Article inspired by Dr. Lee Baucom, PhD., author of Save The Marriage
To Improve Your Marriage, First Look at Yourself
Are you a man filled with uncertainty about your future because it seems your marriage is at risk? If so, where should you start to improve your marriage? What would be the best “tool” to use to get your marriage back on track? The answer might surprise you.
You can start by looking in the mirror – yes, at your very own self. The best means you have for safeguarding your marriage is yourself.
Let’s take this case as an example: Jeff and his wife had several crises in their marriage over the years. Divorce had more than once stared them in the face but they had decided to back away each time.
However, the time came when his wife decided that she had had enough. Jeff’s unfulfilled promises to change had faded all her hopes of lasting change.
Jeff had often in the past acknowledged the error of his ways and had emphatically declared that he was about to change. He would behave differently for a while but it was really just an act. Nothing had actually changed.
They were once again battling to keep their marriage from toppling over the edge and dropping into the chasm of divorce. Their counselor wondered if it would indeed be possible for them to avoid a divorce yet another time.
However, this time there was a difference – and it gave them a point to work from. Jeff had a trait that he had long tried to deny and ignore – he had a controlling nature. He finally realized that this was the underlying cause of the problems in his marriage.
By hook or by crook, he had always tried to make his world go the way he wanted it to go. The problem was, his wife was involved in that world. His world was assaulting her world – and she had simply had enough.
What Makes Someone Controlling?
Why was Jeff controlling? The reason is the same for anyone: fear. We tell ourselves that when we control our world, we can control whatever bad things might happen.
His wife would certainly have seen some areas she would like to change. She might consider that the “victim” in a controlling relationship would at some point have become the person being controlled. Perhaps she chose that route to avoid discord, or it might have seemed easier to do that than to make her own decisions. Whatever the case, she had allowed herself to be controlled and her husband had gladly obliged.
Who Needs to Change?
One day, Jeff asked his counselor, “Why must I be the only one to change? She needs to change, too!” Now, Jeff is in one place, wanting to save his marriage. But his wife has had enough of it and wants to call it quits. The counselor answered, “She’s given up on the marriage, that means it’s up to you. You can either rant and rage, complaining how unfair it is, or you can change. It’s your call.”
This reply caught Jeff off-guard. He had some serious thinking to do. Like it or not, he needed to change, regardless of what his wife might do.
This was easier said than done. It was not because he was incapable of changing, however. The problem was that Jeff had gone from working on changing to “proving” to his wife that he was changing. Jeff was working to control his world so that his wife could “see” that he was not controlling. There was no ACTUAL change taking place.
Old Behaviors Die Hard
In childhood, we develop behaviors when we find that they work for us. They allow us to have some sense of “control and effect” in our personal world. The problem is that new circumstances cause these old behaviors to stop working and they start creating problems. Childhood behaviors in an adult world can backfire on us!
Adopt a Growth Mindset
As humans, we sometimes forget that we have a great capacity for change and growth. So in order to improve your marriage and preserve it, you need to adopt a growth mindset. Don’t allow yourself to feel stuck in one place!
Once you’ve done that, follow these simple directions:
1. Realize that there are aspects of yourself that you can change, irrespective of what is happening in your marriage. Secondly, understand that you have the capacity to improve, change and grow.
2. Contemplate what your spouse has been telling you. Can you think of at least 5 recurring issues or topics that your spouse keeps mentioning as problems? Write them down. Don’t retort with “yeah, but…” – just write them down and accept the possibility that they just might be true.
3. Consider the places where you repeatedly slip up in life. You might recognize patterns that seem to keep repeating themselves. Do you notice from them how you automatically respond and react to situations? Are they describing places that no longer work? If so, add them to your list.
4. Reflect on your list. If there are any points that you flatly disagree with (not simply denying because you’d hate to admit it), rule a line through them. Don’t delete them; you might return to them later and find that they are truer than you’d like to admit.
Listing Your Changes
5. Make a new list of how you might change each of the issues or topics. Where could you start right now? Start somewhere.
6. Consider the person you want to be and what you are doing to get there. Make it a daily habit to reflect on this; don’t wait and say you’ll do it later. Change requires time and effort. It took you some time to become who you are; it will also take you a while to recreate yourself.
7. Remember, you won’t turn yourself around overnight. Allow yourself some “relapse” room; it will take some time to change. However, one day you will look back and be glad you’re better than the person you used to be!
8. Don’t set out to “prove” how you have changed. Just BE changed. Your spouse will notice the change. Trying to prove something turns you into an actor. To improve your marriage you must be the change.
By now, you will be working hard on improving yourself. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the relationship aspect. If you find how you can improve your marriage while you are working on yourself, you will be doing both – changing your relationship and changing yourself.
Need help with transforming your marriage? Visit SaveTheMarriage.com.