More Than Resolutions: Improve Your Marriage

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31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Improve Your Marriage

Join us all month for 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010!

Whether your marriage is struggling, surviving or thriving, there’s always room for improvement. It’s interesting that this is not actually a very popular resolution. Too many marriages stay stuck in a “good enough” rut without realizing that marriage can become more beautiful and more fulfilling the more you invest in it.

I love that Corey from Simple Marriage, a licensed counselor and marriage expert who by all accounts has a wonderful marriage, still sat down with his wife this year to discuss and make goals for their marriage in 2010. I think it illustrates perfectly that your marriage can continue to get better and better each year.

My husband and I have a good marriage. He continues to be my best friend, I love spending time with him more than anyone else and sometimes my heart still skips a beat when he walks into a room. But we always find that these first months after a baby take a toll on us. I’m exhausted from interrupted sleep and we’re learning to adjust to having another little one in the house. My goal for this year is to pursue finding our rhythm again rather than waiting for it to just show up as things settle down.

1. Set concrete goals.

Corey shares four questions in his post to help you set goals. I’d also encourage you to consider these areas:

  • the time you spend together
  • how you treat and talk to each other
  • areas of frequent conflict
  • how you can serve each other
  • the respect and love you show one another

If your spouse is on board, talk through and set goals together. If not, make some of your own. Your main goal, like mine, may be broad, but remember that it’s important to set measurable concrete goals as well that will help you move toward your overarching goal.

2. Focus on yourself.

Although you’ll ideally be talking through these goals and making them together, I’d also encourage you to focus on yourself. No, I don’t mean focus on what you want and what would make you happy! Focus on what you can do to improve your marriage. It’s a frustrating but true fact that we cannot change our spouses no matter how hard we try — and the harder we try, the more they may resist — but we can change our own behavior and attitudes, and that’s where real growth happens.

3. Make time together a priority.

No matter how hard you try, your marriage will only improve through time spent together (and for military spouses who are separated from their spouses due to deployments, I would say that letters, emails and phone calls count as time spent together…and thank you for your incredible sacrifice). I’m not a huge believer in “date nights” in the traditional sense. I don’t think you have to get a babysitter, leave the house or spend money to have quality time together; however, having time to connect is vital.

Look at your schedules and lifestyle and set aside a time to just talk, cuddle and spend time together. Maybe it’s in the morning over coffee and breakfast. Maybe it’s lying in your bed in the evenings, just talking and dreaming together. Maybe you have to carve out part of the afternoon when you can just sit on the couch and talk about your day while the children are engrossed in a project or video. When or how you spend time together isn’t nearly as important as simply being together and attentive to each other.

4. Find a couple to mentor you.

I know this is a hard one. We don’t have a couple to mentor us, but I would love to connect with someone in this way. Having someone who can give you perspective on your struggles and conflicts and encourage you to strive for a better marriage will keep you on track throughout the year. If your husband isn’t on board with the whole “improve your marriage” thing, consider finding an older woman who can encourage and mentor you in your role as a wife. Husbands, I would encourage you to do the same.

One caveat to this. Think about how your words affect your attitude. As you complain about something or someone, it grows and becomes more and more frustrating, but if you focus on and talk about the good aspects of that same person or thing, the frustration decreases. My mom taught me this principle by example. I never once heard her talk badly about my step-dad. Sure, we like to joke about his obsessive picture taking habits or tease him when he acts just like his dad, but never once have I ever hear her complain about him to a group of other women, even when everyone else was in the midst of husband bashing.

There is a difference in finding a confidant with whom you’re able to share your concerns, frustrations and fears and simply venting to anyone who will listen. Having someone who will encourage and challenge you is good for your marriage, but you must choose wisely because if you choose someone who will encourage your complaining and frustration, you’ll just become more frustrated.

5. Read books and blogs that will encourage you to grow.

No one’s marriage is perfect, and if you try to compare yours to an ideal, you’ll likely become frustrated and give up. But reading realistic stories of marriages that are thriving and how they’ve reached that point is another motivation to pursue a better marriage.  These may be blogs or books, but the important thing is to keep your eye on the prize and not just settle for the TV sitcom standard of marriage.

6. Realize that it’s a journey.

Setting out to improve your marriage is not as concrete as a lot of other resolutions. Although you can define concrete goals for making it happen, your marriage will always be a work in progress. Don’t expect perfection or think of conflict as a sign that your marriage is doomed. When you react to frustration or hurt in the wrong way, apologize and move on, doing your best to learn from the situation. When you realize you’ve stopped spending quality, focused time together, make plans to change it — and then stick to them. Marriage takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth the effort!

Do you have any goals for your marriage in 2010? What concrete steps are you going to take to achieve them?

The 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010 series is sponsored by Get Organized Wizard.Restore order and harmony in your home with The Ultimate To-Do List Pack, Home & Family Edition.