Monday, March 5, 2012

My Husband Refuses To Work On Our Marriage…What Now?

By Leslie Cane

 I often hear from wives who ask me what they can do to convince or gettheir husband to work on their marriage. Many times, their husband isreluctant to give them even a little hope that the marriage can besaved. He may all but tell the wife that he isn’t going to lift afinger to help her restore the marriage. This is usually so frustratingto those same wives because they suspect that if they could just him toput in a tiny bit of effort and to try just a little, then they couldsave their marriage and keep their family together. But, because hewon’t cooperate, they fear that they are just going to have to watchhopelessly as their marriage falls apart.

I recently heard from a wife who said in part: “our marriage hasstruggled for the past five years. My husband lost his job and mymother died within the same month. Since that time, it seems as if it’sbeen just one thing after another in our lives. It seems like once onestressor gets solved, another is right there waiting. And with eachstressor, our marriage takes another hit. Our marriage is in shambles.I feel like there are no real feelings between us anymore. However, Ifeel that we could get our marriage back together if we just committedto working together. I am willing to work very hard to reignite mymarriage. But my husband will not commit to the same. He says he won’teven try to work on our marriage because he just doesn’t think itsworth the effort. He says we aren’t going to make it any way so why paya counselor, do all this work, or try so hard and still fail? And thatis where we disagree. I think that once we worked on our marriage, wewould be just fine. But in order for that to happen, I need somecooperation from him. What would you advise me to do when I’m dealingwith 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: Womenso often ask me how to convince, make, or get their husband to work onthe marriage with them. What they often do not understand is that theyare trying to influence his decision to do something by force and thisalmost never goes exactly right. People who feel as if they had nochoice in their actions or behaviors will often resent the same. As aresult, they will often either not fully participate or do something tosabotage the results of their participation.

At the end of the day, your real goal is probably to save your marriageno matter how you get there. You might think that the simplest way toget there is to find some way to get your husband to “work” on yourmarriage. 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: Ihear from many men on my save my marriage blog who tell me that thesecond their wife starts talking about “working” on their marriage,their toes curl, their hands clench, and they immediately start to tuneout. You might as well ask him to put on an apron and go runningthrough tulips because this is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboardfor some men. Sometimes, in your husband’s mind “working” on yourmarriage means that you’re going to dissect his feelings, tell himwhere he is lacking, or give him a laundry list of exactly what youthink is wrong with him. This is extremely uncomfortable in his mindand he wants to avoid it.

 So please remember this. If you can re-frame your request so that youavoid the descriptions or connotations of working, then you will likelyget more cooperation. So think about and find his currency. Is itphysical contact? Is it doing things that he likes? Instead of sayingyou want him to get down to work, tell him that you miss the electricchemistry you used to have and you want to turn up the heat again (orwhatever would get his cooperation.)

Understand What Working On Your Marriage Truly Means: Manypeople mistakenly assume that working on their marriage means that youare going to need to immediately solve all of your problems. That’sprobably not realistic. What you are really trying to do is improveyour connection so that you both enjoy and are invested in the marriageagain. For some, the best and easiest way to accomplish this is byobtaining some kind of outside help. For others, it might be focusingon having light hearted fun together and leaving the experts out of it,at least initially. Don’t make the mistake of making the process soheavy and painful that neither of you are fully and whole heartedlyinto it.

A Suggested Script For When Your Husband Won’t Even Try To Work on Your Marriage: Womenoften ask me what they can say to convince their husband to work on themarriage. The right words and phrases are going to be different foreach husband depending on his personality. But one suggestion might besomething like: “I know that you have been resistant to address andwork on our marriage. I’m not sure why this is. But I can see that thistopic makes you uncomfortable, so can we shelf that and start over? Idon’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 happythe way we were when we first got married and we couldn’t keep ourhands off of each other. I want to look at you again and feel my heartbeat out my chest and I want for you to feel the same way. And I reallydon’t care how we get there. I just want to get there. So can you tellme how you want to get there? What would make you the most comfortableand willing to work with me? What would you like to focus on? I’mwilling to follow your lead as long as we are moving forward together.”

 Do you see the difference? If you approach it in the spirit ofcooperation and compromise rather than “work” you will often be muchmore 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 appealingto him so he moved out and avoided me. I had some serious catching upto do and I am trying to help you avoid that. We did eventuallyreconcile once I learned what works and what doesn’t. If it helps youcan read that very personal story on my blog at

 Leslie Cane’s blog is at  She enjoys sharing the story of how she saved her own marriage to help others. Her article website is at


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