In the past, I’ve told my story about how I saved my own marriage and I often write articles that offer advice on how to do this in your own marriage. A couple of days ago, I received an email from a wife who had been married for well over a decade.  She shared with me that, over the last couple of years, she has felt her husband slipping away.  She told me that her husband ” spends less time at home, doesn’t show me nearly as much affection, makes excuses not to spend time with me, and generally just tunes me out or ignores me.”

She said that when she has tried to mention this to him, he becomes defensive and this results in a big, blowout fight that pushes him further away.  Of course, she’s very frustrated and scared.  She’s afraid that, at best, she’s heading for a loveless marriage and at worst, she’s headed for divorce.  She asked for my “best advice on saving this broken marriage” and that is what I offered.  But, I also know that many women feel exactly this same way, and are in very similar situations.  So, this is my response in a nutshell.  

Don’t To Make Drastic Changes That Won’t Come Off As Genuine: So many wives in this situation feel that they have to do something drastic to get their husband’s attention.  So, they put on a big, non typical show of love, affection, and attention, or they offer up ultimatums, get very aggressive, or act in a way that is not usual or becoming of them. 

There are two problems with this.  The first is that the husband knows that this is your last ditch effort and he usually doesn’t believe you because he knows that you are trying to manipulate him.  Or, your overly aggressive chasing, begging, arguing, or strong arming only makes you seem more unstable and more undesirable and pushes your husband further away from you.

There are a few ways that you can avoid this in the future.  The first is to always be very conscious of the message that your actions are sending to your husband.  The aggressive, angry, and strong arming tactic is really saying: “what’s wrong with you? why are you doing this to me? who do you think you are to want to change things or to be happy?”  No one wants to hear this message.  I’m sure that you don’t realize this is what your actions are saying, but this is what he is hearing. So in response, your husband is going to block your efforts.

Likewise, the desperate, begging, or overly compensating actions are really saying “I can’t live without you. I’m not strong or self sufficient.”  And, these things are very unattractive to men.  So, if you’ve taken either or these tactics, think about abandoning them, because in my experience and research, they rarely work long term.  

The Best Approach To Save Your Marriage:  So, now that I’ve shown you what doesn’t work, I want to share with you what does.  The message that you want to send to your husband, with both your actions and your words, is meant to relieve the tension, put you on the same side, and reaffirm to your husband that he, and your marriage are you highest priority, (although you fully intend to leave your dignity and respect intact.)

So, however you say it, whether with words or with actions  – the message you want to send is “I have noticed a distance and I too, have become disappointed with the course of our marriage. I too see that we are no longer as close as we were and I want to change that.  We both deserve to be happy and I know, from our past, that we can be very happy together. However, we don’t know what the future holds.  So, no matter where our relationship is going, I want to focus on improving it – even if I don’t get the outcome I want.  I know that this will take more effort, more time, and more attention than we have both been giving.  For my part, I intend to change that.  I know that you may not believe this now, but I think that in time you will see by my actions that I mean it.  You are too important to me to continue on this way. I know I can’t control your thoughts or feelings, but I can control my own actions and I intend to.”

Making Good On Your Promises: This may sound harsh, but I believe it’s better to know the truth. I interview many husbands for my articles and they basically all tell me the same thing.  They check out of their marriages because they feel their needs haven’t been met (or even noticed) for a long while.  They may have tried to ask for more time or attention, but for whatever reason, they feel they haven’t been heard, so they stop communicating and they shut down.  This unfortunate process contributes to them tuning you out because in their mind nothing ever changes or improves. Until you show them otherwise, expect that they won’t believe you and that at first, things won’t change overnight.

But, as you begin to make good on your promise that your actions will help rather than hurt your interactions with one another, you’ll likely notice a shift.  Once you start to respect yourself enough to do the things that make you happy and fulfilled so you have something to give back, and once you begin to stop holding on so tightly to the future and start concentrating on just today, you’ll notice a discernible difference.

Your husband will start to suspect that maybe things can change after all.  Maybe you do mean it.  You’re no longer engaging and arguing.  You’re not trying to get a commitment or have deep discussions.  You’re just focusing on having positive experiences and interactions.  You’re taking it one day at a time.  You’re a lot nicer to be around and you’re not trying to manipulate him.

Little by little, he’s going to start seeing glimpses of the two people who once loved each other very much. The shadow of the woman he first fell in love with will start to become something he can touch and see.  The negative expectations and experiences will start to give way to positive ones.  He’ll eventually stop blocking you and will start being receptive again.

These things won’t happen overnight. It will take time to rebuild the trust, but the first step is changing course and abandoning what isn’t working.  This may seem risky at first, but it really isn’t.  Sometimes you have to shake things up to get a different outcome. The same old thing hasn’t been working. It’s time to try something new.