I’ve been married over 20 years and I’m still learning. You never stop learning… or growing. The questions that comes up a lot is,“How do I improve my marriage?” First, let me say that there is a TON of information out there about this and much of it is worthless tripe that has about a 12.5% (made that number up on the spot) chance of working for your marriage. If you really think that telling a wife whose husband isn’t interested in sex to dress sexier is great advice or if you believe that do more housework is great advice for a husband whose wife is disinterested in sex then you haven’t been paying much attention recently. While those may work in a very few cases it is not likely to work in the vast majority of cases in my experience. A wife with a disinterested husband dressing sexier is more likely to get her scorn than sex and a husband doing more housework will likely be viewed as something he should be doing anyway and not the aphrodisiac he had hoped (see Sheila Greoire’s post Why Your Husband Won’t Meet Your Needs linked to below).
So, what works? First, you need identify the issues by doing an examination of your marriage. What are the issues that you feel need to be addressed? If your spouse is willing let them weigh in on this as well. In fact it works best when you are both willing to work together through all of this.
Second, and MOST importantly, you need to do a self examination asking what you do to contribute to the problems in the marriage. It’s amazing what we will choose accept from our spouse (That’s Unacceptable. I’ll Take It!) that we wouldn’t accept from others. In other words, are you enabling poor behavior in your spouse for the sake of peace in the marriage (When the Price of Peace Gets Too High)?
Also, what are you not doing in your marriage that you know you should be doing? Are you withholding from your spouse something that they need/want/desire because they aren’t providing what you want/need/desire? Let me ask you something, how’s that working out for ya? Let me point out that you do not get what you need/want/desire by withholding what your spouse needs/wants/desires. Now, it is also true that you might not get what you need/want/desire by providing what your spouse needs/wants/desires. There is no guarantee but, at least, you will be doing what you know to be right in the relationship.
Sheila Wray Gregoire recently posted something on this point that both husbands and wives should read, Why Your Husband Won’t Meet Your Needs. Wives Sheila suggests that you are more likely to get what you need/want/desire by providing your your husband’s needs/wants/desires. Men, if you haven’t figured it out yet, women are much more complicated than we are which means you’ll have to talk to her about all of this.
Are you healthy? Mentally, emotionally, physically healthy? If the answer is no, then you need to be doing something about it. We marry for better or for worse, in sickness and in health with the understanding that we will work for better and healthy. Seriously, get the help you need to get healthy whatever that takes and whatever that means. You owe it to your spouse, to your marriage, and to yourself.
After making these evaluations of your marriage and of yourself it is time to do something different. If you continue to do what you’ve been doing you will continue to get what you’ve been getting. It is time to change how you relate to your spouse. Stop accepting the unacceptable. Do all of this with love, respect and understanding. Give to your spouse generously. Become a student of your spouse and give them what they need/want/desire as much as it is within your ability. Let your spouse know what you are up to and why you are doing it.
Remember, the only one in your marriage that you can control is yourself and the only one that you can change in marriage is yourself. By making changes to yourself and the way that you respond to your souse you will be making a change to the dynamic in your marriage which can actually foster change in your spouse’s behavior as well. You are NOT doing this to manipulate your spouse to change into what you want them to be. You are doing these things because they are the right thing to do for your spouse, your marriage, and yourself. Evaluating the relationship’s issues, examining your contribution to those issues, and then working out a God honoring plan to address how you contribute to the issues in your marriage is a step toward maturity.