Every marriage has problems from time to time. Sometimes those problems keep going for a while. It’s as if we just can’t seem to get over the hump to the other side. We might try what seems like a dozen different things, yet none of them seem to bring any results. At least, none bring the results that we want them to.
These times are frustrating for all of us, men and women alike. But somehow, society has come to the consensus that pretty much all the problems in any marriage are the man’s fault. It doesn’t matter who does what or who doesn’t do what, if the marriage is in trouble, the man has to be at fault.
Let me tell you a secret: you’re both at fault. Yes, she’s at fault, just like you’re thinking. But you are too. So how about we stop pointing fingers and decide to do something to make it better? You can’t do a thing to change her, but you can do a whole lot to change you. And regardless of who is at fault for what, changing yourself will probably be enough to not only save your marriage, but make it into the great marriage you’ve always wanted.
The first thing any of us need to do when our marriage is in trouble is to forgive. It’s just about impossible to live in close proximity with another person for a prolonged period of time without offending them. But most of those offenses are unintentional and, in many cases, the person who offended the other has no idea what they’ve done.
Forgiving doesn’t mean that you rehearse the offense, throwing it in their face and then tell them that you forgive them. That’s using forgiveness as a means to attack. No, real forgiveness is something between you and God, where you go before Him and tell Him that you have forgiven them. Then let Him soften your heart.
You’ll probably feel great after forgiving them, until you start playing the tape over in your head again. What tape? The one that got you offended in the first place. So what do you do then? You forgive them all over again. In fact, what you need to do is keep forgiving them, over and over, until you can think of what they did that offended you, without it bothering you. This takes a growing level of humility and grace.
Forgiveness is one of the most freeing things you can do; not for your wife, but for you. You’ll find it much easier to be at peace and love her when you no longer have those offenses in your heart. So what are you waiting for?
Quit Being Self-centered
Let’s face it, we all get married for selfish reasons. Oh, we say we love that other person, but the reality is we love how that other person makes us feel. That’s really not love, at least not how the Bible defines love, it’s self-centeredness.
If your whole relationship is about what you can get from each other, then neither of you will ever be happy. Your marriage will be nothing more than a contest to see who can get the most. But if you get together and make a commitment to change that contest into one of who can bless the other the most, you’ll find that you both win. But you both have to play the game that way.
Actually, you can start playing the game that way even if your wife doesn’t agree. Just the fact that you’re doing it, deliberately, will challenge her in a good way, and she will ultimately respond.
If you’re not praying together for your marriage, you should be. Marriage isn’t just a joining together of two people, it’s a joining together of two people, with God in their midst. He’s supposed to be a part of your marriage. If He’s not, it’s not because He decided to leave.
It can be hard to pray for your marriage, especially when you feel like your marriage is on the rocks. But don’t think you have to pray a flowery prayer. If all you can pray is: “Lord, help!”, then do so. God will understand.
But more than that, it will be an act of faith by the two of you, placing your marriage in God’s hands and asking Him to help you. He always honors prayers like that. And you know something? It’s going to be hard for either of you to question how God answers you, when you’ve already asked Him for help. He may tell you to do something you don’t really want to do. But shouldn’t you be willing to take that risk for your marriage?
Focus on the Good
Before we got married, we all focused on the positive we saw in our future spouse. Even when others tried to point out their failings, we brushed them aside, preferring to focus on the good. In fact, we did that so well, that it seemed like we were blind to any failing they might have. After all, “Love is blind,” as they say.
Then, at some point in time, our focus changed. Rather than focusing on the good in that person, we started focusing on the bad. If your marriage is on the rocks, you’re probably at the point where that’s all you see. You’re so focused on the bad you see in that person that you are blind to the good in them.
It’s time to turn that back around. Make a covenant with each other to focus on the good, not the bad. If you do, you’ll suddenly see that they’re the same person you married all those years ago. It will be a whole lot easier to love that person than the one you’ve been looking at with “thorn-colored” glasses.
Act in Love
Speaking of loving that person, one of the greatest tools to increasing your love towards your wife is to do things to show your love. This may sound crazy to you, but your emotions will follow your actions. If you act like you love her, you’ll find yourself feeling that love.
I learned this lesson at one of the lowest points in my life. I was in the midst of a whole year of emotional crisis. I felt about as unloved as anyone can feel. Yet, right in the middle of that, God said to me, “Today would be a good day to do something special for your wife!”
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried arguing with God; but it doesn’t work. You can’t win. So once I realized that, I went out and did what God told me to, buying a gift for my wife. You know what happened? It changed how I felt towards her. Rather than focusing on feeling unloved, I felt love toward her. The selfless act of doing something in love, even when I felt unloved, changed the paradigm and brought love back into the relationship.
Take Time for Each Other
You can’t keep the fires burning if you don’t attend to the fire. More marriages are suffering today from lack of time and attention than any other reason. We live in a society where we are so busy that we don’t have time to spend together.
This is especially bad for couples with children. On top of all the things we’re doing as adults, we’re running our children here and there for a dozen different activities. There’s rarely a time when we’re just sitting together or enjoying some activity together, even something as simple as watching a sunset or going for a walk.
Make time for each other a priority in your lives. You should have a regularly scheduled date night or time at least once a week, where you just spend time together, doing something you both enjoy. But it has to be alone; no kids, no friends, no in-laws, no babies and no phones. Just the two of you enjoying time together and making memories. Not talking about anything heavy, just talking.
Renew Your Vows
If you want to give your marriage a good jolt in the arm, then renew your wedding vows. Sometimes we forget what it is that we promised to each other. We forget what our marriages are all about. We get so wrapped up in today that we forget about that first special day. Digging up your wedding vows and taking the time to say them to each other will help remind you of what it’s all about.
My wife and I had the blessing of having our marriage professionally videotaped. It was a wedding gift given to us by the head of the church’s video ministry. So rather than retaking our vows, we have the ability to watch them and relive what that day was like. We do this every anniversary and have done it other times as well. It’s always an enjoyable experience and we walk away from it feeling more love and commitment than ever before.
(Bonus) Get Physical
You can’t maintain the love in your marriage without the physical part of marriage too. As a guy, you’re probably the one in your marriage who wants more sex, while your wife is less interested. Okay, if she’s too tired, then don’t push it on her. That’s not going to get the results that you want.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be physical, which may very well lead to you both getting what you want and need: intimacy. There’s something about women which reacts negatively to us guys being after just one thing. However, if they can feel connected to us, they’ll want sex just as much as we do.
The reason this is so important is that physical contact, especially any sort of intimate physical contact, releases the hormone oxytocin in our bodies. Like most hormones, this one has both an emotional and a physical effect on us. The emotional effect of oxytocin is that it makes us feel “in love.” Yep, the more physical contact we have with our wives, the more we’ll both feel in love. That probably has a lot to do with how you fell in love in the first place.
So what can you do to increase the amount of non-sexual touch in your marriage and boost both of your oxytocin levels? Give her a backrub (after watching a few videos and learning how to do it). Walk up behind her and hug her, perhaps kissing the back of her neck. For that matter kiss her; not a peck, a real kiss. Hold hands when you walk. Cuddle together in bed. Cuddle on the sofa, watching a movie. Cuddle anywhere you can. Wake up in the morning and cuddle a few minutes before getting out of bed. Just cuddle; anywhere, anytime.
So, there’s seven… uh, eight ideas to get your marriage back on track. If you go through that list and it’s not enough, write a comment below. I’ve got plenty more where those came from.