As we start a new year many people are thinking about what they want to work on or improve in 2023. For those of us that are married that relationship is often something we would like to improve. Every marriage has difficulties and challenges, that’s normal. The reality is that many couples don’t work through issues and let them pile up over many years.
As you start your new year I hope you will set a few goals, or ideas on how you can work on the most important relationship you have, your marriage. I would like to share five ways that you can work on improving your marriage. Some of these might click and be helpful and some may not. The point is to work at, and be intentional about being a better husband or wife.
- Work at being a better listener.
Most of the conflict we experience comes from misunderstandings or simply not listening. This skill can improve any relationship and make the other person feel more valued. How do I do that? A few things that help me, include turning off any distractions like the TV or phone. Turn to the person and give them your full attention. Once your spouse has shared what’s on their mind, repeat back what you heard or ask clarifying questions. The goal is to understand what they said. You might even ask if they want your opinion or to just listen.
Listening also includes reading their body language and tone of voice. That will help you to understand if this is very important, or are they upset, hurt, or confused. The reason to do this is that good listener also connect emotionally. You can actually acknowledge the emotion by saying something like this: Honey I can see you’re very upset, how can I help? Make it a goal in 2023 to be a better listener, before you talk with your spouse remind yourself to listen more and speak less.
2. Work at being a better communicator
This is another area a lot of people struggle with. Misunderstandings and conflict often happen when things are not clear, or are said in a way that is confusing or even hurtful. For some it might be not talking enough, not sharing and keeping things to yourself. For others it might be talking too much and people get lost or lose focus.
For those that don’t talk much, I urge you to work on talking more with your spouse. Talking is a way to connect with each other and to feel like you are letting the other person into your world. When you think about something try to follow through and actually say it to the other person, as long as it’s not hurtful or mean. If you have something important to tell your spouse you might even practice out loud, or write it down before you have the conversation. It’s also very important in communication to be clear and try not to have serious conversations when you are highly emotional.
For those that talk too much, work on reading the other person. Are they starting to zone out or get distracted? If so, stop talking and ask if they have any questions or input into what you have been talking about. You should also practice condensing your stories and not sharing all the fine details. What is your main point you want to make?
In 2023 work to be more clear and open in your communication with your spouse. By open, I mean sharing at a deeper level, being more vulnerable and honest. That means taking a risk and opening up. If you’re not able to do that, then I suggest talking with a trusted mentor or counselor about how you can work on your communication.
3. Work at expressing love.
You made a commitment to love and to cherish till death do you part when you got married. To improve your marriage, it’s important to express love on a regular basis. That’s more than simply saying I love you. I’m talking about the Five Love Languages: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Gifts, Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. All of these are important but everyone has one or two that means a lot more than others. Words of Affirmation is by far the top one for me. A word of encouragement is like fuel for my soul.
If you don’t know your spouses love language make that a goal in 2023 to learn what it is, and then work at speaking that to your spouse more often. One way to do that is to read the book Five Love Languages or do a google search and find information about each of the five love languages. Then have a conversation with your spouse about what theirs is and what yours is. I wrote an article about this back in 2015 called How to communicate with your spouse.
4. Work at praying for your spouse.
If you are a Christian then prayer should be an important part of your life. If it’s not then start there. Simply be more intentional about talking with God, share your heart with Him as well as your frustrations. Give him praise and thanks on a regular basis.
Start the practice of praying for your spouse, listen for things you can pray about, share things with your spouse, if they are a Christian that they can pray about for you. Write things down so you remember and try to pray several times a week for them. Keep it simple but work at doing it consistently.
This will be a big step to improving your marriage. Prayer is powerful and affective. Taking a moment to simply say a short prayer for your spouse and kids, with him or her will go a long way to building love, connection and intimacy in your marriage.
5. Work at spending time together.
Most married couples find it hard to have time for each other. Raising kids, working and taking care of the house are challenging and keep us busy. Then add sports, hobbies, getting groceries, and even church activities and there isn’t much time for each other.
In 2023 be more intentional about scheduling time together, whether that’s a date night or simply a quiet evening together each week. Talk about what works for you, and then schedule it. Get a baby sitter if you have to, but try to make this happen more often this year. Also work on being more fully present when you are together. We often are consumed with work, finances, special projects or hobbies and don’t give our full attention to our spouse. It takes work and planning to spend time together but it’s worth it in the long run.
I could keep going but those 5 are a good start. Look for more ideas coming soon.