I’m writing this one week into the new year, and many people have already abandoned their resolutions. The the gyms are getting less crowded, donut shops are getting more crowded, and many folks who had hoped the new year would be a better year in their marriage have started to give up hope that real and lasting improvement is possible. I’m here to give you some good news…real improvement in your marriage is possible, BUT it doesn’t happen by making a resolution. It happens by changing your thought process and by changing your daily habits. If you truly want to build a stronger and happier marriage, here are some keys to help get you there:
I’ve broken this “top ten” list into five things you need to start doing and five things you need to stop doing (if you’re doing them). Before we get to the 5 things you need to START doing, I want to list out 5 things you may need to STOP doing. We all have to declutter and prune and remove some things in order to make room for better things.
5 things you need to STOP doing in your marriage:
1. Porn, erotica or any other fantasy involving anyone other than your spouse.
The more I learn about the state of modern marriages, the more I’m convinced that pornography, erotica and sexual fantasy (not exclusively involving your spouse) is one of the BIGGEST causes of disconnection and even divorce in marriage. Porn desensitizes us from experiencing real and true intimacy. Jesus even taught that sexual fantasy in the mind was a form of infidelity. I strongly believe your marriage would be better off if you focus exclusively on your spouse. Strive to be MENTALLY MONOGAMOUS. To help you get there and to break free from porn, there are some great resources at XXXchurch.com.
2. Friends who talk negatively about marriage or negatively about your spouse.
Your friends probably have a much bigger influence on your marriage than you realize. If you’re frequently hanging out with people who don’t have healthy relationships, their mindset could potentially bring some dysfunction into your own marriage if you’re not careful. Surround yourself with people who strengthen your character and your marriage and remove yourself from people who would attempt to compromise your commitment to your marriage.
3. Being critical of your spouse.
Constant criticism is toxic to a marriage. Be your spouse’s biggest encourager; not his/her biggest critic. Don’t think that your way of doing things is always the best way. Learn to celebrate each other’s differences and build each other up instead of tearing each other down.
4. Using the word “Divorce”
Take the “D-word” out of your vocabularies. A marriage can’t survive without the security of knowing it’s built on a rock-solid commitment if you’re threatening to leave or secretly developing exit strategies, you’re undermining the foundation of the relationship. Commit to each other that you’re taking divorce off the table and resolve together to work through any challenge without giving up on each other.
One of the most important decisions you can ever make for your marriage is to choose between making excuses why things aren’t healthy OR making a way to start improving. If you’re ready to stop making excuses and start making a way, then I’d encourage you to start with the five things below.
5 things you need to START doing in your marriage:
1. Making time together a priority.
Schedule time together whether it’s at home after the kids are asleep or on a date night. Turn off your phones and devices and spend daily time together in uninterrupted conversation. Don’t let your marriage get stuck on autopilot where you might be in the same room but you’re in two different worlds. Give each other focused time to listen, laugh and learn from each other.
2. Make love (often).
If you only have sex when both spouses are equally “in the mood,” it will rarely happen. Sex is a powerful gift, created by God Himself, to keep a husband and wife connected on a physical, emotional and even spiritual level. Don’t neglect each other and don’t make excuses. Make it a priority. For some tips and tools to help you improve this part of your marriage, check out our video course on sex and intimacy in marriage.
3. Point out the positive.
For most of us, criticism comes more naturally than encouragement, but be intentional about pointing out the positive in your spouse. Praise him/her for the good he/she is doing. Take your mind off the negative and the things you’d like them to change. Build them up and your words will help them become the best version of themselves.
4. Pray with and for each other.
As a Christian, I’m a firm believer that every marriage is at its best when its built on a foundation of Faith. Make prayer part of your daily routine. Get connected into a healthy church where you can consistently hear Biblical teaching to enhance your relationship. Surround yourself with people who will strengthen your faith. It could make a world of difference in your marriage.
5. Get started NOW and then KEEP GOING.
Stop procrastinating or giving up when you start good habits and then stop soon after. You and your spouse will both make mistakes along the way, but keep going forward. For some tools to help you get started right away to build a stronger marriage and family, please check out my brand new book The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships.
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