There’s nothing magic about January 1. But there can be something almost magical about you making a decided change and sticking with it. Perhaps the start of a new year is the stimulus you need to begin taking action to work with your spouse to build the marriage you desire, and that God desires for you.

There are many things you cannot control in life. The years of the Covid-19 pandemic has made us all realize that more than ever. You cannot control your spouse’s behavior or choices. And yet who you personally are becoming and the way in which you bring yourself to your marriage will make a difference in your relationship that may be hard to believe.

Among the things Steven Covey is best known for is his statement, “Begin with the end in mind.” That’s not a bad way to approach your marriage. And the beginning of the year is a perfect time to focus on that perspective.

Imagine you’re at your own funeral some day in the future. Your spouse has outlived you, and your spouse is standing up to say a few words. How will your spouse remember you? What do you hope they will say about you? That can be a rather sobering thing to imagine.

So now to put into practice “beginning with the end in mind.”

Imagining the Future 

Sit down with a pen and paper, and imagine a day five years from today. Make a list of a half-dozen or so characteristics you would want to be true about your marriage. Make the list as specific as possible.

And then ask yourself, What would have to be true of ME in order for that to be true about our marriage?

Your first inclination might be to make a list of changes your spouse would have to make. Don’t do that! This is first about you! You are the only person you have a measure of control over. Who would you have to be to have the kind of marriage you want?

(Some marriages are toxic. If that’s where you are, please get some help!)

Having the Conversation

Don’t move to this step until you’ve spent some good time considering who you need to become. But then it’s time to enlist your spouse in the process as well. A marriage retreat is a great time and place to do this, but you can do this in a couple simple conversations at home as well.

Choose a time and place you know your spouse is most likely to be able to listen and engage with you. Make sure there are no distractions. Kids, work, cellphones–put them away for now. See yourself as making an invitation.

Then say to your spouse something like this: “Honey, I’m so grateful for you and for our marriage. I want us to be intentional about continuing to build the kind of marriage that God wants for us, and that we want as well. I’d like us to talk about what kind of marriage we desire for the future, and how we can work together to build that.”

Take time to listen. Remember, this is not about you getting your needs (or demands) met. This is about coming together with your spouse in building something beautiful for the future.

If you can have this kind of conversation, you’ve got a significantly better chance of moving toward that kind of marriage. If you can’t have a conversation like this, that’s a sign some professional marriage help would be appropriate.

Steps to Build the Marriage You Desire

Here are a few steps you might put in place in this new year, both for yourself and together with your spouse, that can help you move forward in building the marriage you desire for tomorrow. These steps might make good New Year’s resolutions or goals if that’s something you do.

  1. Make A Gratitude List. Intentionally, every single day, look for something about your spouse for which you are grateful. It will be more powerful if you write it down. If you miss a day, look for two things the following day. And for extra points, find a way to tell your spouse Thank You.
  2. Remove Roadblocks. Remember, you can only change you. So what roadblocks in your own attitude, words, or behavior are keeping you from the kind of marriage you want? What’s it like to be married to you? This is not about self-contempt or trying harder. Every single person has prickly parts of their character. What are you going to do about yours?
  3. Talk Together. How’s the communication between you? Most couples need to learn some better communication skills. If you’re a talker, you might need to work very hard on listening and drawing out your spouse. If you struggle to talk, you might need to work hard on staying engaged even in a difficult conversation. What rhythms of communication will you set up between you?
  4. Spend Time Together. It’s so important to do things together. That can be date nights, but it’s more than that. Almost every couple struggles with different desires, interests, or personality. How will you enter your spouse’s world? How will you nurture the “us-ness” between you?
  5. Pray. If you’ve been asking God to fix your marriage, don’t stop. But prayer needs to be much much more than that. If your marriage is less than you desire, there are some powerful questions to ask in prayer that can change your trajectory. If your spouse is open to it at all, pray together–even if it’s hard! Just do it. It may not seem meaningful at first, but don’t give up.

I pray for you even now, that this will be a year in which your marriage moves significantly toward becoming the marriage God wants for you. May He bless you with the wisdom, courage, patience, and love to walk that journey together with Him and with your spouse.

Your Turn: What kind of marriage do you want in the future? How are you going to use the beginning of this new year to move in that direction? Leave a comment below.

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Could Your Marriage Use Some Help?

Do you need something to be different in your marriage?

You said “I do” expecting lasting connection, intimacy, and joy. But perhaps the reality has become more like loneliness, frustration, and deep misery.

Nobody ever taught you how to love well. But you can learn now! Our Fully Alive Marriage course can help you change direction. You’ll discover practical ways to overcome the issues in your relationship, learn to love well, and know you are doing what’s necessary to build a Fully Alive marriage that lasts.