When I was dating my wife, I regularly thought about how to improve our relationship. I’d come up with creative ways for us to spend time together when we were busy or inexpensive but thoughtful dates. But once we got married and had kids and jobs, I stopped thinking about how to make our relationship better and started thinking about everything but our marriage. As you can imagine, this didn’t go well. It’s not how you improve marriage. I needed to recognize that once the marriage begins, your relationship doesn’t need less attention—it needs more.
If we’re going to have marriages that thrive, we need to get out of the ruts we’ve allowed ourselves to settle into. It’s not easy, but improving marriage is meaningful work that has long-term benefits for you, your wife, your children, and all the relationships in your life. Here are 5 ideas that will transform your marriage.
1. You can’t love someone you need to please.
Pleasing your wife is important, but when you need her to be happy, you actually short circuit your ability to love her. Why? Because when we need something from others, we aren’t thinking about what will be best for them. We’re thinking about what we have to do to get what we want from them. Many men aren’t willing to engage in healthy conflict with their wives because they’re afraid of the discomfort it brings. In reality, this is a selfish act. Love chooses to work through difficulty in hopes for a better outcome and willingly puts up with discomfort. Improving marriage requires a willingness to engage in healthy conflict.
2. Your thoughts are not audible.
I know this is the most obvious statement in the world, and yet so many challenges arise because we don’t communicate. We do something and she misunderstands, and a fight breaks out. We get hurt and nurse resentment until it bubbles over, and then we realize it was a misunderstanding after all. Sure, talking about your thoughts requires you to slow down long enough to actually notice what you’re thinking. And putting your thoughts into words takes work. But if improving marriage matters to us, the work is worth it.
3. People change.
Hopefully your marriage lasts years, decades even. Over the course of that time, people inevitably change. Add to that the type of relationship marriage is, where you are constantly rubbing up against someone who sees the world differently and is challenging you to change. It is inevitable that your wife will be different at 45 or 55 than she was at 25. This is good. But it also means that you need to adapt the ways you interact with her. Improving marriage requires a willingness to adapt how you relate to the person you married.Improving marriage requires a willingness to adapt how you relate to the person you married.
4. People don’t change that much.
Yes, people change, but to be honest, they don’t change that much. Over the years, you’ll both mature and learn some things, and this will require you to adapt. But you’ll still have the same personality and many of the same characteristics. If you make it your job to change your wife because you think she ought to be a different type of person, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and her up for a miserable relationship with you. Improving marriage means learning to love the person you married.
5. Love must be cultivated to grow.
Love isn’t some magical thing that happens to you. You don’t fall into it and you don’t fall out of it. It doesn’t sustain you like some unforeseen force. Love is something you choose and must cultivate if it’s going to grow. To cultivate love in a relationship requires attention, patience, kindness, deference, and grace. Improving marriage requires investment. But the returns are well worth it.
Sound off: What ideas have you found helpful in impacting your marriage positively?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “How have we changed while we’ve been married?”