I sometimes hear from wives who feel that they have the almost impossible task of saving their marriage totally alone because they are the only one who believes that the marriage is worth the effort to save. Their husband has either told them that he’s unhappy and considering a divorce, or he has moved out to pursue a separation. Either way, he’s been pretty clear on the fact that currently, he doesn’t hold his marriage in high regard. He might use adjectives like “broken,” “damaged,” or “struggling” to describe the marriage, while he himself is distant and cold. These wives know that they have much more than an uphill battle. But the logical first step seems to be to get him receptive to the fact that saving the marriage is in fact possible. And will also ultimately be worth it. Figuring out how to do this can be a challenge.

A wife might say: “my husband isn’t all that interested in talking to me, much less in saving our marriage. We are technically separated, at his insistence. The great irony is that even he admits that I haven’t done anything wrong. He says that we’ve just grown apart and that he doesn’t feel the closeness with me anymore. As a result, he doesn’t want to live his life without the love and excitement that he thinks that he deserves. I have asked him not to be hasty in his thought process, but I do not know if I’m getting through to him. I asked him to go to counseling, and although he hasn’t told me no, he alludes to the fact that he believes it will be a waste of time. He gives me the impression that he sees our marriage as something that simply needs to be put out of its misery. I do not agree with this assessment at all. I know that we have a long way to go to restore our marriage, but I believe that if we both made the effort, we could honestly make it work eventually. The problem is that I just don’t know how to get him on board when he’s so very resistant to me. How do you convince your husband that your marriage truly is worth saving?”

I agree with you that this can be extremely tricky. I underwent this task myself both before and during my separation. As my separation was not over nearly as fast as I wanted it to be, I have to concede that I didn’t have immediate success with convincing my husband. In my experience, the more you try to wear down your husband with logic, debating, and pleas, the more he is going to resist. The more you try to keep going at him, the more he can sense your desperation and your desire to “out talk” him and the more he’s going to be determined that you won’t succeed.

Don’t Be So Quick To Try And Prove Him Wrong: I learned way too late that I was better off conceding as many points with my own husband as I could. At the end of the day, I had much more success when I could be on his side rather than trying to force my own opinion onto him. Once I realized and implemented this, he resisted me much less. For example, if I were in your situation, I’d immediately agree with my husband that he was right in his perception that life is too short not to be truly happy in your marriage. That was one mistake I made. I tried to convince my husband that his wishes were unrealistic. I implied that he was selfish to expect his life to be sunshine and roses when in fact, that isn’t true for most people. I would have been better off telling him that he had every right to want to be happy, and then offering suggestions as to how he could be happy with me. And that’s my recommendation for you. The more quickly you can find something on which to agree, the better off you generally are.

Have A Plan And Then Explain It Calmly And Succinctly: When you have this conversation with your husband, you want for it to be clear that you have put a lot of thought and care into it. You want for him to know that you already have a workable plan so that he only has to go along with it. Examine what your biggest issues are and then decide how you will go about addressing those issues. That might be counseling or a shift in your lifestyle or behavior. Whatever it is, calmly explain why you think that ending your marriage would detrimental to you both (and to your family if you have children) and then explain how you plan to get the happy, fulfilling marriage that he wants. Stress that you’re willing to do whatever it takes, including counseling if he is willing.

Know When To Stop: Assuming that your husband gave you his attention the first time, you don’t need to keep hammering away at your points, although I know that it’s tempting (and it’s frankly exactly what I did.) I say this because the more you repeat something, the more likely he is to begin to tune you out. You really only need to say it once and then turn your attention to improving things between you, which leads me to my next point.

Try To Steer Clear Of A Heavy Atmosphere: Once you’ve had your say and he’s heard you, then you need to work on the atmosphere between you. He’s much more likely to consider what you’ve said when you’ve shown him that things can be light hearted and easy between you. The goal is to build a light hearted interaction so that he’s comfortable regularly being with you and talking to you. The more that you can build the easy closeness, the more likely he is going to be to believe that your marriage is not only worth saving, but actually can be saved.

In my own experience, I found it better to save our most troublesome issues for late in the process. The reason is because your marriage is just too fragile to be picked apart when you’re separated. Instead, I found that you are better off creating an easy and relaxed atmosphere and building upon that. The idea is to rebuild the closeness and intimacy first and then to have the difficult discussions. This makes your husband literally see that your marriage is worth saving, so that you don’t really need to give a formal presentation about it over and over.