How to reconcile a marriage: Getting back together is tougher than you think

What do you do when you’ve had major problems in your marriage and now want to try to reconcile?

It’s tougher to accomplish than most people think.

It’s great when a couple decides to put a marriage back together.

However, without a valid understanding of what caused the trouble (and that usually means MUCH more than the final issue that became the focus of the marriage problems), many couples who try to reconcile run headlong into a wall of pain and frustration.

For example, if the marriage hit crisis because of an affair—ending the affair doesn’t necessarily mean that the underlying issues have been healed.

What led to the affair?

What weaknesses exist in either spouse?

What relationship dynamics helped create the vulnerability?

Were feelings of rejection a factor?

This does not mean that having an affair is justified.

That same principle applies to much more than affairs…it applies to control and domination, selfishness, in-law problems, sexual problems, and much, much more.

How does one go about reconciling a marriage when things have gone wrong and there has been deep hurt?

Here are several steps you can take to increase the possibility of reconciliation (and a successful one at that): 

  • First, both parties must want to reconcile. Getting back together in a healthy and loving place will not occur if only one spouse actually wants to or if family and friends are putting on the pressure when neither spouses even really want to. Obviously you will not know if your spouse wants to reconcile unless you communicate this to him or her. If your spouse does not want to reconcile, see our article on what to do when you are trying to save your marriage alone.
  • Be patient and give it time. If you are ready to forgive and forget and move past the hurt in order to get back with your spouse and they are not ready…give him or her a moment. They may need more space and time to think. However, make sure your spouse knows that you are wanting to reconcile; we cannot expect our spouses to read our minds. If your spouse knows that you want to reconcile, truly giving them space and time is surprisingly important.
  • Leave friends, family, and co-workers out of it. Your marriage is not a community project. We’ve all had that experience in which we divulge something to someone close to us about a problem that is going on in our relationship. That person is is more than likely going to be biased toward us and want what is best for us, which they believe they know. If you have told them negative things about your spouse, that is going to be in the forefront of his or her mind. It is wise not to tell too many people until you and your spouse are definitely sure about the final decision. And if you do tell prematurely, be prepared for a lot of opinions that may or may not be anything more than ignorant musings. 
  • Create a safe space for open communication and honest conversation. Whether your spouse lives with you or not, meet in a neutral safe space to have sincere, transparent discussions surrounding reconciliation. A cafe, quiet restaurant, or park are examples of neutral places that are not dense with emotions and memories. This should absolutely be private.
  • Address the underlying issue(s). If you or your spouse had an affair, leaving the lover will not solve all problems. If you cannot stand your in-laws and they have caused a rift between you and your spouse, moving further away from them will not solve the problem. You and your spouse need to take a close look under the microscope to figure out why. 
  • Approach the ruined trust or any built up anger or resentment due to the separation. This somewhat ties into the previous point. There won’t be much forward movement unless both parties can admit the reason for the hurt, validate the hurt, and find a way to get beyond it. Acknowledgement and affirmation really can go a long way. 
  • Create new short and long-term relationship goals. What will you do before the end of the week to work on your marriage? Maybe a date night or counseling session? Think about what you both ultimately want out of reconciling—where do you see yourselves in the future? 
  • Agree to forgive. No one can reasonably ask someone to completely forget, but you can ask your spouse for genuine forgiveness. 
  • Seek professional help if needed. This can be in the form of a marriage and family counselor, psychologist, religious or spiritual leader, or marriage coach. There are also marriage boot camps and online marriage classes available out there. Having an unbiased third party is sometimes essential if a couple has the goal of reconciliation but things are slow moving. 

If you are in the position of wanting to reconcile with a spouse who is no longer in the home, or may even who is, but they are emotionally, sexually, and physically absent, then begin the steps of gauging where they are in terms of their wants and needs within the marriage.

Maybe you will come to find out that they too would like to put the pieces back together and are willing to go through the steps it takes to fully reconcile.

By being vulnerable, having open and honest communication with your spouse, and forgiving each other, your marriage may be on its way to being saved.

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