Many people believe that a good relationship requires equal effort from both husband and wife. And so, if your spouse is unwilling to change or invest more in the marriage then the relationship is doomed to lack-lustre intimacy, or even steady deterioration.
While it is certainly the ideal is to have both spouses fully invested and contributing to the marriage, it is not necessary to make a positive and substantial improvement. You can make a difference on your own.
How does this work? On this simple principle: if one person changes, they change the dynamic of the relationship and this spontaneously leads the other person to change too. Actually, everybody knows this principle. We just don’t access its power to make positive change.
Let’s say your spouse comes home in a really good mood and is being loving and attentive towards you, but you respond by criticising, ignoring or bringing up a touchy subject. We all know how easy it is to kill the positive mood of the other. In fact, this happens all too often; we start out well, but then one of us strikes a small but fatal blow and all of sudden, the good will and positive vibes vanish. In a flash that warm, romantic atmosphere turns into an icy wind.
One person can most definitely influence the relationship and do so very effectively!
Equally so, this principle applies in the positive as well. When your spouse is narky or withdrawn, don’t react with your typical comeback. Nagging, criticising or shutting down yourself only perpetuates the cycle of moodiness and diminishes your intimacy.
Rather try responding with a more loving gesture. Think about what would help your narky or withdrawn spouse feel loved and do that instead. Perhaps a sympathetic “I can see you’ve had a bad day; is there anything I can do to help?” or “You look like you need some time to yourself right now; why don’t you take some time out and I’ll handle things here?” Maybe your spouse needs to hear your affirmation and appreciation. Maybe no words are necessary, just silent companionship while you each read the paper or watch a TV show.
Whatever way you choose to respond in love, be assured: you can change your marriage for the better with the simple act of changing yourself. All change starts from within. So before we say “why must I change first”, remind yourself: the only person holding you back from changing is yourself!
Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children.
Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links.