The other day, I got an email from a wife who asked me to help her communicate the right things in a letter that she was planning to write for her husband. They had been having problems and she wanted to tell him all the things that she never got to say because they were arguing all of the time.  She wanted to make sure that the letter communicated how much she wanted to work things out and save the marriage, but she didn’t want to grovel or sound needy and she certainly didn’t want for the letter to make things worse.

I told her that a letter can be a decent idea some of the time, but typically when you get to the point where you have to write to your husband instead of speaking to him, then your actions are going to make a far greater difference than your words, especially if you’ve been saying the same things repeatedly without any real change.  I will discuss this more in the following article.

Make Sure That The Letter Isn’t Replacing Real Change And Real Action:  If you’re going to write a letter, make sure that you don’t go on and on with things you’ve always been saying but haven’t really followed through on. This is one way to ensure that your husband begins to tune you out and that the letters you write and the things that you say begin to fall on deaf ears because he’s heard all of these promises before and yet here you both still are.

Basically, you want to communicate the fact that you are writing the letter because you want to be able to express yourself without getting emotional or getting off track.  You want for him to know that you are committed to the marriage and want to make it better.  Then, (and this is where a lot of people stop, but shouldn’t,) you should tell him at least a little bit of your plan.  If you remember nothing else, please remember that you should not make what’s going to happen next sound like “work.”  Many people will outline how they want to “work” on their marriage and this is typically where the spouse will start to zone out, because this doesn’t sound at all appealing.

Instead, you should say that you want to laugh, have fun, and be lighthearted again. You want to enjoy one another and be a team.  You want to offer them what every one wants in a spouse – to have a smile on their face because they feel loved, understood, and appreciated.  Offer them this rather than “hard work” and an uphill battle, and you’ll often get better results.

Never Make Promises In The “Working Things Out” Letter That You Really Can’t Keep: Often people write that they are sorry and outline all of the ways that they are going to change.  They make all sorts of promises which they are hoping will get their spouse’s attention.  The problem is that the promises often aren’t unrealistic and when these things don’t come to fruition, then you have resentment on top of the other issues. And the truth is, your spouse often begins to gloss over things that you’ve said a million times before.  We often don’t give them enough credit for paying attention the many times before this comes up and so we say it yet again.  We don’t realize that they’ve stopped paying attention long ago.

Speaking of the issues, you don’t want to dwell on them.  Your husband already knows what the problem is.  You don’t need to repeatedly remind him of it.  You don’t want him to finish the letter thinking “man, we have a lot of work to do and an uphill battle on our hands.”  You want for him to finish reading on a positive note.  It doesn’t hurt to make him laugh or make him smile so that he walks away feeling hopeful rather than hopeless.

Actions Always Trump Words When You Are Trying To Save Your Marriage:  As women, we are often better communications than men.  However, we often resort to the written page because we don’t like to be interrupted and we want to have our say.  We don’t always want to watch his face or see his response as we make our point. So, a letter seems “safer” and more preferable. 

However, you are much better off just doing what you know that you need to do whether than just telling him that you’re going to do it.  Often, he is not going to believe that any real change is going to happen, so the only way to convince him is to show him.  Begin by just changing your own actions and behaviors.  You don’t even have to give him the heads up that you intend to do this.  He will eventually notice all on his own.  And, when he does, he will often be much more enthusiastic than he would be if you had explained the whole thing to him.  He will likely be quite relieved that the transformation wasn’t quite as labor intensive as he thought.  The resistance often has to do more with the work that is required of him than his feelings for you.  It’s so important to make the process fun and appealing.  He’ll respond much better to promises of fun together and more laid back good times.

And often when he sees the transformation that happened without any huge sacrifices necessary from him, he will start to pitch in because the pay off is far better than he expected.  He’s getting more of what he wants without having to be dragged through the semantics of the whole thing. 

In short, writing a letter can relieve some of the tension and can feel good.  It may soothe some of the outstanding sticking points and give you a starting point, but it isn’t likely to solve all of your problems or take the place of real action and real change.

It took me way too long to realize that the letters I was writing didn’t take the place of real change and decisive action. It wasn’t until I realized this that things finally started to turn around. It was actions, not words, that saved my marriage. You can read my very personal story on my blog at