Written by Aaron & April Jacob
So, you two are having problems.
He's snapping at you about the brand of cheese you bought and you're barking at him about flirting with your waitress over dinner. You two.
You are feeling a bit frustrated about your marriage and want things to be better, right?
Well, you have come to the right place.
Now that you're here, we're going to sit and chat with you for a minute, and perhaps even be a bit bold, but we hope you don't mind. You know we care about you and that marriage of yours, so just know that this all comes from our desire to help you and encourage you along in your marriage journey!
Please remember in all of this talk about marriage problems, that according to renowned marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, some problems in marriage are solvable and others aren't. Problems are okay.
In fact, we probably should call them challenges or opportunities instead of problems, because that is exactly what they are. Problems simply present you and that good looking spouse of yours with challenge, and who doesn't love a good challenge?
Problems give you an opportunity to look at yourself and your life and to make big decisions about choosing and creating the life you know you want, and can have together.
So settle in as we share 3 simple things you can do (starting today) if you are having marriage problems, ahem, challenges (and chances are, you probably are).
1. Fix yourself first.
Ah, the ever common answer to most marriage-related problems, and yet the one that we never want to hear.
It's easier to blame problems on our past, or on our spouse, or on the dog, but really, we - as individuals (with all of our strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and more) likely play a large part in every marital problem we face.
Okay, so you don't need to "fix" yourself, because you aren't broken, but you may need to take a little look inside your heart and see what changes you ought to make in order to improve your marriage relationship.
Taking responsibility by looking inward is always a good place to start.
Personal inventories are always a little painful, a little humbling, and a little uncomfortable, but they lead to the kind of learning that helps us to see ourselves and our spouse through new eyes, and with a new, more softened heart. All good things. Very good things.
So, take a little inventory of your life.
Perhaps in taking inventory of your life you realize that you have never ever ever offered to help bring in the groceries before, or that you seriously do tend to correct everything he says, or that whenever you come home from work you are grouchy, or that you lose your temper over silly things when you really shouldn't.
If, in taking inventory of your life you find a few things you need to stop doing, then stop doing them. And if you find a few things you need to start doing, well, start doing them.
The best time to change and improve is now.
So just start.
Just make the decision to start changing one behavior or habit today. You'll be glad you did. So will your spouse.
2. Use the resources around you.
It's amazing how many resources we have access to. When it comes to relationship resources, there are many.
Please don't be afraid, or embarrassed, or ashamed to go to marriage counseling. Or to seek help. Or to ask for advice. How else are you supposed to grow?
Marriage counseling, although a bit pricey, would help more people if they approached it as a preventative measure (like a well-visit to the Dr.) and went with a desire to learn new skills in order to strengthen their marital relationship.
Tap into all the resources around you - counseling; coaches; the internet; books like our new book, Nurture: 100 Practical Tips for Marriage; religious leaders; trusted family members; online communities (see our Nurturing Marriage Facebook group here); prayer; and so forth.
There are a lot of resources around you. It's easy to complain about what isn't going right in a marriage, but it is more difficult to actually start using the resources already available to you.
Look around and see if there is a resource that seems to speak to you - and start there. Perhaps you decide to actually read (and apply) a whole marriage book. Or maybe you take an older couple out to dinner and pick their brains about what worked and didn't work in their marriage. Maybe you decide to talk to a clergyman (or woman) or to simply call your dad and just glean a little wisdom from someone who has walked the path ahead of you.
Whatever you choose to do, simply ask yourself, "What resources are right in front of me that I'm not using?"
Seek help for your current marriage challenges by looking to the resources that are currently available to you.
You may be surprised at all of the help that is in front of your eyes, if only you decide to look.
3. Write your own prescription.
That's right. Chances are, if you really think about it, you already know what needs to be done in order to improve your marriage.
We're going to invite you to get out a little piece of paper right now (do it) and write yourself a prescription.
Just as you would go to a Dr. if you weren't feeling well physically and needed a prescription for medicine, your marriage may be in need of a good old-fashioned prescription.
So start writing.
Pretend, just for a moment, that you are your very own marriage counselor.
What advice would you give yourself?
What changes and improvements need to be made?
Perhaps your prescription for this week is to bite your tongue, or to give her a long kiss every day, or to notice something that is going right in the relationship and to point it out on the daily. Or perhaps you need to actually make time to talk for longer than two seconds, or to actually go on a date, or perhaps you simply need to say (and show) you are sorry.
Whatever it is, write it down, and then stick that piece of paper in a place where you can see it every day (better yet, set it as a reminder on your phone three times a day - it may get annoying, but it will definitely remind you!).
Now, go do whatever it is that you wrote down, and see if it doesn't help with some of those marriage "problems" you have been having.
(If nothing else, this kind of an exercise will help you to stop and think about your relationship and about what it needs and doesn't need, and that analysis alone will be a good starting point!)
You've now taken responsibility for your part in your marital problems, identified the resources in front of you, and written a prescription for yourself, so now it's time to take responsibility for your choices and your responses, and to see the difference that changing yourself (or even your mindset or perspective) can play in your marriage.
Now, you two aren't going to be perfect all at once, and your problems won't disappear overnight, but these three tips are a great place to start if you really want to nurture your marriage, create true and lasting connection, and live the happily ever after you have always wanted.
Photo Credit: Bryan Streigler Photo
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