Marriage is the toughest gig around in my opinion. It’s especially hard if you see a lot of room for improvement in your spouse. As a result, this makes my advice hard to swallow. But, here goes anyway… be the one to change in your marriage.
You’re probably thinking, “Easy for you to say, you don’t know my spouse.” I’m assuming that because that’s what I thought when it was suggested I be the first to change in my own marriage.
One of the biggest mistakes we made in our marriage was reacting to each other’s behavior, rather than responding in a way that honored God. We used each other’s behavior as an excuse for own behavior.
Even though we had both done much to contribute to the sad state of our marriage at that time, my eyes were only set on his flaws.
The truth is I didn’t wanna be the first to change. It seemed unfair. After all, haven’t I done enough to work on this marriage?
Somebody’s gotta take the first step and you’re the one reading this!
Before we get started with being the first to change, I want to encourage you with a few benefits. First, I’m living proof that when someone begins to change themselves, progress is made. Secondly, being the first to change won’t make your marriage perfect, but you will experience more joy, peace and freedom.
Think for a minute… how much energy does it take to be angry and frustrated? Is your energy better spent changing your spouse or yourself?
If you view this change in yourself as only benefiting your spouse, you may be tempted to throw in the towel. You have much to gain by being the first to change.
Whenever we walk in God’s purpose for our lives, including in relationships, we experience more peace and joy.
5 ways to change your marriage by changing yourself first.
1.Be Christ like toward your spouse.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 2:5
God’s Word gives us a great outline on how we are to walk in the light and relate to others. If you need a little more direction on how to have the mind of Christ, check out this article. You can be the change in your marriage by following Christ’s example (Philippians 2:1-8). Don’t take advantage, put the interests of others before your own and approach your spouse humbly.
Secondly, never let your behavior depend on someone else. This comes up in couples counseling all the time. It’s an easy one to stumble on when we let our emotions drive our actions (more on that here). Choose to be the change in your marriage by deciding what your behavior will be no matter what the circumstances.
How are you gonna act next time things get frustrating in your marriage?
2. Stop taking your spouse’s inventory.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ~Matthew 7:3
The next thing that can ignite change in your marriage is taking your own inventory… not your spouse’s inventory! Check out this article – it talks about the benefits of self reflection in marriage.
I’ll get you started… Name 5 things you need to do to be the change in your marriage.
Furthermore, you only have control over yourself anyways. Which brings us to the third point.
3. Stop controlling your spouse to change your marriage.
Notice I didn’t title the article, “Be the change in your marriage by changing your spouse.”
If controlling your spouse has been your way of changing your marriage, stop.
Controlling others damages the marriage and leaves you feeling hopeless. For strategies to stop controlling others check out this article.
You are not your spouse’s Holy Spirit! Seriously, it’s tempting to transform your spouse, but it’s not your calling. God, alone, is in the heart changing business.
Stick with cooperating with God on your own transformation. Entrust the transformation of your spouse to God.
Check out this circle of control diagram for a visual of what I’m talking about…
4. Choose to find the good
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~1 Thessalonians 5:18
It’s really easy to focus on the negative. We have a tendency to see what’s going wrong in our spouse and marriage and target that area. This practice is not the impetus for change in your marriage. Rather, choose to find the good in the circumstances of your marriage.
Furthermore, science shows the patterns of our brains begin to change as we establish new patterns of thinking (more on that here). Research backs up the practice of gratitude, saying it increases our happiness by 25% (more on that here). Again, choosing to find the good can powerfully change your marriage.
5. Check your attitude.
Rejoice always. ~1 Thessalonians 5:16
Attitude is defined as a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone (spouse) or something (marriage), typically reflected in a person’s behavior. In other words, your actions reflect the attitude of your heart.
What’s your attitude? How would your spouse describe your attitude?
Thinking and feeling negatively about your marriage/spouse might be reflected with unkindness, impatience, emotional distance, etc. What behaviors reflect your attitude?
Be the change in your marriage.
Being the first one to change in your marriage is really hard. Consequently, it’s really humbling. I want to encourage you, I’ve seen God do the most work in those humbling moments in my own life and marriage.
Five changes to start the change in your marriage include being Christ like toward your spouse. Second, stop taking your spouse’s inventory! Third, focus on what you actually have control over – your own attitudes and actions. Fourth, choose to find the good. There are qualities that caused you to fall in love with your spouse. Camp there for a while! Finally, change any negative attitudes you may have.
Ultimately, being the first to change in your marriage will bring you more peace and joy by aligning your purpose with God’s purpose for you. Furthermore, change in your marriage has to start with someone… it might as well be you.