Let’s be honest – sometimes we just don’t feel like it. We don’t feel like being kind, or loving, or healthy, or spiritual, or much of anything else. Sometimes it feels easier to just snap! Or pout. Or go away somewhere.

Yes, there are times we all feel like binging on self-pity, or anger, or negativity. It may feel just as appealing as binging on potato chips or ice cream. And just as damaging!

There are a few basic things we each need to pay attention to in preserving our mental health and keeping our relationships strong. Most of us need enough sleep, reasonably good nutrition, and a measure of physical health. We need to be in relationship with other people who care about us and are supportive when we need them. We need mental stimulation, spiritual nurturing, and a growing relationship with God. The more of those factors are missing in our lives the more emotionally vulnerable we will be, and our relationships will most certainly suffer.

But even though we may feel like acting badly, we have a choice. And that is never truer than in our closest relationships. In spite of our anxiety, fatigue, or legitimate needs, we can CHOOSE to act in ways that foster a healthy, strong marriage, rather than tearing the relationship apart. And choosing to act in these ways most of the time really DOES increase the likelihood that our needs will be met.

Every day, you can choose to:

  1. Be Kind. Your spouse undoubtedly makes mistakes. (News flash: you do too!) Most of the time those mistakes are NOT meant to hurt you. (If that’s not the case, then you need some big help, and fast.) A broken coffee pot, stained jacket, or empty tank of gas doesn’t need to ruin your day, or your marriage. Respond with gentle kindness – as you hope they will respond to you when YOU make a mistake.
  2. Be Positive. Life is hard enough without the one closest to you constantly complaining. Choose to talk about and focus on the good things most of the time. It will help lift your own spirits and those of your spouse. Be positive whenever possible, and it will help your spouse want to be around you.
  3. Be open. Honesty and openness can be scary. If you are vulnerable you might get hurt. And when two people live together long enough, there WILL be opportunity to hurt each other – hopefully unintentionally. You may have to choose the time and place to share painful or negative things, but if you fail to do so you will never experience true intimacy.
  4. Be unselfish. Yes, you have needs. But the secret to a happy marriage is paying more attention to meeting your spouse’s needs than your own. It must be a two-way street, for sure. But don’t wait for him or her to make the first move. Give of yourself generously. It’s the only way to reach true love.
  5. Be loving. This means going a step beyond unselfishness. It means studying your spouse and finding out what love is to them. Do they need you to say, “I love you!?” Then do it! Do they need help with the household duties, or talking through a tough decision? Do it! Do they need physical intimacy? If at all possible, do it! Don’t wait for the feelings: they may come and go. Step out beyond yourself. Demonstrate and verbalize your love without reservation.

You can’t guarantee how the other person will act. You can’t be certain what your feelings will be. But you can CHOOSE to act in certain ways. When you must step outside of these ways of behaving, make it the exception.

I trust your relationship will be stronger as a result.

Your turn: Have you found yourself acting badly in your marriage? Where can you choose to act differently? Leave a comment below. 

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