The First Step to Improving Your Marriage
This blog began almost two years ago when I was inspired to begin writing on behalf of the housewives of the world. Beginning next week I am going to be adding on to the foundations of my original posts with a fresh new relationship-based or family-based post each Monday. I am also going to re-blog (and update) one of those original posts that I wrote each week because (1) I was and am still so deeply passionate about those foundational thoughts and (2) I’ve learned much since then and feel like I need to tweak a bit here and there. You can watch for those re-blogs on the weekends. But I wanted to throw this one out there to kick it off today. The First Step To Improving Your Marriage. My very first post ever–updated and refreshed. Enjoy!
Is your marriage as happy as it could be? Do you fear your marriage is heading for divorce? Is your husband distant? Does he seem cold and uncaring? Does it feel like your marriage lost its spark? Read on for some possible insight as to what might be going wrong as well as some proven steps for improving a marriage.
Are you living a typical, modern American marriage where everything is split 50/50? The bills? The chores? Childcare? Do you have separate checking accounts? Do you have and plan separate retirement accounts, if you have one at all?
On a typical night, is it unknown who will prepare dinner? Are you thinking right now that it won’t matter because it’ll probably be take out? If we are in agreement so far, it’s likely that the kids don’t care who is home because they are on their electronic devices, and it doesn’t matter anyway because they don’t seem to respect mom or dad. Mom and dad are both exhausted and they fight a lot. The house is a mess. The laundry is piling up. The lawn needs to be mowed and there’s no time to do it. Grandma is wasting away in a nursing home and you only get out there once a week, if you’re lucky. Life is a mess.
Is that you? Or something similar?
If so, I’ll bet there is an underlying sense of distrust. Disgust. Anger. Jealousy. And Suspicion. Living separate but equal lives –which is what you’ve been doing until now– breeds those kinds of attitudes. Why? Because you have only “become one” on paper. You’ve left a wall of distrust between the two of you in every other area. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
For thousands of years there was a system for marriages that worked, and it worked because men have certain tendencies and needs and women have some very different tendencies and needs than men, and it just so happens that the two –when honored–fit together like a lock and key. The new modern system of living doesn’t honor any of our natural tendencies or needs. That’s why you are miserable. That’s why your husband is unhappy. If your marriage is suffering, you might benefit greatly by giving the old system a try.
The system works beautifully. Think of how many elderly couples have beautiful marriages that have lasted a lifetime. How did they do that? Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share the answer to that question and more with you. If you want to improve your marriage, you can. It’s not too late. But it will require that you clear your mind and open your heart to the possibility. Are you ready? Here we go. Step one.
Now I know that your opinion of your husband might not be terribly high right now. Hard feelings will deflate anyone’s passion and understanding for another, but I’m going to talk about the single most important step in repairing your marriage right now.
That step is to accept your husband for the man that he is. <GASP!> Yes. I know. How can I say that? And how can you do it? He’s a mess. He doesn’t put out as much effort to your home or to your marriage that you do. He spends money on stupid things. He doesn’t spend as much time with the kids as you’d like. Or any one of thousands of other complaints. Yes. I know.
But the first step to fixing all of the things that ail your marriage is accepting him and his ways of doing things. It means accepting his hopes and dreams. Accept his weaknesses and faults. Accept that he insists on wearing gym socks with sandals or the way he eats one row at at time off of the corn on the cob. Accept his quirks. You do not need to agree with everything he thinks and does. You just need to accept and respect his right to think and do them. (Just as you want him to respect your rights, quirks, and less-than-stellar moments.)
I’m also not asking you to ignore his weaknesses or tolerate them. Acknowledge that he is human. Acknowledge that he has faults, but then decide not to focus on them. Look the other way. Find his positive traits and focus on those instead. You will find that if you put an honest effort into doing that, your opinions will change. You will see him differently–as a keeper. You will no longer feel the need to change him. Instead you can focus on building a life together with him.
More than likely if you haven’t completely accepted him in the past, you’ve tried to change him. And it’s likely that you are reading this and thinking to yourself that you don’t try to change him. I used to think the same so I’m going to respectfully argue that you do, but perhaps in ways that you are not even aware you are doing it. Maybe you see yourself in this list of ways that women try to change men:
Attempting to change his eating habits and/or table manners (or eating in front of the t.v. manners.)
Nagging him about his driving–speed, directions, the way he turns corners.
Complaining about his cleaning habits or lack thereof. Those passive aggressive remarks count too.
Advising him regarding swearing, drinking, smoking, belching, or talking too loudly in public.
Telling him where and how he should spend his money. Oh lord do they hate that.
Nagging about his playing video games or watching t.v.
Nagging about his neglecting household duties or repairs, yard work, and household bills.
Complaining to him about his lack of social skills. (Or secretly feeling embarrassed to bring him to events and outings.)
Pushing him to spend more time with the kids.
Complaining that he doesn’t attend church.
Leading him to be more manly or to be more strict with the children.
Pushing him to have more ambition or the opposite–to stop dreaming.
Do you see yourself in these? I’ll bet you do, but you have good reasons for doing those things, right? Yes. Women try to change men for lots of reasons. But whether it be to improve life for yourself or your children or for his own good, you still need to stop doing it. Why? Because it is causing problems in your marriage and nothing else is going to get better until you stop doing this first.
When you nag and push and complain and try to change him, you are destroying the love between you. You are creating tension and resentment. You are hurting his ego–a huge no no, and one that we will discuss at length in a post next week. When that happens, the love between you can actually be completely destroyed. Trust me. He is aware of his weaknesses but he expects you to look at his good points just as you expect him to look at yours. How would you feel if he suddenly decided to compare you to other women?
Trying to change him doesn’t work. He will simply dig in and rebel. You will only find yourself in a worse position than when you began. You will find yourself in a place where he can’t bear the sight of you. He will start staying out later and later. Your marriage will crumble.
So how can you help him to improve himself? You can’t. You have to be ready to accept that he is going to stay exactly how he is today. But here’s the thing. He can change himself, and when a man feels that a woman completely accepts him as he is, he is often inspired to do just that–to become more. When he believes that you are proud of the man he is, he will want to become a better man.
So where and how do you begin this process? Start by giving him his freedom. Let him do everything exactly as he wants to do it. Don’t coach him on how to dress, what to pack for a trip, what to eat, where to go, how to do anything. Don’t counsel him on religion or politics. Don’t lecture him on health. Let him solve problems for himself. Let him learn as he goes. Let him know his choices and allow him to use his own free will to make those choices. Let his spirit be free. It’s the only way he can develop as a human being. Why is it that we as women have such difficulty with this? Why do we struggle with allowing men to be the kind of men they want to be without interference? Why do we try to control them?
One of the hardest lessons I had to accept was surrounding my own self-righteousness. But it was true. When I pointed out my husband’s faults, I was putting myself in a position to judge. But did I have that right? Was I better than he was in any way? Am I a better person? No. I just didn’t believe I shared that particular fault, so I felt qualified to judge him. But I certainly had my faults. I may be better with cooking than he is, but he’s better with budgeting than I am. I might be better with deciphering legal contracts, but he is a better negotiator than I. He stays naturally lean and fit while I struggle with my weight. And the thing is that he has never once tried to point out his superiority over me with any of those things. Never. He accepts me just as I am. Yes. My greatest lesson was learning that it was I who needed changing. Not him.
I needed to stop demanding, giving ultimatums, criticizing, nagging, pushing, pulling, pressuring, suggesting, hinting, or comparing him to others. I needed to accept him. I needed to look beyond the faults and see the positives. When he was not paying as much attention to the children as I thought he should, and I looked past that, I saw a man who was working 60 hours a week then coming home and trying to fit in household repairs and other domestic chores. That was admirable. To then nag him for not spending time with his daughters was ludicrous. He was already stretched beyond his means as it was. He was doing the best he could.
Likewise when I was tempted to scold him for being difficult at work, I had to look past my worry about him possibly losing his job as a result of his defiance. I had to look into his world where i was shocked to discover that he walked into a literal battle ground every day. In his world there is a constant battle of one man over the other to try to stay on top or risk their jobs and everything else in their lives. He had to fight at work just to maintain his position so that he could care for us–so that he could keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. That was also incredibly admirable (and humbling.) My husband was not careless or inept. He was a warrior. And I’d failed to see it.
And when I did and he saw that I respected him and trusted him to do things on his own, his attitude began to shift to one of a more confident and happy man. From that point on, everything began to improve.
In fact it’s true for most marriage that women marry then try hard to change their husbands, but men marry hoping that the woman never changes. Unfortunately it is the exactly opposite that happens in both cases.
So here’s your assignment for tonight.
Step One: Accept your spouse in every way.
Step two: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Gather your courage. Punch down your ego. Sit him down and tell him that you’ve messed up. Tell him that you are sorry. You’ve judged him in the past. You’ve not been supportive of him. You had not understood him. Tell him that you are very happy with the kind of man he is and that you are happy he didn’t let you push him around. You are glad he’s held to his convictions. And then ask him to forgive you and let you prove to him that you are ready to accept him exactly as he is.
Step three: Make it a point every day to see his better side. What are the qualities that he has that you can admire. Find them. Focus on only them. If something comes up that makes you cringe, turn away from it. Do not criticize. Focus on the positive.
This is the beginning of a major change for your marriage. The moment you begin to focus on his better side, you will see an evolution beginning to occur. You will see hope.
Next week we’ll talk about the next key.
Feel free to comment below with his reaction to Step 2. Some will be shocked and relieved that the years of his agonizing self-doubt are over. Some will be pleased. Some will react with sarcasm because your relationship has been so rocky for so long that they won’t trust what you’re saying. No matter how he reacts, just listen. Don’t criticize. Don’t argue. Just listen. Agree. If he says he doesn’t believe you, agree. Tell him you can see why he might think that because you’ve never respected him in the past but you’re ready to change and you want his permission to try.
Tell him you’re reading about how to change, and you’re going to give it everything you have.
And I’ll see you here tomorrow.
PS. Please note that problems with alcoholism, drug addiction, and abuse are specifically excluded from any of the above. Those issues should never be blindly accepted and all require professional assistance for all parties involved. Please do not hesitate to seek assistance in any matter that jeopardizes the safety of you or your children.