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How to save your relationship on your own

Tags: relationship advice, making a commitment, saving your relationship, andrew g marshall

Whenever I tell someone that they don't have to wait for their partner to commit to saving their relationship, I always get a quizzical look and sometimes downright scepticism: Doesn't it take two people to make a relationship work? Let's be clear, in over twenty-five years, working as a marital therapist, I've yet to meet a couple where the responsibility for getting into a mess is not pretty evenly spread. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. So I have a lot of sympathy for people who're worried that this involves taking all the blame. It doesn't. Just taking responsibility for your half. Instead of sitting around passively waiting or begging your partner to get with the programme, you can take control and break the deadlock. What's more, by changing your behaviour you will be changing the whole dynamic in your relationship. Instead of the current downward spiral – where one nasty action sparks another – you can set up a positive circle (where one kind one sparks another). In other words, you might start saving your marriage on your own but pretty soon, your partner will notice the difference, soften and become more open to change.

Here are five ways to move forward:

Look at your own contribution to the problem

It is much easier to complain about our partner's failings than look at our own. So step back and take a long look at what's been going on. When you cut away all the justifications, what do you regret doing?

Make a fulsome apology

I expect you've said 'sorry' many times before. Unfortunately, 'sorry' can become a knee-jerk reaction or a way of buying peace (even if you don't really mean it). A fulsome apology is different. It acknowledges both the unhelpful behaviour and the impact on the other person. For example: 'I wish to apologise that I haven't done more about around the house. It must have been exhausting for you and made you feel taken for granted.' Don't add an explanation (for example: 'I've had a lot of work on) as this sounds like justification and lessens the power of the fulsome apology.

Ask yourself what you would like to change?

Hopefully your fulsome apology will have drawn a line in the sand and maybe even sparked a matching one from your partner. Don't worry if your partner thinks you're just trying to sweet talk him or her or remains sceptical. Imagine for a second, your partner has said: 'Let's try again' or 'Let's work on our relationship'. What would do differently this time round? Instead of waiting for your partner, make those changes today. For example, listen more, help out more with the children or approach problems more calmly.

Challenge your interpretation of what's happening between you.

We imagine there is a straightforward link between events and feelings. Your partner does not text and you feel unloved. However, it is more complex than that. Our reaction depends on our interpretation. For example, 'he didn't text because he doesn't care.' No wonder, you get upset. However, if the interpretation is 'he didn't text because his battery is flat.' The feelings might be irritation that he forgot to charge it. Equally, if your partner does not seem to have noticed your added efforts - challenge your interpretation. If it is 'she truly doesn't really love me' the response will be despair. If it 'she is worried that I might slip back into the old ways' then the reaction might be to redouble your efforts. If you're not certain why partner behaved in a particular way, ask him or her rather than making assumptions.

Control your panic

In my experience more relationships fail after a declaration of 'I love you but I'm not in love with you' or infidelity because of the panic of the partner on the receiving end rather than the person who has fallen out of love. So when you're feeling anxious, don't push for reassurance (as this only pushes your partner away) but go for a run, phone a friend or do some deep breathing exercises.

See Exracts from Andrew G Marshall's latest book below



Andrew G Marshall is a marital therapist and the author of 'Help your partner say yes' Seven Steps to achieving better cooperation and communication.

  This was of help to 92% of people  


  • Cc Lucy (moderator) Flag

    Thank you for your comment. We are pleased this article has been helpful. Perhaps you would like to post on the main forum where you might get more response.

    Thu 19, Mar 2015 at 5:26pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    This is something that really applies to me. I feel like I am the only one saving/working on my relationship. Any attempt to talk to him about it results in him attacking and berating me, telling me how I'm blaming him for not doing anything and at times even stonewalling. I know now that I cannot change him - I should have known that before - but I can ask myself what I can be better. These are all things I can exercise, and I will me makimg a proactive effort from now on. Thanks for posting!

    Thu 19, Mar 2015 at 2:24pm
  • Cc Esme (moderator) Flag

    Thanks for posting. You might like to also post this on the main relationship forum as more people are likely to read it and reply.

    Thu 24, Jul 2014 at 7:28pm
  • User-anonymous kaycee Flag

    I have been with my bf for 9 months now and I feel like he doesn't listen to me when I tell him how I feel, or when I vent. Yes I am to blame for half of the situations we have but I just don't get why he doesn't take half for his own. Yes we live together, I just feel in a way unwanted sometimes, like when he gets mad or can't take a lot of things, or we get into an argument he leaves all the time he doesn't just go cool off and then later coming back and talking about it he just leaves. I need some advice if anyone could help me

    Thu 24, Jul 2014 at 6:57am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Why can't I read this article? When I click read more it takes me to this page here and I can't see the content of the article. Is this happening to anyone else?

    Wed 27, Mar 2013 at 7:41pm
  • User-anonymous AliiiMur Flag

    I can really feel with you all. My partner and I had a lot of problems. We are still together and really happy now, but there have been times where specially I wasn´t happy at all!
    I talked to a couple of my best friends, all of them understood me, but couldnt really give me the right advice.
    I came across an advertising for a life coach one day, so I decided to try it. I saw someone face to face for a couple of months at least twice a week. I gained so much from it. New perspectives to our relationship, now I understand more how my husband feels and we manage to spent more quality time together. I dont need to see someone face to face anymore, but every now and then I like to talk to a life coach to get a different perspective.
    Now I am using a website called Your24hCoach . A platform for life coaches and clients. Great page and highly recommended.
    I hope you guys are all happy now in your relationship.
    Wishing you all the best, Ali

    Wed 3, Oct 2012 at 3:20pm
  • User-anonymous XxSPINNERxX Flag

    My fiance and i have been together for three years. We were off and on for the first and had a baby in the second. We were madly in love until recently and we just discovered we are on the,verge of breaking it off. What can i do to reverse this? This,article helped but i need more to go with. I wanna be therough. Please, can someone give me advise on what else i can do?

    Sun 16, Sep 2012 at 6:42am
  • User-anonymous alyshajo Flag

    Me and my boyfriend have been together for a year and at first everything was perfect, but then he started asking me questions about my past and i was ashamed of what id done with previous partners in the past so i lied to him and pretended that what id done wasn't bad at all, then he started looking on my Facebook and seen my messages to other boys and he found out that id done a lot more than id let on and i convinced him he was being paranoid and silly because i didn't want him to find out and hurt him anymore but it made things worse. Then he found out that while we were UN-exclusive i met one of my ex's and because I've made him paranoid he wouldn't believe me that i didn't do anything. Then five months into the relationship i went on holiday with my family and i met a boy and he tried kissing me and i kissed him back for a few seconds and then felt disgusted with myself, but i didn't want to tell my boyfriend because i knew it would hurt him so i did everything i could to keep it from him, when he questioned me i lied and lied and things got so bad that in the end he found out anyway and know he doesn't trust me and he has all these issues and is upset and unhappy all the time and he thinks that there's other stuff that I've done and lied to him about and he wants me to go on the Jeremy Kyle show to have a lie detector but i don't want to, not because i'm lying, but because its embarrassing. I've told him the truth about everything, what ive done and the real me, but he still doesn't believe that ive told it him all of it, i just want to get rid of his worries and sort our relationship. I want to make our relationship better and get rid of his worries but i dont know how, please help me, i dont want to hurt him anymore. Thanks.

    Wed 15, Aug 2012 at 11:45am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I am married mum (2yrs) though with my husband for 13yrs, we have three children together. We were due to move and in the last four weeks my husband has got cold feet and decided he wants to stay put, in the same sentence he drops a bomb shell that he feels were not compatable any longer and that he is changing (turns 40 in Jan). He feels like he is living the relationship of his parents whose ended in divorce. It's a pretty affection less relationship bar the bedroom duties. I know I am partly to blame for that as I find it hard to chow affection or initiate anything. I don't want my marriage to end nor do I want my children to be without their dad but at the same time if he is not willing to work at this then it leaves me no other alternative to go home to my family in Ireland where I will get support as I have no body else here. I work three nights a week and he works during the day, both have professional jobs but whether the life has been zapped out of our relationship due to this I don't know. I am lost for words and whilst I want to show affection I am physically not able to do so. He has put me through hell over the last 4/5 weeks and this alone is making it difficult for me to show him any affection because of this.
    He is not giving me much information, just basically saying "it's not you, it's us "......
    What do I do, he is 7yrs older than me, and for some reason thinks the age difference is showing. We don't get out much as a couple, maybe once a month, his famiy are not very hands on and my family are in Ireland.
    What do I do?

    Mon 16, Jul 2012 at 12:43pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I am currentley in a relationship,ilove my bf but cant help but feel scared of him when hes angry or upset and i break down emotionly, another friend has told me to be careful of him but i cant stop being like this, i need advice, and how can i stand up for myself?

    Wed 11, Jul 2012 at 2:42pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I am in a lovely relationship with a fabulous man who I know loves me very much and I him. However, I am also recently out of an unhappy 18 year marriage and have major trust and insecurity issues and am constantly seeking his love and affection and reassurance. This is starting to come between us now and I am absolutely terrified that he is going to leave me and this is resulting in late night conversations in bed between us - everything looks fine in the morning but somehow I cant stop myself from getting into this panic mode at night.

    Tue 17, Apr 2012 at 10:08am

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