“How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? That bad, huh? Well, if you’re like most people then all the plans you made during the first week of January are probably in the tank; and as the weeks rolled on you found yourself getting back to how you always did life. Has frustration set in because the marital changes you wanted to make just didn’t stick? You aren’t alone in this!”
But have you thought about this possibility? “Maybe it’s because you’ve kept doing things the same way but expecting different results.” That’s what Bob and Yvonne Turnbull (of Turnbull Ministries) propose as a possibility. And it could benefit your marriage if you read (and apply) what they have to say on this issue.
Making Changes — Especially Marital Changes
Bob and Yvonne write [and we add in between with brackets]:
Yvonne discovered this problem every morning when she would open her cosmetics drawer. The items inside would be rolling all over the place and she would have to sort through everything so she could find what she needed. So, each day after she was finished using the items, she would lay them out in an organized manner then close the drawer expecting them to stay that way. But guess what would happen the next time she opened the drawer? That’s right—the items would be rockin’ and rollin’ all throughout the drawer.
She kept doing things the same way but always hoping for a different result. The only way she would get a different result when opening the drawer would be if she made a change. If she put the items in various small containers in the drawer so the items wouldn’t shift around now, she could expect a different result from what she had been doing, which she has since done.
So here are our suggestions in making changes that last.
1. Write Down the Changes. When you write down the changes you will move towards accomplishing them. If you don’t write them down but leave them sitting in your brain, they can seem too big and unattainable, which leads them to be “something you’ll do someday.” Ask yourself these three questions as you write them down:
– What is to be accomplished?
– How much is to be accomplished?
– By when will it be accomplished?
One of the major resolutions people make at the beginning of each year has something to do with getting healthier. So, utilizing those three questions you might say “This is the year to get healthier” by changing to a healthy diet coupled with exercise. [And yes, this will help your marriage as well as your physical health. A healthy body can bring to the forefront healthier attitudes. That’s not always the case; but good health can work to your advantage.] To accomplish this, you want to do baby steps.
2. Take Baby Steps. Take what you want to accomplish and break it down into baby steps that would stretch you but not discourage you. Example: Let’s say you want to start exercising so you tell yourself that you will go to a local gym 6 days a week for 2 hours each day. Now that would be—and let’s be honest here—overwhelming and discouraging. But a ‘baby step’ would be to find two 10-minute time periods in a day to exercise. Do this for a month, increasing just a minute a day. Then the next month you take another baby step. [The same applies to making marital changes. One little step at a time can accomplish much.]
Additionally, as you make those changes and marital changes
3. Replace One Behavior with Another. You may need to replace one behavior with another one. In your quest to eat healthier you decide to stop eating sugary products. That’s very good – but – if you stop, you will wind up with sugar cravings. If you haven’t planned for something else to replace the sugar, like a frozen piece of banana or a couple of frozen grapes (that always takes the edge off for Yvonne) you will fall back to your old habit of unhealthy sugar.
It’s the same with anything you want to change—such as going from being a criticizer of your spouse to an encourager.
[Do you see this as a healthy goal in your marriage relationship that YOU can start to do? Hopefully, you both will make this your goal, but even if you are the only one that makes this your goal, it’s still a good one. And who knows? Perhaps it will inspire your spouse to make this theirs, as well.
“The old saying, ‘It takes two to make a relationship work’ isn’t entirely true. In reality, it only takes one person to make a change for the relationship to change for the better. Unless you’re dealing with someone who’s abusive, normal people respond well to being treated well. We have the ability to influence our spouse; the question is, are we going to influence them for good?” (Gary Smalley)
Here’s a tip that might help you, concerning this marital change: “Focus on what’s positive. Ask God to help you change negative thinking about your spouse to positive thinking. Aim to catch your spouse doing something right (not wrong) often. Keep in mind that it’s easier for your spouse to change when he or she is in a supportive environment than it is when facing constant criticism. Rather than assuming the worst, choose to believe the best about each other.” (Whitney Hopler)]
But you can’t stop the habit of criticizing unless you replace it with words of encouragement to your spouse. However, the more you practice encouragement, criticism will become less and less.
4. Make Daily Choices. Daily choices will affect your results. It’s the little choices you make each day that impact the outcome of what you want to change. Every day you have a choice to start exercising or put it off another day. Today you have a choice to eat certain foods that will only sabotage the weight loss you want, or you can eat healthier foods that will help you.
When you realize making a change in your life is built on daily choices you will become more aware of the choices you’re making as opposed to just “letting things happen.” [Good marriages are made one wise choice at a time to choose each other.]
5. Program Yourself for Success. Write out, memorize and quote scripture that will encourage you, such as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). Plus, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). There are so many more that can lift your spirit as you make changes in your life.
6. Recruit Help. Tell your family and friends about your goals. Ask for their support and encouragement (1 Thess. 2:12). Making any changes always seems easier when you have people encouraging you.
[Here is an important truth to prayerfully consider for your goals and marital issues:
“You may imagine that everyone else has a happy and put-together marriage, so you don’t confess or share your problems with anyone who can help. But the truth is, God created us as social beings to live in community where we can help each other. By keeping quiet, you hinder the healing that could have come from sharing with these other people who may have faced what you’re facing. This type of sharing needs to come in ways that are not hurtful to each other and to people who can truly help.” (America’s Family Coaches)
Just pray about it. See if you can find “safe” friends/counselors/mentors that will encourage and support, rather than potentially hurt your marriage in some way.]
To summarize — you can work on the process of change but keep in mind the power of change comes from God. He promises us that He will give us the desire and power to change those things in our life that seems impossible to change (Phil 1:6 and Phil 2:13). Draw closer to Him through reading His Holy Word and praying every day.
For Lasting Marital Changes
“Build your marriage on the foundation of Christ. Position yourselves at the door of your home and press back against the darkness of this world. Fight the enemy with the Word of God. Stand with conviction, be committed to the cause, and take courage, dear saints. When life gets hard, remember that the battle is the Lord’s.” (Kimberly Williams)
We pray you will. Making marital changes aren’t necessarily easy, but they are possible as we join God in accomplishing them!
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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2 responses to “Still Working on Those Marital Changes?”
I feel my marriage won’t possibly make it. I’ve tried so hard but because my family haven’t given me their blessing, it makes me feel so sad. Having my marriage anointed by my family is very important to me. I’ll stay with my husband for now and see what happens but who knows…
Karen, I encourage you to put your focus on God and His blessing, rather than your family’s blessing. Yes, that would be good to have their blessing, but now that you are married their importance is to go down a notch. Look primarily to God for His help, leading, and blessing. And look to your husband in how you are to interact with him so you can grow in marital healthiness, partnership and love (if he allows that to be possible — but at the very least do your part). Isn’t that what you pledged to God and to your husband that you would do on your wedding day?
Ask God to show you one step at a time what you can do to be the wife God would have you be. And pray for your husband that your actions would encourage him to interact with you in more loving and healthy ways. Most often one spouse can inspire the other spouse in positive ways as you live out God’s principles. Pray that he will grow to love God and love you and to show it in his words and actions. It’s so important to be praying for our spouse and for ourselves. Be cautious in where you place your focus.