Cartoonist Walt Kelly was the creator of the popular Pogo comic strip, but he is best remembered for the slogan he wrote for an anti-pollution poster in 1970: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This can apply to marriage, too.
When problems come along, we usually focus on our spouse’s part in it all. It’s so much easier to switch the spotlight to them than it is to turn it on ourselves. But chances are you have a part to play in whatever needs attention, and the solution may be in your hands and heart. Here are five steps you can take to fix a problem in your marriage.
- Suspect that you may be part of the problem. This isn’t our default reaction most times, of course. We tend to look outward before we look inward because it’s less threatening. It’s much more comfortable to find someone else’s shortcomings or failings than to consider they may be ours. The answer is humility. This can be a delicate plant that needs to be cultivated carefully. But it can bear good fruit. It’s a posture that can be disarming. If you come humbly to your spouse about an issue, chances are they will respond with a soft heart, too. Carrying yourself with humility is one of 6 things you must embrace for a more intimate marriage
- Inspect yourself to see where you may be at fault. This follows the first point above. It’s one thing to be open to the idea you may have contributed to the situation, it’s another to actively investigate. Ask yourself, “What were my motives in this?” “Where might my words or actions have been unhelpful or misinterpreted?” “Did I fail to ‘love up’ to what I committed to in our relationship?” “What could I have done to make things better?” Also, sometimes an independent pair of eyes can see things we don’t. Is there a good friend you can trust to talk straight to you as you assess yourself?
- Reject the temptation to blame your spouse. Even if you’re fairly confident that they bear a large measure of responsibility for the difficulty you are both facing, the way you raise the issue will go a long way toward determining how well you are able to resolve it. Blame is accusatory, attacking, and it’s one of 5 Harmful Marriage Communication Habits identified by marriage expert Greg Smalley. Remember, too, that blame can be voiced in subtle as well as not-so-subtle ways, so carefully choose your words. You may want to review these 9 Things You Should Never Say to Your Husband and 9 Things You Should Never Say to Your Wife.
- Correct whatever is in your power to change. It could be actions, it could be an attitude, it could be your words. Part of that process will involve apologizing for your failure, and it’s not something to just toss off in a few words if you want it to be meaningful. Consider these steps in How to Ask for Forgiveness. Then commit to changing. This may mean you want to make a note to ask yourself—and maybe your spouse—in a month how that transformation is going.
- Protect your marriage at all costs. That requires making it a priority, in your thinking and your actions. It’s easy to let things slip without realizing it, as time goes by and other responsibilities crowd in. To gauge where you are, Take the Test: Do You Put Your Spouse First? Harmony is sweet, but it flows from unity which can be threatened by comparison. It’s important to guard against the lure of comparing your spouse and your marriage to others. Don’t let yourself dwell unhealthily on what life would be like. Learn how to crush comparison in marriage.
Work working to resolve the problem, remember to always work to romance your spouse.
How do you currently try to fix problems in your marriage? Moving forward, what will you do when confronted with issues in your relationship? Please share your comments below.