In my years of working with married couples, one of the most heartbreaking scenarios is when one spouse feels like he/she is in the marriage “alone” without the support of his/her spouse. Sadly, this scenario is very common and can lead to feelings of frustration, exhaustion and hopelessness.
It’s hard to know where to start with fixing a marriage, when one spouse doesn’t seem interested in making any effort. If you find yourself in this kind of marriage, please don’t lose hope. I believe the four action steps below could start to bring healing back to your marriage even if your spouse isn’t currently on board.
Before I get to the action steps, let me first acknowledge that your situation is very difficult and complicated. I don’t want to oversimplify the struggle by offering “easy steps,” because there’s nothing easy about a lonely marriage. What I do hope you gain is some renewed strength and perspective to realize that all hope isn’t lost.
In addition to these steps below, we have designed a new program with online support groups, video content and other resources to help marriages just like yours. You can learn more about FightingForMyMarriage.com.
If you’re wanting to improve your relationship, but you currently don’t have the support or partnership of your spouse, please start with the following four action items:
1. Take a break from all forms of criticism, nagging or sarcasm.
When we feel alone in a marriage, our frustration and heartbreak can lead us to cycle of negativity. Without even realizing it, you might have fallen into the common trap of responding to your spouse’s indifference with different forms of negativity. Your criticisms are probably justified, but they’re not helpful. In fact, they are probably making the situation worse. Whenever you feel the urge to say something critical or negative, bite your tongue. This includes venting about your spouse to others in person or online. This simple act of choosing silence over negativity is a step in the right direction.
2. Find something positive to encourage and affirm in your spouse.
When your spouse is disconnecting, it may be difficult to find anything worth praising, but find something. Maybe he/she is a hard worker or a good parent or doing something that is adding value to the household. Focus on that positive place and genuinely show appreciation for it. Your words have more power than you may realize. By choosing to focus on a positive and keeping silent (at least temporarily) on the negatives, the tone of your words could help change the tone of your marriage.
3. Choose the right support system.
When you’re in lonely marriage, it’s natural to want to find encouragement and support through family, friends and co-workers. You might be tempted to verbally bash your spouse or to surround yourself with people who will (with misguided intentions) try to build you up by tearing your spouse down. Your support system is absolutely critical to the process of future healing in the marriage. You need to surround yourself with people who are pro-marriage, who are grounded in their values and who can encourage and support you on this journey. We’re launching some new online support groups to be part of your support system.
4. Pray for your spouse and your marriage.
God sometimes uses prayer to change our circumstances, but He always uses prayer to change our perspective. Prayer could help you see the whole situation through a new perspective and it could also help you grow closer to God during this struggle. You’ll be reminded that even if your spouse isn’t currently supporting you, God is with you, so you’re not walking through this struggle alone. For more insight on how our struggles can actually produce strength and renewed faith within us, please read my post on 4 things God wants you to remember when life is hard.
Don't give up on your marriage. It is worth the effort and investment. If you feel like your marriage is struggling, or even failing, there is hope. There is healing.