The obvious question left by my Lukewarm marriages post is “Okay, but how do I make my marriage better?”
Let me outline a few steps:
- Make a choice
- Assess the situation
- Change your thinking
- Arm yourself with information
- Go for it
- Keep going for it
- Make a choice: Yes, I’m very big on the power of choice. Not just that we can and should choose, but that what we choose makes a difference. If you make a halfway choice, you won’t get far. If you make a non-specific choice, you are unlikely to get what you want. Choice also means dedicating yourself to that choice, and doing what it takes to make that choice happen.
- Assess the situation: Both Tim and Lesli Doares commented on the need to look honestly at your spouse and yourself; where are you, who are you, what do you each need and want, and what you are each willing to do. As Lesli said “This is scary and requires being vulnerable. It’s also the only way I know to have the kind of marriage most people say they want.” As to what you are each willing to do, I would say focus on yourself. You can choose what you will do regardless of what she chooses. Initially she may be willing to do very little, or nothing at all – and that does not matter. If you start, she is likely to follow. When you make changes you force her to change in some way, and moving in your direction is a very likely choice.
By the way, you have the advantage here as a man – women are far more likely than men to respond positively to attempts to improve marriage. There are various theories as to why this is, but I’ve found it to be true, and have heard the same from a number of counsellors.
- Change your thinking: This is the real battleground – your mind. Your either your habits and action have gotten you to where you are, or they are a result of where you are. Either way, your habits and actions perpetuate the status quo. Changing what you do requires first changing what you think. This is where blogs like this one, and so many others, can help. Daily challenge yourself with thinking that is marriage and spouse positive, and it will change how you think. Even if you disagree, it’s making you think, and that’s good. Twitter is a great way to get marriage positive bits daily. I tweet as @themarriagebed, and I point to many other folks saying good things – following me is a quick way to find those you want to follow. I also do the weekly roundup of blog posts on Sunday – I suggest you use this to find those you like, and then follow them by e-mail or RSS. You really need to put in information daily to change how you think.
- Arm yourself with information: There are a number of great books available. As a starting place (all aff links):
- The Five Love Languages The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman: This book shares good insight into communicating and receiving love. Study guide included in book.
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide by John M. Gottman: Decades of clinical research make this book different from any other marriage book you’ve ever read. Forget about theories and guesses, Gottman knows what kills marriages, and what makes marriages stronger. Not a light read, but an outstanding resource for anyone who wants a better marriage.
- Cracking the Communication Code: The Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: Continues the Love and Respect theme with this new book about communication skills. Makes an excellent study book for couples.
- The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women by Dr. Gary & Barbara Rosberg: This is an unusual book. Their list of needs will surprise you and the sound wisdom of this book will benefit your marriage.
- Staying Close: Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation in Marriage by Dennis Rainey: A wonderful book dealing with building healthy and intimate marriages. This book is designed for personal or group study.
- Building Your Mate’s Self-esteem by Dennis & Barbara Rainey. This book offers practical and sound advice for strengthening and building up your spouse. There are end-of-chapter projects that give you a chance to make the book’s content real to your marriage in a practical way.
- Personality Plus for Couples: Understanding Yourself and the One You Love by Florence Littauer: Explains the various personality types, helps you to identify your type and your spouse’s type, and gives suggestions for dealing with marital “personality clashes.”
- For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women by Shaunti Feldhahn: This is a wonderful resource to help men understand their wives.
- Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again by Michele Weiner-Davis: The author, a therapist specializing in Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy, offers simple and effective divorce-preventing techniques (which can be used even if only one partner participates). She focuses on observable behaviours as she helps couples break unproductive patterns, set attainable goals and make changes that last.
- Go for it: Decide on a plan of action, and then go for it. Don’t ask permission, or ask for your bride to change, or tell her you are going to do things differently – just change how you act to be more loving, more supportive, and more involved. Don’t rate success on her reaction or changes (or lack of changes) but rather on your ability to do what you have decided is right.
- Keep going for it: It’s taken you years to get to where you are, and it’s not going to all change overnight, over a weekend, or even in a few weeks. It will probably take a good while to see any changes in your bride, and you may encounter resistance. Actually, resistance is not a bad sign – it means you are affecting her. Keep at it. If you work at it consistently for months and see no positive response from your bride, I’d suggest you get some third party help from someone trained in such things. Get their input and suggestions to take it to the next level. Below are a few web sites that can help you find someone who is going to fight for your marriage:
A quick follow up on the year-end donation drive we started last week. Six days in, we have already hit the 60% mark – THANK YOU ALL! If you might be interested in supporting what my bride and I do for marriages, see here.