Imagine being so happy with your husband that you hope and even pray your daughter has the same experience! These tips on how to save your unhappy marriage without going to couples counseling will help you see your relationship – and your life – differently.
My tips are inspired by two women. One is my friend Kerry (not her real name) who feels trapped in an unhappy marriage; the other is Patricia. She’s a reader whose spouse not only refuses to go to couples counseling, he refuses to believe their marriage needs to be saved. Here’s her comment:
“I have been married for 12 years and my husband won’t grow up,” says Patricia on How to Know if Your Marriage is Over. “He still does what young men do, he acts like he’s single. He’s more concerned about his car than me and the kids, he cares more about himself than anyone. I’m worried because my kids are growing up and I’m afraid this will affect them in one way or another. I’m not a happy wife, I’m in desperate need of help. I want to save my marriage. I suggested we go to couples counseling but he won’t go. How can I get my him to go to marriage therapy when he refuses to even be a husband?”
The short answer is: you can’t. You can’t convince your husband to go to couples counseling if he’s perfectly content to keep living in an unhappy marriage.
And to him, your marriage might not even be unhappy. He might not notice or even care that you’re not a happy wife. He’s doing his own thing, and he has no reason to change.
Can You Save an Unhappy Marriage Without Couples Counseling?
In How to Save Your Marriage Without Counseling, I share eight tips for unhappy marriages that inspired by quotations about forgiveness, love, and hope for the future. My goal was to encourage and support spouses who couldn’t go for couples counseling.
Looking back on that article, I see how naive and shallow my advice was. When you’re in an unhappy marriage, it doesn’t help to read a quote that says “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person” (Mignon McLaughlin).
You need more than relationship quotations and quick tips when you’re searching for tips on how to save an unhappy marriage without going to couples counseling. I don’t have any solid answers or magic potions that will change your life. But, I do have a few thoughts about how to change how you see your life – and your marriage – and how to proceed from there.
Accept the truth about your marriage
Yesterday my friend Kerry told me that she has finally accepted the truth about her marriage: it is not only unhappy, it is abusive. I already knew that. Deep down she already knew it, too. The difference is that Kerry has now gained courage and strength to actually accept the truth.
Accepting the truth at a soul level is different than admitting it in your brain. Acceptance means you aren’t fighting the truth anymore. Acceptance means you don’t wish your marriage was happy and you don’t want to change your husband. Acceptance means you are ready to move forward in your life.
Has my reader – Patricia – accepted the truth about her husband? No. If she had, she wouldn’t hope that couples counseling would help her husband grow up. If she accepted the truth she would know that her husband is happy with his life the way it is and he doesn’t want to change. Accepting the truth about an unhappy marriage at a deep soul level is painful and difficult…but it’s the only way through.
Grieve the death of your marriage dreams
When you got married, you were excited and happy about sharing your life with your husband (unless of course you had cold feet and anxiety about getting married!). You were sure you’d live happily ever after, that you’d have a partner for life, and that you would never have to search for tips on how to save an unhappy marriage without couples counseling.
When Kerry told me that she’s finally accepting the truth about her husband and unhappy marriage, she also said that she’s grieving. It causes her great pain and sorry to accept that not only is she unhappily married, but she doesn’t even hope that couples counseling to save her marriage. She is grieving the death of her marriage the same way she grieved the death of her father.
Patricia hasn’t reached the grief stage because she hasn’t accepted that couples counseling won’t save her unhappy marriage or change her self-centered husband. These are really important stages to experience – but not because they contain the secret of how to save an unhappy marriage without going to couples counseling. These are important stages because they have the power to change your perspective of your marriage, your husband, and your self.
Discover what you need to be happy
Take time alone. You’ll never hear the still small voice that tells you what will bring peace and joy if you surround yourself with people, responsibilities, and internet distractions. We distract ourselves with noise and activity – especially when we don’t want to deal with the pain of an unhappy marriage. Couples counseling seems like an obvious solution, but something else needs to happen first.
You need to determine your goals for your marriage. Of course “happy marriage” is one of them – but that’s too general. Instead, take time to figure out the specific goals you want to set for your relationship.
Right now, Kerry’s goal is to decide if she should accept her unhappy marriage as it is, try to do what she can to save it, or start considering how to leave a man she’s loved for years. This may be a decision that comes quickly and easily, or it may take weeks or months to develop. Patricia, on the other hand, may not be in the right frame of mind to start setting goals for herself. She’s still focused on how to save an unhappy marriage without couples counseling, not on accepting the truth.
Start changing the things you can
You accepted the truth about your unhappy marriage. You’re grieving the end of the dreams and hopes you had for your relationship. You’re taking time to discover what you need to be happy in your life…and now you need to start making changes.
Maybe the best way to “save your marriage” is to let go of it. Release your expectations. Abandon your hopes. Stop wishing your husband was different. Quit trying to change him. Let go of the idea that couples counseling can save unhappy marriages, and hold on to something different.
What can you change about your life? Start working towards that. You know what you can’t change (your husband’s behavior, the things you’ve said to him, the past you’ve shared with him and your respective families, the kids you have together). But…what CAN you change?
You can change:
- How you think about your future
- What feelings and emotions you allow yourself to dwell on
- The actions you take to get emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy
- How you respond to your husband’s
- How you treat yourself
- What you accept and don’t accept in your relationships
- How you define “unhappy marriage”
- What you believe couples counseling can do for your marriage
The list of things you CAN change is endless. Why don’t you add three or four things to the list I started? Tell me what you can change about your marriage, your life, and your self.
What to Do Next
Read What to Do When He Won’t Change: Saving Your Marriage When He is Angry, Selfish, Unhappy, or Avoids You by Jack Ito. This is a great book with many tips on how to save an unhappy marriage without couples counseling – it highlights four major ways to motivated men in marriage and relationships.
“My father was a violent and insecure man,” says author Jack Ito, who is a relationship coach and psychologist. “My mother was a loving, but dependent housewife who spent her days wishing she had never married him. There was no one who could help us to be a family. They just told my mother to leave him, and she couldn’t bring herself to do that. Now, I realize he was as much a victim of his behaviors as she was. Neither of them knew what or how to do what was necessary to bring peace and love into their relationship. It’s my intention to never let people I coach be left without a way to improve their relationship.”
Hold on to your power. You may be in an unhappy marriage right now, and couples counseling may not be an option. You may not be able to save your marriage…but you can save yourself. You have power, courage, and strength to accept the truth and move forward in your life. Don’t let anyone take your power away.
Give your thoughts and feelings a big bold voice. Write! Writing brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings. Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or in your own private journal.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your thoughts on how to save an unhappy marriage without going to couples counseling.
Is your relationship in trouble? Get free advice and a free marriage assessment from marriage coach Mort Fertel.