How to Change Your Spouse in Five Easy Steps

Every positive thing we do when we are with our spouse is an investment.
Every positive thing we do when we are with our spouse is an investment.

How do you feel about marriage?

  • Marriage is the best thing that ever happened to me.
  • Marriage is okay, we are making it
  • Marriage isn't all its cracked up to be
  • Marriage is for others, but not for me
  • None of the above
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Marriage is getting a bad rap these days. The divorce courts are full of unhappy couples who can't wait to ditch their partners in lieu of something more fulfilling. Many couples are even choosing not to marry, thinking that the idea is old fashioned and out of vogue!

Before you decide that marriage is not for you, remember that the family is the basic unit of society (see The Proclamation on the Family), and it takes both a man and a woman to bring children into this world.

We all experience difficulties in our marriages. Putting two people from entirely different backgrounds into a relationship is bound to cause some conflict. We often blame our spouses for our unhappiness. We think that "If only" he or she did things differently, then our marriage would be better.

Marriage is an investment, not an experiment. What we do on a daily basis either makes or breaks our marriage. The following are five things we can do to ensure that our spouse knows that our marriage is important to us, and that we will do whatever it takes to make it work.

There is just work that needs to be done, and we do it together.

— Brad Wilcox

1. Ask how you can help

We are all busy. Our jobs and careers take everything that we have and then some. By the time we step into the house at the end of a busy day, we just want to put up our feet and relax. Life with our family, however, is just beginning. There are clothes to wash, bills to pay, and mouths to feed.

The most important thing that we can do is roll up our sleeves and get busy. Our spouses are not door mats for us to wipe our feet on. They need love, affection, and relaxation just as much as we do. Our ability to let them know that we are here to help will go far in giving them positive feelings about our marriage.

When we do whatever it takes to make our marriage and family be successful, our spouses know that we care about their health and well being. In the process, feelings of trust increase, the desire for physical intimacy improves, and family life takes on a whole new perspective.

Listening is a pure act of love.
Listening is a pure act of love. | Source

2. Stop what you are doing and listen

The validation of our existence comes from the interaction we have with those that we love. We are in a key position to provide our spouse with a shot in the arm of self-worth whenever they speak to us. We do this by stopping what we are doing, giving them our full attention, and listening to what they are saying.

The following elements are key:

  • Eye contact
  • Smiling
  • Acknowledgement
  • Rephrasing
  • Sharing
  • Discussion
  • Agreement

Most people don't need us to solve their problems, they just need us to listen while we tell what is happening, how we are feeling and what we have done to take care of the issue. Our ability to use the above skills lets them know at that moment that they are loved. Our undivided attention speaks volumes. It is the kindest thing we will ever do.

3. Look at the conflict from your spouse's perspective

Disagreements happen. Any time two people work and live together, there will be times when they don't see things the same. Each of us come from different cultures and backgrounds. The way our parents did things will not necessarily work for us. Conflict does not have to destroy us. Rather, it can be the catalyst that helps us get to know one another and express our feelings of love for each other.

The video The Trouble With Conflict show us what happens when we use the following distorted thought patterns in our interactions with our spouse:

  • Assumptions
  • Exaggeration
  • Fault-Finding
  • Criticism
  • Complaining

The Emotional Survival Handbook teaches us ways that we can avoid these types of thought patterns. A big part of that process is looking at the situation from the other person's point of view. When we see that we are not the only players in the game, we have a much better chance at working together for an appropriate solution.

The Emotional Survival Handbook: A Personal Resource for Changing Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions
The Emotional Survival Handbook: A Personal Resource for Changing Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions

A concrete, step-by-step process we can use to rein in our out of control emotions, stop them before we express them in ways that hurt ourselves or others, and change them for something better.

 

4. Do something together you both find enjoyable

Every investment has a price, or something we put into it that comes back in larger measure. When we plant seeds in our garden, the time and effort we put into weeding, watering, and fertilizing increases the resulting yield, and strengthens our feelings of accomplishment.

Marriage is no different. Investing time doing things together that we both enjoy has a number of benefits. First, we are able to strengthen our relationship. In order for marriage to survive, it has to be strong enough to weather the crises that will surely come.

Secondly, we develop traditions and habits that make our relationship unique. We have special places, songs, memories, and activities that provide meaning on a new level. When we look at one another, we remember these times, and our unity is solidified.

Third, we grow together as a couple. Marriage is not stagnant, it is a growing, living, vibrant entity that provides shelter, protection, and happiness for us. When we do things together we learn more about each other and about ourselves. We grow in our understanding of how the world works and our part in it.

Sharing experiences with each other gives us common ground to grow from.
Sharing experiences with each other gives us common ground to grow from.

5. Pray for your spouse

One of the most important things that we can do for our spouse is pray for them. When times are tough and we know our spouse is struggling with the difficulties of life, our prayers in their behalf bring down the blessings of heaven.

When we pray for our spouse, we see them from a different perspective. We see them as a child of God, just as we are, with infinite worth and possibilities. We see that what we do has a deep affect on their health and well-being, and we enlist the assistance of God in treating them with the deference and respect that they deserve.

Our job is to love our spouse, not change them. Turning our spouse over to God when they are struggling frees us from trying to fix their problems. Our unconditional love gives them the room they need to fight their battles and come out victorious.

Change starts with us

The five steps outlined here change our spouses, because, in reality, we change! They begin to see us differently because we begin to see them differently. Our efforts invested into our marriage allow them to feel our love in ways they had not previously,

Our kindness, our desire for our spouse's well being, and our efforts in their behalf, softens not only our hearts, but theirs as well. These things let our spouses know that they are important to us and that we want to be with them, not just today and tomorrow, but always!

Time will tell. We cannot give up. The more we work at our marriage to make it the best that it can be, the more we will see it blossom and grow into a beautiful fruit-bearing tree that provides shelter, protection, nourishment, and most importantly, happiness.

Invest in your marriage today, for your emotional health!

©2015 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved. For more information on emotional health, see www.denisewa.com.

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Comments 39 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

Our next door neighbors are a young couple, around thirty, who fight constantly...it is sad to see and I wonder if their marriage has a chance of making it. If nothing else it's a good reminder for Bev and I that communication and a willingness to make it work are needed daily.


tzblogs profile image

tzblogs 16 months ago from Pakistan

great :)


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

A lovely and compelling piece, thank you. It seems that the recipe for changing our dynamics with those we love is also the recipe for transforming ourselves into the children we should be. The only tool I have for changing my lovely bride is changing me.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, billybuc. There is a great need for kindness and cooperation in marriage, otherwise, we are very unhappy indeed! Thanks for your comments.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for stopping by and reading and commenting, tzblogs.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I'm glad that you enjoyed it, Eric. Your observation is spot on. The characteristics that make us better people also make us better spouses. Thanks for your comments. My best to you and yours!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 16 months ago from The Caribbean

Denise, I used to be married and although I agree with all your steps, number three is of utmost importance, for me. I fell down badly in this one, figuring that my thought process was also right for my mate. Hope those who need this, read and act on it before it is too late. Thanks, Denise.


MGWriter profile image

MGWriter 16 months ago from Western Washington State

This is a wonderful column. So often today, in our society we believe we should have immediate gratification. We don't take the time to think about how another is experiencing our thoughts or actions. And with our family units so spread across the country, we don't have the consul of our closes relatives. Thank you for your words of advice.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, MsDora, for sharing such an intimate experience with us. Conflict is an issue for many couples, and the more we understand how each other think and feel, the better we are able to deal with the situation and move on to better things. I appreciate your willingness to express your thoughts and feelings.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is so true, Marsha. Families are spread out these days like never before, and we don't have the support system we often need. Our commitment to each other has to be strong to work through the difficulties we experience. I appreciate your comments.


Kumari Valentine profile image

Kumari Valentine 16 months ago from Valentine

A great article Denise! Thanks :)


Dr Pran Rangan 16 months ago

A nicely written hub with good advice. I liked the last paragraph very much - Change starts with us. Thanks for sharing.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for the compliment, Kumari, I appreciate you stopping by and reading!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Dr. Pran. We are the ones who make the most difference in our world. There is a child's song that I used to sing to my children, called "Kindness Begins With Me." That is how change works best, with ourselves first. I appreciate your comments.


Readmikenow profile image

Readmikenow 16 months ago

I've been married for a few decades. This is good advice. When people ask me about marriage, I tell them I can't give advice. When asked why, I tell people I don't know what works for your relationship. I only know what works for mine. A wise man once told me a successful relationship is a very difficult thing. If it was easy, everyone would have one.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is so very true, Readmikenow! I wrote this title more as a spoof than anything. We see so many articles that tell us how to do things in "five easy steps" that I used that phrase to get people's attention. I often hear others say, "If my spouse would just do this or that, things would be better!" We don't realize that when we point at the other person, there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves! Having studied families for a number of years, I see patterns of behavior that are red flags for a troubled relationship. My goal was to point these out, and help people realize that there is something that we can do ourselves to make the relationship with our spouse better.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 16 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Hi Denise,

You put a lot of good advise out there for us. Now we need to apply it. On another note, I liked your line, ". . . it takes both a man and a woman to bring children into this world." That spoke volumes!


lctodd1947 profile image

lctodd1947 16 months ago from USA

Well, this is just so beautiful and I love it. It is also true. It is important in my marriage to overlook the little silly remarks. My husband has always been a little funny, and he says things he doesn't really means, so I have to work on trying to know when he is serious and when he isn't. I do not always succeed, but I try. It is also as you have said; so important to pray about your marriage. I believe in "until death do us part." Now, that does not mean in all situations, but for the most part. Marriage is not easy. It takes work, forgiveness, trust, overlooking things, and keep the trap shut!!! I have to work hard on the latter....Thank you Denise for such a great articles.

Linda


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, lifegate! So often we forget that one simple detail, that both the male and female genders are equally important in this world. Families are vital for the continuation of our society, and in order for marriage to work, we have to work at it!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I'm glad that you brought that up, Linda! Our ability to close our mouths instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind is what helped us to win the love and affection of our spouse in the first place. Why do we think that we can just let that important aspect go after we are married? The time and effort we put into our marriage relationship makes all the difference in the world. I appreciate you sharing your personal example!


florypaula profile image

florypaula 16 months ago

People stop fighting for their marriage because society and media tells them they can always find something better and they shouldn't stop looking for it. The problem is that most people don't realize they've found that better thing and they continue looking.

Everything you said is great and should be applied. We should listen each other, talk to each other, pray for our spouse, show them love and gratitude, and always put yourself in your spouse's shoes and see if you like what you're hearing coming from you.

Have a nice day :)


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is sad, but true, florypaula. Our society wants the quick fix, the lack of commitment, and the easy way out. Marriage is not that way. It requires time, desire for the other person's welfare, and hard work. The rewards, however, are far beyond anything that we can imagine! The heights that two people can climb when they work together as one are so much greater than any single person can attain on their own.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 16 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I know many women who do all these things - not as many men. If both partners don't make the effort not much is going to change. This hub is a good reminder for folks who are willing to make an effort. Coming up on 40 years of marriage and I can't say "Amen" loud enough to this hub!


Laura Hack-Paulk profile image

Laura Hack-Paulk 16 months ago from Novi, MI

This is excellent advice, all of it.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are absolutely right, Kathleen! It takes effort from both husband and wife to make the marriage last. The thing that I have found is that when one spouse starts to make an effort, it usually has an affect on the other. I realize that there are cases where this is not true, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. I appreciate your insightful comments!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks Laura.


Ewent profile image

Ewent 16 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

I do not try to change anyone. I rather enjoy people as they are. As a divorced woman, I am always fascinated by those elderly couples I see shopping in the grocery stores, holding hands and consulting with each other after what appears to be many, many decades of marriage.

To me, marriage is more than romance, sex or mutual friendship. It is a strange kind of bond between two human beings who were born into families with signature styles of living. How well two individuals can adapt those origins to marriage often determines how long a marriage will last.

In any relationship, married or not, two people must find common ground when difference arise.

The other very noticeable thing I see among my married friends is how much "aging" affects each partner. Women age very differently than men. I joked with the men I worked with (all married, by the way) that the minute they reached age 50, they went into "Pre-Retirement Syndrome."

It was as if they were calculating how many years remained until they reached retirement. Their productivity dropped off. Yet, the women I worked with who were in the 60s had this amazing energy to achieve all of those things in their lives their preoccupation with home and child-rearing had put on a back burner. For them, retirement age was more a time to reinvent themselves in hugely successful enterprises.


alex35aclll profile image

alex35aclll 16 months ago from United Kingdom

Great topic, but why do people feel the need to change their spouse?? don't you think, if you cant accept their faults, should you really be with then at all? just my opinion


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

What an interesting observation, Ewent! I have found this to be true in my own marriage. My husband has been looking forward to retirement while I am getting my second wind and am ready to set sail! Marriage is definitely an adventure. When two people come together as one, it is vital for their relationship to have common ground or you are right, it will not last. It takes effort from each spouse, and a continual renewal of love for the relationship to carry them through the trials and difficulties of aging.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is an interesting point Alex! I chose this approach because I often hear people complaining about their spouses. Perhaps that is why marriages often fail, because people can't or don't accept each other for who they are. Maybe if there was more unconditional love and acceptance of each other as we are, marriages would be more likely to succeed. I appreciate your comments!


Ewent profile image

Ewent 16 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

Love is a big time emotion just like hate and indifference. What a lot of young couples today want is the "honeymoon" for the rest of their marriage. Maturing minds know love is not all champagne and roses. Real love, as I've observed it in the longest term marriages, ages with each partner. So, the key element in love is growth.

As a senior woman, I am always amused at how teens say they will "love" someone "forever" and a week later that relationship ends. There is a huge difference between "love" and "infatuation."

The strongest love is never based on looks or money. If a man or woman can't love their spouse because their looks or financial situation changes, that wasn't love in the first place.

I think Gibran said it best, "Love is like two trees in a forest. Each must have equal amounts of sunlight or one of the two trees does not grow."

When love grows freely, it lasts forever. When it doesn't, there no future in it. Every love must have growth to have any future. All else is futility.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for sharing your insight, Ewent. Our understanding of love and marriage changes as we experience the difficulties in our lives. Most young people do not see past today or even next week, let alone "forever." It is not until we have experienced the death of a loved one that we really understand what forever is all about. There are many definitions of love, and in order to establish the kind that will carry us through the years, we must grow and learn together.


MGWriter profile image

MGWriter 16 months ago from Western Washington State

I totally agree. While working with the elders in my community many times the conversation returns to the love of their life. So often I hear the word or definition being the word RESPECT. Willing to totally allow the other partner to feel as they do and while perhaps not agreeing with it, the respect to allow them the right to their opinion.

What I have also observed is that the 30, 40 and some 50 year old's do not seem to understand that when their parents took those vows, they meant them. And they will be there through all of the things live and illness may throw at them. So many of my clients celebrated their 60th anniversary.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

It is interesting, Marsha, how in days gone by, marriage was considered to be for life. There was no question what they were to do when times were tough, they simply did what it took to get them through it together. Having mutual respect for one another is a key element for a successful marriage. When we treat others as we would like to be treated, our relationship takes higher priority. We help each other, and treat each other with greater kindness. I appreciate you sharing your observations.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 16 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great hub Denise. It would be very useful and handy to those who have trouble in their marriage and help save it by being there for them. Voted up!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Kristen. I appreciate you reading and giving feedback. Marriage is such an important part of life, we would all do well to give it the attention it deserves.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 16 months ago from Northeast Ohio

My pleasure Denise!


Ewent profile image

Ewent 6 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

As a happily divorced woman, I sometimes wonder what it is that attracts some couples to each other. These days, women do not need dowries as once they might have and they also do not need money as some golddiggers of the past once did.

I've had enough solid male relationships to know that men make wonderful friends..just not great husbands. I also know that some women, such as myself, are simply not cut out for marriage. I think after 15 years of marriage, I realized that too late. My generation of women were expected to marry and have children as if it was some vested duty that must be carried out.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. I've observed several very happily married couples who are totally absorbed in each other after more than 50 years of marriage.

Perhaps, today's youth misunderstands what the term marriage really means...a life commitment. If you cannot commit yourself to a job or career for longer than a few years, how will you commit to marriage?

To me, the most intelligent adults are those who have the greatest ability to maintain lasting commitments and understand that life is not a perfectly straight line. It zig zags on its way to our demise. For married people, they need to prepare for one or the other to be left behind when life terminates.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, Eleanor, marriage takes a great deal of commitment, and not everyone is able to be successful at it. There are many options available for women now, much more than in the past. We cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. We never know where life's experiences will take us, and it would be best for us to be prepared to be single at some point in our lives. I like your closing comments, that our ability to make lasting commitments will determine where we end up, no matter what our marital status! Thanks for stopping by!

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