By Andreea Ciulac
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) How can you fix your marriage if your partner isn’t entirely onboard to do the work? Winifred M Reilly, author of “It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage With (Almost) No Help From My Spouse, and How You Can, Too” shares a few tips on how to get started.
Winifred M. Reilly wasn’t unhappy in her marriage, but she wanted the constant squabbling between herself and her husband to stop.
“I didn’t want to spend this life being in this frequent, ridiculous combat,” said Reilly, a marriage and family therapist who tied the knot nearly four decades ago.
Instead of trying to get her partner to change, she took a look at herself. Reilly, author of “It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage With (Almost) No Help From My Spouse, and How You Can, Too,” started breaking out of her own destructive patterns in hopes of changing the trajectory of her marriage.
And, it worked. Her husband changed once Reilly tweaked her behavior. The Tribune asked Reilly for advice on how to help a troubled marriage with minimal help from a spouse. The following has been edited for space and clarity.
1. Recognize bad patterns. Paying attention to your own shortcomings after being so fixated on your partner’s missteps can help you gain valuable insight, Reilly said. Maybe you’ll come to realize that you are actually the one who starts most fights. By becoming aware of these patterns, she explained, you will realize how much power you hold over the relationship’s well-being.
“It’s empowering,” said Reilly. “It’s getting you out of that feeling of discouragement that you can’t change anything.”
2. Choose one problem to work on. Do you have a hot temper? Next time you catch yourself blowing up over something your partner did or said, take a breath and try to calm down. Do you tend to interrupt your spouse midsentence? Hone your listening skills.
For Reilly, it meant that she had to physically leave the room to cool off. Change didn’t happen overnight. But, she writes in her book, “one day, a year or so after I’d launched my campaign, we were in one of our typical idiotic go-rounds, and to my astonishment, I didn’t need to leave. I was a curious bystander, calmly listening.”