Today I want to take a minute to talk to the married folks. Some of you aren’t married yet, but you want to be. Stick this information in your back pocket. You’re going to want this down the road. News flash! I’m not sure if everybody knows this, but marriage ain’t easy!! It takes work! W-O-R-K! It’s not always easy!
After having been a pastor for 25 years and now a coach, I see the two biggest areas that create stress in people’s lives. You know what they are? Finances and relationships.
Number one in relationships, and in finances, is marriages that have stress in their finances. And the key relationship that creates the most stress? Marriage. Now, marriage also creates the most joy and awesomeness, but it’s not easy! It is not for the faint of heart!
When I meet somebody for the first time and I ask them to tell me about themself and they say they’ve been married for 15, 20, 25 years, I’m like, you’ve got grit, baby!! You know how to tough it out! That tells me a lot about a person.
But some of you that are reading this right now are married but not currently living happily ever after. So let’s talk about that a little bit. Maybe you’re in a place where there’s tension, there’s frustration, maybe there’s disappointment because of unmet expectations. Look, we’re all adults here so let’s keep this real. Some of you aren’t having enough sex! And you’re like, this isn’t what I signed up for! Maybe some of you guys in particular. Yes. I’m totally stereotyping here. Some of you guys are like, we were supposed to have sex every day after we got married and it’s not happening! (Now, some of you are having sex every day. That is awesome. That is great for you. But that is not statistically the norm!)
Okay. So here’s the question that I want to address here: how do I fix my marriage? This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not what I thought was going to happen. I thought I knew this person. This isn’t who I married. You’re in that place where you’re frustrated, you’re disappointed, you have unmet expectations, you feel like your needs aren’t getting met, and you want it to be better. And so you’re asking the question, how do I fix my marriage?
Let me give you a few thoughts on this. You know, this is one of those areas where a lot of people, when they hire me as a business-life coach, they don’t know they’re getting a guy that’s done marriage counseling for 25 years as well. My father was a pastor for over 40 years and that was his niche. So I’m kind of standing on his shoulders on some of this, but marriage counseling is in my wheelhouse.
I’ve been married 22 years, myself. I’m still learning a whole lot about how to make that work, but I have picked up a few things. The biggest thing I’ve learned, by far, if you want to fix your marriage is this: take ownership. That’s number one. Now, this might sound slightly familiar, but if you have been around this community for any amount of time then you’ve heard somebody talk about the decision to take full responsibility for your life. You know what to do! Put your hands over your head and TAKE IT BACK!
Take back your power to create the marriage that you want.
I almost posed the question this way: how do I fix my spouse? Because that’s really, in truth, the question that some of you are asking! You’re like, I’m good! I’ve done work. How do I fix her? How do I fix him? Some of you are praying people and I’m glad. I’m a praying person, too, and some of you are praying, God, open his eyes. God, open her eyes, soften her heart. Some of you literally pray, make her wanna have sex with me more, God. God, let her forgive me. God, help him to see how he needs to get off his bum and work harder and make more money. You’re praying these genuine, heartfelt prayers, but can I help you a little bit? Whether you’re praying it or you’re just thinking it, there’s a great little book I would highly recommend, called The Power of a Praying… fill in the blank. There’s some called The Power of a Praying Husband, The Power of a Praying Wife, The Power of a Praying Parent. There’s a whole series of them by an author named Stormie Omartian.
A while back, I was going through a season in my life that my wife affectionately calls, “Mark’s dark time.” I was not a happy person to be married to. In fact, I was a bit miserable and guess whose fault it was? Was it my fault? No, no, no! It was everybody else’s fault! And my wife found this book and she was like, yeah, I need to know how to pray, to get my husband fixed. So she read the book, The Power of a Praying Wife, and it told her to stop praying to get her husband fixed! And the premise was this: stop praying to fix him and start praying for God to change your heart toward him. What did my wife begin to do? Instead of projecting on me, she began to take full responsibility. She began to take ownership for her heart, for her part in the marriage. And I credit my wife and I’m grateful for that book because she literally prayed me out of the darkness. During that season when I was stuck, I had to get to a point where instead of blaming her and blaming my circumstances and blaming the economy, I had to say, okay, I’m going to take full responsibility. I am going to take ownership. So if you feel like you’re in a place where your spouse needs to be fixed, the first step is to pause and say, okay, I’m not going to project that they need to get fixed. I’m going to take full responsibility for myself. I am going to take ownership. You won’t fix your marriage. It’s never, ever, ever going to happen if you think they’re the one that needs to do all the work. Take ownership and get to work.
Okay, here’s another one. This is number two and it’s part of you taking ownership by pressing pause. Press pause! Let me give you a quick little equation.
E plus R equals O. E stands for the event. R is your response. This equals the outcome that you’re going to get in any situation. What is the only component of that equation that you actually really have control over? What are you going to take full ownership and responsibility for? Your response! And so the thing that sets us apart from every other animal on the planet is that between the event and the response you and I – because we have a brain and we have a will and we can make decisions – can make a decision right there, before we respond, to hit the pause button. Such a simple concept. You’ve got to learn to hit the pause button.
Some of you are not responding; you’re reacting.
Listen, I’m a pro talking to you about this, okay? I’m not talking about something I heard somebody say…no! I was a pro at reacting to my wife – and my kids for that matter – and I had to learn how to master my state, my emotions, and my responses because, until I learn how to master that, how can I expect to fix anything? By the way, “fixing” is not really a great word to use. How do I fix my marriage? You’re not really fixing anything. You’re going to become the best version of yourself and when you become better, healthier, and stronger, everything attached to you becomes better, healthier, and stronger. You know how you fix your marriage? You become better. You take ownership and you get better. You learn how to master your emotions. If some of you could just learn how to hit the pause button before you open your mouth and begin to speak, how could that impact the outcome? Just don’t speak the words! Hit the frigging pause button, walk away, bite your tongue. Find something else to say. I don’t care what you do, but don’t say the stupid stuff that was in your mouth that wasn’t filtered. You have to learn to filter. And one of the best ways to do that is to hit the pause button. And then you have a moment to pause and say, Hmm, what’s gonna happen if I say that? Is that really what I think? You’ve got to learn to hit the pause button and take responsibility for your role in any situation.
This all comes down to communication, right? You want to increase your communication? You want to have a better rapport and remove some of that tension? Stop saying stupid stuff! There’s another book I would recommend here. I love a great business book. Highly recommend this one if you’re a business owner. It’s called, The Road Less Stupid, by Keith J. Cunningham. The entire premise of the book is that you do not need to be the smartest person in the business world. You don’t have to get it right all the time or make all the best decisions. The whole idea of the book is that if you can avoid stupid, you can succeed. Some of you are getting some outcomes in your marriage right now because you are not avoiding stupid. I love you. Like seriously. Hear me. I love you! I want your marriage to be awesome. Filled with joy and bliss and ecstasy and passion. I want your marriage to have that, but if you want to have that, you’ve got to take full responsibility and you’ve got to stop doing stupid things. I’m not calling anybody stupid, just telling you to avoid doing stupid things. You’re not stupid. You’re smart. You’re smart enough to be able to hit the pause button. But if you can just avoid stupid activity, stupid behavior, and stupid responses, your marriage will get a whole, whole lot better. It’s got nothing to do with what your spouse is doing. It’s got everything to do with you taking ownership and responsibility.
So number one: take full responsibility, take ownership. Number two: press pause. Number three: let’s get practical. Be proactive. Some of this is on the defense, right? Okay. She said something. He said something. They came at you and you’re going to hit the pause button. Not going to react, right? That’s taking a defensive position so you don’t lean into stupid. However, what can you do to be proactive?
Here’s a place to start: take the five love languages quiz and find out what your spouse’s love language is. You can find it with Google. Some of you already know what your spouse’s love language is, but you aren’t using that knowledge. You could lean into that! If theirs is gifts, buy her or him gifts! By the way, some of you are broke and your spouse’s love language is gifts; be creative and resourceful. You can stop and pick some of those beautiful wildflowers in the field (not out of somebody’s yard, guys). But, you don’t even have to buy the flowers; be creative, be proactive. Maybe their love language is words of affirmation. Do you know how powerful a handwritten note is? How powerful is it for your wife to find a handwritten note sitting on the counter when she wakes up next to her coffee cup that you made for her? Because if her language is acts of service, you might want to start making her coffee in the morning for her, right? Or cooking a meal in the evening for her or him.
So the five love languages (acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, and quality time) are just one framework. My point here is to be proactive. How do you fill your spouse’s tank? How do you make deposits into your marriage that make it better? Be proactive. Again, that’s you taking full responsibility and leaning in and saying, what can I do?
So there’s three ideas. Can I give you just a little bonus point? It kind of overlaps with the three of these, but I just want to slip this in. When it comes to what’s going on in your relationship, whatever your spouse’s perception is, that is their reality. Our perception is our reality. I’m a man. I’m a dude. I’m a husband. And if I say something to my wife and I want her to feel supported, but instead she says to me, “When you said that I didn’t feel supported, I felt like you were judging me. I felt like you were trying to control me.” Oh, that’s a big one. I didn’t feel supported. I felt like you were trying to tell me what to do. Listen, gentlemen, it does not matter if your intention was to support. If her perception is control, manipulation, telling her what to do, then you have to meet her at her perception because her perception is her reality, no matter what your intention was. It doesn’t matter what your intention was, meet her where her reality is. And that comes from her perception. Same thing for the ladies. You’ve got to meet them.
It doesn’t matter what you say. Well, I’ve been doing this, I’ve been doing that and trying to make it better. If your spouse feels like work is more important than he or she is, it doesn’t matter that you’re saying, hey, I’m actually working less hours than I was before. And you’re telling me “work is more important than me?” How is that possible? It doesn’t have to make sense if it’s their perception because it has become their reality. Stop defending, stop rationalizing, and learn how to meet your spouse right where they are. Reality versus perception – it can be kind of messy in that place. But if you want to fix your marriage – which, remember, is really you becoming the best version of you and loving and serving your spouse at the highest level possible – then you have to take full responsibility.
I hope this helped you.
What is a takeaway for you from this conversation? What is the thing you need to do? Because listen, I don’t care how good your marriage is. You can still activate something. Get back to a love language, get back to taking responsibility. Maybe you’re doing good in these three areas, but there’s this other area that needs work. Like maybe when it comes to cleaning the bathroom up after yourself, maybe you could take more responsibility there and stop expecting your spouse to do it. I’m just making stuff up here. I have no basis for anything. I’m just using my imagination.
So, what is the action step you need to take? I love serving you guys. I love you. I want you to have the marriage of your dreams and today you can take a first step when you take responsibility for it, because you are going to create the marriage of your dreams. Go out there and give your greatness to your spouse or to everybody you come in contact with if you’re not married. Go out and give your greatness to the world.