Although I am a Clinical Psychologist, I am writing from the perspective of a woman, wife of 15 years, and mother who has experienced many joys, as well as disappointments and struggles in marriage. I hope that sharing my personal experiences will resonate with you, and that it might provide sufficient inspiration and guidance to give hope and direction to someone else on this journey.
- We are called to be peace makers, not peace keepers. Living in peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but is a sense of well being and harmony between individuals. This might mean addressing problems that have been ignored in order to truly establish peace and harmony in the family. Ask God to stay in your heart and on your lips during every encounter with your spouse so that your words will promote love.
- Trust God. His ways are higher than ours. He knows us better than we know ourselves and He, in all of his wisdom and goodness, can and will guide us on the path that he intends for us. God knows what we need, but he also respectful enough of us to not impose His will. He answers our prayers when we ask Him to enter our heart and change us.
- Thank God for the struggles. God allows challenges to come into our lives so that through them we can be refined. Every struggle we face, and particularly every challenge in a relationship, offers us an opportunity to grow in some way. I can say that despite the pain and sorrow I have experienced, God has used this experience to make me a more wise and loving person, and has taught me to depend on Him.
- Pride keeps us stuck. God revealed to me how I really am, not as I would like to see myself. Even those qualities I thought were admirable, God showed me how I was misusing them to hide behind a façade of goodness and even self-righteousness. A quote from the book Crucial Conversations (Patterson,Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2011) sticks with me and I use it often when I slip back into this prideful way of thinking, “Lord, help me to forgive those who sin differently than I do.”
- Pray. Rely on God for your daily strength. Ask for His wisdom to guide you. Ask again and again. God never exhausts of hearing our requests. I love the serenity prayer from Niebuhr.
- Seek out a new perspective. Professional counselors, pastors, trustworthy authors all have knowledge about relationships and can provide you with a new perspective. Hearing another perspective might offer you a new strategy for tackling old problems. I have found many wise authors who have provided me with insights and practical suggestions for how to improve myself in my marriage. A few of my favorites from whom I have found guidance and inspiration are Gary Chapman, Cloud & Townsend, and Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler. Each of them has several books on communication and relationship topics.
- One person can change the relationship. You might be thinking that your spouse needs to join you in this work. Not so. As one person in the relationship approaches their partner, and the relationship, in a different way tremendous change can happen. If your positive changes are met with resistance, seek the support and guidance of family, friends, or a counseling professional to support you on your path to a better marriage.