It’s normal to need to renovate aspects of your marriage. As imperfect human beings, we all have areas we need to work on, and areas we can improve on to increase connection with our spouse. In today’s #MarriageMonday, we’re covering 5 steps you can take to renovate your marriage.
Mark: Back in 2016, Jill and I were remodeling our kitchen. Let me tell you, it was quite the process! We live in a 110-year-old farmhouse. When we moved in twenty-five years ago, we wallpapered the kitchen. Twenty years later, we were overdue for an update, and while we couldn’t afford new cabinets or appliances, we were able to paint the cabinets and tear down the wallpaper to give the room a fresh coat of paint. When we tore the wallpaper off, we found seven layers of wallpaper underneath the green gingham paper we had put up twenty years ago! We actually saved sections of each layer and have them hanging in a frame in our kitchen.
Jill: Removing those layers of wallpaper was a visual representation of what marriage renovation looks like when we peel away our unhealthy layers. We uncover one layer and sometimes find another layer or two beneath that. Some issues are easier to resolve than others. So what does that look like practically? What are some specific steps we can take to renovate? Today we want to share five with you:
1. Start with you.
Mark: For many of us, this is one of the hardest parts of renovating our marriage. It’s easy to point out the renovation our spouse needs to do, or be disappointed with what they’re not willing to work on, rather than addressing the areas of our own life that could use some support.
Jill: Even if your spouse is engaged and wants to renovate along with you, resist the urge to identify elements of your spouse’s renovation blueprint. Start with your own blueprint. If you’re both working on the renovation together, you’ll likely be able to help each other see things you might not see on your own.
Mark: It’s also possible you might respond to this “Start with you” step with, “Well, that’s easy. I’m the only one interested in changing our marriage.” If you’re aware of that, you can guard against it. Ask God to show you how to live out what you’re learning and to “share” with your spouse by simply being a different person.
Jill: The truth of the matter is that you can’t force anyone to change. That never works, and just leads to further frustration and dysfunction. However, we can control ourselves and the responsibility we take for the future of our marriage.
2. Ask God for help.
Jill: When I was starting to better comprehend my avoider style (this is an attachment style we dive into in No More Perfect Marriages), I really wanted to understand where my “buck up” tendency came from. I began to ask God to help me see if there was any place in my life where I learned to avoid emotion. He didn’t answer right away, but I just kept praying and asking Him for clarity so I could better understand where I had most likely unintentionally learned to stuff my emotions. Eventually God answered my prayers when He reminded me of two times in my preteen and teen years where I suffered loss and pain that weren’t really dealt with. One was when my sister was hurt in a lawn mower accident, and one was when a guy I was dating was shot and killed by someone with road rage. In both of those cases I dealt with the situation by bucking up and moving on. Looking back, I can now see that seeds of my “avoider” love style were planted in those defining moments in my life.
Mark: For all of life, God has wisdom that is better than our own. This is why we ask Him for help. When it comes to renovating our marriage, it’s important that we are tuned into His guidance and presence in our daily life. This is where the strength to use our God-Tools comes from, too.
3. Call in a professional.
Mark: When we have remodeling work done on our home, most of us call in a professional. However, some people decide to make it a DIY project. When I ran my construction company, I would end up repairing many DIYers’ work, or would be called in to work on a home that a previous DIYer had messed up. When that happens, it’s because someone decided to do something they didn’t really know how to do (YouTube videos can take you only so far!). Honestly, it can sometimes be the same when we start with our own head-and-heart remodeling job. We may need a professional’s help. This is where working with a marriage counselor or marriage coach is important.
Jill: We have worked with both Christian and non-Christian counselors. One of the best ways to find a counselor is to ask for referrals from a pastor or a friend who’s sought counseling. If that’s not an option, pick up the phone and make an appointment with a counselor you can find in your area. When you look for a counselor, this is what you’re looking for:
- Someone to hear your story, unravel it, and lead you to a healthy, principle-driven direction (preferably biblical principles)
- Someone who expects to work themselves out of a job
- Someone who will give you resources and assignments to work on outside of your counseling appointment, because the other six days and twenty-three hours matter greatly in the process of marital change.
Mark: If you meet with someone for a couple of sessions and you aren’t comfortable or don’t feel like he or she is asking good questions, don’t hesitate to go to someone else. Counseling/coaching draws you out and helps you gain insight into how your experiences have shaped you, good or bad. Good counselors/coaches will then assist you in discovering new ways of thinking and behaving in order to have healthy, successful relationships.
Jill: When we talk about marriage counseling or coaching, most of us think about couples counseling or coaching, but there is incredible value in seeking out individual counseling or coaching as well. A marriage is made up of two broken people. If we can better understand the “junk in the trunk” we brought into marriage, it can make a huge difference in learning to relate to our loved ones in new, secure, emotionally healthy ways. You can learn more about the coaching we offer here.
4. Tap into community.
Mark: I first began my head, heart, and soul remodeling work when I was attending Bible college. My neighbor Jim invited me to lunch and conversation. He shared his story, his pursuit of counseling, and invited me to do the same. It was the first time in my life I had ever heard someone talk about counseling in a positive way. I was intrigued by the insights Jim had experienced and the changes it had made in his life and his marriage. I asked for his counselor’s number and made an appointment that week.
Jim and I continued to meet and talk about our healing journey. It normalized it for me. Not only that, but we learned from each other too. If you don’t have someone walking through the healing process with you, you can also look for a local Celebrate Recovery group, a biblical and balanced church-based program to help people overcome their hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
Jill: During the dark season of our marriage, which included a separation, I found it important to surround myself with people who supported my hope and belief in the possibility that Mark would return home. I needed a community that believed our marriage could be restored. It’s easy for family and friends who want to protect you to encourage you to leave the relationship, but if you hope for restoration, a community that supports you in that hope is very important. In fact, that’s why we created our The Wait Is Not Wasted Course.
Mark: Even if your marriage isn’t on it’s last thread, community is crucial! Don’t believe the lie that it’s okay for you to go it on your own forever. Who do you have in your corner that will challenge you, encourage you, and be there for you? (We can do that for you in a coaching relationship too!)
5. Do a new “internship.”
Jill: Mark and I often call the homes in which we grew up our “home internship.” It’s where we absorbed lessons in conflict resolution, money management, communication, faith, and a million other things. When we examine our renovation blueprint, we may find places where we need to do a new home internship.
Mark: I had to do that with conflict because the only way I knew how to resolve conflict was to rage and take control. This isn’t healthy at all, but I can’t just tell myself I’m not going to do that anymore. I have to replace it with something different. So I started reading books about anger (and I’m not by nature a reader—I was, however, desperate to learn something different). I listened to podcasts about anger. I talked about it in my counseling. I was determined to not carry this into the next generation, so I did a new “internship” in anger management.
Jill: We also decided to do a new internship in money management when we took the Financial Peace University class at our church. Taking the class gave us a shared vocabulary, ignited good conversations, and helped us gain wisdom with our money. We worked together to determine how we would apply what we learned to our situation.
Mark: Whether it’s reading a blog, reading a book, taking a class, tuning in to a webinar, listening to a podcast, or attending a conference, being a lifelong learner will help you do a new internship in whatever parts of your life you long to gain more knowledge.
No matter if it’s a small remodel or a large remodel that’s needed in your marriage, we want you to know that we’re cheering you on! In our Marriage Manifesto, a key truth is that a real marriage isn’t perfect, but is made up of two people being perfected. It’s normal to need to remodel areas of our relationship, and it is well worth the effort required! You are not alone.
Looking for more marriage resources? Start with No More Perfect Marriages!
Do you feel like your marriage is hanging on by a thread (or you want to make sure it doesn’t get there)? Consider our Marriage 2.0 Intensive that we host right here at our home in Normal, IL. We only work with one couple at a time. We’d love to work with you!
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