Your spouse is not stopping you from improving your marriage
Have you tried to improve your marriage by talking with your spouse about problems? Most people find doing that either only creates temporary improvement or no improvement at all.
As a relationship coach, I want to help people create changes that not only result in reconciling, but also in keeping their marriage good for the rest of their life.
The single most important thing for you to learn today is that the happiness of your marriage does not depend on your spouse changing.
Too many people believe that it does. People who believe that expend a lot of energy trying to convince their spouse to change and typically just create more distance in their relationship. Now, I do teach people how to make positive requests. But if your spouse is not responding to positive requests, then moving on to nagging and arguing is not the right thing to do. If you have done that, then you know what I mean.
Also, it is not the right thing to do to give up, to become hopeless, to settle for a bad marriage and feel sorry for yourself. Those things won’t be good for you, your spouse, or other family members. Just because your spouse is not responding to positive requests does not mean your marriage can’t be improved. I wish everyone could learn that. It makes me really sad that people live in loveless relationships when they could be creating loving ones. It really does. That’s why I do this stuff.
There are three steps to improving relationships
- The first one is stopping any damage you are doing.
- The second is using behaviors which help your spouse to enjoy your relationship.
- The third is using good boundaries for any damage your spouse is doing.
These steps are consistent with the Bible. These steps work. But in order to work, they must be done in order. The only exception I would make to that is if your spouse is doing something severely damaging such as cheating or being abusive. In those cases, you must start with boundaries. However, the other two will still need to be added if the relationship is to be rebuilt. There is no way to have a consistently good relationship without all three of those steps.
Today, I want to help you with 10 things you can do for steps one and two. I do have other material on using effective boundaries, which is step three.
#1 Take responsibility for creating improvement regardless of who is at fault
This is the most important thing that you can do. Determine that you will be the one to create marriage improvement. Many people who thought they were stuck for years with their spouse’s inconsiderate or selfish behaviors have been able to improve their relationships by changing the way they interact with their spouses.
Blaming your spouse will not create a better marriage even if you are 100% correct that your spouse is to blame.
Every time your spouse does something you don’t like, ask yourself, what can I do to help my spouse desire to change?
For example, if your spouse doesn’t spend time with you or doesn’t prioritize you, ask yourself, What can I do to help my spouse want to spend more time with me or want to make me a priority?
Sometimes people’s thinking goes blank when they ask this question. Applying it to someone else can get your brain working again. So, if your mind goes blank with this, suppose that you had a friend who was not spending time with you . What could you do to help your friend want to spend more time with you? If that gets your brain working again, then apply your answer to your spouse.
If you still can’t think of anything, then you need to get more information or need to get help. Don’t just continue to blame or feel helpless. You have to figure out what you can do if you are to improve your relationship.
People who continue to blame, without taking action, are just as much to blame as their spouse for the problems continuing.
#2 Work on your spouse’s legitimate concerns
Do you know some things that your spouse would like in a marriage partner? If you do, then get to work on those things. Your spouse may have told you already what he or she would like. Your spouse’s previous requests and complaints may help you to figure out what changes you could make. Don’t expect instant improvement when you do these things. The longer trust has been broken in your relationship, the longer it will take for you to get a positive response from your changes. Just keep it up.
#3 Treat your spouse like a single person
If you were single and dating your spouse, would you be behaving differently? Most people use more positive communication and body language before they are married than after. That is a big mistake.
We marry so that we will have someone to love for the rest of our life.
When I was single and dating, I treated every woman I dated as wonderfully as I could. When I married one of those people, I continued to treat her as wonderfully as I can. There should be no difference in loving behavior before and after marriage. Marriage adds commitment, not permission to behave badly.
When you were single, were you open and honest and just complained, criticized, or behaved according to your feelings at the moment? If you did, you probably didn’t get a very good spouse. If you behave that way now, you won’t be able to keep a good spouse.
Instead of openness and honesty, try being loving and honest, which are more in line with how God tells us to have good relationships. Speak no evil, no matter how much you feel like it.
Some good single and married behaviors:
- Look at your spouse in a way that makes your spouse feel you are happy to see him or her, every time you meet.
- Use a tone of voice which is friendly or loving. Don’t sound like a business partner. This goes for texting as well.
- Agree and empathize often, without correcting or giving advice.
- Compliment your spouse so your spouse can feel, important, capable, and attractive.
Married people like the same things that single people do. If you wouldn’t say something to someone you were dating as a single person, don’t say it to your spouse either.
#4 Become more of the old you
The person your spouse fell in love with may be very different than the person you have become. How did you used to be? What was it about you that made your spouse enjoy you so much that he or she wanted to commit to you for life? Chances are it was not because you spent a lot of time at work or gave all your attention to the kids.
Remember that if your spouse were to leave you, he or she would be attracted to someone who is the way you used to be.
Become that person again to keep your spouse happy at home. Most likely you will feel happier, too.
#5 Become more interested in your spouse’s interests
Build your communication with your spouse through better listening. Don’t wait to become interested in what your partner is saying. Make yourself interested in what your partner is saying. If you don’t know much about your partner’s interests, then learn more about them. This will give you more to talk about and will open doors to more activities that you can do together.
When I first was dating my wife, art bored me while her favorite activity was visiting museums. So, I took a course in art appreciation. It increased my interest in art and helped my wife and I to become better connected.
We can make ourselves become interested in anything with just a little mental effort. If you need more help with this or other communication skills, you can start with the free downloads on my website.
#6 Improve your bedroom skills
Sex can become as routine as vacuuming the carpet and about as much fun. When it does, that can impact the way you and your spouse feel about each other. Just imagine eating the same food every time you went to a restaurant. It might be good food, but it would lose it’s excitement and your desire to go out would decrease. It might even feel like a job.
Whether you are a man or a woman, there is much that you can learn about both lovemaking and romance and how to connect those two things together. This is not an area I directly help clients with, but I can offer a few suggestions:
You will have better sex if…
- You make your spouse feel special when you are not having sex.
- You do not spend too much time with your spouse
- You treat sex as having three stages: what you do before, during, and after.
- In a long term relationship, much of the sexual experience is enhanced by the way you talk during sex. Some stimulating talk can make up for a lot of flab and wrinkles.
These are just a few of many things you can do to be a great sexual partner for your spouse. You can learn from reputable resources. I have been asked many times for how to find such material. First let me say do not try to learn about sex from pornography. It is damaging, as all sinful things are.
Some people do need video help for having better sexual performance. You can search for Better Sex for a Lifetime Video Series. I am not endorsing these videos, nor do I own them. I do know that many couples have benefited from them. You will need to decide for yourself if they are materials you want to have.
#7 Become attracted to your spouse
Did you know that attraction is a thing of the mind? That’s why some people are attracted to things and people that others are not. We can influence how much we are attracted to our spouses. We often do those things when we are single and dating, but we can do the same things in our marriage.
Here are some ideas for how to be more attracted to your spouse.
- Keep away from all pornography. It will only make you more dissatisfied with what you already have.
- Keep a nice picture of your spouse on your desk, and on your opening screens.
- Keep the latest birthday, anniversary, or valentine’s day card from your spouse close to you and read it once in a while.
- Get in the habit of thanking God specifically for the things your spouse does for you.
- Each day put some energy into thinking of some little special thing you can do for your spouse.
- Psych yourself up to see your spouse before your encounters. You need to master your own mind.
- Plan activities that you can look forward to doing with your spouse.
- Every time you think of a negative thing about your spouse, tie a positive one onto the end of that thought.
For example, if you think My wife doesn’t care about the budget and just spends as she wants, change that thought to My wife doesn’t care about the budget and just spends as she wants, but she loves me and I enjoy holding her.
The more you can think of your spouse as wonderful, and the more effort you put into it, the more attracted you will be to your spouse. You can become 90 years old with a shriveled up old spouse and still see them as beautiful if you can be this way.
#8 Recognize and change your marriage script
Are you following a pattern that was established by your parents? Is that pattern appealing to you? It is your marriage. You can have it any way you want. Re-write your script. It won’t feel natural, but if you can put in your relationship what you want to have, you will never have a mid-life crisis.
Being your natural and genuine self means not breaking free of habits that may be preventing your happiness. Do the unnatural and inauthentic thing of behaving and thinking in a better way until it becomes the new you.
If you could change just one thing about your relationship, what would it be? Go and make that change. Don’t wait. Chances are your spouse will enjoy it, too.
#9 Don’t do anything you don’t want to do
Do not do anything for your spouse because you “have to.” Feelings of obligation never bring us closer to our partner. When you feel like you “have to” do something, either stop doing it or give yourself some positive reasons why you want to do it. Don’t do anything half-heartedly.
Instead of telling yourself, I have to do this or my spouse will get upset, tell yourself you want to do it so that you can have a better relationship with your spouse.
If you decide you are going to help with the chores, then do it whole-heartedly and get into it. Don’t begrudgingly do as little as you can get away with . Strive to do everything in life this way–cooking, exercising, being with friends, having sex, doing your job, and so forth. You will come to love your life this way.
You can only be happy if you take control of your own mind and stop allowing others to program it for you. Don’t listen or follow anything that encourages you to hate anyone. It is not the Christian way.
#10 Get help when you get stuck
If you don’t like the way your relationship is and you have done all that you know how to do, ask your spouse for help.
If your spouse can’t or won’t help with marriage improvement, then get help from a professional.
If your spouse wants help too, then get marriage counseling.
If your spouse doesn’t desire what you desire, then get marriage coaching for yourself.
Don’t believe the lies that when the romance is gone you can’t get it back. I have helped many people to not only fall in love with their spouses again, but to get their spouses to fall in love with them again. Just because you don’t know how to do it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.