The keys to saving your marriage are not being more romantic, not taking him/her for granted, going to a retreat, talking, working on the relationship (whatever that means) or even going to a Marriage and Family Therapist. The keys run much deeper than that.

When a marriage is in trouble there tends to be a never ending cycle of negativity and reactivity in the relationship.  For instance, you may make a statement and your partner responds with words or body language that is negative.

  • It may be critical.
  • It may dismiss you.
  • It may be demeaning.
  • It may be a glance.
  • It may be a word.
  • It may be quiet.
  • It may be loud.

The result is that you know you are not being responded to in a way that you intended and negative thoughts and feelings stir within you.

saving your marriage
The keys to saving your marriage are much deeper than being romantic, not taking him/her for granted, talking or working on the relationship...

As Linda mentioned in her post on Monday, she and I did this sort of dance for years.  When we argued or had some other sort of conflict, it was very predictable how we would react.  It was never very productive and many issues went unresolved as a result.  Resentment would build along with an emotional disconnection.

Perhaps in your own marriage you respond negatively or react to such situations. Your partner in turn reacts negatively to your reaction. You respond negatively to his negative response to your negative reactivity. And… on and on.  It’s a dance! And the two of you, over a period of time have a way to end it. (One usually walks away.)

With this cycle of negativity and reactivity you can predict with uncanny accuracy almost exactly how s/he will respond to your response, how you will respond to the response, etc. And, try as you may, you cannot remove yourself from this cycle.  The frustration, distance, emptiness, anger and hurt builds over the months and years.

Perhaps you are sick and tired of your marriage. Perhaps there is a crisis (like infidelity) and you know something MUST be done. This cycle has a grip that controls you and the relationship. You think, “Here we go again.” And in saying that, you want the cycle to end, but come to believe you have no power to stop it.  You want to get to the bottom of this ugly impasse, once and for all.

See also  Discussion: Advice for the Newly Married

We recently picked up a copy of Dr. Robert Huizenga’s new book, “Save Your Marriage Without ‘Working On It’ or ‘Talking’:  27 Days to Create a Love You Can Trust” and in it he provides a solid strategy along with exercises for which a couple can end this destructive cycle and be able to point your marriage or relationship down a more satisfying path with profoundly different feelings.

Over the years, Dr. Huizenga has observed thousands of people as a Marriage and Family Therapist who have absolutely no clue on how to either build or save their marriage.  That’s completely understandable as most of us certainly lack any formal training on the subject.

These people grasp at straws and follow the examples of romantic novels, television or the latest romantic comedy movie. Or, they follow the example of their parents or friends or someone who in the community has a seemingly ideal marriage.

Therefore, a marriage that is struggling is not your fault. You’ve had inadequate training, if any, in establishing and caring for a marriage.

Dr. Huizenga Gives us 8 Critical Keys to Saving Your Marriage:

Key #1: You must unlearn much of what you’ve learned and absorbed about marriage, love and relationships.

Beginning to create a relationship of trust means, at least in Western Culture, to unlearn what’s been subtly pounded into you by media and others that, in essence, prolongs marital distress.

Key #2: You must feel safe with your spouse and her/him with you.  A feeling of personal safety is paramount to initiate the rebuilding of a marriage and developing a love you can trust. A safe environment allows the natural unfolding of each other and the relationship to emerge.

Without a safe space, a couple encounters fear. Fear gets in the way. Fear perpetuates the cycle of negativity and reactivity. Fear grinds to a halt the warmth, understanding and commitment to embrace self and each other.

Key #3: You must have something to give.  Out of personal pain and desperation a person in a marriage of reactivity and negativity attempts to get something from the spouse or other person.  The focal point is on the other person or spouse.

One person, or often both, attempt to change or suggest changes to the other person to fit his/her illusions with the hoped for outcome of his/her personal needs being met.

See also  One Less Bird in the Nest

The underlying assumption being: “You can make my world much better by being whom I want you to be.”

Behind this assumption is the thinking, “I don’t have much to give; I feel helpless; I feel victimized; I think of myself as powerless; without you, I’m not much.”

This may not appear to be the reality, since someone who believes s/he is powerless, often acts as if powerful. (In most marriages of reactivity and negativity, each sees him/herself as powerless and the other as powerful.)

The remedy is for each to focus on who s/he is, what s/he as to offer to the relationship and how that can enhance self esteem for self, regardless of how it is accepted by the other.

The bottom line: “What do I have to uniquely offer, without expecting anything in return?”

Key #4: You must speak your “voice.”  A core element of building a love you can trust is to express your personal power. Note, he did not say you must develop it. Your personal power is there but it may be covered at this moment.

You may focus so extensively on the negative that you miss your power. But, your power is within you. Your power is YOU!  Your task is to embrace that power and to embrace you.

Key #5: You must peel away the layers of the onion.  Huizenga emphasizes the power of making distinctions as you build a love you can trust. Love is not an end process.

Making distinctions is like peeling the layer of the onion, discovering deeper and deeper meaning and understanding in a concept. And, when you do this, you become a much better communicator. You have a wealth of words and concepts to choose from that you lacked before.

And when you have more options to verbalize, you have more power to create and achieve what you desire.

Key #6: You must make shifts. A shift is any movement or change you make in the way you think, act or feel. A different thought may lead to a different action or different feeling. Or a different action may lead to a different thought and/or feeling.

You want to have an awareness of the change process so you can modify and control the shifts in your life. Making distinctions leads to shifts. The process of intentionally making shifts can be extremely freeing and exhilarating. Finally, you have your power and your voice.

See also  More Mistakes Made After Infidelity

Shifts often happen slowly and methodically. These are usually the shifts you can trust and have staying power.

Key #7: You must be able to meta-comment.

Do you ever talk to yourself?  Most of us do. Probably all of us do. A “conversation” often emerges in our mind as we consider something; something usually significant.

A meta-comment is a thought that emerges as we reflect on that conversation or train of thought.  In other words, we internally stand back and make a comment to ourselves about what just happened, or what we just thought.

The capacity to internally stand back, observe what we just said or did, and acknowledge that activity is extremely good.

Meta-commenting holds the promise of cutting the negativity and reactivity short or stopping it all together. This is crucial in building a love you can trust.

Key #8: You must have a process that keeps you focused.  Making shifts and distinctions that stick and propel you to create a love you can trust requires focus. If focus and intention is broken (and it will be … to a degree) you easily slide back into your reactivity and negativity.

Dr. Huizenga has created something that he calls the “Ground Hog Process.” The process keeps you focused, keeps you moving, keeps you feeling safe and keeps you feeling productive.

It gives you a framework to move out of the negativity and reactivity making the shifts that generate love, trust and the life you truly want to create.

These 8 keys to saving your marriage are integrated into a program that Dr. Huizenga promises will change the dynamics of your marriage and help you to create a love you can trust.  Obviously, this is not some magic pill, as there is plenty of work that you will need to do together, but it gives you a solid road map to achieving it.

Click the link for more information about Dr. Huizenga’s book, “Save Your Marriage Without ‘Working On It’ or ‘Talking’:  27 Days to Create a Love You Can Trust.”  You can also visit his site by following this link.



    23 replies to "Saving Your Marriage Without Talking About It or Working On It"

    • Lorry

      This site and what you and Linda present to the members are amazing. Without knowing it , my H and I have incorporated some of the critical keys that you mention. Unlearning is natural because we will never get our old marriage back again. We have plunged into a brand new marriage. We keep working on the safe environment that you talk about. Meta comment and shifts are slow but are being worked on as well. One thing that I never thought of and intrigues me is the #3. I never explored my own power.Whatever I gave to my CS, I expected something back in return. A whole new prospective of what powers we have to offer unselfishly. Is forgiveness an example or does it go deeper?

      • Doug

        Hi Lorry, Thanks! I think that forgiveness can be an example of your own power, but it is something that you do for you and not the other person (CS) necessarily. It can free you in many ways and thus give you more personal power (IMO).

    • Lorry

      Hi Doug,
      So you are talking about taking care of myself, exercise, meditate, eat right, read your web site to gather info so we can work on our marriage. Perhaps work on going back to old interests that have been put on the back burner because of depression ect. This increases my confidence and personal power to gift to him and expedites the healing. If this is the case, it does make alot of good sense. Something that I can work on. Cannot say it enough but I am so glad to have found this site , with so many supportive members and solid info… and of course great admins that keep everything going.

      • Doug

        Lorry, I think you have an excellent grasp of the topic! –and thanks! 😉

    • Helena

      Is anyone else in a situation where efforts to save your relationship are hindered by the fact that your spouse or significant other’s best friend hates you?

      I’ve always had a sense that my partner’s best friend (a man) doesn’t like me much, but my partner recently admitted to me that his best friend absolutely hates my guts and puts constant pressure on him to end our relationship (which explains a lot to me). They and the OW have all hung out together too. (I’ve never met the OW, with whom my partner had a casual sexual relationship at the time we started dating – I cannot be sure how long their sexual relationship continued into our relationship. She too tried to encourage my partner to dump me.)

      My partner supposedly told the OW on the night of January 6 not to contact him again, because that’s what I wanted, and it does seem they have not been in contact since then as far as I can tell. But I feel it’s not in my place to tell my partner to dump his best friend, while his best friend constantly tries to convince him to dump me. And my partner regards his best friend and his opinions very highly.

      His best friend’s primary issue with me, my partner told me, is that he would like to see my partner with a woman who is positive and buoyant and cheerful and outgoing and gregarious. Like the OW. Those are terms my partner has used to describe the OW, and he complains that I am negative. Granted, I do have depressive tendencies, which go back to childhood. But in my own defense, my negativity in our relationship has stemmed primarily from the presence of the OW in my partner’s life. I am also a shy and quiet person, but then again, so is my partner. His best friend is NOT shy and NOT quiet.

      I love my partner dearly, though, and we’re trying to work things out. To his credit, he has not dumped me yet despite his best friend’s advice (and the OW’s advice). It seems we’re doing okay for the most part, but I do have my triggers, and it makes me nervous when he’s talking to his best friend on the phone or texting or hanging out with him. And since being made privy to his best friend’s absolute hatred of me, it’s really difficult for me to engage with my partner in matters regarding his best friend. For example, his best friend’s wife recently gave birth to twins, and he messaged my partner with a photo of the twins. My partner showed the photo to me and wanted to talk about them, and I guess I’m supposed to be happy for them, but it is difficult for me to be happy for someone who detests me and makes it a point to try to sabotage what is most precious to me.

      • chiffchaff

        Helena – I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have more of a problem with your partner maintaining such a toxic friendship. It’s one thing to dislike your friend’s partner, it’s another to go on for years trying to split them up. Why hasn’t your partner manned up to his supposed best friend and told him to put up with his partner choice or sod off? If one of my friends kept that sort of thing up I’d have to have a serious chat with them. It’s not being a friend by any stretch of the imagination, it’s being a bully.

      • Teresa

        Helena,In the book” How To Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair” The author Linda McDonald discusses this very topic…she says that the CS HAS to break ALL ties with ANYONE that helped encourage or cover for the affair…and especially if they aren’t even sorry for their part in it!!
        My h had an EA with an old GF and he had the help of two family members…My H contacted them on DDay to let them know I had found out, and that he had broken off ALL contact with the Cow…on her she’s called the OW…I call her the Cow!
        Anyway, they were not sorry at ALL!
        In fact, they felt that he was soooo wonderful, and why can’t he have his own “friendships” and that I was “being mean” and besides, I’m not family. so they owe me no allegiance…no, after 25 yrs, they didn’t consider me family…go figure! :/
        So right at that point my H broke off all contact with his two cousins and it’s been that way since D-Day…do they hate me, oh yea, do I care? Not at ALL!!!
        This is the only way I could rebuild my trust…no way would that happen if my H was still in contact with the very people who were stabbing me AND my marriage in the back!!
        Just as chiffchaff said, this “best friend” is toxic to your relationship, Helena..he HAS to go! Your partner has to be around people who are going to help promote you and your partner….not tear you apart!

    • Rachel

      Can I just say that you always hit the nail on the head!!
      I will print this article, and reread it again and again. Wow, you and Linda amaze me.
      Thank you.

    • Recovering

      To a point it makes sense to stop “working” on the relationship. I know at times it got to be just way too much to discuss the affair every single day, and seemingly every moment of every day. We are 11 months out, unbelieveably, and some days I am starting to feel the love for my husband that I USED to feel before he had his affair. I didn’t think that I would ever REALLY feel those feelings again, though I did hope, I never really believed that I would! We have date nights once a week – every Saturday, and these are my requirement, and something we have both come to really look forward to! We joined a bowling league with friends for another few hours away each week, and the good thing about THIS outting is that the friends don’t know about the affair, so we CAN’T talk about it, so it has been more of a relaxing thing for both of us. We can have a good time with them and together, and just have fun! That isn’t to say that we never talk about the affair. I would say that it comes up about every other day, but they aren’t long drawn out stories or discussions (we never really had that anyway) more like quick question and answer sessions. I will ask questions, and he has learned that being open and honest, and KIND and supportive of me is the best way to handle these exchanges. I usually wait a few days before I ask a question, because I let it sit and if it goes away, I didn’t need to know, but if it lingers, then obviously I need to know the answer… This morning is a perfect example… I had a thought that wouldn’t go away for the entire week, and so finally this morning I asked/stated my thought/question. I was nervous (he isn’t ALWAYS receptive, though I am not either) but he handled it wonderfully, and I feel like a weight is lifted. Each time we have that small exchange I feel a tiny bit safer trusting him again with my heart. Yes, trying too hard is like hitting YOURSELF over your head… You need to step back and just relax so you can BE YOURSELF again… only then can you really get to the bottom of what went wrong in a receptive, caring manner. It REALLY helps with dealing with the anger, too. I do have to admit that being how we used to be makes me angry sometimes, though those times are coming fewer and farther between. We just are the ‘meant to be’ couple, and he almost screwed that up, so being reminded of how good we are and how dumb he was makes me upset sometimes, but it is also a reaffirmation of what he almost lost, and how lucky he is to still have a shot of having it!! My mantra… just breathe!!!

    • Jamie

      I have recently (just the past two weeks) started “working on our relationship” by “not working on it”.
      Although I feel that things are starting to get better, in the sense that I’m beginning to be less angry and feel less abandoned, I still feel like there is a clear lack of commitment on my H’s part to understand the damage he has created, be remorseful and intentionally create an emotional connection. In fact, I feel that the entire problem of his straying into an EA (even though it was short lived) is because he lacks a real sense of intimacy; he doesn’t know how to love others because he has never practiced or learned (or both) real intimacy, connection and vulnerability. It’s not just with me or any other woman he has had a long term, committed relationship with, but to his mother and father, his brothers and sisters, his ex-wife and children; and even his “close” friends. He is an island..and it seems more and more that being an island, is exactly what he wants or maybe not what he honestly wants, but is more comfortable being.

      Posts like this from Linda and Doug help me understand my part in his “feelings” of inadequacy or fear; or otherwise divulgence into looking for someone else to temporarily show him adoration, instant gratification (ego boost, crushes) and for lack of better explanation, his childish revert back to singlehood. In my case, I was pregnant…my H was NOT getting what he needed and was receiving before my pregnancy…nor did he communicate this in a way (or at all in my reflection of the situation) that I could understand and assure him that all of this “stress and fear” was a temporary situation; nor did he tell me, lovingly, that he was feeling neglected or that I wasn’t being my “old self” when I was pregnant (6months-through delivery) in freely expressing my affection, adoration or appreciation for him and our union. What he did do…was step away..then run away to some stranger who stroked his ego and gave him some sort of “damsel in distress” story, so he could feel “manly” and “appreciated” and “adored”.

      I do appreciate the insight into what I must learn and do, to change my part in our relationship to the “good times” again. However, what I don’t appreciate is the sentiment that I am at fault for his selfish choice…even if I am at fault 25%. In my case, my CS was selfish. HE abandoned me in my time of great need. He shut off the communication spout. He did not hold up his end of the bargain in our romance, partnership, love affair and ultimately to our new family. Not only do I feel like I didn’t create this issue…I feel like I shouldn’t have to be the one to fix it. I know how that must sound, but that’s how I feel. And regardless of the outcome, I did not stray. I did not abandon my husband. I did not abandon my newborn and her mother for a flash in the pan, that made me feel like I had my “mojo” back as a man.
      I would really appreciate a topic of blame and fault. I would like to see a topic on how emotional disconnection by NOT communicating freely with your spouse can cause the wayward spouse to feel like they “can’t talk” to their wife/husband/partner.
      I’m not willing to give and give and keep getting no vulnerability. I’m not willing to forge an intimate relationship with my husband since it’s clear that he’s not willing/and has not been willing to be vulnerable with his insecurities nor talk to me about what he needs, how I can give it to him, and/or how I can be a better wife; especially since I was being a good wife and didn’t even know he had these kinds of fears and insecurities. He could have tried and tried and tried to communicate with me; before choosing to abandon our relationship for some EA crush that lasted 3 lunch dates, 1 kiss and now…maybe a lifetime of distrust.

      • shaminique

        Jamie. Everything you just wrote describes me and my husbands relationship…EVERYTHING!!!!!!

    • tsd

      Jamie, I hear your pain… I am there as well. It seems the bs always wants to fix it…and we shouldn’t have to…we should fix ourselves, to better ourselves, for ourselves, not for their benefit. This change will empower us as we have knocked ourselves down with pain. To be pain free, is a new beginning. I have forgiven husband, I have forgotten past, but I am dismayed That my husband does nothing in recovery. He won’t attempt any change for us, for himself or our future. I am now waiting for him to wake up. Only time I saw a glimmer of hope was when I calmly stated we will divorce because you cheated twice. I may be stupid for giving him one more chance, but he knows I will take him to the bank, tell our parents and friends, and make sure his pain surmounts mine. I now am working on myself for me. I need to be selfish and realize he needs to deal with his own issues. Our marriage is kinda at a stale standstill. He knows what I want, and hasn’t given it…so I take care of my own emotional needs and happiness myself. I am showing my strength so he can see it. I am pleasant and caring and supportive but I no longer do the things that I thought he liked…too much work. I too wait like you for a deeper connection with husband by not talking about it….chin up my friend. Your kids have a good mom who can be strong

      • Jamie

        I found these very helpful hub pages from an author I follow sometimes. “Connecting with your Husband”…is a good start in recognizing how he might feel and how he deals with those feelings…mostly, it seems…these feelings are of failure, inadequacy, and fear…(it’s simply astounding that I can see my “regular-guy, man’s-man, husband in these pages..and that I can see pretty much every man I ever knew..(exception: my brother..he’s very good at being open and vulnerable; but he’s my only sibling and I suspect he’s learned a lot of communication by only having a sister).

        The author’s a normal guy and gives really good insight to women struggling with “communication” issues and why their SO doesn’t/can’t or won’t do just that: communicate, plus the rewards/consequences section is very interesting. Too bad there’s no “step by step” process on how to teach our husbands to communicate instead of shut down and be distant. This action, by more men than I care to elaborate on; in my personal life…my father, ex partners, ex-husband and now the love of my life confuses me. Is it some sort of “socialized response to fear or insecuritiy?” I do not understand how some men, many men, believe that shutting down and sweeping issues they have “under the rug” will bring love, joy, peace, harmony into their home.
        I hope it helps…you tsd. At least we are not alone in this pain and frustration. (And I thank Linda and Doug for bringing us a safe place to come together.)

        There is also a page dedicated to “Connecting with your Wife”

        I’ve read about 66 pages of Dr. Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight” and I have learned a LOT about how my husband and I are having the same issues in our communication style; because I’m hurt and want him to I push to elicit a response and to get him to spend time with me..and he in turn feels more like a failure, more fear and more insecure that he’s losing me and we are losing ground as a couple and as lovers; certainly as friends. I recommend you get this book, tsd. Even though my husband hasn’t read it yet…when I get to a point of “higher healing” (lol…how do you like that Linda and I plan to read it again with him. In the meantime…like you tsd, I’m practicing my own self care and self love and that means that I have to remember that thoughts…are JUST thoughts..they are not real; and I must control my surreal thoughts from spinning out of control and trapping us in the damaging dastardly “devil dialouge” of hate and bitterness we’ve been creating.

        I’m still pissed. I’m still very hurt. Being an unforgiving person by nature, this has been a very very rough 9 months for me. My CS is trying his hardest..but I did not recognize that he is feeling guilt, shame, fear and that he is a failure and that he has failed us; me…until I started reading this book and until I discovered these pages. We are both hurt…like I suspect you and your husband are as well…as a woman, I am dealing with it in the “typical way”, according to what I have learned (and according to my personality style) and he is also dealing with his EA and the aftermath in the “typical way” I have learned just as I had mentioned before…in his way. I did not recognize this.

        I still don’t know how to reach out to him and calm his fears. I don’t know how to help him understand that I was/am angry and hurt and continue to be and act that way because he seems not to respond to my pain or requests or cries for help and closeness in any other way…but it never works anyway…we both end up feeling more isolated and farther apart than before the last tiff or stupid arguement.

        I truly recomment this book of Dr. Johnson’s. I’m learning so much..and I’m learning to love my damaged husband, with my damaged feelings; so that we can have conversations that lead us back to closeness and intimacy. Good luck tsd, good luck, my new friend. Don’t give up. One step at a time…day to day…and stop thinking about tomorrow…just do what you can, today.

        Hope it helps.

    • Rachel


      I too am at your place. My husband does nothing in recovery as well. I want to do things with him on the weekends or even watch t.v. together during the week but all of that is my dream. He makes plans doing whatever he can to avoid contact with me. Yet has agreed to go to couples counseling. I guess that’s the only thing that he plans to do with me or maybe not.
      Gets discouraging being the only one working on the marriage and I often wonder why am I trying to do all of the work?
      I feel like I’m walking on eggshells. I try to come up with suggestions for us to do things but In the past he’s said that It’s always “my plans”. Well, that’s because he doesn’t suggest or want to do anything with me.
      It’s almost like he is picking fights just to make me look bad and get me upset. He loves to see reaction and keep that ball rolling.

    • Lilly

      Rachel, a message for you:

      “Love has to stop somewhere short of suicide.”

      – spoken by Dodsworth in the 1936 movie by that name. Rent it sometime. It’s a classic and still relevant. It could help give you that tougher kind of courage to do what you need to do and stop the vicious cycle. You seem to be living a kind of slow suicide.

    • Teresa

      Rachel…..your husband sounds like a Controller….In the book “How We Love” it talks about the different love styles, that are imprinted from infancy….go to and take the test…I’m thinking you’re a Pleaser since you seem to keep trying to work with your husband, even though he seems abusive to you and your boys. Hope the counselor really does help….is your H still going to the psycho counselor?

    • Rachel


      Yes, It does feel like a slow suicide. I will rent the movie that you suggested. With my own money of course! ; )
      Teresa, yes my husband is a control FREAK and I told him yesterday, that he will not control my feelings. When I question him that I feel he is embarrased to be with me, the only reason that I can come up with why he doesn’t want to do anything with me, he went crazy. Our children are older and don’t require a babysitter and money isn’t an issue, so what is it.
      He didn’t go to the crazy counselor last week not really sure about future appointments.
      I got a voice mail from the new couples counselor, she’s booked solid and has a waiting list. She did suggest a new counselor. I really don’t think she will be the answer. I’d feel terrible when she runs out the door from her career after dealing with us.

      • Anita

        I see the tremdous strain you have been under to save your
        marriage, and your husband does what he wants when he
        wants. Rachel I would sit down with him and have a honest talk with him, and ask him if he really wants to be
        married. Also you need to ask yourself that famous question of are you better off with him or without him.
        At some point this has to settle for you, there is more to
        life then living the nightmare your in. You should be able
        to enjoy your life, without wondering day to day if your
        husband wants to be married or not.

        • Anita

          A few days ago my exhusband and I had to be at a family
          event, we both live in different states so this doesn’t happen very often. Both sides of our families were also
          present, we all have put the divorce in the past and we
          are civil with each other. Its very nice to have us all get
          along, my children are happy to have all their family
          members together and can actually enjoy the presense
          of both sides.
          I hope you and your husband can find a way to work this
          out so your children can have the opportunity to know
          how important both sides of the family are.
          I hope your marriage works out for you, however if it doesn’t
          the next best thing is to have both families work together
          to create happy occasions.

    • aida

      hi. i hear you there rachel, anita and everyone. my brother passed away this morning.

      • Teresa

        Aida…I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your brother, and this on top of everything else you are dealing with…My thoughts are with you during this painful time…please remember to take some time for yourself during this very stressful time…

    • Rachel


      So sorry for your loss.

    • Anita

      I am sorry about the loss of your brother.

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