Remember the promises to love, cherish, and support each other for better or for worse?
Remember the hopes for “happily ever after?”
Remember your starry-eyed love before the financial troubles, health concerns, extended family conflicts, parenting issues, sexual struggles and other stressors put a strain on your marriage?
It's no secret that marriages can face many challenges. Like most things, relationships change over time. They can grow strong, or they can decay. By investing time, energy, and intentionality, even the most damaged and difficult marriages can thrive again.
Repairing and reviving a damaged marriage isn’t easy, but it’s possible! And worth it! While it takes energy, time, and focus, improving a relationship can have a wide range of benefits such as increased happiness, reduced stress, and even improved physical health. Plus, it’s much better for the children. By investing time and effort into building a stronger, healthier relationship, individuals can improve their overall quality of life and enjoy deeper connections. Marriage can be one of life’s greatest blessings providing lifelong partners to share life’s challenges, tragedies, and joys. But good relationships are not easy.
Here is a positive fact about marriage: If you are willing to put time and energy into rescuing your relationship, you can have a fresh start and an improved version of your marriage. Breaking the old patterns of an unhappy relationship dynamic requires a radical shift in mindset and behavior. But the results are worth it. Here are ten practical steps for improving a marriage:
1. Improve yourself. It makes logical sense that your relationship will improve if you are growing in wisdom, security, and kindness. Commit time and energy to improved self-care. Calm your emotions. Improve your commitment to peace. Develop emotions and behaviors associated with kindness. Spouses require deep personal wells from which to draw as they seek to serve their partners.
2. Listen carefully. Actively listening to your partner, asking questions, and clarifying what you’ve heard are the most effective ways to improve any relationship. Learn and practice skills that help you listen actively to your partner.
3. Communicate effectively: If you had a big presentation at work, you would not “wing it.” You’d probably plan your words and presentation methods carefully. Likewise, take extra time to prepare the words and delivery of important messages to your spouse. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: Communication is key to any successful relationship. It's especially important in a marriage. Couples should make an effort to communicate regularly, express their feelings and perspectives openly and honestly.
4. Show gratitude and appreciation: We all want to know that our efforts are seen and appreciated. Don’t take each other for granted. Make a list weekly and regularly express appreciation and gratitude for the things your partner does for you and the relationship. Recognize and acknowledge your partner’s efforts and contributions.
5. Become “other-centered:” Relationships thrive when each partner is seeking to serve, support, and encourage the other from a full heart. Kindness, compassion, and unconditional love are ingredients to a lasting and satisfying relationship.
6. Create a family calendar: Prioritizing quality time together is an important factor in improving a marriage. With demanding work schedules, kid activities, and other obligations, it's easy for couples to neglect their relationship. Schedule regular time for date nights, family time, and household chores. While it sounds strange, a calendar can help strengthen your companionship, partnership, and intimacy.
7. Show physical affection: Physical touch can help improve emotional connection. Simple actions like holding hands, sitting next to each other, or giving hugs can help a struggling relationship heal. It is good to start small and let the physicality of a relationship progress as the safety and oneness grows.
8. Practice forgiveness: Forgiveness is essential for any healthy relationship. No one is perfect. We all say and do unloving things. Learn to let go of grudges and forgive your partner for past errors.
9. Set goals together: Marriages often thrive when they have a significant mission and purpose. Big dreams can include financial, community, or ministry goals. Working towards them together can help improve communication and teamwork. Set realistic and achievable goals together as a couple.
10. Be open to change: Your spouse is changing. The things that “worked” five years ago may not work now. Be willing to learn and try new things. Learning new tools and perspectives will keep your relationship interesting and healthy.
Healthy marriage relationships are wonderful! The benefits are innumerable. However it's important to remember that developing a healthy and enjoyable marriage relationship takes time and effort from both partners. While one growing partner can help a struggling marriage, it is far better when both people are committed to personal and relational growth. It's also important to have realistic expectations and not to expect immediate changes. Be patient and persistent in working towards a better and healthier relationship.
Despite thousands of self-help books, podcasts, and articles like this one, sometimes couples still need a counselor to provide an objective view, to share helpful insights gathered over decades of work, to coach their efforts, and to encourage their progress. If you want an objective third-party to help you, please let us know. Next Step Counseling is ready to help. We are a Christian Counseling practice helping couples in Gallatin and Hendersonville, Tennessee. We specialize in helping individuals overcome difficult emotions and regain control of their lives so they can become better partners. We offer both face-to-face and tele-sessions, so you can choose the option that best meets your needs. Let us help you. Contact Next Step Counseling today and turn your life and relationships around.