6 Steps to Change Your Marriage For the Better (Part 1)

Im excited to bring you part 1 of a two-part marriage series, in tandem with the launch of the next season of my podcast with Family Life. Season 4 of the Married With Benefits podcast, with me and Brian Goins, is based on my findings from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. Each episode tackles a different secret and theres even a bonus one that didnt make it into the book!

Weve all been there. Something in our marriage needs attention, and we want to do something about it.

But what?

Maybe weve been in a generally good place, but we can tell that issues are creeping up on us. Or maybe were stuck in a just okay place (or worse), and thats not what we signed up for. After all, we stood dreamy-eyed at the altar, imagining the for better part of our vows, not holding a laundry list of all the things that needed to change. (If we did the latter, thats a whole different blog series!)

Thankfully, theres good news. Yes, for worse will arise from time to time in any marriage between two imperfect people. But in more than 20 years of research Ive seen that there are almost always steps we can take to move our marriages toward the delight and connection that God created marriages to enjoy.* The question, of course, is HOW?

In this Part 1, well look at the key steps to begin any change process. Brian Goins and I dive into this in the kickoff episode of Season 4 of Family Lifes Married With Benefits podcast, so I hope youll listen! Then next week, in Part 2, we will tackle the first secret covered in the podcast one of the most important habits for changing a marriage from good to great (and three steps you can take to reinforce that habit).

So lets jump in today, with the first three steps that will help you begin powerful, positive change in your marriage.

Step #1: Learn from the pros.

If you are on the varsity basketball or volleyball team, and you want to go from good to great, what do you do? As my podcast co-host Brian Goins rather hilariously put it in episode 1, you dont put a poster of Michael Brock or Megan Hollister on your bedroom wall. Who are Michael and Megan? Well, they are the best players on your varsity team, of course!

Instead, you put up a poster of a great NBA player, and practice mimicking his stance for free throws. You watch the perfect jumps and spikes of the top womens Olympic volleyball athletes and try the same thing over and over.

To head toward change in marriage, we have to know where we want to go! So, identify a few Olympic greats in your life and begin to study them. Ask them questions. What do they do differently? Pro couples tend to have really good road maps.

Heres the key: Learning from the pros is a completely different way of approaching change, and addressing the areas of your marriage that need attention. Theres nothing wrong with the usual pattern of trying to fix things by unearthing and examining problems. But if thats all we look at, were only looking at the problems! If you want to look like Jesus, you study Jesus, not the Pharisees.

One of THE most important shifts toward change for the better, is to know what works to change marriages for the better! For example, our research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages shows that the happiest couples dont expect things their spouse cant deliver (episode 7 of the podcast) and contrary to conventional wisdom they do keep score they just do it completely differently (episode 5).

Yes, very real hurts may have happened in your marriage. If you need to dig into those things to address them and move forward, then do so! But the only way to actually move forward is to ensure you dont get stuck in a cycle of blame or regret. We must ask: What do we want to do differently? One couple in the research told me that their journey from troubled to terrific happened when they decided, We need to start creating the marriage we want. At some point weve got to stop focusing on the past.

Step #2: Do the little pro habits consistently.

Often, in marriage, we look for a magic bullet that will solve everything. When I was working on Find Hope, my staff directors pastor, Mo Huggins, reminded me of something profound:

It is not about doing the amazing things occasionally,
but the simple things consistently.

My research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages bears this out. In fact, its where the tag phrase for our entire ministry was born: we are all about the little things that make a big difference.

Regular blog readers will already be aware of some of the most simple but powerful actions that will help you pull this off. But Im repeating two powerhouse actions here, for men and women who havent heard them yet:

  • Wives: Look for things your man does and sincerely say thank you. Even better, say you did a great job at ______. Statistically, this is a powerhouse emotional statement for most men.
  • Husbands: Do little things during the day that tell your wife you love her. For example, take your wifes hand when youre walking into the restaurant. Or text her just because youre thinking about her. Statistically, this is a powerhouse emotional statement for most women.

If the above examples dont apply to you and your spouse, find what does and be intentional about those statements and actions.

As my husband Jeff and I often say from the stage, we have to remember that its usually not the big-ticket issues that cause either the wonderful opportunities or the hard heartache in marriage: its the little day-to-day decisions. Jeff and I always see lightbulbs of hope come on when we share this with couples at marriage events.

(If Jeff and I could serve your church or area marriage ministry at an upcoming event, please contact my speaking agent Nicole Owens. Wed be so honored to encourage your couples!)

Step 3: Give yourselves grace new pro skills may take time to learn!

Some of the habits of the happiest marriages will be things youre already doing! Awesome. Do them more purposefully.

But some will come with an oof feeling: Were going to have to work on that one.

You would never expect to just nail your first few attempts on the offices new engineering design software. You would never expect the complicated souffl to work perfectly the first few times you attempt it. You expect to have to practice and get better at most things.

Same thing in marriage. Yes, you have to practice new habits and skills. But if you persevere, most couples will see change. One key is to plan for the long game, not see it as a short-term strategy. That way, when stuff happens and it will! youll be able to resist the urge to throw out the whole plan, especially if youve been making progress. (Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog, where Ill dive into other ways to persevere instead of getting discouraged.)

Two final suggestions

The Married With Benefits podcast is designed to help you apply all of these steps, and develop the habits of the happiest marriages. Make sure to get notified when each episode drops!

Even better, sign up for the Family Life Couples Challenge, which starts this week! Youve probably already planned out your summer in so many ways (kids camps, vacations, etc.) but have you planned what youre doing for your marriage? This Challenge is a simple and fun way of using the summer for gradual, sensational change in your marriage. (Invite your friends to do it with you!)

* Of course, much more in-depth help, care, and counseling is needed in some situations. If there is complex trauma, for instance, please seek the help of a skilled Christian trauma counselor. Or if there is an abusive, unrepentant spouse, do not try to apply the principles of todays blog. Please get to safety and pursue help from a trusted pastor or proper authorities instead.

And if you are interested in having Shaunti speak on kindness for your workplace, church, school or community group, please contact Nicole Owens at [email protected].

Please note: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn a small amount from qualifying purchases through these affiliate links. This doesnt cost you anything, and helps us continue bringing you great content!

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