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“I don’t know that love changes. People change. Circumstances change.” -Nicholas Sparks
It’s that time of year– New Year’s. The time when the old falls away and welcomes the new. It is the time for setting New Year’s resolutions and reevaluating life goals.
Many people embrace this tradition and look for ways to change themselves for the better. They often commit to a healthier body in the form of diets or daily workouts, finishing a novel or taking more time for self-care.
Somehow this type of self-change is welcomed and even invited into one’s life. But when it comes to the pursuit of healthier relationships, the focus is usually on changing the other person rather than oneself.
Why is the most obvious problem between two people the speck in the other person’s eye rather than the plank in our own? Why is it so painful to admit our own shortcomings? And why is it so scary to change our own issues?
Mahatma Gandhi famously stated, “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him”. This quote impresses the fact that to affect change in others, we need to first change ourselves.
So what does this have to do with marriage?
If you want to see change in the relationship with your spouse, the change starts with YOU!
Try changing your attitude towards your spouse in these ways…
1. ACCEPT YOUR SPOUSE FOR WHO THEY ARE
When your spouse feels loved, secure and accepted, they are more likely to listen to feedback and work towards positive change. When your spouse receives criticism and contempt, they are more likely to respond by avoiding or pulling away and may become angry, defensive or have feelings of worthlessness.
2. REMIND YOURSELF OF THE THINGS YOU APPRECIATE ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE
What do they do that is helpful or encouraging to you? What are the qualities that endeared you to them when you fell in love? What are their positive characteristics?
Now tell your spouse about these things.
3. CELEBRATE YOUR SPOUSE’S UNIQUENESS
Yes, there may be things that your spouse does that is so different from you! But this is what makes them uniquely who they are! And you didn’t mind these things in the beginning. Seek to understand why your spouse does what they do and what about this can be positive and even fun!
4. EXPRESS YOUR NEEDS TO YOUR SPOUSE IN A NON-BLAMEFUL WAY
Avoid using phrases beginning with the word ‘You”. Express your concerns by stating, “I feel____________ about ____________. I need____________.” Strive to clearly understand one another’s needs and discuss ideas to meet them.
5. ANALYZE YOURSELF FIRST AND YOUR SPOUSE SECOND
Instead of questioning your spouse’s actions, words or inaction, first question yours. Really try to understand WHY YOU respond the way you do.
6. LEAD THE WAY FOR YOUR SPOUSE
Take responsibility for your actions AND your reactions. Be vulnerable and seek forgiveness from your spouse where you have responded wrongly or harbored ill feelings. Invite your spouse to emotionally connect with you.
7. THINK THE BEST OF YOUR SPOUSE
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Assume they have your best in mind and are not acting out of malice. Believe that your spouse is doing the best they can, with what they have, in that moment.
Love doesn’t change. We do.
When you take the focus off how your spouse SHOULD change, and choose to focus on how YOU can change, you are choosing LOVE.
HOW WILL YOU BE THE CHANGE IN YOUR MARRIAGE?
TAKE NOTE: It takes more than just personal responsibility to heal a marriage, especially if you find yourself in a particularly difficult or destructive marriage. Reach out HERE if you need support