Maybe you just finished an argument with your spouse and your frantic googling lead you to this article. Maybe this is something you’ve been feeling for a while and are starting to do some research on it. Whichever scenario best describes you and your situation, kudos to you for seeking a healthy resolution to improve your marriage.
When it comes to improving your marriage, it’s best to immediately look at factors that are within your control: your ego, attitude, knowledge, effort, words, glances, intention, actions, etc.
Here are 5 steps to improve your marriage by improving yourself:
- Understand the current state of your marriage
- Identify areas of your marriage that you can influence
- Educate yourself on the purpose of marriage and the benefits of healthy marriages
- Set new expectations for yourself on how you will conduct yourself within your marriage
- Move forward with grace and prayer
Step 1: Understand the current state of your marriage
When it comes to any “problem”, it’s a good idea to understand where you’re currently at. Just like a map, in order to know which route to take, you have to know where your starting point is. This may be a thought exercise for some or it may be more beneficial to write it down – do whatever feels more comfortable.
What is the current state of your marriage? Does it seem like only you are unhappy, is it just your spouse or is it both of you? What are the top 3 – 5 things that you think are holding your marriage back? What would it take to improve your marriage?
Some of the top reasons for divorce are infidelity, money, communication, lack of intimacy, unrealistic expectations, etc. Do any of these issues sound familiar? Each marriage is challenging in its own way so don’t feel embarrassed. You have to have a starting point.
Also, this is not a shame or blame game. This is not time to beat up on yourself for ruining everything – because you’re not. It’s also not time to justify your resentment towards your spouse. No one is perfect. Your goal here is to improve your marriage and we all have areas of improvement!
Remember the Good!
Next, take time to reflect on what goes well in your relationship. Maybe you fight like cats and dogs, but if put to the test, you could move a mountain together. Maybe you’re both highly attracted to each other and that spark is still there. However big or small, do NOT overlook your strengths as a couple. It’s the fuel to the fire and the glue that’s holding the remaining pieces intact.
Step 2: Identify areas of your marriage that you can influence
Once you have your starting point of where your marriage is at right now, consider your role in each area – good and bad. For example, when it comes to communication, do you tend to talk too long, losing your husband’s interest or overwhelm him with details, and then fire off when he doesn’t “get it right”? When it comes to intimacy, is that an area that you know you’ve been denying him? I mention both of these because they were areas that I was impacting my marriage in a negative way. Maybe you have similarities.
From His Perspective
This article from guystuffcounseling.com has an interesting list of common things men share in counseling sessions that drives them nuts (in a bad way) about their wives:
- Always on me about something — I can never do anything right.
- Talks down to me — like I’m stupid.
- Acts like she’s my mother — she talks to me the same way she talks to our kids.
- Won’t let things go — I still hear about what I did wrong 15 years ago.
- Doesn’t care if we ever have sex again — she won’t touch me or let me touch her.
Does any of this sound familiar? It does to me!! I think I heard all of these at least once in my marriage (but I’m guessing it was way more than once). It’s interesting, because I feel like women could counter each one of these and put together a united response. Am I right?! But, perception is reality. I digress.
A Personal Example – The Contentious Woman
I’ll share with you something that made the biggest difference for me. It really convicted me and helped me understand, from my husband’s perspective, how I was making him feel. Oh, and it’s found in the Bible, which I find WAY more credible! Check out these scriptures:
“A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike.”Proverbs 27:15
“It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”Proverbs 25:24
Umm…alright, what’s up with this chick and why is she so miserable to be around?
I had to look up the definition to understand why these scriptures spoke so badly of this woman. By definition, contentious means causing or likely to cause and argument. Similar words provided are disputable, debatable, heated, violent, argumentative, quarrelsome….I think you get the picture.
Was this me? Is this you? I compared this scripture to the list that the men provided and I can see how a contentious woman leads to the assumptions made by the men. Constant nagging, knit picking, miserable to be around, an explosion waiting to happen – I was guilty (and still am, occasionally) of all of these things. How about you? It’s difficult to accept, but, again, the goal is to improve your marriage. Maybe there’s opportunity to do somethings differently.
Step 3: Educate yourself on the purpose of marriage and the benefits of a healthy marriage
The Purpose of Marriage
Did you know that your marriage is beneficial to you, your spouse, your children AND society? Literally, everyone benefits from a healthy marriage. The American Psychological Association shares this about marriage:
Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems.
Why is a healthy marriage so beneficial? We start to understand this better when we study the purpose of marriage. This point is beautifully explained by Rick Warren’s full sit down with him and his wife.
In this message, Rick outlines 5 Biblical Purposes of Marriage:
- Provide dynamic companionship between men and women
- Add to God’s family through children
- Protection of children
- Perfection of our character
- Construction of society
This message is really packed with awesome information. I highly encourage you to watch when you have the time. It’s highly motivating to put in the work that will improve your marriage.
Benefits of a Healthy Marriage
Data upon data and study after study continue to show THE EXACT SAME THING – society benefits from healthy marriages. Society means EVERYBODY!
To break this down so it is more applicable, here are only a few (there’s too many to list) examples to consider:
- Marriage positively impacts the mental and physical health of each partner
- Children thrive in an intact home (with both parents). Children of single-parent homes are immediately at higher risk for dropping out of high school, physical and sexual abuse, running away, etc.
- A healthy marriage controls/civilizes sexual activity. When sex is kept between married individuals, it decreases/eliminates the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and it reduces/eliminates the harmful impacts of the sex industry. Think about it this way, when you and your man are satisfied in the bedroom, there’s no need to seek sex anywhere else. The sex industry, which preys on vulnerable women and children and exploits them in sexual ways for financial gain, IS FULLY DEPENDENT ON DEMAND. Anytime you or your husband seeks pornographic material or a “happy ending massage parlor” or ANY sexual services – YOU ARE FEEDING THE SEX INDUSTRY AND IMPRISSONING MILLIONS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN. A healthy marriage drastically reduces and eliminates this.
- Last, but certainly not least, a healthy marriage decreases rates of homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration, and poverty throughout society.
If you didn’t have a reason to fight for your marriage, you do now!
Step 4: Set new expectations for yourself and how you will conduct yourself within your marriage
Once you’re at this step, take a breath. You’ve done a LOT of homework to this point. Hopefully, at this stage you see the value in continuing to pursue this marriage and continuing to work on how you can improve your marriage. At this step, you are ready to make a game plan going forward. For me, some of these action items included things like:
- Let him help without criticizing his work (laundry, parenting, cooking, pretty much anything).
- Be more mindful of my energy level and know when I need to ask for help – news flash, they can’t read our minds
- Set my marriage up for success by walking away when things got heated versus prepping for WWIII
- Be mindful of building off of our strengths as a couple
You should be really proud of the list that you’re making for yourself. It took a lot of work to get here. As you prepare to implement these things, here comes the disclaimer: your marriage will NOT change overnight. I feel it’s important to point this out. You’ve done all of this work and may have so much enthusiasm and high hopes and then be terribly disappointed when your husband doesn’t respond immediately.
It’s going to be okay.
Know this, you cannot change other people. I repeat, YOU CANNOT change other people. You can only change yourself. Don’t be discouraged. Here’s the good news, love has an infectious way of influencing others in a very positive way. Think of the love of our savior, Jesus Christ. Through his love, we are able to do amazing things.
If you’re a born-again Christian, think about when you got saved. Likely, you’re not the same person you were before. Is that because Jesus followed you around with a clipboard and a list of your faults? No, it’s because he loves you so deeply that his love invokes positive change. Let’s extend this love into our marriage by working on ourselves first and positively influencing our spouse.
Step 5: Move forward with grace and prayer
This is my favorite part!! I encourage you to make prayer a regular part of your day. Continue to ask God to show you ways that you can help improve yourself and improve your marriage. Ask Him to soften your husband’s heart and mind towards you. It’s always a good idea to pray for patience, wisdom and grace. Pray with expectancy and give God praise for already helping your marriage. Although you may not see Him working immediately, rest assured that when you bring your concerns to God, He IS AT WORK!
Take Mary, the mother of Jesus, as an example of bringing a need before the Lord. In John 2, the story goes like this:
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Why is it that Mary even mentions that the wine ran out? Why did it matter? It wasn’t even like it was a party that she was hosting. Here’s the key, she identified a need of someone else’s and made Christ aware of it. If you’ve ever had someone praying for you, pleading for you, intervening for you, then you understand how significant this is. How would you like it if someone cared enough to bring your needs before the Lord, making them known? That’s pretty special.
Are you praying for your spouse and for your marriage? Are you praying for yourself? We each have many needs. Are you making those known to Christ? Let this be your reminder that prayer is incredibly powerful and something that your marriage needs!
Also note that at the end, Mary moves forward with full expectancy. This is significant. Mary has the best intention. She sees a need; she brings it to the Lord AND THEN she moves forward with such faith that her request will be met with full resolution. Notice how she didn’t pause. She didn’t let any time lapse between her bringing the need and her moving into a state of belief and faith. Mary instantly moved forward with the full faith in the Lord’s ability to meet her request.
Do you have full faith that the Lord will answer your prayers? How many times do we give up in the gap? In the space of saying that prayer and then waiting for a resolution. How many times, within that gap, do we doubt, give up, say, “well I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The scripture says to call those things that are not as though they were. Are you doing this? Are you treating your spouse as the Godly man that he is becoming or are you criticizing him for not being everything you think he’s supposed to be?
Prayer is a fantastic way to help you continue improving yourself in order to improve your marriage.
1. What happens if you really try to act lovingly toward your spouse but are met with the typical, negative response?
Thankfully, God thought of that too. I love these reminders in Proverbs and 1 Peter:
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
1 Peter 3 talks about how husbands, “may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
What does this mean? Stay the course. In time your spouse will see that your heart and intentions are good. Also, remind him that you love him, want to be with him, want this to work, and are partners with him. Sometimes these reminders let him know he’s needed and reassure him in areas that he may struggle.
2. What if I continue to “mess up”?
We’ve already established that it is a long-term investment to improve your marriage. Although, you may be surprised at how quickly you do see a change in your marriage. You’re in this for the long haul and understand that tweaks will be needed and lots of grace for both you and your spouse. You’re not going to “get it right” all the time. That’s fine. Focus on a single interaction at a time.
3. Needing additional resources?
Here are some additional articles about this topic: