how to improve your marriage

How to Improve Your Marriage with 6 “R” Words

Initially, George balked at the idea of 6 “R” words for a stronger marriage. “Making relationships work,” George insisted, “is about nothing more than ‘listening to your gut.’” He continued, “Checklists can throw you right off. My preacher told me that legalism leads to bondage, and the last thing I want to do is to stifle my marriage.” Bravely said, George.

But how’s that working for you? So does that mean you’re utilizing that freedom to shower your beloved with all kinds of imaginative attention? Are you leveraging that flexibility to grab any creative idea that pops up in your head and run with it? Is your love unfettered by the constraints of checklists, Top Tens, brainstorms, and other people’s experience?

“Well,” George answered, sheepishly, “that’s why we’re meeting for breakfast this morning. I’m kind of stuck in the marriage department. My gut tells me that Linda and I are drifting apart.”

George has all the good intentions in the world. He loves Linda. He is faithful, respectful, and shares responsibility when it comes to the children, but he senses this inexorable slipping away when it comes to a heart-level connection with his wife. He’s right, it’s not a checklist that’s going to make a marriage stronger. It’s a man driven by love and commitment to put some great ideas into practice.

I shared the following 6 “R” words with George. “They’re not a checklist,” I told him, “so much as a series of intentions.”  But they are a series of intentions that must be put into practice.

1. Recommit

Commitment works best as a daily initiative. [Tweet This] Like most things that are good for us, commitment to our spouse benefits from being re-upped every morning. We all tend to default to me first if we’re not intentional. So we recommend beginning each new day with a deliberate act of kindness to get the ball rolling. It’s not about us.

2. Refresh

Sometimes it’s as simple as refreshing the screen on a computer to get all the data up to date. Other times, refresh is more like changing a clogged filter in the HVAC or throwing out a tray of ice that’s all fused together. No matter how we approach refreshing, it’s always about sweeping away the cobwebs and making sure our love and our attention to our spouse are constantly reimagining and moving away from what is stale and mundane.

3. Remember

We recommend huddling up together with your wife and reading your wedding vows again. We love to see couples recapture the raw thrill of anticipation for sharing the same room, building a life together. Remember what made you ask her out in the first place. Now determine what it is that would motivate you to ask her out again… and do it.

4. Renovate

Sometimes things wear out. Is your conversational life boring? Have you forgotten how to have fun? Get creative and make something happen. Have you stopped dreaming together? Build some new dreams.

5. Romance

Sometimes it’s our romance that needs renovation. When did you last give her flowers? Have you swept her off her feet recently? Do you flirt? Do you tell her how much she gets under your skin? Have you ever thought about trying once again to win her love all over again?

6. Recalibrate

You may have been married just a couple of years or you may be 40 years in. Regardless, you have changed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and so has she. What worked when you were dating may need updating, reconstructing, reimagining, and recalibrating today. Maybe you need to dial it down; maybe you need to dial it up. One thing’s for sure, all our settings could use some thoughtful readjusting.

Sound Off

How could you recalibrate your marriage for the better?

Derek Maul

Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men’s resource, a committed encourager, and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.

  • Brian Melton

    I would add a 7th “R”… Respect. Without it, the bad times get worse and the good times will never get good.

    • Derek Maul

      Absolutely. Respect is huge, and is important for both men and women. Thanks.

  • Brian

    They forgot to add rape

  • CJ

    It takes two to tango and if your wife decides she wants to disconnect — even if, as a husband, I want badly to improve our marriage and connect and grow deeper — then no “R” words or anything can change that heart. My wife has drifted into disconnectedness due to disappointment in life (shit happens, but that doesn’t mean you have to disconnect from your biggest fan, your husband) and she let it get to the point of crossing our marital boundaries over the last two years.

    Now, once again, I am the one who is still trying to reach out and commit and reconcile while she vacillates if it is worth salvaging a marriage of 21 years. It is very frustrating to read all these “How To” to improve your marriage articles on All Pro Dad almost daily knowing that I have done everything within my power to be totally committed and focused and loving to my wife.

    Like I said at the start, though, it takes TWO to tango. And while I freely acknowledge I am not perfect and have flaws that I turn over to the Lord daily and try to live in His strength, YOU cannot change your wife’s heart if you do these myriad of lists. She is accountable to God and her heart has to be right with God in order to even receive the love you have to offer.

    Praying that some day my wife will one day soften her heart to me again, love me, desire me, cherish me and respect me — like I still do to her even though she crossed our marriage lines for the last two years with another man. It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.

    • Todd

      CJ, man I am terribly sorry to read about your marriage being in disarray. While I am most certainly not one to give out unsolicited advice on a regular basis, the Lord prompted me to reach out to you. I would strongly suggest that you find a Godly, qualified Christian counselor and get there as soon as you can. The Bible is clear that our marriages are an earthly representation of Christ and his bride, his church. There’s no greater way for us Christians to show the world the gospel than through our marriages. As a pastor, I meet with christian couples on a regular basis who are struggling in their marriage. More times than not, your situation arrises where one or the other spouse has become discontent or absent. After years of disconnectedness, the other spouse just throws their hands up and shouts, “I’m done. I’ve done everything I know to do” and the marriage effectively ends. I know it stinks and that is awful being married to someone who seemingly has lost all care and concern for you. I would encourage you to hang in there. Instead of ceasing to do any of the things that APP suggests, I would up your game. I would starting doing more. Do the dishes. If kids are involved, take care of the kiddos one night and give her a night out. Clean the house. I mean REALLY clean the house (or pay to have it deep cleaned). Increase the frequency of date nights. Offer to buy her a massage. Do anything you can think of to reach your bride. Most of all, show her Jesus. If she wrongs you, turn the other cheek. If you fusses at you, walk away. If she does anything that is not of the Lord, show her Jesus. Again, I know this is not easy. And just so you know, I’ve been in a difficult marriage. Praise the Lord, he has brought me through it and my marriage is the best now that it has ever been. My marriage is a trophy of the grace of God. However I am reminded daily that all it takes is for me to let my guard down and all that will change. I prayed for you as I read your post that God would grab your marriage and make it a trophy of his grace for the world to see. I prayed that people would come to faith in Jesus Christ as they witness God’s power in reconciling your marriage.

      • CJ

        Thanks, Todd. I know your heart and intentions are well, but in my case things are strangely different. I come from a home where my parents divorced (they are back together again, but my dad cheated on my mom and never treated her nice), so I made the commitment to be the “Perfect” husband and I sunk every ounce of me into my wife and did everything under the sun for her. For the past 20 years, I have been the one to put the kids to bed, to get them up, to clean the house, do the laundry, maintain the cars, do the budget/bills. So much so that she has lost all respect and love for me because I have treated her like a queen and, throughout our relationship even before marriage, I have always been the one to pursue her.

        The main reason she disconnected is because she felt smothered by me, that I was “clingy” and “needy” and she couldn’t deal with me emotionally overwhelming her, so she checked out and sought refuge and pleasure in an emotional affair with another man in our church for the past two years until I caught her and exposed both of them to our pastor.

        So now, instead of her pursuing me and wanting to totally reconcile (we have been going to individual and couples counseling for months, now, and she is still wearing her ring and in the house with me), she wants me to give her all the time and space she needs so she can try to desire me and wants to pursue me instead. So I have to go against my desire to be with her and to stay as far away from her on a daily basis so she might rekindle some kind of connection with me again. It is so difficult because she made the CHOICE to no longer love or desire me years ago, which led to where we are today. I never stopped loving or cherishing her even to this day, but now I have to process through forgiveness and the pain and hurt she has caused me.

        Thank you for your prayers. They are much needed, especially now that she wants to move across the country to escape the mess that has been made since we had to leave our church of 9 years since the other man is till attending with his family and our family was so involved in that church. She feels that a “fresh start” is the answer and that hopefully she will be able to reconnect with me away from our community, our church, our family and our friends.

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  • budagain

    Regularly. As the comments indicate, once the barn door is open it is hard to capture the magic unicorn.

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