Have you ever had those moments where you wonder, “Why did we get married?” I would like to say this question only arose after children were born and we were dredging through the exhaustion of raising small babies. But no. This question arose in the first weeks and months of marriage and I wish someone had told me this one thing that might have shifted our marriage.
If you are like me and ever had that question pop up then you know the subsequent thoughts can take a very dark turn. I wish, at the beginning of my marriage, someone had shared this one thing that could shift my marriage. And even while I wish this, I also know it wasn’t shared because “that one thing” is different for everyone.
So today, I humbly share the one thing that shifted my marriage. I know for you it might not be the one thing to shift your marriage. However, I can confidently say this one thing will make you a better person. A kinder person. A stronger person. More of the person you want to be in difficult situations. And maybe, like it did for me, this one thing could change your marriage too.
The one thing that shifted my marriage into a more loving and humbling relationship was the way I spoke to and thought about my husband.
This may not seem revolutionary but stick with me for a minute to discover the one thing that shifted my marriage.
Do you ever say or think these phrases?
1 – I wish you would…
2 – Why doesn’t he….
3 – If only…
None of these phrases are life giving, or the beginnings of a kind thought. Here are some ways to turn those phrases around.
Instead of “I wish you would…”
…take a few moments and center yourself. Sometimes it takes me an hour or five to find a peaceful place inside myself, take your time. There’s no rush. When I can speak kindly one of the phrases I use is, “It would really help me if you would…” Then-and this is key-I don’t expect a response or change in behavior. My goal is to communicate my wishes in a loving and kind way. After I’ve done this one, I can do it again. Yes, I’ll have to repeat myself, and possibly for the rest of my life. However, my friend Sarah Monares has assured me this is normal in relationships. And through experience I’ve learned that if I communicate consistently and lovingly, change does slowly take place, for both of us.
Instead of thinking “Why doesn’t he…” or “If only…”
… I usually turn on music or a podcast. There really is never a “great” way to channel thoughts like this into a productive place. I’m usually very hurt by what’s happening, or am so frustrated I compare him to my “ideal” version of life. If I do choose to say something it will be when I’m hurt, and I’ll say, “It really hurt my feelings when x happened.” And again, I don’t expect a response or change in behavior the first time I communicate. My goal is to make sure I’m using my words well.
Over 2 years ago I went cold turkey in how I thought and spoke to my husband. The guidance came from the book The Love Dare on Day 1. “The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.”
If you’re looking to nurture your marriage or a close relationship, I dare you to take up this challenge and do this one thing.
While I still slip, even 2 years later; however, I never doubt sharing my thoughts or hurts because I’ve worked out how to. For the first 3 months I just kept my mouth shut, which gave me space to figure out, “How can I share THIS frustration without being hurtful?”
It’s not easy. You feel like a doormat for awhile. Surprisingly, a few months in, I found the feeling of being a doormat had more to do with my pride, expectations, and perceptions. Today I’m a better communicator with my husband; who partners with me in pouring into our marriage, rather than feeling like the only one showing up in the day-to-day. In the end, this one thing that shifted my marriage was an exercise that has helped me reframe the way I see a situation and not only my husband’s actions but other people in my life. The work has been worth it.
NOTE: I am not recommending this for anyone in a verbally or physically abusive relationship.
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