There are certain issues in your marriage that can’t be changed today. No matter how hard you try, some marriage improvements take time. But these four choices I’m sharing with you today will instantly improve your marriage. Trisha and I have personally seen these four things change our marriage for the good and the absence of these four things change our marriage for the bad. Choosing all four is possible. But even choosing just one is a game changer:
1. Assume the best about your spouse.
Trisha and I spent years being defensive with one another. She would ask me a question and I was defensive. I would say something to her and she was defensive. Being defensive will never build intimacy. When you assume the worst of your spouse, you automatically put them in defense mode. In defense mode, responsibility isn’t taken, grace isn’t shown, patience runs thin and arguments are frequent. When you assume the best of your wife or your husband, there is a confidence that even when you disagree, you know in your heart that your spouse is for you. When you have confidence that your husband or your wife is for you, intense discussions can build intimacy instead of shredding it. Assume the best and be proven wrong.
2. Listen more and speak less
I am a recovering control freak. Control freaks have to be right and have to have the last word. Because I was always trying to prove I was right and always trying to have the last word, I would listen but only to have a response or counterpoint. Sound familiar? Do you interrupt your spouse when she is talking? Do you find yourself thinking of a response in your head as your husband is speaking? Do you not even acknowledge what has been said before you prove how right you are? Your marriage would change today if you listened to your spouse in order to understand, rather than to be understood. Scripture puts it like this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
3. Stop Trying to Change Your Spouse
I wish I could have back the amount of time, energy and emotions Trisha and I have spent believing that we could change the other. We thought if we yelled loud enough, made our point strong enough, were right enough, slammed the door hard enough…they would change. It never worked. When you and I assume the responsibility to change the heart of our spouse, we assume the role of God in our marriage. Can I just set you free from something: you don’t have the power to change a human heart; only God does. So the best advice I can give you that will transform your marriage is begin to pray for your spouse and ask God to change you. When you begin to ask God to change you, your marriage automatically improves, because change is happening in your heart.
4. Stop putting your spouse down in public
This was something that I did for years. I didn’t even realize how often I did this until our separation. One evening at dinner, Trisha shared with me many examples of me being condescending to her or making fun of her in front of other people. I felt horrible. When we make fun of our spouse or insult our spouse in front of others what we communicate is how insecure we are with ourselves. Do you build your spouse up in front of others or tear them down? There is nothing that will erode intimacy quicker than making fun of your spouse in front of others. On the other hand, there is nothing more fulfilling than having your wife/husband compliment you in front of your friends or your family. It is a game changer.