Maybe you’ve just had an argument with your spouse and are searching for answers. Maybe you’re newly married and trying to set a strong foundation. Whatever the reason, kudos to you for seeking healthy ways to improve your marriage. Below are 7 steps that you can take today to help improve your marriage.
7 STEPS TO HELP IMPROVE MARRIAGE
- Understand the purpose of marriage
- Learn about the benefits of a healthy marriage
- Improving your areas of influence within your marriage
- Avoid being a contentious woman
- Let your husband lead
- Focus on the marathon of marriage
- Move forward with grace and prayer
STEP 1: HELP IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE BY UNDERSTANDING THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE
I have yet to find a better explanation of the purpose of marriage than that of Pastor Rick Warren. He explains this wonderfully in his sermon about the Biblical Purposes of Marriage. This is a longer clip (because it’s a full sermon), but is packed with helpful information. I highly encourage you to watch the full message. Watching with your spouse is a bonus!!
IN THIS MESSAGE, RICK OUTLINES 5 BIBLICAL PURPOSES OF MARRIAGE:
Provides a dynamic companionship between men and women
We are meant to balance each other. Men and women were designed differently on purpose. These differences allow each of us to have strengths, which can help support each other. If you feel like you and your spouse are just so different…there’s a reason for that and it’s not all bad!
Add to God’s family through children
Procreation! This is what most people are excited about 😊 God loves love. He loves you, he loves your husband and he loves when we fill his earth with even more children for him to love. Marriage provides a safe space for us to do this. When you have a God-fearing home and use your marriage as an example of Christ’s love to your children, you are bringing them closer to Christ.
Protection of children
The statistics are unwavering – children thrive in an intact home (with a mother and a father). This goes back to the first point – men and women are different. Therefore, mothers and fathers are different by design. Each has things that children need. If you get frustrated because your spouse doesn’t parent like you – again, that’s on purpose. You bring balance to each other.
Perfection of our character
My favorite saying from Rick is that marriage isn’t to make you happy it’s to make you holy. He’s absolutely correct! You and your spouse are meant to shape each other, help each other learn and grow through life’s different stages, and challenge each other to walk closer to Christ each day. You are each other’s best cheerleaders.
Construction of society
Healthy marriages benefit society over and over again. When sex is kept within marriage, it reduces the spread of diseases and out of wed pregnancies. Marriage reduces the risks of homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence. Healthy marriages provide protection.
Again, 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.
STEP 2: HELP IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE BY LEARNING ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY 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.
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! Here are a few examples of the benefits of a healthy marriage.
- 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. 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 IMPRISONING MILLIONS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN. A healthy marriage drastically reduces and eliminates this.
- Decreases rates of homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration, and poverty throughout society.
STEP 3: HELP IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE BY IMPROVING YOUR AREAS OF INFLUENCE
The easiest way to make a change is to start with yourself. Marriage is no different. This doesn’t act as a “pass” to your spouse, but let’s be honest, you can’t change someone else. What you can do is lead by example. It’s not the easiest route, but we’re called to live and love like Christ and he will give you the grace to execute this.
Some examples of areas that you have influence over are communication, intimacy, how you manage your spending, what you spend your time doing, etc. 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?
Spend some time on this. List out the challenges in your marriage. Then, evaluate which factors you have control over and how you could have a more positive influence. This will take some objective thinking on your part. Another option is to ask your spouse. Bold, I know! Be prepared for answers that you don’t potentially like, but if could be an opportunity to show your spouse that you really care about your marriage.
Some examples from my journey have been to walk away when discussions get heated, lead with “I really care about you and us”, consistently emphasize the importance of our marriage, not pull away from affection (even when it’s disrupting my agenda), and avoid being a helicopter in every situation. These are just what I could think of immediately, but there is so much more! That’s because each spouse brings massive amounts of influence to the marriage – good or bad. Find your areas of influence and make them more positive!
Mind mapping for your marriage
I find mind mapping really helpful for this. If you’re not familiar with that process, check out this guide that walks you through step by step.
STEP 4: HELP IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE BY NOT BEING A “CONTENTIOUS WOMAN”
I found this really interesting article from guystuffcounseling.com. It has an interesting list of common things men share in counseling sessions that drives them nuts (in a bad way) about their wives. I think you’ll find it interesting as well.
- 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.
Do any of these 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). Here’s the thing, although we might have a perfectly good reason to do something from this list, we shouldn’t. Why? Have you ever heard of the contentious woman from the bible? I hadn’t either. Then, I stumbled upon her one day.
THE CONTENTIOUS WOMAN
When doing some research on marriage and cross-referencing scripture, I came across these two versus. I was instantly convicted as I read them. They hit a little too close to home!
“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
Maybe you’re like me and aren’t really sure what a contentious woman is. No worries. I’ve already done the research for you! And it’s not pretty!
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 the goal is to improve your marriage. Maybe there’s opportunity to do somethings differently. As hard as it might be, sometimes the best thing to do is to say or do nothing at all. In fact, the bible even references this too.
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”1 Peter 3:1-2
STEP 5: HELP IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE BY LETTING YOUR HUSBAND LEAD
Remember that pesky instruction God gave to us to submit to our husbands? Let’s talk about that now. A lot of women hate hearing the word “submit”, especially when it comes to submitting to our husbands. You have to add the full context of the scripture.
Scripture does use submission in an oppressed or lesser-than way. Scripture is very specific that man and woman are BOTH created in God’s image. Neither is lesser than.
Rather, God knows how he designed man and woman to be different. Therefore, he uses scripture to remind men to be more loving to their wives and for wives to respect their husbands.
Love and Respect
If you haven’t read any of his work, Emerson Eggerich has a fantastic program called Love and Respect. He dives into these differences and helps couples understand how to appreciate each other and how to communicate through those sticky times in their relationship. I highly recommend his book. You can get a summary from this YouTube clip. Again, another long one so bookmark this post and come back when you’re ready.
Leverage Our Differences
In the biblical sense, God made woman as a “suitable helper” for man. That is our role. We help create and nurture a life and a family with our spouse. Men excel in vision, protection and providing. So letting your husband lead in these areas allows you to focus on what God designed you to do, the detail-oriented work of managing our households, nurture our families, and drawing our family closer to God.
THIS IS VITAL WORK. I like to say, “The man leads the household, but the woman creates the atmosphere within the household.”
You have HUGE responsibility here. For example, could you imagine a world where everyone had a happier and healthier heart and mind??? THAT IS YOUR GOAL! How can you best raise your family to see Christ’s love and to seek him above all else? If they’re seeking Christ, HE will take care of their heart and mind.
Your job is to help your family get into God’s presence.
Don’t squander it by being distracted with competitions of who does what. Yes, you can do everything your husband can do. The beauty of a partnership is you can both excel yourself as individuals, as well as a family, when you split the work according to your strengths.
STEP 6: HELP IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE BY FOCUSING ON THE MARATHON, NOT THE SPRINT
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. Maybe you do all of this work and may have so much enthusiasm and high hopes, but then are 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 7: 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!
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!
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.
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. 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.
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.
NEEDING ADDITIONAL RESOURCES?
Besides the resources linked within this article, visit the Marriage section of Lady Well-Loved.