For years, people have asked us if there is an easy way to get a marriage back on track. We have always said, “There is no easy way to get a marriage back on track, you have to do the work.” When we say, “do the work,” that typically means working with a good counselor, reading and comprehending good marriage books, making adjustments to your attitude and lifestyle, and more. And even though we still believe that doing “the work” is a good recipe for marital success, we have not been able to let go of the idea that there might be a simple way, which is quite different than an easy way, to jump start the process of getting a marriage back on track.
We put together this list of seven things you can do over the course of seven days to help you get your most important relationship back on track. By the way, this list could also serve as a great way to check in with yourself and your spouse in a very proactive fashion to make sure you stay on track! This list is the culmination of many years of testing out these ideas and putting them into practice and, maybe most importantly, all of this is very doable for most people.
How This Works
Commit to pouring into your marriage by working on this list for seven days in a row. Your first day will be competing the first “assignment” on the list – referred to as DAY ONE. The second day will include the first assignment as well as the second one. On day three, you guessed it, you will complete all three assignments. And so on! By day seven, you will be doing all seven of the assignments and the assignment you have been doing since day one will be the one that is most firmly engrained into your routine. This is all by design. Remember that while everyone wants a great marriage, the people who put the most effort into this simple assignment will actually enjoy the most fruits of their labor.
Are you ready?
DAY ONE - Practice Gratitude
If you haven’t noticed, our world has become increasingly negative. As this shift occurs, it is also rewiring our brains, bit by bit, to focus on what’s negative as if that’s the norm. There may be a few out there who have been able to completely resist this slant toward negativity, but it’s probably not you. What if you think you have not been jaded by a world full of negativity, but you have? Never fear, because practicing gratitude is the antidote to negativity.
Start each day by trying to list about three things you are thankful for. Try to be as specific as possible and try to keep the majority of each day’s gratitude list focused on your marriage and your spouse for now. Are there certain characteristics that you appreciate in your spouse? Maybe your spouse works hard for your family. Maybe your spouse is always kind to you, even in tense moments. Maybe your spouse is a thoughtful lover or takes care of something in your house without ever being asked or complaining. If you are truly trying, you should have no problems coming up with things for your gratitude list.
Lastly, there is a ton of research on daily gratitude. Have some fun learning the science behind this attitude changer if it will help this practice to remain in your daily routine.
DAY TWO - Compliment Your Spouse
Learning to regularly compliment your spouse overflows naturally from the things on your gratitude list. For example, have you realized that your wife handles the household finances, does a great job with them, and never complains? Then wrap that up into a big ‘ol compliment and tell her! Or, have you noticed the way that your husband is committed fixing things around the house? Acknowledge the character traits behind those efforts (work ethic, pride) and compliment him.
Some of you will worry that if you compliment your spouse too much they will get a big head and become an egomaniac. The truth is that this rarely happens. Rarely. If you are the rare case where complimenting your spouse exposes an existing issue, then you can be confident that getting help from a professional marriage counselor is the right move. For everyone else, you can start enjoying the softening of your spouse’s heart as well as a tightening bond between the two of you.
DAY THREE - Listen Intently
Most people can acknowledge hearing their spouse daily, but much fewer have learned to actually listen. Listening requires effort to remove distractions (the TV, your cell phone, the kids) so that you can both hear AND understand. Here is the gold standard for listening: if you can understand what your spouse is saying and rephrase it in your own word, then you are listening. Additionally, if you can engage in conversation with your spouse, you are listening.
An exercise we often use with the couples we coach is for one spouse to talk while the other listens, then the listening spouse will say, “What I heard you say is…” This practice validates the spouse that was talking, affirms that the listening spouse was indeed listening, and gives room for clarification as these couples learn to communicate better. Everyone wants better communication, right?
DAY FOUR - Communicate About Something Fun or Interesting
Communicating about something fun or interesting sounds simple enough, but many couples struggle here. This is because even though most couples fall in love while discussing things that are fun or interesting, living life together daily will shift your focus to essentially discussing business transactions. “Did you make the house payment?” “Are you picking up the kids tomorrow?“ “ Don’t forget that we have to meet with the Smiths on Saturday?” Sound familiar?
Instead of discussing what has to be done to manage life, make room for conversations that are fun or interesting. This could be as simple as dreaming about your next vacation together. As you plan together and look up places to go and places to stay, you will finally be talking about something you can both look forward to! Or maybe you are both into science and find it very interesting. Try discussing the latest research on ID (intelligent design) as you take in a sunset together and postulate on the reasons why God created you both and created marriage for you! I wish we could listen in on this one!
DAY FIVE - Intentional Touch
We were created to be in relationship with one another. What does that mean? Our bodies produce a hormone called oxytocin that is released when we are close to someone we are intimate with or when we touch that person. This is why hugs between spouses are so important.
Intentional touch could be a warm and intentional hug. It could also be as playful as grabbing your spouse’s butt while they are near you. Intentional touch can also be as comforting as you placing you hand on your spouse’s hand while they tell you about their challenging day. All of these ways that we touch each other can bring us closer together.
DAY SIX - Serve Your Spouse
Remembeer your wedding vows? When you promised to love, honor, an cherish? During that time, you were likely serving your spouse better than you are right now. Back then, you were more inclined to take care of servicing your spouse’s car, handling your spouse’s dry cleaning, cooking a great meal for you both (or even a romantic one), massaging your spouse’s shoulders, buying flowers, helping with chores, and more.
It’s time to make serving your spouse a priority again. Often, when a husband or wife is struggling with how different things have become when compared to the “honeymoon phase,” we will ask them how much different their own behaviors and attitudes are now when compared to those earlier years.
DAY SEVEN - Apologize Sincerely
If you have made it this far (congratulations) and have nothing to apologize for, you may have missed a few steps. Most of you will realize that the thing that has gotten the most off track in your own relationship is you. As difficult as that realization is, it is also the beginning of being in control of making a huge positive difference in your marriage.
Are you not as loving as you once were? Apologize for that. Have you stopped serving your spouse well? Apologize. Do you realize what a terrible listener you had become? Own it and apologize. We too often think of an apology as admitting that we are flawed and it terrifies us to do so. The truth is that you are flawed. And so is your spouse. And so are Tami and I. It is all normal and okay! A good apology is very freeing as we allow our vulnerability to take the lead. And by the way, vulnerability in a married leads to greater intimacy in a marriage.
Where do We Go From Here?
Take the progress you have made in just one week and continue it. Start over and commit to another seven days. The second week will be easier than the first as you find your groove and all of this starts to become your new normal. Without a doubt, at some point, your spouse will ask about the positive changes in you. Take that as a solid confirmation that you are doing the right thing and making a positive difference in your marriage that you will both benefit from. If your spouse wants to know your secret, invite them to join you on a seven day quest to make your marriage better than its ever been!
Lastly, we love the quote: “Arising tide raises all ships” because this applies to marriage as well. Not only are you making a difference in your home, but you just might be influencing others as well. We would truly LOVE to hear about your experience with this. Email us or use our CONTACT FORM here.
As a bonus for making it this far (high fives!), we put together a Seven Days to a Better Marriage Worksheet to help you out. Download it for free at: https://tandemmarriage.com/tools
If you have any comments or questions about this post, we would love to hear from you using our contact page here.
By Brad & Tami Miller. Copyright © 2021