Can You REALLY Save A Marriage, Even If Only One Wants To?

150 150 Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.

I just received a marketing email from yet another “relationship expert.”  In it, he stated that it is “crap” that an expert would claim that someone can save a marriage, even if only that person wants to save his or her marriage.

I laughed, but then I was sad.  You see, this “expert” exists in the same realm of others that have given up on marriages where one person has “checked out.”  More than that, he is convincing others they can’t do anything!

What a shame. . . and what a falsehood!

On a daily basis, I watch people work on their marriage, starting by themselves, and restore their relationships.

So, let me be clear about my beliefs:  It is NOT possible to completely restore a marriage by yourself.  You CANNOT force someone to stay in a marriage.   You can’t, in some “magical” way, create a zombie of a spouse.

HOWEVER, you CAN start the process of restoration by yourself.  You CAN work to bring a spouse back into the relationship.  In fact, it has happened countless times in EVERY relationship, in smaller ways.

Every relationship has problems.  In my own life, there are times when one or the other is upset, and my wife or I approach the other, unilaterally, to restart the relationship.  One of us starts acting differently, apologizes, acts lovingly, etc.  Then, the other of us steps back into relating.

The question is how one begins acting, unilaterally, when a huge crisis is underway.  That is what I have specialized in, how someone can start the process.  From there, the other person must, at some point, rejoin the process.

Can someone save a marriage alone?  Absolutely!  Can someone start that process alone?  ABSOLUTELY!

Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.

Dr. Baucom is internationally known for his methods and approaches to saving marriages. For over 25 years, Dr. Baucom has been helping people around the world to save, restore, and create the relationships they desire and deserve. He is the author of the book, How To Save Your Marriage In 3 Simple Steps, and creator of the Save The Marriage System, as well as numerous other resources.

All stories by: Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.
  • phillip

    how does one make a new start to the marriage alone? I’m desperate. it sounds very hard to do, but I’m up for anything.

  • jen

    if ure marriage is in trouble try to fix it , dont give up if u love ure wife or youre husband i think u need to pursue youre relationship or to think 100 x before u let it go ….

  • jen

    Time is pass but the memoriez are not fade it stick on youre mind and to youre hearth

  • brian

    My wife and I have been separated for almost four years now. I have tried almost everything under the Sun to save this marriage, but she doesn’t want to. She says things like “my heart isn’t in it”, “it’s too late”, “we are too different”, “we have changed too much”. Is is time to let it go? I still wear my wedding ring and have told her that I still believe in this marriage.

  • sara

    How can i save my marriage when his family hates me because of what he told them and he listens to everything they tell him to do? also he thinks i committed adultry which is not true, it was only online chatting and texts, he says this divorce must happen. we are set for the settlement conference in june, PLEASE HELP ME THE END IS NEAR!!!!!!!!

  • Sara, chatting and texting with another man in the context you state IS infidelity. It may not have been a physical affair, but it was likely inappropriate, leading to your husband’s hurt. While I would not suggest that this should lead to a divorce, you do need to accept responsibility for your actions and try to discover why you would do that.

  • Sara

    Dr. Baucom, Im am so glad you replied, I did not think you would, well everything has been delayed till August 11. Actually after that settlement conference we went out for lunch. I know he still loves me because he gets very emotional and I can see it in his eyes but then again he is very hurt, and says it still must happen. I did accept responsibility and he is aware of it very well and knows that I don’t want this especially for our 3 year old, I have tried many things but he is very angry at me and is done. All I could think of doing is to just pray because there is nothing that I could do alone to save our marriage. Thank You and May God bless you

  • Victor Cruz

    Can i save my marrige we have been seperated for about 15 months . i dont know what to do . i think every thing i do does work or makes it worse . I think we are only married on paper , you think you can help i.e your online books course . Help please I am desperate .

  • Sven

    We have been married for almost 19 years. We have had a lot of financial issues. (Things have been getting better over the last few months financially)We live in a big house; have all the little things, but my wife had always been stressed about the bills and finances. I am in sales, I am always a very positive about fiancés and sometimes look at things to positive, while my wife is the exact opposite and is more pessimistic. Things have not always come through on time financial and this is were I believed I have lost her, not confidence for the long run. She believes that she will be much better off financial and emotionally by being on her own wit our two children (daughters 8 and 16) She said she has been struggle with this decision for a few years, but she says she does not love me anymore. It has been a month since she told me. She said I am a good father, caring, cares about me as a person, etc… She said there is no use in trying, she does not have those feeling and I deserve to have some one that loves me. I still love her very much and think we should put an effort in the save out marriage, she disagrees. She says there is not anybody else and I believe her. I am so frustrated that she won’t try. She is going to 45 in a few months. She has really been paying attention to her appearance and has been exercising and feeling better about herself. She looks great! I want to save our marriage even if I have to start this myself. A lot more details but this a shorter version! Thanks

  • chris Hall

    DR. Baucom,
    I have been with my wife for going on 11 years now. I love her so very much. I however have drug her threw all the little jobs and ambitions that i wanted to do and have hurt her very deeply. as well as the kids. I have a daughter and she is 8 she has 2 that are 16 and 19 I am in so much pain. she says she still loves me and that she just cant do it anymore. she wants to go on heal and finish raising the girls. i have tried to get help but no one wants to help me. i just dont know which way to turn and do the right thing. I am usually a posotive person and am very strong but I want to grow old and die with her. what can i do.

  • Susan

    My husband is bitter and angry about me neglecting him for a year after my mother’s death. I didn’t realize how bad our marriage was until he stunned me with an affair and desire to separate. This has been a month ago. We are still together, and we get along great on the surface. But, he is still very angry which comes out when I try to talk about the relationship. The fact that he is still here gives me hope, but I want to make a deeper connection. How do I relieve his anger? I started seeing a therapist for my own issues, and working on myself, but how do I help heal his bitterness?

  • Central Mass

    Dr. Baucom,

    Wife of 10 yrs had a pyhsical affair last winter. As much as it hurt, I can not go back and change history. She had the affair and I can’t change that (as much as that hurts). So I do my best to ‘let it go’. It being the affair and not the issues that lead to it. I chose love and forgiveness and know that, to save my marriage, this will be the hardest thing I have ever done. I am up to the challenge. My wife and kids are worth the fight. I have to look myself in the mirror and realize I had a role in the marriage getting to this point. I have identified what i wasn’t doing, what the other guy was doing and have made great strides in correcting them. For that I am becoming a better husband and father. I believe that I am actually a better man today then I was when she fell in love with me. The issue is, I am doing 100% of the heavy lifting. I know this could take years. Like I said there is no greater thing (to me) than family. My wife and kids are my everything. Yet, my wife (perhaps still grieving?) is making no efforts to communicate. She is a smart and intelligent woman. She knows she did wrong. She knows and sees what I am doing. Yet, I get no thumbs up or thumbs down… Since she doesn’t want to talk about it with me, I have no idea if she is simply riding it out to see what happens with the other guy? Or if she is simply waiting for me to quit? I am 100% ok with doing all the work. But not knowing what’s going on makes trying to fix the big wrongs like throwing a dart at a dart board… I may hit an item needing fixing…. or I may not…

  • Simon

    Ony few weeks since my wife told me she is done. We are still living together and talk but gave the whole relationship talk a break. well i have had to stop as i was just annoying her more. But when should i start asking her out again. She just says no. With kid and work can only ask her out on a sunday. Should i not ask for a while? im just lost and feel so helpless. this is too hard i love her so much. Tell me how, what to do please

  • Rena

    Dear Dr. Baucom,
    I bought your book and am reading it, but I am so crushed that I don’t know what’s going to happen to us. My husband is in military and he wants me to go back home where I am from and come back in few months so he can see the kids. And then back again. My heart is breaking from the thought that he is willing to give up and destroy the family and make the kids miserable. I need your help! What can I do to stop this separation?

  • v. minneli

    My husaband and I have what most would describe as a solid marriage for 16 years. We are now at the 18 year mark. The last 2yrs have been hell. He abruptly removed his wedding band and moved out leaving me and our teen child. His explanation was ” me and mom dont get along anymore.” Of course he left out the detail of an illicit affair with a 23 yr old colleague. He’s nearly 50 yrs old. Needless to say the affair didnt last. I have gone through counseling to resolve and sort out my emotions. I filed for divorce only after he informed me that he doesn’t wish to work on our marriage. He’s done. Its not what I want but I can’t continue living in the “gray area.” I’m unable to move on. We’re still in the family residence until the settlement takes place. He’s always around to see the child and handle financial business and repair jobs around the house.” Uggh! Help! The boundaries are not clear!

  • Mike

    Dear Dr. Baucom,

    I have been married to my wife for 14 years. We have two children. My wife wants out and a divorce. Reason is I had an affair. I have admitted my faults and wantto re-build. She is ok with rebuilding but shows no sign of wanting it.

    She wants me to leave the house that we share. She is not home often and her routines has changed. Has she confided in another man? Or is she trying to see how things work out with us before she moves on with the other man? Her co-workers are supporting her wtb the new man. Please help. How can I save my marriage when there is a other person trying to break it up?

  • Jesica

    Can I really still save my marriage even if i’ve heard those words “i love b/c you are the mother of my kids, but i’m not in love with you” (says he’s been out of love for about 2 years), my husband has been staying at his mothers…. can this really be saved?

  • Yes. In fact, many marriages go through this stage. It is a loss of passion, not a loss of love. Tending to connection and love can reignite the passion.

  • VJ

    I am just curious how much longer this can last like this. I am following the steps in the book. We are separated in the home, spend a lot of quality time together with our kids, and even with friends as if we are a “couple”. Problem is that I don’t have any idea where we are now. We will have a great day, but not any physical contact at all and then he goes off to his bedroom. This is when I lay in bed alone and think and cry. I am struggling, but following the steps of not discussing the relationship. I want WE back. How much longer until I ask “where are we?”, and I am terrified that I may naturally get tired if this and possibly decide to move on alone. It hurts to badly to be ignored by your own spouse!