Did you know that it is perfectly possible to improve your marriage on your own without any input from your husband?
If you are keen to turn around a marriage which has become dull or even desolate, try the simple steps below to make your marriage better.
Step 1: Take the Initiative!
It's extremely hard to change someone else, far easier to start a little closer to home! So stop trying to 'fix' your husband and instead work on yourself. Take responsibility to change the way you behave. You'll be surprised how your spouse will pick up on these changes and even mirror them too!
So let's start with the basics:
A) Your Attitude
Be honest, do you tend to focus on your spouse's failings rather than their better attributes? By putting your husband's bad habits in context it may actually alleviate how strongly you feel about his shortcomings.
So, next time you are annoyed, instead of thinking, 'ooh he's always so grumpy' try to add something positive to this such as, 'but he's been working really long hours lately and I know how tired he must be'. Just by having this chain of thought should soften how you interact with him and bring out your caring side. Try it and see how it works for you!
B) Action and Reaction
At times we all fly off the handle. If your spouse lets rip remember that you can choose the way you respond. A fiery reaction to an already pent up spouse will just add fuel to the fire. Far better to keep control, stay calm and retain your dignity. If your partner is not on their best behavior there's no need for you to follow suit.
It can be really hard to change your behavior but keep your emotions in check and try a new way of dealing with conflict. Tell your spouse that you can see they're upset but would rather wait until they have calmed down before discussing things.
Say that you don't want an argument and suggest he takes a shower or has some food before you talk. The most important thing is that you find a way to take the heat out of the situation and start a new, more positive way of handling conflict.
Step 2: Quit Criticizing!
Instead of criticizing your spouse (to your friends or to his face), try to explain to him what bothers you. Put the emphasis on resolving issues not grumbling about them!
It's surprising how easy it is to pick up bad habits in a marriage. Criticizing your spouse can creep into your everyday behavior. He may very well need to shape up a bit but constant criticism is unlikely to be the trigger for change.
A) Be Clear
Change the focus away from criticism and instead explain how you feel.
Often we feel exasperated by our spouse's behavior and fire things out like: 'Why did you leave your dishes for me to wash up?' This kind of approach will get you their answer, perhaps even an apology, but it won't necessarily make them act any differently next time around.
Try explaining the effect of their behavior, for example, 'I had so much to do today and when you left your dish in the sink it made me feel like you didn't realize how busy I am at the moment.'
Chores can be a common area of disagreement and having a clear agreement on sharing the load can help to avoid arguments. We suggest a special discussion just on this topic.
You can kick off by telling your husband how much you appreciate the things he already does and then look at the balance of chores between you, compared to the time you each have available. You may even want to consider getting a home help.
Try to break the habit of criticizing your spouse. Take steps to clearly communicate what you want without turning things unnecessarily negative.
I hope we have shown you that you can take action single-handedly to turn around your marriage. This doesn't make you weak; quite the opposite. Let us know how you get on!
Barbara has been a marriage counselor for over 15 years. The real “in the trenches” experience in solving family problems has come from marriage of over 30 years, 6 kids, 5 kids-in-law and energetic grandkids!