17 Effective Ways To Save Your Marriage

17 Effective Ways To Save Your Marriage

“Happily ever after” is a fairy tale. Real marriage is hard work, even in the best of times. When resentment, disconnection, and conflict become the norm, it can feel hopeless. But with effort, a marriage on the brink of collapse can be saved — it just requires honesty, vulnerability, and a willingness to shift old patterns. Let’s explore steps that offer hope and a framework for rebuilding.

1. Hit the pause button.

Endless arguments fueled by hurt only make things worse. Agreeing on a temporary ceasefire might feel counterintuitive, but constant negativity fuels the fires. Take some deliberate space to cool the emotional temperature. This doesn’t mean ignoring issues – it means creating a calm enough environment where you can actually address them constructively.

2. Shift from blame to curiosity.

Both partners feel hurt and likely responsible for the breakdown in some way. But focusing on who’s at fault keeps you stuck. Instead, try: “I feel… when you do… What might be a better way to handle this?” Curiosity about your partner’s perspective, however flawed, opens a tiny crack for understanding where fixing things might start.

3. Identify your core needs (and where they’re not being met).

Frustrated couple, headache and fight on sofa in divorce, disagreement or conflict in living room at home. Man and woman in toxic relationship, cheating affair or dispute on lounge couch at house

Behind arguments about chores or money are often deeper unvoiced needs, Psychology Today notes. Do you crave respect? Emotional connection? Security? Get crystal clear on what feels essential for you to feel fulfilled in the relationship. Then (during calmer moments) try expressing them openly: “I feel most loved when…”

4. Focus on small rebuilds, not grand gestures.

Trust erodes over time. It won’t be rebuilt with a dozen roses. Consistent, small acts of kindness are far more potent: a sincere “thank you,” doing a chore without being asked, a genuine interest in their day. These micro-moments of connection start the slow process of softening the hardened “us vs. them” dynamic.

5. Seek couples therapy (if possible).

A skilled therapist provides a safe space to air grievances and teaches new communication skills. Outside perspective helps untangle dysfunctional patterns you’re blind to. If individual therapy is the only current option, take it! Improving your own well-being and responses is helpful, even if your partner won’t participate.

6. Rediscover the positives.

Caring husband supporting his depressed wife at marriage therapy session in counselor's office, encouraging her to share problems

Negativity bias makes it easy to forget why you fell in love in the first place. Carve out time for “What I Appreciate…” Focus on small things: their sense of humor, the way they make you coffee… It won’t make serious problems disappear, but remembering the good amidst the hard rekindles warmth.

7. Create rituals of connection.

Life gets busy; making a conscious effort for time with your partner is vital! Set aside distraction-free time for talking. Forget about problems for now and focus on genuinely connecting – dreams, silly memories, whatever breaks down the wall. Even a 10-minute cuddle on the couch signals you value the bond, not just fixing the problems.

8. Be willing to forgive (when and if genuine change occurs).

This takes time and is NOT about letting yourself be abused or excusing toxic behavior. Forgiveness is about releasing your own corrosive anger so you can move forward, either together or towards a healthier separation. It’s possible only if your partner shows true remorse, a willingness to work, and their ACTIONS start to align with their words.

9. Take inventory of your own contributions.


It’s tempting to demonize your spouse. But true healing requires brutal self-honesty. Where have you fallen short? Not taking them for granted, criticism, defensiveness… Own your part in the dynamic. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but shows maturity and provides fertile ground for them to do their own inner work.

10. Don’t wait for them to change first.

Your only control is over yourself. Trying to “fix” your partner backfires. Focus on modeling the behaviors you wish for: clear communication, respect even during conflict, taking emotional responsibility. They may reciprocate, or not, but you’ve broken the stalemate of waiting for them to take the first step.

11. Fight right (or at least less wrong).

Conflict is inevitable. But healthy fighting is a skill to be learned. Instead of name-calling or bringing up the past, try: “When you do X, I feel Y. Can we try Z instead?” Focus on the present issue, express hurt without blame, and suggest actionable solutions. It takes practice, but shifting HOW you argue makes a huge difference.

12. Rebuild intimacy, both emotional and physical.

Resentment erodes desire. Start small: a hug, holding hands, saying “I love you” even when you’re mad. Emotional intimacy often has to come first. As trust is cautiously rebuilt, physical touch reminds you of the body-level connection that can fuel rekindling the deeper stuff.

13. Find your own joy outside the relationship.

Clinginess and looking to your spouse to fill all your needs backfires, Verywell Mind points out. Reconnect with hobbies, friendships, and things that make YOU feel fulfilled. It eases the pressure on your partner to be your sole source of happiness and brings a more balanced, attractive energy to the relationship dynamic.

14. Start having date nights again, but reimagined.

Dinner and a movie can feel rote. Be intentional about creating new experiences together. Try a goofy class, explore a new part of town, anything that shakes you out of old patterns. Novelty sparks joy and reminds you there’s more to your connection than just coexisting under the same roof.

15. Set realistic expectations.

Fairy tale reconciliation is a myth. Saving a marriage is hard, messy, and setbacks will happen. Expecting immediate bliss sets you up for disappointment. Instead, celebrate “micro-wins”: a calmer argument, a moment of genuine laughter… Progress isn’t linear, but it’s worth celebrating to keep you motivated for the long haul.

16. Create a shared vision for the future.

When mired in the present pain, think forward: What do you want your marriage to look like in a year? Five? Openly discuss this, dream a bit… then create actionable small steps to work towards together. Having a shared vision beyond just surviving the current crisis builds hope and teamwork.

17. Be honest with yourself when it’s not salvageable.

Sadly, sometimes the bravest act is walking away. If there’s abuse, if your partner refuses to acknowledge the hurt they’ve caused or do their own work, prioritize your own well-being. You deserve love, respect, and a partner who cherishes you, not just tolerates you.

Enjoy this piece? Give it a like and follow Bolde on MSN for more!

Originally from Australia, Emma Mills graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual degree in Philosophy and Applied Linguistics before moving to Los Angeles to become a professional matchmaker (a bit of a shift, obviously). Since 2015, she has helped more than 150 people find lasting love and remains passionate about bringing amazing singletons together.

Emma is also the author of the upcoming Hachette publication, "Off the Beaten Track: Finding Lasting Love in the Least Likely of Places," due out in January 2025.