5 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

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Terri Orbuch is a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. She recently identified some of the top common regrets of divorced couples.

“Divorced individuals who step back and say, ‘This is what I’ve done wrong and this is what I will change,’ have something powerful to teach others,” she recently told the Wall Street Journal.

Here are five things divorced couples regret not having done more of with a few comments of my own:

1. Boost your spouse’s mood

Encouraging and affirming your spouse in very simple ways can go a very long way. One study found that when a husband reported his wife didn’t express love and affection (not necessarily sex) the couple was twice as likely to divorce.

2. Talk more about money

As we’ve discussed on numerous broadcasts, money is a magnifier of problems but it’s also a common source of significant tension. Don’t keep secrets. Establish a family budget and stick to it.

3. Get over the past

Couples who can’t forgive past hurts grow bitter and resentful. Again, talk it out. Write a letter. Talk with a friend.

4. Blame the relationshipTrent1.jpg

Studies suggest that 65% of divorcees blame the ex-spouse for the demise of their marriage. When discussing relationship problems, Dr. Orbuch suggests saying “we,” not “you” or “I.” For example, you might say, “We are both so tired lately,” not “You are so crabby.”

5. Reveal more about yourself

Dr. Orbuch recommends: Every day, for 10 minutes, the couple should talk alone about something other than work, the family and children, the household, the relationship. No problems. No scheduling. No logistics.

Do you resonate with these findings?  What might you add as # 6 on this list?

If you’re in the midst of a troubled marriage, I hope you would consider reaching out to us. We have a tremendous counseling department and are prepared to help. To reach Focus on the Family’s counseling service by phone, call 1-800-A-Family (232-6459) weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). If a counselor is not immediately available, you can leave your contact information and a counselor will call you back as soon as possible. This is available at no cost to you.

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Anonymous 3 months ago
I too have been emotionally unfaithful to my husband.  Life was going on as usual until i met someone who made me laugh.  I felt happy, and life had a purpose.  It wasn't that my husband is abusive in any way.  I'm ashamed to  confess he is the perfect gentleman.  The problem is, we just never talk.  About anything.  We are room mates.  This man had gotten a divorce.  I stayed with my family until the last graduated, now I have a decision to make.  I've known him for 10 years, very casual, but there was an overwhelming chemistry with him  that hasn't existed with us for the last 15.  The guilt washes over me daily, making my life miserable, because I too have spent my life doing the "right' thing-by everyone else for fear of causing others pain.  My tears for my marriage have all dried up.  How can he be so oblivious to my pain?  We talked about this numerous times.  Told him of my other interest 8 years ago.  he begged me not to leave. so i stay. cold and dead inside.
Anonymous 3 months ago
A lot of great info here, thank you all.  We have to know who we are and apply the truth when we read these articles.  A woman in a dangerous situation for her or her children should seek help immediately and certainly has biblical grounds for separation or divorce if the spouse does not cooperate.  Having said that I can also say we all (husbands and wives) need to "MAN UP" as they say.  Marriage is 'no joke'.  A healthy one takes a lot of hard work. Even the 'world' will tell you nothing good comes easy.  Whoever you are....if you are not in danger...don't give up!  Also, there are many ways we can cheat on our spouse...not sex alone.  The woman who spends all her time talking to a girlfriend or another man and not talking to her husband is cheating on him also.  Cheating him out of the opportunity for 'intimacy' with her in another form.  Know it cuz I am living it!  The more opportunity I give my husband to be the husband God has called him to be the stronger our marriage has become. 20 years and it has not been easy but I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!Get help from someone who is 'grounded in Gods promises' and can help you discern if it is time to give up or press on. 
Mario Alleckna 3 months ago
As always, the issue is selfishness. Rather than denying oneself (see Bible) spouses ask "what can I get out of this relationship"? True love seeks to look out for the other rather than only for oneself. (If both sides do it, both sides win!) In my little book on marriage I address the issue from a Christian perspective. Having gone thru a divorce before becoming a believer and now re-married for 23 yrs. with 5 children, I have learned a few lessons. One thing: We jump into the water cause it looks so very refreshing, beautiful and exiting, and then we find out that without any work (i.e. swimming) we eventually go under. A great marriage foundation is put in place BEFORE we get married! It is imperative to understand the difference between love and infatuation! Feelings are based on circumstances and can change like the wind, whereas love is a decision. With God ALL things are possible! Blessings, Mario Alleckna (mcaall4j@shaw.ca) 
Amy Kramer 3 months ago
As a divorcee from a man who was emotional abusive and at times physically abusive, I shutter at articles like this. They tend to trivialize a very serious issue. For the individual who is facing a spouse who is repeatedly unfaithful, is abusive, has a substance abuse problem, or other serious issue, boiling down "saving your marriage" to a few simple changes isn't helpful. I tend to classify articles like this as ones for the whiners who have a tolerably ok marriage already. Why are their more articles for the whiners and less for the people facing very serious safety issues? 
Smith Tetey 3 months ago
I understand how you feel. Things can be so hard to come to terms with. Especially when a person who said I love you soon turns against his own word.
However, I have come to discover that very small things can create big problems. The simple steps as they seem are keys which can turn his heart the very way your beauty charmed him at first. In the same way, it might be that a very tiny thing came between his love for you and your affection towards him.
I pray for God's grace to sustain you in your pain.
Anonymous 3 months ago
So...what do you do when you've been married for 28 years and the last 14 of them you spent raising your kids and sacrificing everything, while your husband refused to sacrifice anything. What do you do when for the last few years your husband refuses to do anything he doesn't desire himself and becomes so self consumed that it's all about him, and not his wife or children. Instead of taking his son out to play ball or golf he rather watch tv; instead of fixing the family boat, our summer fun, that sat in the garage for more than 4 years while his family and children begged him to fix it so we could go back to enjoying our family summers together, he refused and did what he wanted. What happens when your feelings change so much toward him, after years of being ignored, that someone else walks into your life and gives you what you've been needing for so long, that before you know it you develop feelings for him, while your husband is completely unaware of what's going on, because he doesn't pay enough attention. And now I'm suppose to give everything up again because it's the "right" thing to do for everyone else, but for the first time in years I feel happy and alive again. I have lived in egg shells for years around my husband because of his bad moods and nasty looks multiple times a day. We NEVER talked about anything more meaningful than how was your day? Never made long term plans...no dreams together. I haven't cried for years because I realized that I learned to NOT feel in order to get through my days. And now I feel again...a lot! I feel love, pain, excitement, fear, you name it. And I have cried more in the last two months than I have in the last 10 years. I didn't think I was capable of crying of getting excited about anything in life anymore, until this summer when I decided that I had had enough, and met someone that made me feel good and enjoyed just being with me and talking. We have never done anything, I have not cheated on my husband, but we have told each other we like each other, but have refrained. I was finally getting excited about life again and decided that I needed a separation, not realizing how done I truly was, until my husband woke up from the fear of loosing me and the family he took for granted for so long, and is now doing all of the right things. But I don't know that this is what I want anymore...in fear of falling right back into the same dark hole I finally pulled out of. And now everyone is looking to me to save our family!!! Nice!!! It's always on me to do the right thing for everyone else.
Sorry about the rant...but things are never as easy and as uncomplicated as everyone would like to think it is. You can't just forget and move on...it's just not that easy!!!  :(
Anonymous 3 months ago
Totally understand your pain!  Been there.  Have you asked God (not people) what He wants you to do?  God loves you more than any person on earth ever could.  Living for Him is the best answer.  He will provide the Love, Joy, Peace (all that you need) if you stick to His plan.  When looking back at my life I wish things had been different.  You can't go back & change the past, but you can make the future better (with your husband).  It is not easy to forgive, but I guarantee that God will bless you if you have the right heart & seek Him.  It will not be easy.  It will be tough & Satan will try to deceive you as often as you let him.  Don't listen to his lies.  You may not forget the past, but you can choose to take those thoughts captive & give them to the Lord.  You are a beautiful person in God's eyes.  You may not have done anything physical with this person, but you have betrayed the love of your husband.  We are all sinners & God knows we make mistakes, but He died for us & we are His children.  He forgives!!!  Thank God, He forgives.  We are not worthy, but that doesn't matter.  Don't worry about what might happen in the future.  You have no guarantees with either relationship.  The only guarantee you have is that God loves you & will forever!  Follow Him!!  Ask Him to guide you.  Keep seeking Him!!!  You are loved by the King!!  God bless you & your family!
Anonymous 3 months ago
I asked God for years to help but my husband was unwilling. And I know I have betrayed him emotionally, but he betrayed me for years while he enjoyed porn, regardless of how I felt. Even my son, now almost 14, would find the porn and question me about it and would ask why his dad felt the need to watch it. I know I need to pray about this, but I unfortunately now want something else, and am so afraid to fall back into a place that took me so long to get out of. There has been no physical abuse or infidelity, other than my emotional betrayal now and his porn for years. But I watched my mom become a bitter woman because she stayed with our dad in order to do the "right" thing, and that also scares me. I spent many days feeling angry and un-wanted. I knew he loved me but for years it felt like he disliked me tremendously and didn't really want to be with me, and certainly did not enjoy his children like he should. I couldn't do anything right, even though I gave 150% of myself to him and the kids. I always put myself last! It's tough when you have to constantly remind your two kids that Poppa's bad moods have nothing to do with them. And now that he wants to make it better, and is being amazing, I just can't seem to get my feelings back. I feel like I want my freedom, and want to be on my own for a while in order to decide. I just moved out, signed a 6 month lease at an apartment, and will take this time to try to figure things out. My husband need to figure out a few things himself. In the meantime, I am under a scope and feel like my every move is being watched...  :(
Jane Ellen Smith 3 months ago
When you said that you walk on eggshells, I knew we have similar stories. Only mine ended after 30 years when he fired me. He pulled out a chair for me, sat down, crossed his legs and calmly informed me that he'd filed for divorce a month before and was moving out the next day. Five children, two adoptions. He was teaching in the children's program at church at the time. He said he was tired of living with sick and crazy people. We have two children with chronic illnesses. I could go on, but here's the point: This is a great article if both people are reasonable, but if the husband is determined to leave and rejects all the help the men of church offer, there's nothing the the wife can do. Our elders told me that I'm like a widow because he abandoned me. Sometimes I resent articles like these.
Anonymous 3 months ago
We can't control what others do, and sometimes, even though we do our best and give it our all, it just doesn't seem to matter. I am so sorry about what happened to you, it's quite unfair. You have a lot more to deal with than I do, that's for sure.

I hate that I am the one that has made the move to leave, asked for a 6 month separation, but he has been very unwilling to do anything. Now he's willing but I just don't know. I feel so much confusion and am so conflicted. I keep falling into the role of taking care of everyone else and forgetting myself. :(
Anonymous 3 months ago
Here is the answer I've learned the hard way. Listen very closely to what I'm saying and receive it even if everything in you hates it, because it is truth: It's the hardest thing to hear because you feel so justified, but you're thinking like a fool. You need to take your thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. Don't love and treasure your feelings more than you love and treasure God and obedience to Him. That is where wisdom is found, in fearing God. So let me ask, where is your love for God?
Reread your post and notice how angry you are. Now, is this "righteous anger" that wants what God wants and is angry because He's not glorified, or is this selfish anger that wants what you want and is angry because you aren't getting what you want? 
Go get your bible. Seriously, go get it and find James 3:13-18. That is exactly what is happening in your situation. You aren't alone, we all deal with this selfish ambition. But now read Galatians 6:7-8. That's a promise. Now read it again replacing your name wherever it says "a man" or "whoever." God is giving you a choice, and you have a guarantee for the outcome depending on whether you choose to live by the spirit or the flesh. I suggest, and plead with you to choose to trust Gods way of doing things even though it feels unfair and seems hard. This I know is true - your feelings lie to you. You can't trust them. They will turn on you in an instant and leave you destroyed. Choose obedience to Gods design for marriage, your reaction to sinners, and your role as a Christian (following Christ's example of humility). 
Now go read 1 Peter 2:19-25!!! Memorize it! It needs to become your life passage in your marriage. It defeats satan's pity lie about how unfair you're being treated by your husband. Now read Philippians 2:3-11. That is another golden passage for you. 

Anonymous 3 months ago
Dear Anonymous, I understand the wounds you've experienced...the bitterness and frustration, making yourself numb to avoid the daily pain of rejection, all the while trying to make everything nice for everyone else while you feel like you're in a wasteland. On many levels I imagine you felt abandoned and I am truly sorry. I'm by no means a professional counselor, but my parents were divorced when I was young and I have been married now for nearly two decades. Here are a few thoughts...
1. You mentioned that everyone is looking to you to save the marriage. I think that's pretty unfair as it is not your responsibility to save the marriage--that is God's work. But you do need to be open to the idea of trying again. And I don't think anyone should expect you to blindly jump back into the relationship with your husband. I think this is where an experienced, godly counselor could help--by providing the tools for how you and your husband could begin to build up trust again and lay the foundation for, in many ways, a new relationship. Those potential feelings of bitterness and abandonment don't need to be rehashed over and over but they probably do need to be dealt with so you can both move on. I know it's possible, because my own parents remarried each other several years after their divorce. 
2. A reconciliation can't happen without forgiveness and change--and let's be clear, forgiveness isn't pretending what happened to you was okay or didn't matter. But it is extending grace to someone who doesn't deserve it. Your husband needs your grace extended to him. And you need his just as much. No marriage can survive without this exchange. It heals where nothing else can. But again, God will help you with this if you ask him. He is faithful! Remember that Jesus did not give up on us--rather, dying for us while we were still sinners. His love was and is bigger than our record of wrongs. He will always give you the grace and love you need for yourself and to give to others. 
3. While you do not need to concern yourself with what everyone thinks you should be doing for your relationship with your husband, your decisions do have lasting ripple effects on those around you--especially your children. Your decision to try again with your husband or to throw in the towel will speak volumes to them and shape their own views--for better or worse. You spoke of having to give up what's making you 'happy now' if you went back to your husband. But please don't forget about what could be gained by going back to your husband. If you decide to rebuild your relationship, there are no words for the testimony that will be to your children. When they get in difficult, agonizing and challenging situations--they will not forget the redemption of your marriage relationship. I know I never will forget my mom giving my dad a second chance. I could have no better example of Christ's forgiveness and unconditional love outside of His own sacrifice and death. My parents relationship was not an overnight fix and they still have the issues any normal marriage has. But they would tell you there are powerful rewards for having walked through that deep valley and having moved on--together. And those rewards are generational as my children see the beauty that rose from the ashes. 
4. Lastly, I have no idea what the future holds for you or what rebuilding your relationship with your husband will look like if you choose to stay with him. But God does. I encourage you to seek out the help of counselors available here at Focus on the Family. Don't be afraid to let His love transform and heal you and your marriage. I will be praying for you and your husband!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Dear Anonymous,

My husband and I are one year into the redemption of our marriage after the discovery of a 2 1/2 year long affair. So I have experience behind what I'm about to say. 

First, you have been given golden advice. I'm not going to repeat it, read it all again. I whole heartedly agree that you need to contact a good Christian counselor; Focus on the Family is a great place to start. 

Second, think about this relationship you are in with your friend:

1) Would someone who LOVES you encourage you to distant yourself from your husband or encourage you to build your relationship with your husband?

2) Would a person who "loves" you be happy to see you break your vows? (And, are you encouraging him to break any vows?)

3) You truly are in a "fantasy" relationship with this other man. You have the best world with him: no laundry to wash; no housecleaning to do; no meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, or meal clean-up to do; no bills to pay; no job changes or moves to decide; no children or grandchildren to deal with and the myriad of problems they bring with them; you've never bought a car with him or gone into debt with him; you've never had to keep a household budget balanced with him; you have no idea whether he leaves his dirty underwear on the floor next to the hamper or not!  Do you see what I'm getting at? All you've had with him is fun, relaxing times with no pressures and no worries. A true fantasy. You really have no idea what the real man is like behind his fantasy facade, all you've seen is him putting his best foot forward. And that's all he's seen of you, he has no idea what you are like in real life applications. 

4) If this man is willing to get mixed up with a married woman now, how could you ever trust him??

5) If you are willing to betray your husbands trust, how could this other man ever trust you?

6) Please read Hebrews 12:15-16. These verses give such a clear warning that bitterness left unchecked causes many to be defiled and also will lead to immorality. You are heading this way and need to put on the brakes before something worse happens!

7 & last) Love is not a feeling. Love is the commitment of my will to someone else's needs, regardless of the cost to me. ("Grace Filled Marriage", by Dr. Ted Kimmel) Our family's definition of love is, Sacrificing oneself for the good of another, without expecting anything in return, especially when that person does not deserve it. 

Christ showed sacrificial love towards you. Don't be selfish by not showing that same love to your husband, children, grandchildren, friends, and other people your choices will influence. If you leave this "friend" of yours, then you will finally be truly loving him as well because you will be doing what is right and good for him. 

1 Peter 5:5-11

I will be praying for you. 
Anonymous 3 months ago
"His Needs Her Needs" by Dr. Harley is awesome! Never let yourself think about what things would be like without them. Don't even open that window. Instead, tell yourself this is your life, how can I make the best of it?
Anonymous 3 months ago
These are awesome ideas to follow, but if your spouse has an addiction to porn that they are too prideful to get help for from any one except themselves, nothing is going to hold that marriage together. Yes GOD can save marriage and heal all wounds. That requires a turn around of the splice with the problem.  I stayed for 12 years in a marriage where this was the case.  When I did leave I found out his true nature and how awful he truely was. I prayed and relied on GOD for over 12 years before I gave up and left. It takes 2 people to work on the marriage. If one will and the other wont, then there is not place to go but to divorce.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Women need love and affection too, not just husbands.
Molly Reda-Schneider 11 months ago
Successful marriages happen when both people involved are committed to following the values of God and not the society around them. The expectations of the people around us, can damn a marriage, before it has had a chance to even begin. Ask a woman what she wants in a man? She wants a man who is both caring and sensitive as well as 100% in fidelity. What does a woman do when she finds that man? She compares him to those who violate everything that is contrary to her wants and tries to change him into what those around her are charged with, so that she can have commonality with her friends. Ask a man what he wants and fidelity, discretion and fortitude top the list, yet too often his eyes are directed to women who are anything but, those virtues so he can both tempt and impress his friends. I believe in family, but too often they are the downfall of a marriage. By and large, people cannot be happy unless they feel miserable. Only those who separate from the pack to define and create their own relationship, succeed. What are we willing to sacrifice, for a good marriage?
Jim More than 1 year ago

Why do you say never?  Even if your spouse refuses, for years, to be kind to you?

Christina More than 1 year ago

Surprise your spouse with litte "trinkets" of your love:  a love note in her purse or his wallet, Hershey's kisses and hugs in a drawer with a note saying "sending hugs and kisses your way with love",  do one of your spouse's despised chores for him/her.

Mary Ann S More than 1 year ago

Read the book "Five Languages of Love" by Smalley & Trent!  It is an excellent handbook for solving all kinds of problems in marriage.  I had read it years ago with my first husband, then had it recommended by a marriage counselor that my new husband & I saw for pre-marital counseling!  We both read & re-read it, discuss the points frequently and agree that it is a big help.

findmydream More than 1 year ago

It all makes sense except for #5 Every  day, for 10 minutes, the couple should talk alone about something other  than work, the family and children, the household, the relationship. No  problems. No scheduling. No logistics.

What else do you talk about?? The only things that don't fit are weather and news, not exactly great small talk.

Brad Pritts More than 1 year ago

It is a blessing to see so many positive suggestions!!!!

Louise More than 1 year ago

I think knowing the 5 love languages and trying to love your mate in his/her love language helps.  Love languages are: acts of service, words of encouragement, quality time, physical touch, and gifts.  Having a once a week date night without children when you can nurture your mate and have meaningful conversation discussing your thoughts and feelings, like what makes you sad, glad, mad, hurt, afraid, or ashamed, not just facts also builds a strong marriage.  The date helps you have fun with your mate and work on your differences. Your love should be a decision, not a fluffy feeling.

SDB More than 1 year ago

Be slow to anger - My family and I went to Celebrate Freedom this Saturday, my husband took forever getting ready and I wanted to be there by 2 because Kutless was on stage then.  Needless to say we did not make it by 2, however; there are more important things than getting angry - such as having a good time while we were there.  The old me before I came to know Christ would have flew off on a rampage and things would not have been pretty.  Since my husband and I gave our lives to Christ this is something we work on more - SLOW TO ANGER.  

jminn55362 More than 1 year ago

also limit tv i feel tv hurts only watch family quality shows that you would watch if kids where in the room with you and keep computers and tv out of the bedroom. the bedroom should be for sleep and make love only. always talk about issues, keep commucation open trust eachother have fun together laugh together cry together little moments that make relationships grow.

Heidi More than 1 year ago

Never, EVER consider divorce an option!

Molly Reda-Schneider 11 months ago
I cannot say that there are not situations  where divorce is not warranted...... But jumping ship at the first sign of trouble is not the answer because no one comes to marriage without baggage they need to dispose of. To often that baggage is family and/or its beliefs.  Christ's greatest marriage advice was Take up your cross and follow me....and let the dead bury their own.
Amy Kramer 3 months ago
I disagree. Unrepentant adultery creates an option for divorce. If one partner is unsafe (as in physical violence) then separation is a necessity. At that point, the batterer has a decision - get help or get a divorce. And, by help, I mean a batterer's intervention program and a long-term commitment with a counselor trained in domestic violence. Guilting women to stay in an unsafe relationship by saying that divorce is never an option keeps too many women and children in very dangerous situations. 
Pam L More than 1 year ago

Passion drew you together, but compassion keeps you together!

konnie w. More than 1 year ago

Pay attention to the marriage and make decisions that will be good for the future of your life together.  Also be aware when something is wrong in your relationship and do something about it.  Don't ignore the signs of an unhappy spouse.

Marianne More than 1 year ago

Spend time together regularly, even if it is only doing the grocery shopping or running errands.  Do something besides sitting on the couch watching TV.

Rachel More than 1 year ago

Thank you, Barbara. I hope your day goes well too

Jody More than 1 year ago

#6 - Have a date night once a week.#7 - Stay intimate.

Anonymous 3 months ago
Double LIKE!!
Beverly More than 1 year ago

If you've been divorced, get over the anger and DO NOT EXPECT YOUR NEW SPOUSE TO BE LIKE YOUR PREVIOUS SPOUSE (you may get your expectations met just by your attitude).  This is a new marraige, and GOD is the one who will fulfill your desires, so let HIM work.

#6  Show affection in front of others, especially your children - hold hands - kiss each other hello and goodbye - say good things to each other - communicate by sending one another meaningful looks and little smiles that only the two of you understand - say I love you for any reason.

Gigi More than 1 year ago

In a sermon, a pastor of mine gave an illustration that I think fits here: He said that after dinner one evening his wife had put the kids to bed and was cleaning up the kitchen. She asked him if he would pick up the toys strewn in the family room; he was working on his computer and procrastinated about putting the toys away. His wife went to bed, and he followed later when he finished what he was doing. In the morning, his wife, seeing the toys were still in the family room, said to him, "You call me 'Honey,' 'Honey,' but you don't do what I ask." [A take on Luke 6:45 - "Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?"]Relating to that, my sister told me she was listening to a call-in talk show hosted by a famous rabbi (I forgot his name). One of the callers complained that his wife nagged him all the time. The rabbi answered that is a completely avoidable situation. The rabbi went on to say, "Your wife asks you to do some task around the house. You are reading the paper, working on your computer, or watching television, and tell her you'll do it when you're finished doing whatever you're doing. Then you forget, or procrastinate, or whatever, but you don't do the task. Your wife asks again, this time a bit irritated because the task is still undone. For whatever reason, you still do not complete the task, and your wife has become more irritated and her tone is probably not so kind. You consider her a nag, but you could have avoided the second request by simply doing what she asked in the first place."I'm not saying the husband is always at fault. This is a two-way steet; it just so happens that both illustrations were given by men.I wish I always followed my own advice.