Wednesday, September 25, 2013

40 Days and 3 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

My husband has this amazing fall back position that I admire greatly. When the going gets rough, he gets polite. More accurately, he stays polite. He practices niceness. Raised like I was in a culture of self-indulgence, he practices self control.

This could be my husband's mantra!

More often than not, if tensions are running high and my manners have flown out the window in a huff, he's as polite and kind as ever. It's rare that his emotions get the better of him.

In our Modern Life, where Emotion is King, that sounds so unfeeling. Media pushes emotionalism. Pop psychology lauds it. Our commercial culture wants us to react to every whim with abandon. An emoting person is so much easier to manipulate and so we make much "better" consumers when our emotions take the reigns and make our decisions for us. Our current psychology has told us for decades to let our feelings out; our feelings are our Truth; our emotional life is our only authentic life. As a result we have adults with the emotional maturity of toddlers. If you feel it, do it. Don't be afraid to pitch an authentic tantrum now and then, either.

Fair warning, though, the pendulum is beginning to swing at least in psychology. Self Esteem is slowly giving way to something called Resilience. Self control is coming back into fashion, though they'll wind up calling it something more palatable and marketable (like Resilience). You might want to pick up a few skills and get some practice under your belt and lead the charge rather than run to catch up later.

40 Days and 3 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Bite Your Tongue and Then Some

This is an oldie but a goodie. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Get some air into the moment. If you feel like snapping at someone, try that moment of silence first. As a Christian, this is the moment to pray. In fact, if you are determined to make a real change here, you need to step up your prayer life.

Prayer: Change It Up

If you pray habitually in the more Charismatic fashion of ejaculatory or improvisational prayer--making a prayer up from the heart and heat of the moment--now is the time to add the discipline of the prepared prayer. You can write out your own, or better yet, find a beautiful prayer that speaks to the Lord in a way you need to grow spiritually, memorize it and then really and truly discipline yourself to it. For those of you who find this a new concept, Christ Himself introduced the idea of praying a prepared prayer, so you may want to start with His prayer, the Lord's Prayer, first. Really pray it. Delve into each word and plumb the depths as you spend the next 40 days making a habit of turning to prayer rather than turning to your emotions to deal with those hard moments in your day.

If you pray the prepared or prewritten prayer regularly, now is the time to begin the practice of ejaculatory prayer. Eventually you will have the habit and will be able to compose a beautiful prayer on the spot, until then God will adore your first clumsy steps like the perfect Father that He is. As you are learning, remember that a complete prayer contains praise, thanksgiving, petitions for others, repentance, and requests for ourselves. Again, it takes about 40 days to begin developing a new habit, so don't expect to be an expert at the ejaculatory prayer style right away. You can simply begin with a quick, "Jesus, I trust in You!" or even a heartfelt,  "Help me!" in the heat of any given moment. To help you practice the practice, add a few sentences of improvised conversation at the end of your regular prayers at your regularly scheduled prayer times throughout the day, too.

God will reward these steps toward Him in His way. Be on the lookout for those subtle signs of change and remember to thank Him for His good work when you see them in you.

Pay Attention

If your spouse is cranky, it's a signal. It's very likely that they need something. More sleep? More affection? Appreciation? Chocolate? Being a human being, you may suspect that you've fallen short of your husband's expectations and can call to mind a few dozen handy excuses for yourself and your behavior. But before you go down that well trodden road, try a new route. Instead of reacting defensively to a moody person, react on the offensive. Pray a quick prayer and then do something nice.

Marriage is a work of the heart
and heart surgery always hurts.

Conflict is an opportunity to make your marriage better. It's a signal that it's time to work. The work of marriage is a work of the heart and you and I both know that heart surgery hurts. HURTS. Ask God for the bravery and the strength to endure the truth about your shortcomings and the necessity of your spouse's needs, and then set about setting those above yours.

Whoa! Hold It!

Yeah, I know! In an ideal world that idea of putting your spouse's needs above your own would not be a scary one. Ideally, every he would be serving every her and every she would be serving every him, and everyone's needs would be more than adequately met. In the real world, this will take trust, practice, and a whole lot of Grace to even approach equity. Let's face it, getting two Modern Western minded spouses to acknowledge that each other's needs are even on par is a minor miracle.

Psst...that's one reason you're doing all this praying.

Simply changing your focus from yourself
to others can relieve some of that inner pressure.
This is a practice, a process. Don't get overwhelmed at the thought. Try focusing on one need at this time. Pick one important need of his and put that one need on top of your priority list. You can mentally see yourself giving one of his needs top billing, can't you? Make meeting that one need a daily habit and see what happens. Ask God to make you see the fruits of your hard work. Ask Him to reward you with an awareness of His rewards.

One of the first fruits will be a lessening of your own inner turmoil each time you take a moment to step
outside yourself to identify the needs of others. It takes a bit of the pressure off when you take the focus off of your own pressure cooker.

Give It the Full 40 Days

You tell yourself you want to be a better person. You may even say to yourself you're a good person. Where the real work happens, though, is in the practice of the preaching.

You have to do the work. You have to fail miserably. You have to start again and again. That's just how we do it. Those of you who play a musical instrument know how much bad music it takes to produce good music. Learning a new song takes a willingness to sound like a fool. It is only a seasoned musician with years of ugly music behind him who can pick up a new song and sound pretty decent on a first go. They've put in the work already.
Practice makes perfect!

Just like with my husband and I. In keeping his cool, he logged in all his practice hours before we even married. I'm putting them in now. Comparatively, he has the mastery of a maestro. Between him and the Lord, I'm screeching out the first recognizable notes of this song. In this particular aspect, I'm patiently being tutored by my betters. By following my husband's lead, I can hear how well it is supposed to go as I struggle along.

All those years of practice make it look so easy.


This has been a Wifey Wednesday post. For an even more Wifier Wednesday click on over to To Love Honor and Vacuum!


  1. Great advice. The full 40 Days idea is a great suggestion. I saw that in one of my marriage books I've read that was suggested too.

  2. Thank you both for stopping by. Glad you found this article helpful!