Define Exactly Why Your Marriage Is Unhappy?: This is important because many times, the reasons that we are dissatisfied in the marriage are completely fixable. I want you to get a pad and paper and make a list of all of the things that you think are contributing to your being dissatisfied in your marriage. Include everything. Nothing is off limits, too petty, or too small. Often times, when you look back at your list, you will see a pattern. And, most often this pattern will point to a distance or not feeling intimate with or loved by your husband or wife. Often, I see things on the list like "my husband doesn't appreciate me," "my husband doesn't love me or show me affection," "my marriage is in rut or is loveless," or "we fight all the time." These sorts of things all point to a lack of intimacy, affection, and empathy. But, the good news is that if you can pinpoint the pattern to your set of problems, you're well on your way toward fixing them.
Controlling Who And What You Can (Yourself And Your Own Actions) Is A Better Way To Fix An Unhappy Marriage (Rather Than Trying To Change Or Fix Your Spouse): OK, so you've come up the above list and I'm betting it details a lot of things that your husband or wife isn't doing or where they are lacking. But, here is where so many people make mistakes, go wrong, and fall short.
When people decide they are going to "fix" their marriage, they then go on an all out crusade to change or fix not their marriages, but their husband or wife. This is a reasonable assumption. You believe that your husband's / wife's actions are causing problems and should be fixed, right?
But, think for a second how you would feel if your husband or wife came toward you with a laundry list of things you were doing wrong and you needed to change. Would you be receptive? My husband wasn't when I tried this. I probably wouldn't have been had he tried this on me.
Understand that really, there is only one person over whom you have genuine control - and that is yourself. So, what you do instead is to show your husband or wife real change, positive behavior, and loving actions and know that they will follow your lead.
Your husband doesn't show you affection? Show affection to him. I promise you that eventually he will return it.
Your husband takes you for granted? Start throwing some gratitude and appreciation his way because by doing so, you're showing, demonstrating, and teaching him how you want to be treated.
I know you may be sighing here or wondering why in the world you have to do all the work or why you have to act positively toward them when they are not doing the same for you. Here's why. By giving them what you want (and probably what they are wanting too) you're going to get what you want in the end. Marriage is reciprocal. You get back what you give. Make your spouse feel loved, admired, and genuinely appreciated and they are going to return the favor and show you much more affection in return. Your marriage is going to be much happier in the end. It's truly a win / win situation.
Remember How You And Your Spouse Treated Each Other When You Were First Dating (Before The Marriage Was Unhappy) And Return To This Place: Now, I want you to take the same pad of paper and remember back to when you were dating. I want you to list the feelings you experienced then. It's likely that you wrote things like "loved," "admired," "valued," "understood," etc. These feelings are probably polar opposites of your first list. Why is this?
Because when you are first dating, both of you probably put a lot of time and effort into the relationship, which was shiny, new and vulnerable. This kind of care and attention is often reflected back in strong, passionate, and positive feelings which produce a very happy relationship. So, to be happy in your marriage, you need to return to this place.
Yes, I know the circumstances are not the same. I know that you probably have kids, two jobs, a home and tons of responsibilities. But, all efforts you put into your marriage are going to come back and reward you ten fold. And, even small efforts can make a huge difference. If you want a happy marriage, you must put in the time and effort to get what you ultimately want.
Now, I have a lot of wives tell me "your methods make a lot of sense and I want to use them, but my marriage is REALLY UNHAPPY. My husband doesn't even speak to me, ignores me, and we fight constantly, etc." This is OK. Because again, the fact that there are strong feelings (even if they are negative ones) indicates that your marriage hasn't reached indifference. Therefore, it can still be saved. You may just need to move more slowly and take baby steps, but the process is still the same and, with patience, you can still turn this unhappy marriage around.
However, it's vitally important that you aren't overtly obvious that this is all part of a plan (even a sincere, well meaning one) because people hate to feel manipulated or part of a game that is being played. If your spouse suspects this, it could push them farther away. Even though you are doing this to make this marriage happy again, keep the tactics to yourself, and, if you are asked, just honestly say that you have been thinking about your marriage and want to act in such a way that makes it happy and fulfilling again.
When I was in an unhappy marriage, I didn't take any action, but unfortunately my husband did - by filing for divorce. I had to use these techniques on my own marriage (when I was the only one who wanted to at the time.) Life is too short to be unhappy. Thankfully, I finally realized this and was able to change course. You can read my very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/