What did you get yourself into? You feel you are now trapped. You had a good marriage, but now, at best, you are disconnected from your partner.
You wonder, “Is saving my marriage worth it? Can we ever get our marriage to work?”
I believe that your relationship is worth saving, but it will take work. The good news is it is not the kind of work you are probably thinking of. You don’t necessarily need a year of therapy.
Saving My Marriage: The Model
First, you need a new model of marriage and relationship. You need a naturalistic model that we all should have had modeled and taught. We didn’t get it because our parents didn’t get it—and they couldn’t pass it onto us.
Then you need a new set of skills to go with that new model. Like learning a new sport, proficiency comes with practice.
Once you apply the new model with these new skills, your relationship starts getting easier and possibly fun.
Sure, there are marriages that have run their course. However, when thos couples apply this model and skillset, they part friends.
We instinctually need to connect to feel secure. Mammals will forgo nourishment for connection. Whether we are connected with an entire tribe or our spouse, we feel safer.
Making relationships work
Knowing you need each other makes it okay to feel the hurt of the loss of connection. Some of us might have been raised to be stoic, that we can function well alone, that needing another person is unacceptable.
I once prided myself on my rigid self-reliance. It was scary to admit this, at first, especially to myself, then to others, that I needed them. I felt that I would rather suffer the consequences of a life of isolation than risk reaching out.
When you put an individual like this in a relationship, the initial vulnerability transforms into emotional shutdown. As I mention in my TEDx talk, it took a partner repeatedly saying I don’t feel you for me to get I wasn’t showing up emotionally in the relationship.
Finally, I realized that I needed to take the risk—I needed to be vulnerable if I wanted to be emotionally present and connected with others. Simple, right?
The concept was simple, but the problem was that I had no one guiding me. Through study, trial and error, and determination, I began to open up emotionally. I immediately saw how people responded in ways that I hadn’t experienced before.
Right now, if your relationship is going down the tubes, you have nothing to lose other than your pride. Feel free to take a risk. Speak what you feel and want. Be willing to screw up! Go for it.
Loss is bad enough, but regret is worse. With regret, you are nagged with the thoughts of lost opportunities. Take them now.
Fixing a Relationship
Here’s the part that no one tells you: as you go for it, recognize your feelings. Do the opposite of what you did in the past. Whenever you have a choice to feel and express, fight the urge to repress those feelings and openly share them.
The worse that will happen is you will not save your marriage, but you will have a super power you never had before—being able to express and experience your emotions.
As you learn to achieve connection via vulnerability, you will start to learn skills that were never taught to you. The more you put yourself in a vulnerable situation and take the risk, the quicker you will learn these skills. That is one reason I started a men’s group over 20 years ago. I needed a place to practice my courageous vulnerability, and I learned to help other people do that, too.
By working on your Emotional Intelligences skills of vulnerability and connection, you have the best chance possible to get your wish to save your marriage. You will go beyond fixing the relationship with your partner to using vulnerability to be the conduit for forging emotional connections. Because connections are natural for humans, once the you and your partner start seeing success, practicing this method will get much easier.
Be patient. Forgive your partner, and forgive yourself, for past wrongs. Practice the compassion you had in the beginging of your relationship.
What are you going to do? When are you going to do it? Stop procrastinating. Find one thing, it can be a small thing, to vulnerably share with your wife in the next 24 hours.
If you have a question, please ask. Share your responses. I will respond.