Let’s be honest, you will experience conflict in your marriage at some point or another. It is natural, healthy (at safe levels) and inevitable. When it occurs, it either strengthens your marriage or tears it apart. The determinant? How you handle it. A couple that is able to handle conflict in a healthy and effective way learns a boatload of new things in the process – i.e. new ideas, new conflict-resolution skills, new problem-solving techniques, and new ideas of how to maintain one’s cool during a heated debate or argument.
When combined together prayerfully with humility and hard work, these elements can rekindle the passion in your relationship. On the flip side, however, if you are unable to resolve your conflicts in a healthy manner, deep-seated wounds can form, causing damage to your marriage that may feel irreparable.
Contrary to popular belief, however, conflict is usually not the main problem in a marriage. Like I stated before, it’s how a couple chooses to address the conflict that makes all the difference. Therefore, effective communication (verbal and non-verbal) is essential to saving a marriage. According to a recent study on failing marriages, approximately 54% if marriages end in divorce because of conflict, a lack of communication, and/or ineffective communication. The good news is you can save your marriage simply be having good communication and conflict-resolution skills.
So, how can writing a letter help save a crumbling marriage?
Well, letter writing is a form of communication. The truth is verbalizing concerns and issues to a partner when tension is already present can be challenging or downright impossible. Maybe the other partner isn’t ready to listen – actively listen to your concerns – or maybe you aren’t ready to listen to his/hers. Maybe emotion, hurt, frustration, anger has taken over the conversation, and it’s difficult to see beyond them. Sometimes, the only way to express yourself to your partner is to put it in a letter – a heartfelt letter.
Surprisingly, an effective way to save your marriage is to use a non-traditional method of communication (“old school” even!) like a letter. In fact, there are many benefits to putting your thoughts, dreams, goals, concerns, feelings, beliefs, and fears on paper.
Some of these benefits include:
- More time to ponder what you’re really trying to say
- The ability to choose the “right words” for your message (what you’re trying to say)
- The ability to pour out your heart or divulge your truest feelings – without having to worry about being interrupted, stumbling, or saying the “wrong thing”
How Can I Convey What I Really Want to Say in My Letter?
You are probably hoping you’ll achieve a variety of things with your heartfelt letter. However, the ultimate goal is most likely to find a compromise (or two or three) that will help save your deteriorating marriage. In other words, you are hoping that your letter will be the first step in getting your marriage back on track. That is why it is so important to really think and pray about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how your spouse will probably perceive it.
Putting all of your bottled up thoughts and emotions down on paper allows you to take your time before blurting out things in a fit of anger, frustration, sadness – and desperation. It provides you with time – time to figure out how you truly feel, time to decide what you really want to say, and time to figure out the best way to say it – a way that will catch your spouse’s attention without sounding accusatory and condescending. That’s important.
Who’s to Blame?
So, what should you do? Refrain from making the letter about everything your spouse has done wrong in the marriage. Rather, focus on how you feel. Explain to your spouse how the breakdown in the marriage is making you feel and reaffirm how devoted you are to saving the marriage. Tell your partner that you still love him/her and you regret that you both have allowed the marriage to get to its current state. Make sure he/she understands that you that you’re tired of playing “the blaming game,” and you’re both to blame for the decline of your relationship.
Avoid Playing the Victim
And, whatever you do, avoid playing the “victim” in the letter. Why? Well, because after reading a couple of sentences of why you are the “victim” and he’s the “villain”, he/she will probably throw down your letter in anger. Not good. Remember, there is a breakdown in the marriage, so make sure your letter details how you would like to move forward in the relationship – not stay stuck in the past.
Is There a Sample Letter I Could Look At?
Actually, there is! Feel free to tweak this letter to fit what’s happening in your marriage. The goal of this sample letter is to give you ideas on how to write your own letter.
Handwrite the letter – do not type it because it may appear impersonal.
From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I knew there was a good chance we could have something special. I was right. I remember feeling so lucky to have found you. You were everything I could have asked for – smart, funny, witty, considerate, honest, hardworking, ambitious, sexy, generous, and kind. You were everything I wanted in a lifelong partner back then – and still are today. Your integrity is something I love and respect.
But, somewhere along the way our marriage went off track and I regret that.
The thing I loved most about us during those early years of dating and marriage is that we truly enjoyed each other’s company. Our days were always sunny and filled with tummy-quaking laughter. Never was a day that I felt unloved or unwanted – and I’m pretty sure you felt the same way. Our passion for life, love, and each other was unmatched. It took very little time for me to know that you were the person I wanted to spend my life with. That is still true today, and will never change. I am devoted to you, our marriage, and our children – and always will be.
We have weathered many storms, during our ten years of marriage. But, we have also always come out on top. We survived – flourished. We have been blessed with a home to call our own, battled uncomfortable and sometimes frightening illnesses, had miracle babies, earned degrees and got good jobs.
But, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that we also encountered some tricky and challenging episodes, as well. But that’s life and marriage, right? There will be triumphant moments and rough patches in a marriage. We are currently in the midst of a storm, but it will pass. Yes, we have both made mistakes – some small and some huge, but we are still here – together. Fighting together. My hope is that we have both learned from our mistakes – yours, mine, and ours. You were and still are my rock during troubling times – and I hope I am that for you, as well. You make me feel safe like no one else can.
I’m proud to be your spouse, and I believe in you, me, and us.
I know I don’t say it often enough, but everything in this letter comes from my heart. Forgive me for taking us for granted. I don’t always make the best decisions and sometimes I’m a bit rash – well, okay a lot rash. I also know I can be impatient and thoughtless, and I’m sorry for that.
I am also more sensitive and emotional than you at times, which makes resolving issues tricky. I know that I lash out at you for things when I’m upset – sometimes you deserve them and sometimes you don’t. Either way there are better ways to address our issues.
I can be frustrating, I know. And, I admit that in the past when we have disagreed, we have not handled the conflict to the best our abilities. But, I want to change that. I feel like I’m losing my best friend, and that’s the last thing I want to do. I have walked out on you in the middle of arguments. I have shut you out when I should have leaned on you for support. Now, I realize just how damaging those actions can be to a marriage, so my goal is to change how we communicate and interact with each other.
Because you – we are worth it to me.
Honestly, I regret so many things in our marriage. Hurtful things we have said and done to each other. I am sorry I didn’t listen more. You deserved that. Please forgive me for all of the times I was disrespectful to you and our marriage. And, all of the times I made you feel “less than” because I didn’t get my way. You are not “less than” in any way. You are everything. Please forgive me for putting our relationship in jeopardy because it means so much to me.
So, I have taken time to deeply reflect on my part in the breakdown our marriage, and I now understand my role in it. I am ready to take steps to repair our damaged relationship. I am prepared to do whatever I can to “fix us.” Even if it means going to a marriage counselor, dating again like we did when we were younger, trying new things in the bedroom, eating breakfast and dinner together every night, taking mini-vacations without children, going to marriage retreats, etc. I want to save our marriage. I promise to listen to you uninterrupted and to always show you the respect you deserve.
I will take your concerns seriously, so we can strengthen our bond.
Let’s work together and make our marriage stronger than ever before. I’m game – are you? I miss our late night convos. I miss your sweet kisses on my neck and the way we cuddled every night. I miss you.
I Love You,
What Will Happen Next?
Crafting an emotionally-raw letter like that can be overwhelming. It may even make you feel like you are giving all your “power” to your spouse. In other words, you may feel as if you are begging for forgiveness. You’re not. You’re trying to save your marriage. The thing is you must be vulnerable to your spouse for the letter to make any difference.
Once you give your spouse the letter – back off. Giving him/her time to read it, think about it, pray about it, and craft a response to it – verbally or through another letter. He/she may not read the letter immediately, and that’s okay. It’s best that your partner read the letter with a clear head and open mind. It may take a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Be patient. But, don’t allow it to go on for months with no response. Also, be prepared for no response but a change in behavior. That’s a non-verbal way to communicate that he/she has read your letter and is meeting you halfway.
The truth is, settling down in a quiet place with a pen and paper and crafting a heartfelt letter may be the first step in reducing the anger, hurt, and resentment in your marriage. The next step should be to rebuild the bond you once shared. It wasn’t too long ago that you couldn’t wait to see your partner after a long day at work. You’d practically jump into each other’s arms. When you used to smile just from the thought of seeing your loved one again.
You loved his/her smell, the way his/her skin felt on yours, the way he/she laughed, dressed, walked, and even ate food. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t rush the re-connection process, no matter how much you’d like to. It should be a process – one that takes time so you don’t ever end up in this same predicament again.
The good news is you can start the process of rebuilding your marriage, even if your partner isn’t initially onboard. Ask him/her out on a date – someplace you both used to love. Stay positive around your spouse and don’t allow him/her to goad you into an argument. Be attentive and loving even if he/she is not. Going home to your family every night doesn’t have to be a negative experience. You can still recapture the butterflies you used to feel when you saw your partner. It just takes time and patience – and sometimes a really good letter. Good Luck!
Scott, S. B., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Allen, E. S., & Markman, H. J. (2013). Reasons for divorce and recollections of premarital intervention: Implications for improving relationship education. Couple & Family Psychology, 2(2), 131–145. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012696/