You have the power to improve your marriage relationship – on your own. That’s right. All by yourself. You have to start somewhere, right? Something needs to be done. It’s time to take the step.
You need to be aware of a few obstacles, though, that may hinder your success. Most marriages go through a difficult time. We all go through a fire experience in order to refine the relationship, make it better. The ones that don’t make it are the ones that don’t commit to it. They jump out of the fire before the job is finished. It is very difficult to make a marriage succeed when one of the spouses doesn’t have the desire to do so. They won’t commit.
Another hindrance is abuse. Physical, mental, and drug and alcohol abuse are all a huge stumbling block to healing a marriage on your own. While everyone deserves a chance to make necessary changes, there comes a time where you may have to walk away if the abuser is not willing to change.
Marriage is programmed to fail from the beginning because we are human. We have this little devil on our shoulder called selfishness that will easily destroy a relationship. Genesis 2:24 says, “They will become one flesh (in marriage).” Selfishness will prevent you from staying joined as one.
When we are caught up in self, we don’t look at the needs of our spouse. We only see our own. By focusing only on the negative aspects of our partner, we can justify our selfish behavior. A relationship saturated with self will not survive unless one of the spouses spends their life fulfilling all the needs of the other while having none of their own needs met. I’ve seen many marriages like this, but they are far from what God intended a healthy marriage to be.
When Rick and I were going through our tough time, our fire, I only looked at his negative behavior. I focused on it. I bathed in it. It made me feel alright about my terrible behavior in our marriage. It wasn’t until God got my attention and kept reminding me “He wouldn’t be happy if I divorced Rick” that things began to change. I didn’t want to hear that, but He kept after me. He began to remind me of the good in Rick that attracted me to him. When I began to listen to God, I saw an immediate change in our relationship. Rick had been listening to God for quite some time but had to wait for me before we could move on to healing our marriage.
Rick had made the decision to make some changes when he chose to do it God’s way. He heard God speak to Him one day saying, “Would you quit your whining and let me be God? Stop trying to fix your wife, that’s my job. You be the Godly husband I’ve called you to be.” Rick immediately began to study what a Godly husband looks like and applied it to his life. I couldn’t help but see the difference, and so I began to listen to what God had to say to me.
So where in the world do you begin to make the changes? Take it to God. You need His help to make the necessary changes. Here are a few steps to get you started.
1. Pray with your spouse. I would highly recommend this action above all others before you begin. If either of you is hesitant or uncomfortable, make the effort to start. This is a true game changer! I've seen God melt away our issues when Rick takes my hand in prayer as we turn our problems to Him. Prayer is nothing more than having God sit on the couch with you discussing the issues you face. No fancy words, only heartfelt pleas. You may have to do this on your own for awhile until your spouse sees the changes you are making.
2. Change your thinking. Get rid of the negativity. When something unedifying comes to your mind about your spouse, get rid of it. Don’t dwell on it. Change your thoughts. We DO have control over our thoughts! Think of something else. Read the Bible. Sing praise music. Do anything to get rid of the negativity. Start reminding yourself what attracted you to your spouse. Why did you marry him/her? Focus on their positive attributes.
2 Corinthians 10:5 – “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought.”
“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” - author unknown
3. Don’t speak negatively to your spouse. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. We need to build each other up with words of encouragement not tear each other apart.
Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
4. Put your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. Find out what your spouse’s top needs are (conversation, affection, honesty and openness, domestic support, sex – to name a few.) What makes them feel the most intimately close to you when that need is met? That is what we should focus on in marriage - fulfilling the needs of our spouse. This is a true act of submission for both partners. Unfortunately, we live in a world that tells us to take care of your “self” first, and we never think about what our spouse needs. We should wake up every morning and look at what we can do to bless our spouse that day.
Ephesians 5:21 – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”