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What was your first big realization or lesson about yourself after you got married?

I remember how often I was catching myself making selfish choices and how they affected Jake. It ranged from simple things like always picking what I wanted for dinner to having to have a say in all of our household duties. I wanted things my way…sound familiar?

One ongoing argument we had was about the budget. I wanted to be included in every single monetary decision including choosing to add a category line to our expense tracker. It would upset me if he didn’t check in every. single. time. he updated the budget. I had big ideas on how we should invest and pay off our debt and I just had to be heard. Can you imagine how patient he had to be with me? Yeesh. (He TOTALLY was, by-the-way)

You see, I got married at 33 after having owned a business for 8 years. Not only was I fiercely independent, but I was more ingrained in my ways than I ever thought! That’s not an excuse, just the reality of my habits at the time.

During a discussion about the budget that was clearly leading toward tension, I remember abruptly stopping and saying “Nope, you can do it. You’ve got this.” I finally recognized the trend: I HAD to be included and it almost always led to a power struggle.

My habits didn’t change overnight, but I made a conscious effort to change my behavior. For me, that was stating out loud that I trusted Jake to do it. And, of course I did. He is so smart and I knew that.

What is self improvement and why it matters

Anytime you choose to pay attention to your habits or triggers and make a plan to change them, you are choosing to grow. Personal growth is taking steps to learn about yourself and change your character. Changing behavior for the better helps to cultivate peace in your home and makes way for deeper intimacy with your spouse.

We grow and change throughout our lives. Could you imagine if you still held the same worldview you did when you were in middle school? Sometimes change happens so gradually that we barely recognize that it’s happened. This is usually caused by outside influences, and is why spouses tend to look or talk like each other over time.

Think of who you were even 10 years ago, what do you think has changed the most? Why are you glad that it’s changed?

Other times there is definitely something we need to intervene with and consciously work to change the behavior or habit. I know it might not take too much time to think about where your partner could grow, but this one is about you so let’s keep the focus on ourselves.

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Focusing on self improvement can actually change your marriage for the better

Every one of us brings our past to our marriage. Good or bad, whatever that might look like, it’s going to add a unique dynamic and challenge to your marriage.

Some common issues that many marriages face are:

  • Lack of self esteem
  • Poor boundaries with parents, other family, or friends
  • Needing things to be your way or always needing to be right
  • Victim mentality (the world is against me!)
  • Unaddressed mental health disorders
  • Trauma from childhood or past relationships
  • Not ready to live in a team mentality
  • Raising your voice during an argument

It doesn’t matter how big or small, any issue has the ability to derail your relationship in a big way if it’s allowed to control you. Which is why we believe that working on our issues can bring so much freedom to both yourself and your marriage.

Can you identify one of your own habits that might be contributing negatively to your relationship?

Imagine yourself in a situation where your issue has come up. How does it make you feel? How does it make your spouse feel?

Many couples find that once the habits are worked through or eliminated, they have fewer or less intense arguments. The clarity often allows you to discuss a disagreement without the behaviors that trigger bigger emotional responses. This can pave the way for a deeper connection with your spouse. And depending on the issue you’re facing, it might even lead to greater self acceptance.

This is what we want for you!

I know this might be easier said than done. We’re not trying to make light of any personal and emotional situations you’re facing. Our goal is to encourage you that there is a way that you can live in greater peace within your marriage. Until you make the choice to change your mind about an issue, you will always end up repeating the behavior. So it begins with taking inventory of yourself and choosing to change.

Here’s some awesome news in the meantime: You are fully worthy of love as you are today.

You don’t have to wait or go through a million hours of therapy to be worth it. You are fully worthy of love as you are today.

Your story continues (not starts) after “I do” and you have the ability and ultimate responsibility to write it the way that you want! This can feel empowering and/or scary, but we want to encourage you that the effort will be worth the outcome.

Practical ways to start on a self improvement journey within marriage

One of the biggest reasons you might procrastinate getting started: YOUR PLATE IS TOO FULL! How can you take time for yourself when you have so much to do? You have a spouse, maybe you have kids, you’re in school or work, maybe you just want to procrastinate because you don’t want to confront the issue. It’s ok! Your personal growth journey might simply start with reading this blog post and going back to your life. Give yourself grace.

But if you’re ready to take this a little further, here are some tools you can use to make self improvement fit into your life:

  • Make the time: Talk with your spouse and determine a time block and frequency that you can have to focus without distractions. It might look like a little time every morning or it might be a couple hours on a Wed evening.

  • Therapy: Seek advice from a professional who is best suited to address your specific issues. Everyone can benefit from a trained counselor guiding them.

  • Journaling: Self reflection is a powerful tool, especially when paired with goal setting.

  • Read/Listen/Learn: Self Help is a big business! There are thousands, maybe millions, of books, podcasts, blogs, and services that can point you in the right direction!

  • Prayer: In our house this comes first. Allowing God to carry our burdens and highlight our next steps helps us find clarity in our journey.

How can you pursue personal growth together?

Even though the focus is your own growth, you might be wondering how you’re supposed to include your partner in this journey? When you married your spouse you created a team! Two people who choose to work toward goals together.

This is when communication becomes key!

  1. Talk about the areas that you’re wanting to change.
  2. Include examples of how you’ve seen your own behavior affecting your relationship. (This can help with buy-in from your partner)
  3. Be as transparent as you can in your desire to change for the better.
  4. Make a plan and then act!
  5. Repeat the process for your partner (if they are on board), be a good listener and extend some grace as they open up to you.

Jake has asked me to gently remind him when he repeats a habit he’s wanted to break. I’ve even asked him to respectfully interrupt me if I say “XYZ” again. These are simple ways that we’ve supported each other. Communicating and planning are the keys to keep these supports from drifting into nagging territory.

Encourage each other in your pursuit of self improvement, but don’t force it. You may have to lead the way and be an example of how positively it will affect your marriage. We always encourage marriage counseling to anyone struggling to get on the same page with their spouse. A professional third party will have so many resources to help you.

Let’s take action!

Take a few minutes to think about or journal some of the behaviors and habits you have. How are they impacting your marriage? Can you list specific examples of how you’ve noticed them this week?

Remember, grace and peace! We are all a work in progress.

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CommunicationConflict ResolutionIndependence/InterdependenceIntimacyMarriage Advice
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