By Leslie Cane
I often hear from wives who ask me what they can do to convince or get their husband to work on their marriage. Many times, their husband is reluctant to give them even a little hope that the marriage can be saved. He may all but tell the wife that he isn’t going to lift a finger to help her restore the marriage. This is usually so frustrating to those same wives because they suspect that if they could just him to put in a tiny bit of effort and to try just a little, then they could save their marriage and keep their family together. But, because he won’t cooperate, they fear that they are just going to have to watch hopelessly as their marriage falls apart.
I recently heard from a wife who said in part: “our marriage has struggled for the past five years. My husband lost his job and my mother died within the same month. Since that time, it seems as if it’s been just one thing after another in our lives. It seems like once one stressor gets solved, another is right there waiting. And with each stressor, our marriage takes another hit. Our marriage is in shambles. I feel like there are no real feelings between us anymore. However, I feel that we could get our marriage back together if we just committed to working together. I am willing to work very hard to reignite my marriage. But my husband will not commit to the same. He says he won’t even try to work on our marriage because he just doesn’t think its worth the effort. He says we aren’t going to make it any way so why pay a counselor, do all this work, or try so hard and still fail? And that is where we disagree. I think that once we worked on our marriage, we would be just fine. But in order for that to happen, I need some cooperation from him. What would you advise me to do when I’m dealing with a husband who won’t even try to work on our marriage?”
These are tough questions, but I do have definite opinions on this, which I will share below.
If Your Husband Feels Forced Into Working On The Marriage, His Enthusiasm Level Will Be Very Low: Women so often ask me how to convince, make, or get their husband to work on the marriage with them. What they often do not understand is that they are trying to influence his decision to do something by force and this almost never goes exactly right. People who feel as if they had no choice in their actions or behaviors will often resent the same. As a result, they will often either not fully participate or do something to sabotage the results of their participation.
At the end of the day, your real goal is probably to save your marriage no matter how you get there. You might think that the simplest way to get there is to find some way to get your husband to “work” on your marriage. But that description holds such negative connotations, especially for a man, which I’ll now discuss.
Why Working On Your Marriage Probably Isn’t Your Husband’s Idea Of A Good Time: I hear from many men on my save my marriage blog who tell me that the second their wife starts talking about “working” on their marriage, their toes curl, their hands clench, and they immediately start to tune out. You might as well ask him to put on an apron and go running through tulips because this is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for some men. Sometimes, in your husband’s mind “working” on your marriage means that you’re going to dissect his feelings, tell him where he is lacking, or give him a laundry list of exactly what you think is wrong with him. This is extremely uncomfortable in his mind and he wants to avoid it.
So please remember this. If you can re-frame your request so that you avoid the descriptions or connotations of working, then you will likely get more cooperation. So think about and find his currency. Is it physical contact? Is it doing things that he likes? Instead of saying you want him to get down to work, tell him that you miss the electric chemistry you used to have and you want to turn up the heat again (or whatever would get his cooperation.)
Understand What Working On Your Marriage Truly Means: Many people mistakenly assume that working on their marriage means that you are going to need to immediately solve all of your problems. That’s probably not realistic. What you are really trying to do is improve your connection so that you both enjoy and are invested in the marriage again. For some, the best and easiest way to accomplish this is by obtaining some kind of outside help. For others, it might be focusing on having light hearted fun together and leaving the experts out of it, at least initially. Don’t make the mistake of making the process so heavy and painful that neither of you are fully and whole heartedly into it.
A Suggested Script For When Your Husband Won’t Even Try To Work on Your Marriage: Women often ask me what they can say to convince their husband to work on the marriage. The right words and phrases are going to be different for each husband depending on his personality. But one suggestion might be something like: “I know that you have been resistant to address and work on our marriage. I’m not sure why this is. But I can see that this topic makes you uncomfortable, so can we shelf that and start over? I don’t want to ask you to do something that you are resistant to doing. I want you to enjoy the process. I want you for both of us to be happy the way we were when we first got married and we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. I want to look at you again and feel my heart beat out my chest and I want for you to feel the same way. And I really don’t care how we get there. I just want to get there. So can you tell me how you want to get there? What would make you the most comfortable and willing to work with me? What would you like to focus on? I’m willing to follow your lead as long as we are moving forward together.”
Do you see the difference? If you approach it in the spirit of cooperation and compromise rather than “work” you will often be much more happy with the results.
As you might have guessed, I made the mistake of asking my husband to “work on” or “try to” save our marriage. This wasn’t all that appealing to him so he moved out and avoided me. I had some serious catching up to do and I am trying to help you avoid that. We did eventually reconcile once I learned what works and what doesn’t. If it helps you can read that very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com