But how do I make my marriage better?

© Mehmet Dilsiz | Dreamstime.com
Always ready to fight for his marriage

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:

  1. Make a choice
  2. Assess the situation
  3. Change your thinking
  4. Arm yourself with information
  5. Go for it
  6. 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):
  • 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.

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9 Comments on “But how do I make my marriage better?

  1. The best advice I got on this was a metaphorical, firm (but loving) slap in the face with a cold flannel from Gemma on The Marriage Bed about the first step, making a choice, when she said “Can you afford to wait another 25 years to see if things get any better?” I knew my marriage was not what it should be, but I did not understand at the time that if I changed, then the relationship had to change. I made a decision, I moved forward, and while I would not say we are totally out of the woods, the marriage is no longer in intensive care, just normal nursing.

  2. Paul,
    Great stuff (as usual). Please consider including in your list of resources Willard Harleys companion books His Needs, Her Needs, and Love Busters. I have found these two books to pretty much “say it all”, broken down to the smallest ball bearing, nut and washer. Willard claims to be able to “affair proof” marriages for those who learn and follow his teachings. His “Basic Concepts” are a good starting point and can be read on his website http://www.marriagebuilders.com. I strongly recommend Willard Harleys work.
    Sincerely, Jeff

  3. It looks like I am a bit behind in my reading. :D Not only have I only read a couple of the books that are recommended, but I also have some blogs to add to my RSS feeds!

    Reading about marriage and relationships, regularly, not only provides information but also serves to help change your thinking (or aid it in sticking with the decision that you’ve made) and keep you going for it by acting as a regular reminder.

  4. These are good principles and you gave us some great resources. Thanks. Lasting change comes partly from developing good habits. This all takes work! Congratulations on the nomination for the top marriage blogs of 2011.

    By the way: do you mean ‘assess’ the situation rather than ‘access’ the situation?

  5. Congratulations Paul! I think you’re back on track with this one (not that my opinion really matters). This post isn’t a brow-beater. Instead, you thoughtfully chose encouraging words. Good for you and for your following!

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