Are You Really Ready to Fix Your Marriage? A Checklist

“If things don’t get better, then I am out of here!”

“I just can’t take it any more. I’ll do anything to fix this.” 

Two sentences that I hear from so many of my couples coming to marriage counseling. They sound motivated, and might even think they are. But, when I give them ideas of new things to try, they agree to it in the office, but struggle to put new ideas into practice. 



Most people want the other person to do the changing. Their partner is the one that needs to change - to stop nagging, to stop arguing, to stop being lazy, etc.

I understand this position - the pain that couples are in, and how tired they are from trying so hard to have a better marriage or relationship. Usually one or both people feel like they’ve been doing all of the work to improve their marriage and are just plain tired, and want the other person to finally get a clue and be a better spouse.

In two upcoming posts, I will be sharing 10 rules that you can immediately put into practice to improve your marriage. 

But before we get to the rules, you will need to have these following 4 things to put the marriage rules into practice:

_____1. Goodwill and a genuine wish to create a better marriage.

Do you really have goodwill toward your partner and a genuine wish to have a better marriage? Or, does it feel too far gone and you can’t seem to even care anymore? I’ll bet that if you are reading this, then there is some sense of a genuine wish to have a better relationship, even if it is only a tiny bit.


_____   2. An openness to focusing on yourself (not self-blame but rather the capacity to observe and change your own steps in a pattern that is bringing you pain).

Are you really open to looking at yourself and how you might be contributing to the problem, and how you can also contribute to the solution?


_____  3. A willingness to engage in bold acts of change.

Does committing bold acts of change scare you? Do you feel resentful that you might be asked to do some changing? “Bold acts” doesn’t necessarily mean “big acts”. A bold act is a brave act - one that you try even if you feel like the other person needs to do the changing. 


_____  4. A willingness to practice, practice, practice

Are you willing to be patient with yourself and your partner as you practice new skills - or are you looking for a quick fix? One can practice using a softer tone during an argument. One can practice using “I” messages when having a discussion with your partner. One can practice being nice and respectful to your spouse, even when you don’t feel like it.

(From Marriage Rules, by Harriet Lerner) <-- I highly recommend this book


Notice that none of those 4 items says that you have to have a willing partner or should be waiting for them to do the changing. You have the power to have a different marriage or relationship, regardless of what your husband or wife does.

Remember: you can only change you - you can’t force anyone else to be different, no matter how much you want them to, beg them, or nag at them. 

That’s the good news.

That’s also the bad news - you can only change you.


What if I don't have the motivation?

If you are missing any of the above 4 items, don’t despair. You can commit to doing those four things even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes acting “as if” or pretending to have motivation to improve your marriage, actually gives you the motivation to change your marriage. 

Or, if you are struggling with motivation to fix your marriage and can’t seem to find it on your own, it might be time to seek help from a trusted friend, pastor or marriage counselor. They can give you the emotional support that you need to do this hard work. 

Something to keep in mind as you begin the journey to having a better marriage is this:

Real change in marriage often occurs at glacial speed. But it’s the direction, not the speed of travel, that matters. Harriet Lerner

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Do you need support and guidance to help your marriage or relationship?

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