Do It Yourself Marriage?

By Celeste

Ever since I read this article from Winifred Riley  called 36 Things I Know After 36 Years of Marriage (which is fantastic by the way- give it a read), I keep thinking about #29.  It says,

29. Most good marriages have one person who plays the role of the relationship “guardian”: The person who brings up difficult subjects. The person who stays hopeful in hard times. The person who acts as a steadying influence when one or both of you are getting worked-up. In an ideal world, that role would be shared. In the real world it only takes one.

Hm.  I thought, it only takes one?  I am equal parts excited and skeptical at the thought.  Obviously, it does take two to make a marriage work, but I think there is some real benefit to the ‘it’s up to me’ mentality.  I think a lot of marital problems go unresolved because we are waiting for our spouses to take part in the changes we’d like to make.  We are waiting for them to change.  In the meantime we’re losing time on changing ourselves and our relationship.

For example:  “We sure are fighting an awful lot lately.  But my spouse is just in such a bad mood all the time lately.  How can I fix our problems when he won’t listen to me?”
Or this one:  “We should really make a budget- then we wouldn’t argue so much about little purchases.  I’ll wait until my spouse is relaxed or when we have more time together to bring it up. . . “  Then that never happens and you end up to continue to fight about money. 

I think scenarios like these would benefit from one spouse taking the bull by the horn and getting things done.  Change what YOU can change and see what happens.

I actually think it’s a very comforting notion that we don’t have to wait for our spouses to change to start improving our marriage. 

Reminds me of this article that went viral a few weeks ago from Richard Paul Evans: How I Saved My Marriage:

… As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused. I couldn’t figure out why marriage with Keri was so hard. Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn’t we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn’t she change?

Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself.
 The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, “How can I make your day better?”
Keri looked at me angrily. “What?”
“How can I make your day better?”
“You can’t,” she said. “Why are you asking that?”
“Because I mean it,” I said. “I just want to know what I can do to make your day better.”
She looked at me cynically. “You want to do something? Go clean the kitchen.”
She likely expected me to get mad. Instead I just nodded. “Okay.” I got up and cleaned the kitchen.

The story goes on that he did this everyday and it took two weeks for his wife to break down crying, asking what she could do to make his day better as well.  Now they’ve been married for 30 years.  I don’t know Richard Paul Evans personally, but I wonder how long they had been trying to solve their marital problems “together.”  The problem with trying to solve your marital problems “together” is that us humans have this tendency to notice each and every thing our partner is doing wrong while simultaneously noticing each and every thing we do right.  So, it wasn’t until Richard made a commitment to devote himself to saving their marriage REGARDLESS of his wife’s actions that big changes started happening.

It’s like the lady who wrote that first article, Winifred Riley said in her last point:

36. One of you has to go first. Apologize first. Be vulnerable first. Yield first. Forgive first. Why not let that person be you?

What do you guys think?  Is your marriage philosophy more a ‘Do It Yourself project’ or do you take an ‘it takes two to tango’ approach?

One thought on “Do It Yourself Marriage?

  1. While I agree that changing your own behavior is probably more powerful and effective than focusing on changing your spouse, I also believe that one person acting alone cannot make–or save–a marriage. If the other spouse is not committed to making the marriage work, too, then it probably won’t. I love the example you shared from Richard Paul Evans. It illustrates how a change in behavior of only one spouse can be the catalyst to start transforming a marriage, but saving the marriage really required both of them to change.

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