Here are some ways that you can improve your marriage. With marital problems increasing as never before, divorce is becoming too much of an easy out. We’ve come up with some ways to improve your marriage in the hopes of strengthening it  or saving it.
A lack of communication is fatal to the military. It can be a matter of life and death when one side fails to communicate important intelligence to the other parties. The same can be said of marriages . In my own marriage, I have found that it is so easy to just drift alone as if everything were alright, but just like my car has warnings on the dashboard, there are warning signs that should not be ignored in a marriage. When my dashboard tells me that I have a problem, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away…it only ensures that my car will have a breakdown. When husbands and wives fail to pick up on vital signs, they can also suffer a breakdown. Just like my car needs maintenance, so does a marriage. We need to “check under the hood” to see if everything is alright. This is where communication comes in. Marital problems don’t just pop up…they have been brewing under the surface for some time and there may have been some warning signs that were being ignored.
Questions can be a great diagnostic tool for how your partner feels about the marriage.
- Are there some things that are troubling you?
- Do you feel like talking?
- What can I do for you to help you out?
This is so much better than just saying, “What’s wrong? Why are you so grumpy”
When I was teaching in the public schools and as a parent and now a grandparent, I just love open ended questions. Questions that don’t require a yes or a no. When your partner talks, do not interrupt. Stay quiet until they complete all of what they wanted to say. There is a strong temptation to break into their communication but this can initiate an argument because you may miss their point and jump to conclusions (Prov 17:28). The Bible says in Proverbs 18:13 that, “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame” so it is always best to wait until they have said all that they wanted to say.
Make a Budget
Financial problems are at the root  of many marital discords. Money issues can divide a couple quicker than almost anything. One of the greatest ways to alleviate this is to make a budget, agree upon it in advance, and stick with it. Just as businesses survive by bringing in more money than goes out, so families should operate in like manner. This might mean consolidating debt, paying off credit cards and tearing up others, and not eating out so much. One family said that when they came up with a budget plan for their family, they discovered that they were spending almost two hundred dollars a month on fast food meals. In one year, that’s $2,400! If you can, try to record every penny spent in a month. See how much you are paying for what. You’d be surprised at home much money is going for things that are not essential for your family. It is true that we can be nickeled and dimed to death.
Start a savings plan and put money away each month. When I worked for Head Start, I had 10% of my pay put into a diversified portfolio and 10% put into our savings account. After a while I didn’t even notice that it was missing. We had an emergency fund in our savings account where we didn’t even have to use our credit card. We only have one credit card today and we keep money in savings and increased our car and house insurance deductibles to $1,000 and cut our insurance costs dramatically. We keep a separate savings account just for our deductibles and it has grown over the years and if we have an accident or our home is damaged, we don’t panic because we’ve got it covered. I realize most people don’t have that kind of money floating around but it took us about one year of putting in one hundred dollars a month into that account to get it to $1,000 and now we have it when we need it and we don’t touch it because we have a separate savings account just for our deductible. You may not be able to do this so try 2% or 5% or whatever you can manage for now. At least begin to save and make sure you have more coming in than going out.
He Said, She Said
Sometimes a lack of communicating can be a problem. When I say something, my wife might take it another way. One example was when I did the laundry. I was so excited when my wife got home from work. I said, “Honey, I did the laundry for you.” Uh oh. Not good. Two things I communicated to here were that I think that the laundry is her job…and that I did the laundry because it was piled up and she didn’t do it. That’s not why I did the laundry. I tried to do it to help her, but she took it the wrong way. Regardless, the next time I asked, “Honey, is there something around the house I can do for you?” If she says no, then no it is. When I do the dishes for example, she might feel that I think she’s not keeping up the house well enough or that she’s not keeping the kitchen clean enough. So I have learned to ask if she wants me to help her with anything before I jump in and do it.
One day I came home and she was mowing the lawn. I suppose that my pride was hurt and I thought, what will the neighbors think? Maybe they were thinking that he makes his wife do the yard work. Now I know my wife  was trying to help me, but in my selfish pride, I thought that it made me look bad in front of my neighbors and feel like I wasn’t keeping the yard up, even though she was trying to help me out. That was my own selfish pride. I should have just said, “Thank you honey for mowing the lawn” instead of “I was going to do that tonight.”
Make sure that you read your spouses body language to see if they understand what you just said, if they are happy about it or they might seem upset, angry or confused. Body language communicates more than words sometimes and when you try to compliment someone, makes sure it’s not a backhanded one. In other words, “I see you finally got this mess cleaned up” is not a compliment but a slam. It is better to say “I see you have really been working hard. Thank you for all you do.” It takes one negative word to make 20 kinds words of no effect. Things can be replaced but people can not. Feelings are infinitely worth more than things.
Marriage  takes a lot of work. It is not so much what you can get out of it but what you can put into it. Essential elements include communicating with your spouse. The longer you don’t communicate, the longer the potential of misunderstanding can build. Needless stress and strain on marriages can also come from a lack of financial planning. If the two of you can sit down and work out a budget that is best suited for your family and agree on it in advance and stick with it, the less likely that you will be in debt. Outstanding debt puts undue strain on any relationship. Also, since men and women communicate in different ways, I love what Peter said, even though he was primarily talking to husbands, it is still great biblically sound advice, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7). No Christian needs to have their prayers hindered and settling things before you go to bed is always best. Couples will get angry with each other. This is completely normal and so this is why Paul said, “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph 4:26). Getting angry is normal…staying angry is a problem. Never go to bed mad . Talk, communicate, plan, understand, and pray. If you do these things, your marriage has a better chance of remaining strong, improving, and being saved. That is my desire for your marriage.
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