7 Thoughts that Will Change Your Marriage

7 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

Can you honestly change your marriage for the better–all on your own?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage, so you’ve come to the right place! I introduce a post, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts using the linky below. 

Today I want to share with you 7 thoughts that, if we really understood them, could change your marriage and transform the way you see your husband.

1. God is your Father-in-Law

We like to think of God as our Father, our Daddy, our Abba. That’s all very true. God is our Father, and He does love us, and care for us, and listen to our prayers, and want the best for us. He is going to bat for us.

But do you realize that God is also our Father-in-law? Gary Thomas asked that question in his book Sacred Marriage, and it really does put a different spin on things, doesn’t it?

God is also your husband’s Father. And that means that He really cares about your husband, and He really loves your husband, and He listens to your husband’s heart cry as well. I imagine that one day, I’m going to stand before God, and He’s going to gently talk to me about Keith. He’ll say, “what did you do to care for my son? How did you love my son?”

I so desperately hope that God will be pleased with the way I treated His son.

I once read a quote from author Sally Clarkson, who asked, “what if the greatest act of worship you could do today is to love your husband?” And it very well could be. God loves your husband, and He planned for your husband to have someone to help him, to encourage him, to inspire him, to love him. God wants someone to appreciate your husband, and to urge him on in faith and in love. And that someone, that He has especially prepared for the task, is you.

2. I can’t change him; I can only change me.

Has this thought ever entered your head: “I’d be happy if only he’d…” or “I’ll be happy as soon as he….” If you can fill in the blank, you may have a problem.

What you’re really saying is, “I won’t be happy until he….” You’re making a decision to place your happiness and your sense of peace outside of yourself and into someone else’s hands. You think that, in order to change your marriage, he has to be the one to change first.

The problem with that is that you can’t make anybody else change. Magazine covers don’t believe this; they’re filled with articles like, “7 Ways to Make Your Man More Romantic”, or “How To Get Him to Help Around the House”, or whatever else it may be. They’re focusing on you making him into the kind of person you want to be.

But that attitude is poison for a marriage. When you give  your husband the idea:” you are making me unsatisfied. You are failing me,” he will tend to retreat. He’d rather do things in his area of competence.

What if you’re really unhappy with the way things are? I understand. But nagging and withholding affection and becoming bitter cannot bring about positive change in a marriage. Here’s what can: changing yourself. You can change how you choose to react to him. You can change how you organize the house if you feel that too much is being asked of you. You can get more hobbies if you find yourself relying too much on your husband for adult conversation. (I cover all of this, and more, in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum).

When you change, you also change the dynamic in the marriage, and that, in and of itself, can change your marriage for the better and change how he reacts to you, too. But insisting that he become someone else will only make you miserable.

Colorful Devotions – Serenity Prayer – Wooden Plaque

3. What if marriage is meant for holiness more than happiness?

When you walked down that aisle, chances are you were thinking, “this is the man who will make me happy for the rest of my life.” That’s why we get married! We find someone that we feel happy with.

What happens, though, when you’ve been married for a while and you find you have different ideas on how to spend your free time, or your money? You have different ideas on showing each other love, on what sex means, or on how much you each should do around the house. And you feel unloved and unappreciated.

Does that mean your marriage is bad? Absolutely not! That’s quite natural. We all have different expectations going into marriage. But perhaps God didn’t make marriage to make us happy; as Gary Thomas says in Sacred Marriage, maybe it’s God’s best vehicle to make us holy. To change your marriage positively, we each need to meet the other person’s needs. As we do that, the marriage becomes stronger, we become better people, and you may just find that happiness after all.

7 Thoughts That Will Change a Marriage

4. You will never drift together; you will only ever drift apart.

A few years ago I read about an experiment off of the coast of Brazil. They dropped two bottles into the ocean off of a boat at exactly the same time. The bottles had messages in them–contact this phone number for a reward. One bottle washed up on the coast of Ecuador 100 days later (it went north west). The other bottle went across the Atlantic Ocean, around Africa, and washed up on Tanzania a year later. They started in the same place; they ended up half a world way.

We work the same way. Unless we consciously try to stay close together, we will drift apart. Drifting is natural; if you want to stop the drift in your relationship, you have to be intentional.

Most couples stop doing things together as soon as they’re married. Don’t. Now’s the time that you have to be even more intentional about staying close. Do things together–anything–everyday. Make sure you laugh. Find hobbies. Talk. Just be together, or you will find yourselves half a world apart without even realizing how it happened.

5. The marriage comes before the kids.

As soon as children are born they take so much of our attention and energy. They’re needy, they’re demanding, and they’re ever so lovable. But don’t ever make the mistake of prioritizing them over the marriage.

The fact that you have kids means that your marriage matters more, not less, because now other people are counting on you. And what kids need more than anything else is stability. When their parents’ relationship is strong, they are free to grow, and explore, and learn without worry.

Your children are only given to you for a time, and yes, you have to love them. But the marriage relationship is the one that will endure until death. Children will move on; you sure don’t want your spouse to. So nurture the marriage first, even once kids come. It’s important–especially to them.

6. If you win a battle, you often lose the war.

Here’s one I still struggle with: I like to win fights. I think at heart it’s because I have rejection issues, and if Keith is upset at me, my goal is to prove to him why he’s completely and totally wrong. After all, if he sees that he has no reason to be upset, then why would he leave? (For the record, Keith would never leave, but I think this is what goes on in my subconscious).

I’m also a very good debater. I listen really well during fights–but I listen for loopholes so that I can blow his argument to shreds. It doesn’t matter if he’s just talking about how he feels; I can prove he’s wrong.

For the first few years I’m sure I won every fight. But it didn’t seem to be working. Keith was retreating inside himself, and I couldn’t hear his heart anymore. And over the years I’ve learned that you can win the battle but lose the war. When you keep winning, you sometimes drive someone away, because if one person wins and one person loses, you both lose. A relationship is about two people feeling loved, appreciated, and accepted. If you constantly push down someone’s feelings, you’re destroying that relationship–even if technically you are in the right.

So now I’ve learned sometimes just to listen and acknowledge his feelings, and then just shut up. I’ve learned that we need to find the win-win, not the win-lose.

7 Thoughts That Will Change a Marriage

7. I can determine my thoughts

Did you know we aren’t slave to our thoughts? We can change them.

During my pregnancy with our second child we found out that he had a severe heart defect (he later passed away at a month of age). All through that pregnancy I was a wreck. Someone, I can’t even remember who now, suggested that I start a gratitude journal, writing five things that I was thankful for everyday, even if that day was bad.

And I did.

I even wrote it when Christopher was in the hospital. Here’s one day:

  • Feeding Christopher. Getting to hold him, away from the tubes, and give him his bottle. His eyes opened while he ate!
  • Becca wanting to cuddle that night
  • A beautiful sunset as we were walking home
  • The way Christopher fought the nurse when she tried to give him his medicine. He hates it! I love that he shows spunk
  • Having a friend drop off spaghetti for us

He went into surgery three days later. Those were some of the hardest days of my life, and yet everyday I focused on what to be grateful for, because I knew at the end of the day I’d have to make a list. And so I found myself searching for things to be grateful for. In fact, most days I remember having to choose the five best, not search for five, because I had spent the day trying to think of little blessings.

Marriage works the same way. When you are looking for things to praise, you will find things to praise. When you are looking for things to be grateful for, you will find things to be grateful for. So if you’ve been in a funk, always noticing the negative, let me give you this challenge: everyday, tell your husband one thing that you’re thankful for about him. And write down five. (you can tell him all five if you want!). But make it a practice to be grateful, and you will find your attitude changing.

There you go: seven thoughts that will change your marriage.

There’s so much more, of course, that goes into a great marriage, and I’ve written a ton about sex and conflict resolution and friendship and more. But our thoughts determine our actions. Get our thoughts in line, and it’s easier for those other things to also fall into place!

Now, what do you have for us today? Link up your own marriage post in the linky below, or tell me in the comments: which of the seven is the most revolutionary for you?

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  1. Thanks for a great deal of practical and helpful suggestions. I appreciate your wisdom and your desire to see marriages flourish. Thanks!

    Megan@DoNotDisturb recently posted…13 Realities of Married Sex: #11 Sex is ExplorationMy Profile

  2. I love all your points Sheila!

    Great reminders and summary about key areas to watch out for in marriage. I love the story behind “drifting”. The experiment drives the point home!
    Thanks for these great reminders!
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…Protect Your Marriage: More Insights on Keeping Boundaries with the Opposite SexMy Profile

  3. I love this. One of your best posts ever. Will be sharing today!
    Megan G. recently posted…fun little craftMy Profile

  4. Two of the seven seemed to penetrate today. #2 and #5. I knew coming in to this marriage nearly 17 years ago that I could not change him. I even told someone yesterday that I fell in love with the guy he is and that he rarely shows to the outside world. As for the children coming after the marriage, I learned that one last year attending a women’s nurturing group. Once it hit me that I had been putting the needs of the child (special needs at that), before the needs of my husband, I started changing. Trying to include him in the decisions and not taking his opinion lightly. He has surprised me a lot in the last year. Just grateful we are on this side now.

  5. These are all very wise…I’m not sure which one is revolutionary for me, but I’m reading a book about idolatry right now (Gospel Treason by Brad Bigney) and the attitude you described about “I’d be happy if only he’d…” really struck a cord. Placing your happiness as dependent on someone else’s behavior and making your satisfaction into a need really is an idol. It isn’t only destructive to our marriage, but it’s also destructive to our relationship with Christ when we decide that our satisfaction can only be found apart from Him.
    Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Let’s Chat: Why Do Wives Leave Husbands?My Profile

  6. #5 speaks to me, from my own experience and from what I hear now from other women. Now that I have found my way clear to attend to our marriage first, the perspective amazes me. I spun my wheels for years and never moved forward. It saddens me to speak to friends and other women who firmly believe that while they have children at home, life is about them. These same women feel distant in their marriages, and a few friends have considered divorce.

    Your battle stance sounds like mine. I have huge rejection issues (and I blog?), and so when someone doesn’t appear to agree with me, I have a need to keep explaining and reduce his argument to smithereens. Trouble is, my husband has the same stance. It’s true — winning the battle does no good. It’s preempting the battle with understanding rather than masterminding the plans to prevail. Prevail over what?

    Good tips, Sheila!
    Amy recently posted…Purge Your Heart, Keep the PeopleMy Profile

  7. This is SUCH a good post with great advice. My brother and sister-in-law are going through a rough time in their marriage. My SIL and I talked last Friday. I don’t know if she understands these things. We talked about marriage and I was telling her that there is a point in time where we have to grow up in marriage. We were talking about number 3 – that was what God lead me to talk about (you and I have the exact same thoughts on that!).

    She’s very spiteful, angry, and bitter with my brother (there were past porn issues with him). She learned how to treat her husband from her mother – it’s not a pretty site. It’s a mess and they both really need prayers and help. It’s hard to know where to point them for help though. My heart aches for them. They have 4 children and just seem to be floundering.
    Emily recently posted…365 – 51My Profile

    • *Sight.

      If there was porn in the past, there is probably still an issue with it, and I think she has a right to leave because that’s adultery. Too bad they have four kids. That makes it harder.

      • Jenny, That’s pretty unfair to speculate that if there was porn in the past it probably still exists.
        Also, having the right to leave and that being the best thing to do are two very different things. God can redeem any marriage. Many couples have experienced victory over adultery and many other issues and gone on to have a strong marriage. I would hate to be the one who encouraged someone to leave their spouse instead of encouraging and equipping them to work toward healing and reconciliation.
        One of satan’s biggest weapons against the children of God is to destroy their marriages. Our culture has come to the point of seeing marriage as disposable. Just leave. But it’s not as easy as all that. Lives are torn apart, children are hurt, grace is withheld and people who may have experienced amazing healing are denied and left to go on limping through life.
        Marriage can be the most clear picture of God’s amazing grace and holiness. It would do us well to honor and fight for it.
        Beth Cranford recently posted…Don’t Be Blue; Strategies for Fighting the Winter BluesMy Profile

        • It’s not unfair. Men don’t change. I can’t trust a man ever again. They always hurt, they always lie. Honestly, …well, I can’t say that here because the website is probably rated PG.

        • And I am so angry at you for what you said, even though I used to believe it. Sometimes it is the only thing to do, to leave. Through all kinds of s— I stayed, for years, because I believed in the s— that you just said. And I should have left years ago.

          • Jenny, I know you’re really upset today, and I’m so, so sorry for everything you’ve been through. I don’t think Beth understands all the history, and I think you would agree that USUALLY what Beth said was right. When there’s abuse, when it’s documented, when your family and friends and church have been coming alongside you begging you to get safe, that’s a very different situation.

            It’s very hard on the internet to say, “yes, it’s okay to leave”, because then people in simply unhappy marriages, or marriages where there’s some yelling but little else, will think, “see, I have justification!” So I don’t counsel people when to leave. What I say is go to people who know you IN REAL LIFE and who are strong Bible believers, and ask them to help you. You have done that, and it sounds as if you’ve made a good decision. But for the vast majority of people, they aren’t dealing with the issues you are, and I think Beth is right IN THE VAST MAJORITY (though not situations like yours). It’s just very, very tricky. I pray for your own health, and I pray that your husband may one day be restored and healed.

        • And speaking of porn and abuse, porn use is emotional abuse. Which only gets worse. I don’t believe a word that men say anymore. They always lie, they always hurt.

          • Identity Crisis says:

            In 2004 I found out that my husband was getting involved with porn, talking to women online and meeting them for coffee. It’s 2013. After all the years of cancelled singles sites accounts, promises, watching live action web cams, downloading porn, putting nude pictures of himself online, blaming it on anti-depressants, blaming it on me, blaming it on my 9 to 5 job, his job, his upbringing, and openly being disrespectful to me in public on numerous occasions; I’ve decided to let him go. The internet is instant gratification regardless of what you are doing. It’s a “yes man” and can be a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. No one can save him but himself. Sometimes you just have to let go and let God. But I’ll go my own way. I’d rather be alone and healthy than sick and with someone.

  8. Excellent thoughts all, but #1 — God is my father-in-law — is one I have never thought of in just that way before! It kind of takes out the selfish, God-please-make-my-husband-give-me-my-way kind of praying out of the realm of appropriateness, doesn’t it? God wants good for all His children, and that may require sacrifice i.e. not getting my way from me.
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life recently posted…Taking FoodMy Profile

  9. #7 is definitely the hardest for me! I easily get caught up in my thoughts and run away with them. If you think something enough you will start to believe it and that can be damaging. It’s something I’m working on, for sure.
    Sarah @ The Biblical Family Blog recently posted…Pornography & the FamilyMy Profile

  10. I know we can’t change our husbands, but when they become verbally and emotionally abusive, what can we do?

    I know saying nothing is not the answer, but nor is nagging. What else is there?

    I can’t even try a separation until he stops being abusive because I have nowhere to go. We have recently moved half a country away from everyone we know. If I leave, I’ll have no access to money – that is one of the abusive things he does – he hasn’t set up joint bank accounts and makes me grovel to even get money for basic things like petrol. Half the times, he doesn’t even bother to give me the money – just says he’ll transfer it to my bank account and only when I discover hours later when it’s time to go to get petrol before picking up our child from school do I discover he still hasn’t – he never has his phone on at work and our child’s school is too far from home to walk for a normal person and I have a serious back injury so I struggle to walk even short distances. It also means I can’t work so I can’t get my own income.

    I’m an aussie which means you can’t get any financial help for the government unless you actually legally separate from your spouse which I don’t want to do because it effectively means legally ending our marriage.

    I have tried marriage counselling but all the counsellor wants to talk about is our childhood and our families and has not once talked about our marriage problems, and anything I try to bring up about my husband’s neglectful and abusive behaviours, he just makes up excuses for why he does it, and the counsellor falls from it. I know from being a psychologist before my child was born that this counsellor isn’t very good, but it’s the only counsellor my husband will agree to go to – because she just dismisses things every time I try to raise a concern.

    I don’t know what to do anymore. I know it’s a situation where my husband needs to change – his abusive behaviour is so wrong, but I know also I can’t change it. But what can I do? leaving temporarily isn’t possible and I don’t want to leave permanently, I’m just tired of crying myself to sleep, actually pretty much spending all my time when he isn’t around crying.

    I try to be grateful but it’s so hard – my health is bad, my husband is abusive and my child has hit that teen period in life where they just become really difficult and don’t want to be around their parents. I’m trying to make friends but even getting to church once a week is a struggle, especially with my husband not helping out and making extra work around the home because he just makes messes because he doesn’t care about it.

    So I know I can’t change him, but I also can’t temporarily separate, so what else can I do? I can’t cope with the abuse anymore.

    • Lonely, that is a really difficult situation, and this post might help you: Are you a spouse or an enabler? No, we can’t change him, but we can change ourselves, and sometimes love must be tough. If he’s being abusive, talking to the church leadership and separating for a time to help him reap what he sows may be the best option. No one should ever be abused, and if a husband is abusing you, or your kids, you need to get out and you need to get help.

      I am so sorry for this, and I pray that you will be able to find someone to walk beside you through this and help you lean on God through this.

      • Sheila, I just got back from being in the hospital for two weeks, and I realized about myself that I am a rescuer and an enabler. And he won’t change while I’m with him. You know about the years of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse, or about some of it anyway. And I am starting to see that everything he says to me is manipulation. Even when he seems sincere, he’s manipulating me. Anyway, I’ve tried separation but going back just made the behavior come back after a honeymoon period that made me think he had changed and that he’s really a good man, and to make excuses for his for his behavior and to make me apologize to him for his behavior. I’m to the point where right now I’m holding on the phone for a divorce attorney. In cases like this love has to have conditions on it, and I can’t love him anymore and I can’t stay with him anymore. I talked to a couple of women in the hospital, and they said that the point they finally left their husbands after thirteen or whatever years, it was when they were beaten to the point of almost dying. I don’t want to get to that point. I need to get out of it now. I can’t save him, I can’t change him, because the only changes he makes are temporary changes made to manipulate me into staying with him. I was watching the show Cops at the hospital and wound up having a panic attack, because they were arresting an abusive man (which my husband is too smart for – he manipulates the police to the point where they said if I call them again, they’ll arrest me), and he talked to his girlfriend exactly as my husband has talked to me so many times, and she apologized to him just as I have so many times. It was a big eye opener. Anyway.

        …Well, the attorney help line said that I can’t get out of the car loan in my name that I can’t make payments on, and if it’s repossessed then they’ll still sue me for the remainder of what I owe them. I’m going to talk to my parents about it but I can’t leave him completely until after I figure this out. All I can do is not see him and talk to him as little as possible.

        Anyway, Lonely, I don’t know what excuses other people on this post have made for your husband, or tried to convince you to stay, but verbal and emotional abuse always gets worse and always leads to physical abuse, and it never gets better. I made the excuse for years that he was depressed, and a symptom of depression in men is abusive behavior. But that doesn’t give them the right to abuse us, and it doesn’t make us responsible for putting up with it until we’re murdered or almost murdered, and it doesn’t make us responsible for their behavior. They will make us feel guilty, and they will manipulate us into staying. Like I said, everyone talks about unconditional love, and so did I for all these years, but it’s gotten to the point where it would be absolutely stupid to stay with him. It was absolutely stupid to stay with him after the first time he choked me or slammed my head against the wall over and over, to the point where I cried in the shower for two weeks when I washed my hair. It was stupid to stay after years of his screaming at me and cursing at me and threatening me. It was stupid of me to stay with him after he threatened me with a knife and threw something at me that left a significant bruise, and then manipulated the police to where I have no recourse. It was stupid of me to let him manipulate me into getting into tens of thousands of dollars of debt in my name for him, debt that I am unable to pay back on my own, so that I am unable to leave him because of financial obligations.

        Don’t let him push you around. It’s time for me to leave. Think seriously about whether or not you should leave or stay, before he starts laying his hands on you. Because it will get worse.

    • Lonely,
      Please read everything I am going to write before you get mad at me! What do you mean by emotionally or verbally abusive? Give examples, followed by what you said, what he said, background etc. I will say that as a husband that was accused of this exact thing, however, was not doing it…but was actually putting up with abuse because my wife was ill, mentally & depression wise. First let me say if he is actually doing it and I was within 500 miles I would be the first one in my car to umm…”have a chat with him” but I haven’t been to Australia in 20 years so that’s out of the question. What I am saying is you sound very down, & most likely you are giving an accurate description of the situation. However, a woman in particular when going through a deep depression will feel abused, even when she is not. Because you mention he went to the psycologist and because you mention your prior career…well reading it (and I’d be glad to admit I am totally wrong), it seems like something doesn’t quite add up. Again, I’m sure I’m wrong but money to get to your family…even if it’s half way across Australia isn’t that large of sum. I would gladly help a woman out in our church if she was in trouble, there has to be similar folks in your church? Again, no woman (or man) should be abused emotionally or verbally, but in reality a great many folks “feel” it and aren’t, I’m sure I’m wrong, but is there a chance to get a reality check from someone else? I’ve known many woman (and a few men) that if you tell them what you are thinking after they have told you what they are thinking they think you aren’t listening to them, when if fact you just aren’t agreeing. The same folks can often feel “abused” when someone isn’t happy with you and they are expressing their feelings/thoughts on that. Again, I’m not saying this is the case but it could be, and this is the point where I’d say only you know, except the person who is truly deeply depressed/etc might not. You’ve already ruled out the counselor, is there someone at church? If it’s truly as bad as it is and a lady asked for my help, I’d help even not knowing the family well…

      God bless-

    • Identity Crisis says:

      Lonely. Start keeping a journal. Don’t leave it where anyone can find it. It’s only for you. You can delete it or keep it for a divorce lawyer at a later date. Get your frustrations out of your head. Even if you write it on the computer and delete it you’ll find the process very liberating.

    • Lonely – you mentioned a prior career as a psychologist.

      Part of “changing yourself” may be to actively make plans to support yourself, without having to rely on him. As scary as it may be, you need to think through the situation and make some plans. What if things got even worse with him, endangering you or the kids, or if he simply cut off all funds altogether?

      What would happen if you separated? Book a consultation with a lawyer (many will do free consultations) to find out more about the process and your legal rights.

      What would it take to re-establish your career? Are there any modifications that would allow you to do so despite your injury?

      Would you qualify for any government disability benefits, esp. if you were a single parent?

      Do you have any family or friends that would help out with the travel expenses to get you back with them, and give some practical help while you get back on your feet?

      Find all the local resources that you can. Is there help for those getting back into the workforce? Help for those looking to start a business from home? Assistance for those leaving abusive relationships?

  11. I always have problems with #3, although you stated it far better than most. My counter point is “Marriage Lie: God didn’t create marriage to make us happy” at http://bit.ly/12Nk6Rm .
    Paul H. Byerly recently posted…Live life nowMy Profile

  12. Great advice Shelia. You and I have quite a bit in common:-) I was also told my second child would die, he had severe hydrocephalus in utero and according to the ultra sound reports didn’t have any brain mass. I also kept a journal during that pregnancy which I am now in the process of completing as my first manuscript. He is alive and well today at 8 years old. And, I have rejection issues and respond to any sort of argument in the exact same (I am a first born know it all as well). Thanks for your transparency, it’s always a blessing to be able to relate to those who are similar to ourselves.
    Jess recently posted…Does Forgiveness Equal Immediate Relief?My Profile

  13. Great points, Sheila! Thanks so much for this post!


  14. #1 was definitely the most powerful and convicting for me. I know in my mind that my husband is a child of God, just like I am. But admittedly, most of the time I don’t treat him that way. When I think of God one day asking me how I loved his son (my husband) it makes me cringe because I know I have failed on so many occasions. I am realizing more and more how selfish I am, and how much I need God’s grace and forgiveness to get through this life.

    Thank you for sharing this. I am going to print out this post so I can re-read it often.

  15. #7 in particular resonated with me. In January 2012, I gave birth to our first son, knowing he had three heart defects. We didn’t know the severity until he was born, but after 17 days and three heart surgeries, our son died. My husband and I did not keep a gratitude journal during those two and a half weeks (or the six months of my pregnancy when we were aware of the problems), but we always made it a point to find joy in every day, even the hardest ones. Gratitude and joy, when chosen, can mean the difference between saving a marriage and losing it. I know my husband and I would not be where we are (more in love now than the day we were married) if we had not chosen gratitude during those darkest days.

    • Oh, Rachel, your story sounds so much like mine! Did he have hypoplastic left heart?

      I’m glad you learned the same lessons. It’s the hard times that, ironically, can often pull us the closest, if we choose to let them.


      • No, our son had A/V Canal Defect, Double Outlet Right Ventricle, and Coarctation of the Aortic Arch (I know way more medical terms than I ever wanted to know!! lol) He had Down Syndrome, and the defects were related to that. God has been so faithful, through my pregnancy, the time we had our son, and since we lost him, and now He has blessed us doubly…I am pregnant with twins. :)

        Have you ever written out the story of your son? If so, I would love to read it!

        • Our little one had Down Syndrome, too! And I know what those terms mean (my husband’s a pediatrician, and they were very worried that Christopher would have coarctation, too!

          So happy for you and your twins!

          Yes, I have written about Christopher, in a little book called How Big Is Your Umbrella. I also posted on him here.

          • Wow, I was blessed to read your post, and I will definitely be ordering your book! I would love to share our story with you, if I can email it to you?

          • Sure, Rachel. You can use the contact link above!

  16. These aren’t just seven thoughts that can change your marriage but seven power-packed principles that can change your life! Talk about a post that has deep roots! Thanks so much for showering us with these amazing droplets of wisdom. You’ve truly blessed us today, Sheila!

  17. Lonely,

    My heart hurts for you. I can relate and more so understand the pain you are feeling. Living in your situation feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel and if there is, u simply cannot see it. I do know this, no matter what happens, things will get better. U r probably thinking how and when and I wish i could answer that for you. I’m not sure if you have a relationship with God and if you don’t His invitation will always be there to let him in your life. In my marriage, I was a believer and my husband was not. When we were going through some of the darkest times, I know Saten was trying to tear my husband and i apart. I prayed and I asked God to please help us and to give me some what a sign as to what he wanted me to do. At that time I knew that our marriage was doomed and i felt so alone and I didnt know which way to go. The Lord started putting certain people in our path and more & more answers began to become alot clearer. Were they the answers I wanted to hear? ABSOLUTELY NOT! However, I knew that even though I felt abandoned & my husband hated me, I WAS NEVER ALONE.

    My husband is now a FULL believer and has started on his own personal journey with his relationship with the Lord. He still has anger issues but, he is learning to love me the way God intended and we are both growing together in our marriage. I look back and almost cant believe how we made it through everything we have been through, but we did. I never thought that i would be this happy in our marriage ever. By the grace of God and leaning on Him through it all is how we made it and how we continue to grow in our love for each other and for Christ. (Dont get me wrong, there will always be bumps along our road, just hoping no more GIGANTIC BOULDERS!)

    I will be keeping you and your family close in my prayers. In the meantime, try to go to a quite area where there are no distractions and ask God to help. Ask him to dry your tears and just be with you. God Bless You, Julia

  18. I remember these from before! I used to know them but I forgot! Thanks for reminding me, it has helped a lot in my thinking! I am very excited and very happy and I’m so glad that you posted this today!!! I was going to comment this morning but didn’t have enough time and anyway I had to bounce around!! Thank you so much!!!!
    Jenny recently posted…happy happy happy!!!My Profile

  19. I teach couples if there is a winner there is also a loser who is resentful and bitter.
    I teach them to have a win-win conflict resolution that is peaceful and colaborative.
    After all did not Jesus say: “blessed are the peacemakers”?

  20. Love how each thought led to and build upon the other. Great wisdom!! Sharing this post with everyone. I can attest to several of these and how well they work. You can’t change your spouse, but you can change yourself and sometimes that is all that is needed, and practicing a bit of “SHUT-UP Ministry” won’t hurt either. Great Article.

  21. I loved this post. Thanks :)
    regina recently posted…SmileMy Profile

  22. All your points are spot on but I especially love that first one! I’ve never heard anyone put it quite that way and that’s life changing for so many. Awesome!
    Fawn Weaver recently posted…Organizing My Life, Prioritizing My Marriage {& Link Up}My Profile

  23. Shared it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinned it…

    You just taught Marriage Success 101 in one article! Love it.

    I’m working on an article about fighting for what I want. Many of us are willing to fight for what we want. But what do we really want? Do I want to get my way in each disagreement, or do I want a husband who can trust his wife to put their marriage before her selfish desires? Do I want to be right, or be the kind of person who sees that in most cases there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong, just preferences! What kind of person do I WANT to be? What kind of marriage do I WANT? What kind of gift do I WANT to give to the Lord in how I conduct myself? These are the wants I will fight for. And the fight will be with myself! (And I will win!)

    Thanks for writing this article. I will revisit it often!

    1. To help him, I have been bluntly honest with him, prompting him to get treatment for his depression.
    2. I don’t ask anything of him except to try to be as kind to me as he is to strangers.
    3. There was no aisle, just a magistrate.
    4. We have already drifted so far apart, that apart is the only place where I am comfortable.
    5. We never had kids. Never tried.
    6. I don’t want to battle. I don’t want a war. I just want him to let me go, and he will not.
    7. I am grateful for any day when there has been no anger or contention. I cannot think of 4 other things.
    For 20 years, I truly believed we were in love.
    During 8 more, I have moved past crying, past anger, and past talking things out.
    I am just empty. How do I change my thoughts?

    • My heart aches for you because I feel like I’m on the path to where you are ‘were’ FEb 2013, when you commented on this post.
      And I just want to say I don’t have the answers but it sucks no one could respond to help you answer your questions(s).
      Regardless, I just wanted to say I’m sorry and I’m praying for you.

  25. What great advice this article contains. If more marriages would live by these guidelines, we just might see the divorce rate drop. Love the idea that our father in law is God! Thank you Shelia

  26. That’s good stuff, Sheila! No. 4 made me SHOL! (say “hmm!” out loud)

    My husband and I call your second point, “Taking care of your own side of the street.”

  27. I speak on marriage at my church’s MOMs group and some other churches’ MOPS groups. I read this post and felt like we could be cheerleaders together on the same squad! Thanks so much for your posts. I’ve used some of the ideas to expand on my own (hope that’s okay), had it validate things I’ve already shared or was preparing as you blogged about it, will include you this month on my “recommended blogs” list and link some of your posts to our MOMs facebook page. I started reading right around the time you had that “melt down” about all the nasty posts you were getting and wondering if you should continue your blog. It was really good stuff. I just started my own blog and only have a few posts and little time to develop others at the moment. But I’m happy to recommend yours because we have a lot of things in common and I feel like you convey a lot of things I would say or think. So I love to pass your stuff along. Thanks again for what you do!
    Merrie Beth Day recently posted…Love Me Like My DogMy Profile

  28. As someone who doesn’t have living in-laws #1 really hit me hard. WOW! Thought provoking and much more powerful than if my in-laws were still living.

  29. Quite possibly, one of your best posts on marriage in general. So much practical wisdom here! I wish I had heeded the “you can’t change him” much earlier. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache (and my husband a lot of my nagging and eye-rolling). Thank goodness we have learned something in our umpteen years of marriage.

    The Father-in-law point was beautiful, just beautiful. I’ll be pondering that one for a while. Thank you, Sheila!
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Hearing from the Hubbies Wrap-Up…and a TeaseMy Profile

  30. Thank you for this post! I was just sitting her thinking about a conversation I had with my husband tonight about wishing he would support me and encourage me to take a break sometimes and the two of us do something together (without the kids) or be ok with me going out with a friend every now and then. I struggle so much with #7. I’m going to do the list of 5 things each day and make sure to tell him something I’m grateful for because i know he feels I’m always pointing out the negatives, he’s told me as much. I’ve been working really hard on making changes in myself. I’ve been reading your 28 or 29? days to better sex, and let me tell you it has been so helpful. I’ve also been doing “The Love Dare” because I’ve seen I need to change some things in myself. My marriage is not an unhappy marriage or a marriage at risk of falling apart, but there are things about it I feel God would be disappointed in us for the way we treat each other at times. We are both very sarcastic people, which is I believe one of the things that drew us together when I was in highschool, but as we know people change. The sarcasm is beginning to hurt my feelings at times and I know I hurt his too.
    Thank you for what you do and for encouraging marriages to be what God purposed them to be.

  31. These are really amazing! The two that really spoke to me were “5. The marriage comes before the kids.” and “7. I can determine my thoughts. ” Having control over my thoughts literally changed our marriage. I used to allow every little thing to get to me because of my own insecurities and doubts. But when I put my faith in God and gave it all up to him, then I was able to control my thoughts and that had and has a huge impact on my marriage.

  32. These are all fantastic, however, the first is an eye opener for me. I realize how selfish I am when I only think of God as MY Father. How refreshing to now think of Him as my Father-in-law. My husband is as fearfully and wonderfully made as I am. Who am I to treat my husband as any less as important? I can not begin to tell you how much this post means to me because I am in a deep funk in our marriage. It has been unraveling for years. I know there needs to be major changes but I can only change me and I can start now with changing something small and expect huge results (within myself) because God is not only my Father, He is also my Father-in-law! Thank you again!!!

  33. Thank you so much for this post and all of your Wifey Wednesday posts! I stumbled upon this blog on Pinterest, and I can honestly say reading this has changed my relationship outlook completely and may have just saved my marriage….I am so grateful. I think you should start writing a book on marriage advice if you haven’t already 😉 thank you so much.

  34. #1 really, really spoke to me. My husband’s Dad passed away several years ago. But to think that God is my FIL, wow…that really hit me hard. And I will be checking out that book by Gary Thomas. Thank you for the post!

  35. I’m new to your blog (i actually got here through your other blog), and I’m so glad I found this! This is one of the best posts (if not THE best) on marriage I’ve ever read. Although I wish that I had had read something like this years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been ready for it then. I’m ready for it now. #1 is powerful! And convicting. I already knew that I couldn’t ever change my husband, but I always knew I needed to change, because I harbored alot of resentment, bitterness, disappointment, and anger from years of bad relationships, and unfortunately, brought it into my marriage. But I thank God for my husband because he was incredibly patient with me, knowing that we had been called together by God. Which makes it even more important to be intentional about I think about my husband and our marriage, and the time we spend together. When I restart my blog, this post will be one of the first that I refer to and comment on. And I will be reading so much more here! Thank you so much!
    Kay recently posted…A Pep Talk from Kid PresidentMy Profile

  36. What beautiful words of wisdom you have shared with us! Thank you for reminding us of these important principles that are so often taken for granted. I am starting my gratitude journal tonight!

  37. If you don’t want to drift, you have to be intentional.

    So true! If only more women believed this, and if only we actually put it into practice. God as my father-in-law was an intriguing concept, and one that totally made sense. He’s my Father, but He’s also my husband’s father. And when God calls us to care for His children and to feed His sheep, how could we not give our husbands even more tenderloving care because of our special relationship to one another? Thinking of God as my husband’s father definitely changes the way I think about my husband, how I treat my husband, and how I love my husband. My husband is a wonderful reminder of God’s unconditional love for me, but I need to be that reminder for my husband too!
    Hannah recently posted…Desperate to be Led, Friday’s FeedbackMy Profile

  38. The second thought hooks my mind. I realized it’s true, marriage is not about how you want things to be. It’s about acceptance and adjustment for your relationship to lasts. I hope most of the couple knows these things for a better marriage. Thanks, definitely worth sharing!
    Sydney recently posted…Gay Dallas Couple – J.B. and H.B. – Still Cannot DivorceMy Profile

  39. This blog really touched my heart. I was feeling very negative about my husband today and then I come across your blog. How awesome is our God that when we need a wake up call he always delivers. #7 was especially touching. Often I find myself in a grumpy mood because of the things my husband is not doing or thinking of the ways he’s not meeting my expectations. I NEED to change my heart and my attitude towards him so he knows how much I appreciate him.

  40. That is definitely some of the best marriage advice and what couples need to hear before they get married! I will be sharing.
    Jennie recently posted…What can I do?My Profile

  41. The marriage comes before the kids mention struck a note with me because while it’s my first marriage, it’s my husband’s second. He has adult children and while we will never have the responsibility of raising children together he does share his concerns with me about his children. I may be Dad’s wife but I will never be their mother. I have to admit, I am much more equipped to be his wife than a mother with children. Wonderful blog post with lost of thoughts to ponder.
    Kim Hawkins recently posted…I Get No Respect, Or Do I?My Profile

  42. Very true. Thanks

  43. Great ideas! We’ve been married for 7 years, and so far I can see wisdom in these suggestions. Thanks for putting them all in one place!

  44. Wow! I love the “drifting apart” analogy. I read it to my husband right away and he loved it too:-) Thanks for sharing! You should join us today for our Marriage Mondays link up party @happywivesclub.com. I’m sure you have some great insight to add!

    Thanks again,

    Christy Joy

  45. I can identify with #6 more than I care to admit.. In fact, I copied the salient paragraphs to my husband, and I wanted to share his response to the subconscious reasoning behind this behavior:

    “Wow… I hope she realizes how completely backwards that is! If every time he tries to talk to her about how he feels she completely destroys everything he tries to say and makes him feel like a “loser”, invalidating his opinions and emotions… then she’s giving him a reason to leave. Because eventually, he’s going to quit bothering. Why talk to her about a disagreement; she isn’t going to listen, and she’ll just turn everything around backwards until he looks like an idiot.”

    (Which is NOT to imply that either Keith or my husband would ever actually leave, of course…)

  46. I was just telling my girlfriend today that I try to be intentional about telling my husband how much he means to me. It helps me to remember why I married him and it helps our marriage to thrive. It IS so easy to drift apart but when I feel like that’s happening, I just tell him I love him or something I love about him (even if I’m mad at him) and it does wonders! I know it gives me butterflies every time, I’m sure it does him, too.

  47. Sheila, what a great post! Each of these points are very helpful. I never stopped to consider that God is my father in law.
    I’ve been working extra hard this week to remember to put my marriage before the kids and being intentional about making deposits into my husband’s emotional bank account in his love language. He’s got a lot of stressful projects at work right now and he appreciates coming home to a clean house. It makes him feel like he has an area of his life that is orderly and predictable and not chaotic like work is. So, I am trying to think of ways to make our home a soft place for him and the kids.

    Looking forward to hearing you speak and hopefully meeting you at She Speaks this summer. And, I just realized we are “Choose NOW Columnist sisters”. Loving all your great articles.

    Hope you are having a super day..Erin
    Erin/Whatever Girls recently posted…What She Needs to HearMy Profile

  48. My husband and I got married just over a month ago. Everyone said marriage is hard, and I believed them, but I didn’t really know what it meant until now. As soon as he moved in to my tiny apartment, things were great! But as time goes on I have begun to feel like his maid and his cook. He usually doesn’t realize that I feel that way. But a lot of it I know is about #7, controlling my thoughts. If I’m constantly grumbling about how he didn’t put his shoes away or load the dishwasher like I asked, I’m setting myself up to hate him. Instead, I need to be grateful for all the good things he does, and possibly address the issue kindly.

  49. #2 is spot on! In the dance of marriage, you can only change your own tempo and rhythm. Once you make that change (positively), your partner will have to respond and they will be more open to meeting you have way. When you change yourself, you avoid the bulldozing effect of marital confrontation. It’s a beautiful thing :)
    Jason Ellis recently posted…Does Marriage Counseling Work?My Profile

  50. Beautiful, beautiful. Good enough, i’ve been pondering on some ponts of late, so this serves as a confirmation. In addition, the wholesomeness of the writeup is lovely. Thank you and weldone.

  51. I just want to thank you for this entry. I love the way you write with such simplicity and honesty. I wish I had found you when I was going through some really difficult times during our marriage but, I guess it has brought out the holy in me! I’m so glad I found you, makes me want to scream from the mountain tops = look what I found…there is a married woman who is talking about REAL marriage and not fairytales.

  52. thanks for your good lessons.
    1 and 5 is good. My husband lost his father last year and i only believe that God is now his father now and forever. My marriage is my first priority, then kids next although my husband doesnot support it. he puts kids first and then marriage next but i have tried to come to him about it. he is now changing.

  53. How to do these in an unconsummated marriage

  54. I wish my husband read your post. it’s very thoughtful.

    My marriage are going down and seems like will never be better.
    We was try to save our marriage but my husband often said that’s he wants to breakup with me. but I just can’t do that now.
    We had a very lovely son together. every time i look at my son i know that’s i want to stay with him and take the best care of him but it’s so hard that’s the relationships between my husband and I are pretty much not get along with anythings. i am feel so bad. i was cried to sleep very often when i think about my husband. i do love him very much. but it’s painful to know that’s he wants to breakup with me. seems like he can’t wait to leave me anymore.

    sorry if my English not good. I am from Asia but my husband is American.

  55. Great post! Glad I found your blog!

  56. christianah says:

    Thank God for dis post it has really helped me. I ve never thought of those points before. I so much appreciate the post. It is a good lesson for building home.
    Thank you so much.

  57. Thank You Sheila, I just pray and wish every day my wife would become more “teachable”. I have tried so many things in our 11yr marriage (we are blessed with 2 Wonderful sons!), but still we struggle to Connect and find intimacy. Everything I seem to suggest she just refuses to explore any further. I feel exhausted and don’t know what more I need to do.

  58. Thanks Sheila,

    Number 1, view God as your father-in-law is a great concept. Dealing with in-laws is a major conflict area I see in the couples that come to me for marriage counseling. When we are able to find ways to honor our in-laws, marriage can move from conflict to connection. Remembering God is my wife’s father can dramatically alter my approach toward her.

    Thanks for your wise words today.
    Brian Lindner recently posted…Healing Relationship Sore SpotsMy Profile

  59. I really needed to read this today! At times I feel so lonely in my marriage, my husband tends to work a lot “workaholic” but I was well aware of this in 2007 when we began dating. My main issue is spending time with one another on a daily basis. He feel as though he spends time with us even if he’s in his office working in were in the living room & when I try to explain to him we need family time, he accuses me of nagging and being unsupportive! We both work but he works from home & it’s like he never gets off! We have been married 6yrs and I love him soooo much I just miss him.

  60. These are all truths but I’m ashamed to say that I don’t want to give them a second thought because I’m exhausted. But I wrote them down and will try to meditate on these truths. #wishmeluck

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