From Marriage Crisis to Loving Marriage in Six Steps

If you are having a marriage crisis, you need to know the steps for how to save your marriage. Missing even one step can make a big difference.

marriage crisis opportunity for saving your marriage
A marriage crisis is an opportunity to save your marriage and make it even better

When you are having a marital crisis, the obvious solution is to get your spouse to change. But, the harder you try to change your spouse, the more conflict will result. This is the downward spiral that ends many marriages. There is a better way.

The six steps to ending a marriage crisis and save your marriage

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

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

  • use boundaries to stop the damage your spouse is doing
  • create enjoyable conversation
  • enjoy physical intimacy
  • enjoy doing activities together
  • stop damaging needy behaviors that you are doing
  • create relaxation and calm

There are two main reasons that people fail to improve their marriages. The first is that they leave out some of these steps. The second is they put the steps 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.

In actuality, trying to get your spouse to change as a first step will make your spouse more resistant. Your relationship will become more distant, making your relationship worse. Try long enough to get your spouse to change and you will either have a loveless marriage or your spouse will leave.

Clearly, working on getting your spouse to change is not a good first step. It is one of the reasons that people get stuck in the same problem for years.

How to resolve a crisis and save your marriage:

  1. create relaxation and calm
  2. stop damaging needy behaviors that you are doing
  3. create enjoyable conversation
  4. use boundaries to stop the damage your spouse is doing
  5. enjoy doing activities together
  6. enjoy physical intimacy

The six steps of resolving a marriage crisis:

If you are stuck in your marriage crisis, you probably have skipped one or more of these steps. If so, go back and work on any steps you missed. These have to be achieved in the correct order to continue making progress.

Whenever someone says to me, “we seem to be doing good, going out and even having sex.” Then we go right back to where we were before,” then I know the problem is with an earlier step.

Sometimes, the problem is that people believe they have achieved a step because they did it one time. For example, “we had a good conversation for the first time in a long time, then we went out on a date, came home and had sex. The next day, everything fell apart.” This person did not yet have a stable base of good conversation and should have gone no further.

Without stability and consistency, your marriage will be like a house of cards. The smallest problem can topple it.

Step one: Create relaxation and calm

If your spouse is not relaxed with you, he or she is not going to consistently enjoy talking with you or doing things with you. Your spouse will also not care about how much you are bothered by his or her behavior. Using boundaries at this time to stop your spouse’s bad behaviors will create more conflict and push your spouse further away.

Someone who does not care about you will not care about your boundaries either. 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 two weeks, even if they have had conflict for a long time.

This is not enough to end their marriage crisis, but it is a necessary first step. Without it, no further progress can be made. Your spouse would just remain stressed by you and want space from you.

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). Needy behaviors are the most destructive because they harm our relationships without creating improvement.

Typical needy behaviors are criticizing, blaming, and arguing. Though there are many others, these three are priority. You may need to work through a book on overcoming neediness or get professional help.

With your spouse relaxed from step one, and you no longer doing things which damage your relationship, it will be much easier to get to step three.

Step three: Create enjoyable conversation for your spouse

You need to help your spouse to enjoy talking with you, even if you are not enjoying talking so much at this point. It is important to keep in mind that your spouse is not actively working through these steps and will still be doing things you don’t like.

If you require your spouse to make things good for you before you make things good for your spouse, you will be stuck. Do the work and hang in there so that you can improve the relationship for both of you. Helping your spouse to enjoy talking with you is a matter of using good connection skills.

Each new connection skill you learn will help you to have improvement that much faster. Ask yourself, “what will help my spouse to enjoy talking with me and feel good about himself/herself?” The answers will be the connection skills you need to use. If you are stumped, here are some resources you can use for building your relationship , no strings attached.

Step four: Use boundaries to stop the damage your spouse is doing

In the first three steps you helped your spouse to relax with you, stopped doing any damage to your relationship, and helped your spouse to enjoy talking with you. That has increased your value to your spouse. Now, you can begin to use boundaries to deal with your spouse’s most damaging behavior.

At this point, your spouse will care enough about your relationship and about you to care about your boundary. Your spouse will still be angry with your boundary (people are always angry when we use boundaries correctly), but will begin to change.

You will still need to continue to help your spouse enjoy talking with you. Also, if you start doing damage at this time, you will go back to the beginning. Consistency with the first three steps and with your boundaries will help your spouse to change.

You in turn, will help your spouse to feel more loved because of the changes that he or she is making. Using the right boundaries in marriage is essential to the maintenance of respect and a loving connection.

Don’t expect your spouse to ever like or agree with your boundaries. Yet, without them you won’t make any further progress.

Step five: Enjoy doing activities together

Men (and some women) often think that step five is about sex, but it is not. It is about going out and having a good time without sex. Sex has a way of making men think that everything is better and reduces their motivation for further change. Women often feel confused if they have sex before their feelings have fully come back.

Sex is best left as the icing on the cake, which can’t be put on until the cake is made. By this time, both you and your spouse will be enjoying your relationship more due to enjoying talking together, being relaxed with each other, and to behavioral improvements you have both made.

This is a good time for starting a dating routine which should continue throughout your marriage. Daily one on one time enjoying non-business talking, and weekly dating are two key requirements for preventing marriage failure.

By the time my clients have reached this step, we are no longer working together since they have all the skills they need to continue to rebuild their marriage.

Step six: Enjoy physical intimacy

Having worked on the first five steps, both you and your spouse will be enjoying your relationship and feel much closer. Physical intimacy at this time will be more than just sex. It will be both an emotional and physical experience that increases the intimacy in your relationship.

Having waited until this point to have physical intimacy will mean that you have learned how to connect with each other emotionally. Not only will your marriage not be in crisis anymore, it will probably be better than it has been since you were first married!

Important considerations for ending a marriage crisis

Many of clients say that their marriage problems were the catalyst to improving their marriage in a way that they otherwise wouldn’t. This is what happens when you do the right steps in the right order. It is important to realize that the work of building a marriage is never completed, just as parenting is never completed.

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

Because these six steps are under your control, you cannot get stuck by your spouse’s refusal to work on your marriage. While the marriage counseling, collaborative approach does work for people who have a motivated spouse, it fails for the rest. This is where relationship coaching, and the methods of relationship coaching come in.

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