancing the relationship for both you and your spouse. As long as you maintain the correct skills, the changes will last. They will only stop if you stop. That puts you in complete control over how long your marriage remains enjoyable.

Whether this is your first time to work on creating a better marriage or you have already reached the point of giving up, the steps I am about to give you can make you excited about your marriage again.

So, what are those seven steps…?

The seven steps to end a marriage crisis and save your marriage

Here are seven steps to ending a marriage crisis. They are in the wrong order.

Before going further, see if you can put these steps in the right order:

  • Use boundaries to stop the damage your spouse is doing,
  • become a more desirable partner for your spouse,
  • create more connection through validation,
  • have a healthy and enjoyable life of your own,
  • stop damaging needy behaviors that you are doing,
  • create relaxation and calm,
  • maintain all of the steps.

Which step do you think would be the first one to work on? The second? Should you try to do them all at once (that is what a lot of people try to do).

Do you really need to do all seven steps? Before I put the steps in the right order for you, let’s talk about this…

You must do all seven steps to create lasting marriage improvement

There are two main reasons that people fail to improve their marriages. The first is that they leave out some of these steps. They may try to stop their spouse’s damage by using boundaries without helping their spouse to enjoy talking and spending time together. At best, this results in resentful compliance. The results will be short lived and even more love will be lost.

Some people stop their own damaging behavior and work to help their spouse enjoy the relationship, but don’t use boundaries. This results in less conflict, but also in their being respected less and being treated worse.

And some people try to a have good time together without creating a relaxed atmosphere. This creates rejection which often stimulates more conflict. These seven steps are all necessary to avoid frustration and to create lasting change.

Not only that, but…

You must do all seven steps in the right order to create lasting marriage improvement

The second mistake many people make is to do the steps in the wrong order. This is like baking a cake before mixing in the flour. Even if you have all the ingredients, it simply won’t work to do things in the wrong order. For example, it may make sense to you to first stop the damage your spouse is doing. After all, if your spouse would change, then you would be nicer to your spouse, and then you would both enjoy your relationship more.

It’s logical, but doesn’t work…

Avoid the logic trap:

Many logical people fall into a trap. They think that if something makes sense, then it must be correct. In fact, outcomes determine whether something is correct, regardless of how much it makes sense to do otherwise. Learn to do what works rather than continuing to do what you think should work. Then you will be successful.

Although logical, trying to get your spouse to change as a first step will make your spouse more resistant and more distant. Your problems will become bigger. All you need to do to see whether what I am saying is true, is to try it yourself. This is the gold standard for any relationship advice you get.

Continuing to do what is logical, even when it doesn’t work, isn’t logical at all.

Working on getting your spouse to change is not a good first step in a bad relationship. The belief that it is, is what actually prevents many people from improving their marriages. Your spouse isn’t preventing you from improving your marriage. Only you can do that.

If you are ready to make progress, then learn to put the steps in the correct order and then start with step one…

Here are the right steps in the right order for resolving a crisis and saving your marriage:

  1. Create relaxation and calm,
  2. stop damaging needy behaviors that you are doing,
  3. create more connection through validation,
  4. become a more desirable partner for your spouse,
  5. have a healthy and enjoyable life of your own,
  6. use boundaries to stop the damage your spouse is doing,
  7. maintain all of these steps.

Understanding the seven steps of resolving a marriage crisis and marriage building:

Step one: create relaxation and calm

If your spouse is not relaxed with you, then even if you try to be friendly, you will be rejected. Feelings cannot grow when people are not relaxed. Failure to achieve this step will prevent reconciling and/or marriage improvement. Feelings cannot grow when people are not relaxed. To promote relaxation, you must come across as consistently relaxed, without any pursuit, or critical behaviors.

The first thing I do with my clients is help them to put their spouses at ease. Typically, their spouses become relaxed with them within one to two weeks, even if they have had conflict for a long time.

Your spouse may try to provoke you during this step. It is essential that you learn how to be nonreactive, so as not to be derailed.

Step two: stop damaging needy behaviors that you are doing

Jesus said that we need to remove the log from our own eye before trying to remove the splinter from someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:5).

Typical needy behaviors are criticizing, blaming, and arguing, though there are many others. You may need to work through a book on overcoming neediness or get coaching to overcome neediness. Needy behaviors are destructive because they harm our relationships without creating improvement.

With your spouse relaxed from step one, and you no longer doing things which damage your relationship, your spouse will be less guarded with you.

This will set the stage for…

Step three: creating more connection through validation

Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, how they think, how they feel, and what they do. Validation is the opposite of criticism. Criticism makes people feel like you don’t like the way they are. Validation makes them feel like you do like the way they are. We validate by our similar behaviors, agreement, and empathy.

If you have been consistently relaxed and have stopped your needy behaviors, your validation will be well received. The previous two steps stopped your damage, but didn’t build the relationship. The validation step starts the building process.

Your spouse will still be doing things you don’t like, even while you are doing things well. Remember, we have to take the log out of our own eye before taking the splinter out of our neighbor’s eye. Although it may seem unfair, if you try it the other way around, it will not work.

We can’t stop damage while doing damage.

Agreement and empathy are validation skills commonly taught in relationship coaching. I have also written a book on agreement, called Connecting though Yes! with many examples of how to agree even in very difficult circumstances.

Step four: become a more desirable partner for your spouse

Marriage requires both attraction and connection if we are to go beyond a business partner or roommate style marriage. This step can be worked on throughout the other steps, but you can’t expect your spouse to find you desirable if you are not relaxed, not nice, and not similar. But, with those things accomplished, your spouse will be able to show desire–provided you are actually being desirable.

Being desirable means being the kind of person your spouse would choose to date if you were meeting for the first time. Do you think your spouse would want someone just like you? If not, in this step you work to become that kind of person. Usually becoming desirable means being more like we used to be when our spouse first fell in love with us.

Step five: have a healthy and enjoyable life of your own

Spending too much time together and not having an enjoyable life apart from your spouse can prevent your spouse from having strong loving feelings. Overcommitment and dependency are the enemies of restoring loving feelings.

People’s love always intensifies when they are in danger of losing someone they value (due to illness or affairs, for example). People’s love decreases when we feel very sure we are needed, we can do anything we want without repercussion, and that our spouses would never leave us. Reassurance and being overly available prevent the growth and maintenance of loving feelings in our spouse.

A life of your own means having a career or major purpose other than your marriage. It also means having friends of your own, and a passion you enjoy without your spouse. People who don’t have this become too fearful of losing their spouse, overcommit and have poor boundaries. Love is lost and bad behavior is rewarded.

The ideal behavior for relationship building is to make your spouse feel loved and important, but not needed.

This is not something you ever say, but is something you show with your behavior.

Step six: use boundaries to stop the damage your spouse is doing

Many of my clients discover that when they accomplish the first five steps, the relationship has improved so much there no longer is a need for boundaries. And, all of the improvement has been accomplished in an enjoyable way without conflict. That is the aim of relationship coaching–to build relationships without conflict.

Conflict is not required or helpful for building relationships. You will never argue your way to a better relationship.

Sometimes, boundaries are still necessary. This is particularly true if your spouse’s bad behavior was not a reaction to the distance in your relationship. Step six is the time for removing the splinter from our neighbor’s eye. Remember that was also a part of Jesus’ prescription.

Boundaries can be as simple as walking away. Or they may include refusing to participate in a behavior unless another is done first. For example, requiring dating before being sexual. Boundaries can be as strong as separating unless an affair is given up or an addiction is overcome. While we don’t want to have stronger boundaries than necessary, they have to be as strong as necessary to end the damaging behavior.

If you have accomplished the other five steps of relationship building, you will feel more confident in having boundaries, your spouse will respect them more, and you are likely to be able to maintain them until consistency is achieved.

The first four steps make you a valuable spouse. Steps five and six increase your spouse’s concern about losing you–promoting loving feelings and good behavior that you want from your spouse.

If you have done all six of these steps, you must go on to step seven to have lasting improvement…

Step seven: each step must be continued for an enjoyable marriage

You will need to continue to do all of these steps, all of your life. That’s how long your marriage should last.

Couples work is usually the worst way to work on improvement

An important thing to realize is that this is not a collaborative process. It does not involve talking about marriage problems or doing communication exercises with your spouse. Those are not in any of the steps.

While you may think it would be so much better for you and your spouse to work on this together, it is another of those things that seem logical, but doesn’t work most of the time. Don’t take my word for it–try it and see.

Couple’s work can help with some of the steps, if your spouse is highly motivated to improve your marriage, but you still have to do all the steps.

If you can do these steps on your own, great! But, if like many other people, you need help with them, there is no shame in that. I would be happy to help you with any or all of the steps. My Re-Connections Coaching Package will help you to go from where you are to where you want to be in your marriage.

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