So many people have made New Years resolutions that they are attempting to keep. (Some have already given up on keeping theirs.) Did you make any? If so, how are you doing in keeping them? Hopefully, you’re still on track. But if you aren’t… don’t quit. There is no law that says you can’t get back on board to keep trying. Just jump back on board again. And while you’re at it, why not add one more resolution? We encourage you to make steps in decluttering your marriage relationship. So, how do you do that, you might ask?
It’s a step-by-step process. As someone said, “Decluttering your marriage is a little like decluttering your house.” You look around and see where things are piled up and tackle those piles one at a time. Now this may overwhelm you as you think about it. And we understand that all too well! We’ve had to tackle relationship messes ourselves many, many times.
We’re sure we will never get them all cleaned out. It’s a lot like housework; it just keeps magically piling up again as soon as you think you’re done. And this can be discouraging. But it’s better to work on this task one step at a time than to let it bury us in dysfunction. Dysfunction can suffocate us if we don’t work to improve matters.
Decluttering Your Marriage Relationship
So, here are several tips concerning decluttering to glean through to see what can work for you. First:
• Don’t Get Overwhelmed! And don’t procrastinate. It’s easy to fall into relationship holes. Instead, starting today, approach these matters one step-at-a-time. Don’t let dysfunctions pile up higher. However, when it comes to decluttering your marriage of relationship garbage here’s a tip from Joshua Becker:
“Expect it to be a process. Give your spouse time and space. I’d guess there are things your husband or wife would like to change about you. Offer the same patience he or she has shown you.”
Again, deal with relationship issues little-by-little, giving grace. Also, we love what Mark Gungor said about this:
“One of the reasons many New Year’s resolutions fail is that people start BIG! You may go full speed ahead into that diet or fitness routine, only to find out by January 5th that you feel like you’re starving, sick of kale and your muscles are screaming.
“…So, what I’m thinking is: Start small. Keep it manageable. Why not find one or two easy-to-remember-and-do things that will make your spouse feel special and loved, which will improve your marriage. And for those of you (like me) who are remembering challenged, set a reminder in your phone. (You know, it’s that shining little gadget in your hand that gets an inordinate amount of your attention every day?)” (From Mark’s article, “New Year’s Resolution for Your Marriage”)
If your problems are piling up, step back, breathe, and pray. Then talk together to figure out little things you can do that will make positive differences. And realize, it’s not a once for all time fix it!
Decluttering Communication Between You
Here is one problem that couples face that need decluttering:
• It’s common for communication to break down and need fixing. At different points in your life together your communication will need tune ups. Everything in life breaks down in some way. So eventually your communication will be found to be lacking. But don’t let it stay that way. Work at it, just like you do at your job. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. Other times it’s the other way around. But keep at it.
Does it ever “all” get done? No! You just keep chinking away at it. Set up systems that help to prevent breakdowns. (We have a lot of Communication Tools posted on this web site to help you in this mission.) And then work on communication matters, which have broken down. That’s all a part of everyday life! But don’t allow yourself to feel defeated. Persevere!
Ask yourself concerning your life together:
“Are you and your spouse on the same page when it comes to the basic things you have to accomplish each day? Are you clear on schedules, what happened during the day, or what needs to happen tomorrow? If you are too busy to talk about the basic details of life, you are too busy. Make time every day to talk through what’s happening and what’s coming up. Simply talking through your schedules can help you help each other, and feel more connected during a crazy-busy time.” (From the Marriage Dynamics Institute article, Declutter Your Marriage in Fifteen Minutes a Day)
That might seem like an impossible task. It may seem like it. But it’s a great goal to keep before you. Just keep trying, and persevering. It’s worth your every effort. We know it from personal experience.
Additionally, as Far as Decluttering Marital Issues:
It’s also important to:
• Keep Short Accounts. This is something we learned years ago. Don’t let your gripes with each other pile on top of each other. If you do, they can kill your relationship. The picture that comes to mind is one that some hoarders experience. They push aside that, which they are saving, and/or that, which they don’t want to deal with to the point that it gets unmanageable and unsafe. As a result, some hoarders have even been buried alive when the piles topple over onto them.
The same thing can happen in the marriage relationship. You can push your relationship stuff aside to such a degree that it eventually heaps up. And then it becomes an even bigger problem. Also, you start making assumptions about the other that very well may not be true at all. But because you don’t ask, you don’t know the truth. Resentments and anger are then able to feed false imaginations. And it all piles on top of each other. All of this can then escalate and contaminate the peace in your home.
And sometimes, all of this can kill your relationship. Deal with your grievances as they come up. Don’t push them away so they pile up and multiplies to an unhealthy point. Rather than continue on about this we encourage you to read the article: Keep Short Accounts on Grievances.
Beware of hanging onto unforgiveness. Bitterness can pile up and bury you in toxicity. If you don’t with bitterness and unforgiveness it will snuff out any good that you have going for you. And just like mold, it grows and gets worse and worse with time.
“Why should you practice forgiveness? Here are some good reasons:
• God commands us to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice to obey. To withhold forgiveness is also a choice—to disobey.
• When we don’t forgive someone, it only hurts us more. In hanging on to the wrong done to us, our sorrow and hurt turns to resentment and bitterness. And these always hurt us more than the other person.
• If we don’t forgive someone, the offense keeps coming back to haunt us again and again.” (Doug Fields, from his article, “Forgiveness is at the Core of Every Happy Marriage”)
We’ve found that bitterness can blind us to the good within our spouse. Eventually, all we see is the bad. It overtakes the good and poisons it. It also keeps us a prisoner to it as we think about the bad over and over and over again. Work to take care of that. Think about all of the times God has forgiven you. That should motivate you all the more.
Here are a few more thoughts:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
“A happy marriage doesn’t mean you have a perfect spouse or a perfect marriage. It simply means you’ve chosen to look beyond the imperfections in both.” (Fawn Weaver)
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
To start you on that journey to empty your bitterness, please look around the Bitterness and Forgiveness topic of this web site.
Here’s Another Decluttering Tip:
• Apologize sooner, rather than later. And make sure when you do apologize you do it in such a way that your spouse truly feels you are sorry for what you have done that has hurt him or her.
“When couples learn how to apologize in a manner that is meaningful to the other person, they make forgiveness easier. What most people want to know when you’re attempting to apologize is ‘Are you sincere?’ However, they judge your sincerity by whether or not you’re speaking what to them is a genuine apology.” (Dr Gary Chapman, from the book “Things I Wish I’d known Before We Got Married”)
On this point realize:
“Happy couples apologize with the ‘B’ word. Quickly saying the words ‘I’m sorry’ is a bad apology because it often comes off as insincere, and could trigger another battle. Next time you seek mercy, add the ‘B’ word. Say, ‘I’m sorry because…’ and share how you hurt your mate and what you’ll do to prevent the wrongdoing from recurring. Research shows that when you add the ‘because clause’ your words are more persuasive.” (Laurie Puhn, from Foxnews.com article, “10 truths about happy marriages”)
To help you learn a bit more specifics on this matter, read:
There are so many other issues we can deal with as you look at decluttering your marriage relationship. A few more are… become students of each other and of marriage. (That way you can better deal with your issues.) Don’t forget to have fun along the way. If you get too serious with each other all the time, you can both get discouraged. Pepper in fun along with the serious stuff. And the list goes on and on. If you need additional tips for working on your issues, look around this web site. You will find all kinds of helpful articles to read.
One More Tip:
Here is one last tip as you are decluttering your marriage relationship.
• Work to accept the things you cannot change about your spouse. Now, we’re not talking about abuse or sin issues. But personality issues are a different matter. If you married an engineer type of person, don’t expect him or her to continually be a sensitive person. And a sensitive person can sometimes look at life’s issues from a serious side. But he or she will not be able to change completely. We need to give each other grace and marry our differences.
Also, we are sinners, married to sinners. (And some of us have little “sinnerlings” that both bless and complicate our marriages.) We’re told in the Bible: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That’s why we need to give each other grace and sometimes forgiveness when things get exceptionally difficult. Doug Fields touched on this issue when he said,
“We’re all in this strange relational chaos together. Every single person on the planet is, at some point, flawed or weird or even downright creepy. Including me. And you. We hurt others. Others hurt us. There are no exceptions. If you think you’re the exception, you’re not. You just lack the self-awareness to know that you’re a crazy nut job like the rest of us.”
An Important Prayer
So, below is a prayer. It’s also a goal for all of us to work for (written by Rev. Tracey Dawson) on the issue of accepting people (our spouse) and change:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”
And as you work on your marriage this is our prayer for you:
“May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:2)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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