Marriage restoration means acting less “married” and getting back to what made you and your spouse want to be together in the first place.
The difference between a good runner and a great runner is often just a few seconds. The difference between a lifeless, routine marriage and a satisfying relationship also is often very small.
You don’t need to do anything risky to your relationship to add interest and excitement. For a really satisfying marriage restoration, you often only need to do some things to break out of your routine.
You can also behave in ways that will get your spouse to notice you more as he or she used to when you were both single.
First step: Make yourself interesting for your spouse
Many people desire romance and passion while doing nothing to add it to the relationship themselves. They wait for their partners to provide it for them. This can happen with both spouses, with the net effect that nothing actually changes.
Someone has to make the first move. That move is not to try to get your partner to change, but to make some changes in yourself. If you want to have a better than average marriage, then you need to be a better than average spouse.
That does not mean working harder at your job or cleaning the house till it shines. It means putting the girlfriend-boyfriend element back into your relationship.
Step two: Learn by looking back at the beginning of your relationship
What was it that first interested you in your spouse, when you were dating, before you were married? What was it that your spouse really enjoyed about being with you? What do you wish the two of you never stopped doing?
Did you know that when people have affairs, they are attracted to people who have the very same qualities that they enjoyed with their spouse at the beginning of their relationships?
A boring marriage has usually become that way because people replaced what they enjoyed about their relationships with what they do not enjoy. It’s like taking the chocolate out of a chocolate cake. You would just be left with plain vanilla. You need to put the chocolate back into your marriage.
Step three: Identify the missing element
What is the chocolate in your relationship? Is it going out without the kids? Is it talking about things other than work? Is it having sex that lasts more than 10 minutes? Is it traveling to new places? It is being more involved socially with others? What is it, that if it were present, would make your relationship more enjoyable?
Step four: Do whatever it takes to put it back in
Do not think that you are doing yourself, your kids, or your spouse any favors by patiently enduring your relationship. Get the kids out of your bedroom, get a sitter, buy some tickets, make some reservations, get some nice clothes, and simply refuse to live a life of routine anymore.
Learn how to be better at sex (yes, it is a skill), take dance lessons with or without your spouse. Do not stop making changes in your life until you are enjoying your life. Invite your spouse to join you each step of the way, but do not stop going if your spouse refuses. Eventually, your spouse will start to join you. Do not nag your spouse into doing anything with you. Don’t try to convince or cajole. That will just get you resistance.
People don’t put much work into keeping something (or someone) they don’t think they could lose.
Step 5: Attract your spouse again
When you get to work on being a more attractive and exciting girlfriend or boyfriend for your spouse, your spouse will either become more interested in you, or more fearful that you are going through a midlife crisis and about to have an affair. Either way, it can shake up your spouse enough to get him or her to be more of a participant in your relationship again.
When your spouse asks you what is going on, just say that you want to feel more alive and to enjoy life more. Don’t give any long explanations about changing the marriage or anything like that. Having such relationship talks usually just results in resistance or defensiveness, which can sap your energy and interest in changing.
Step 6: Change the way you think about your spouse
Many of the men and women I work with have contributed to the downfall of their marriages by forgetting to treat their spouse like a man or woman. The best way to treat your spouse is the same way you would treat any single person you were attracted to if you were single.
Marriage is best seen as a place to share your happiness rather than as a place to find your happiness. The first way makes you responsible for your own happiness. Then, you are more likely to do something about it and be more attractive in the process. The second way is passive. It expects your spouse to provide your happiness for you. That makes you unattractive.
If you were single and treated a potential mate the way you do your spouse, what kind of success would you have?
If you were single and dating, would you focus on having a good time or on talking about problems? How successful would you be, attracting a partner, by trying to get him or her to do problem solving? The success of meeting, dating, and being engaged depends on attraction, connection, and match. Why would that change once you get married? It doesn’t!
Once people get into a routine they may start feeling trapped in their marriage. Don’t let it get to that. My goal everyday is to make my wife laugh, to make her feel like I am awesomely attracted to her, and to bring enthusiasm and vitality into her life. This is not a change from when we were single. The day we start behaving “married,” is the day the life will start to go out of our marriage.
Step 7: Anticipate problems and be ready for them
There is no one less satisfied with their marriage than the person who expected it to be perfect. It may be time for you to learn—nothing is perfect in this life. You are not going to have a perfect date, a perfect garden, perfect kids, and so on. What you can do is to have a good date, a nice garden, lovable kids, and so on—despite the inevitable problems.
I expect my wife is going to be moody part of the time. I’ve never known a woman who didn’t get that way. She expects that I am going to forget things she says, our wedding anniversary, and other things. Expecting things like this help us to be calm and loving and keep things in perspective.
When she does become moody. I go do something else. I don’t try to talk her into feeling better. My wife doesn’t try to fix my memory, either. You can create your own list of expectations so you won’t become critical with your less than perfect spouse, kids, job,…world.
The thing that upsets us more than anything in life is someone violating our unrealistic expectations.
Help your spouse to recognize that your failings are not going to change. If he or she points them out to you, admit them. Why argue about not being perfect? Be secure enough to admit your faults. Point out your own faults—not your spouse’s. If you have to point out a fault, reaffirm your love at the same time: “Even though you are a moody woman, I still love you.” “Even though you can’t remember our anniversary, I wouldn’t trade you for a man that could.”
People who go shopping for perfection always buy from people with false advertising.
If your relationship is slipping over the edge already
You may have, like many people, waited to become close instead of working on becoming close. Or, you thought it was useless since your spouse did not want to make things good with you.
Only now are you starting to see that you could have made it better without your spouse’s help. You could have become more attractive, more independent, more accepting, more loving, and more of a girlfriend or boyfriend than a spouse.
I have good news for you. It is not too late.
If your spouse has become cold or rejecting
What if your spouse no longer looks at you with eyes of attraction even when you are at your best? What if your spouse is reluctant to do things with you that he or she used to enjoy? Is it too late for marriage restoration? No, it’s not. Your spouse has entered that stage between being happy with your relationship and getting out of it.
Stop focusing on your spouse
Your first step in this situation is to identify what you have been doing or not doing that has caused an emotional disconnection in your relationship. Have you made your spouse feel like he or she is not a priority? Have you been critical and argumentative. Did you fail to make your husband feel like a man? Or to make your wife feel like a woman?
If so, these are things you can learn to do better. Before trying to get your spouse to do things with you, it is most helpful to get your spouse to enjoy talking with you again. Don’t try to go from distant to intimate in one step. That won’t work. But it will work if you go step by step.
How attracted your spouse is to you depends on what YOU do. How connected your spouse is to you depends on what YOU do. Re-connection is NOT about getting your spouse to do anything.
Many people need to re-learn how to talk to their spouses about something other than work or the kids. If you are a woman, here are 5 free lessons you can download to help you rejuvenate conversation with your husband. And, if you are a man, here is a free e-book that will help you to do the same with your wife. Don’t try to do more than that. Focus on one step until you achieve it. Then, move on to the next step. That is the way all successful people have success.
Coaches are trained in a particular specialty, to help people reach their goals. Counselors aren’t. Coaches identify for you the right steps, provide training as necessary, and help you to avoid pitfalls. They don’t just listen, and they call you out if you are doing stupid, damaging things. If you want a real coach who can take you step by step and teach you the skills for reconciling, then I invite you to check out my relationship coaching packages.