Making a marriage work can be challenging, especially when one spouse is considering divorce.
It takes time and effort to rebuilt a relationship, but if both spouses are committed to making the marriage work, reconciliation is possible.
1. Be Realistic
Don’t expect instant success–reconciliation takes time and hard work. You won’t be back to normal after one or two conversations. Focus on small steps toward making your interactions better. Relish positive steps such as having a discussion without raising your voices or getting angry at each other. Enjoy time together on a regular basis.
2. Reconciliation is not Forgiveness
It’s easy to confuse forgiveness and reconciliation, but they’re not the same. It only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile. If your spouse is not interested in preserving your marriage you are probably facing a divorce because you can only control your own actions. If your spouse is unwilling to discuss saving your marriage, give him or her time and try again later.
3. What Went Wrong?
Think about what’s wrong with your marriage and how you may be contributing to the problems. Make a list of the issues in your relationship and create possible solutions. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and imagine how your actions affect him or her. Let your spouse know you are committed to working on the relationship. Separate your anger from the issues and approach your spouse calmly. Let your spouse know you are not interested in blaming him or her for the problems in your marriage—you just want to reconcile.
4. Talk with Your Spouse
Begin the reconciliation by letting your spouse know you intend to work on your relationship. Acknowledge the problems in your marriage and tell your spouse you want to make things better. Admit your own feelings of hurt and anger and encourage your spouse to share his or her feelings with you. Tell your spouse why you are angry or hurt and listen sympathetically to his or her feelings.
5. Avoid Defensiveness
Be open and honest with your spouse about feelings and don’t become defensive. The relationship is worth some pain from sharing negative thoughts and feelings. Expect resistance from your spouse. Stay honest, forgiving, loving, and vulnerable during your discussions.
6. Apologize for Past Mistakes
After you have shared your feelings, you should apologize for any harm you may have done. Apologizing validates your spouse’s hurt and anger and allows him or her to move toward reconciliation. Tell your spouse you are sorry for what you did and you won’t do it again. If your spouse is able to accept your apology and forgive you, that’s a big step toward reconciliation.
7. Focus on The Future
Once you’ve discussed what’s wrong with your relationship and shared your feelings, it’s time to focus on the future. If one of you is not ready to forgive, let the other person know by saying “I am still working through this hurt and it will take some time. Please be patient.” A meaningful reconciliation takes time. Agree to leave the past behind you. Share your thoughts about what a better relationship would look like. Make lists of practical actions you can both take to rebuilt the marriage, such as communicating every day, having a monthly dinner date, and other simple steps toward a better relationship.
8. Rebuild Trust
Trust is essential in any marriage and once it’s gone, it takes a long time to rebuild. It will help if you can communicate openly and honestly about your feelings toward each other. Being consistent, patient, and kind will go a long way toward rebuilding trust. Make certain you do what you promise. If you tell your spouse you plan to spend more time with him or her, make certain that happens. Follow through on your commitments and if you hurt the other person, immediately apologize. If your spouse hurts you, let them know right away so you don’t accumulate resentment.
9. Maintain Boundaries
Boundaries are not to keep people and feelings out. Instead, boundaries are how you show respect for yourself. If something makes you uncomfortable, let others know that’s a line they shouldn’t cross. You don’t want to violate another person’s boundaries, so why should you allow them to violate yours? Establishing boundaries will make you feel safer and more comfortable with yourself. And, others will respect you more as a result.