We often ask the wrong question. When thinking about the state of marriage, we often ask, “How’s your marriage?” It’s better than no question. It forces us to actually consider the state of our marriage, which many people foolishly never think about. It’s not a horrible question, it’s just not the best question.
The problem with “How’s your marriage” is that it tempts us to think in terms of good or bad. We think it is one or the other. These binary terms lead to apathy. If we determine our marriage is good, we don’t need to do anything because we already have a good marriage. If it’s bad, we don’t do anything because it feels like nothing can be done. It’s a question that results in very little change.
There is a better question. “How can you make your marriage better?” Instead of thinking in terms of good or bad, consider the framework of growth. How can we make things better? If this question is answered, it inspires action. Every marriage can improve. A great marriage can get even better. A bad marriage can be less bad. There is always room for growth. If couples will continually ask this question, they can regularly improve their marriage. In both big and small issues, they can enhance their relationship.
Start With You
While a marriage can improve in a variety of areas, the best place to start is always with you. Understanding your role as a husband or wife is the most responsible action you can take as a spouse. Until you are doing your part, you have little right to expect anything from your partner.
Most of us never truly consider the job description of a husband/wife. We assume we naturally know what it takes to be a good spouse. We think we know what we are supposed to do having watched our parents, seeing portrayals in the media, or just based or on gut. Depending on our experience, we might have a decent understanding of the roles of a spouse, but in many situations we underestimate some key aspects. We make bad assumptions and those assumptions hinder our relationship.
This is one reason I wrote Friends, Partners, and Lovers. After talking to couple after couple in the midst of marital strife, I realized that many of us do not know the expectations of a spouse or we have overlooked some of our failings in vital areas. So I wrote a book which narrows down the roles of a spouse into three basic areas.
As a husband, it is my job to:
Always be by my wife’s side. As her friend, I’m there to love and support her. As long as we are married, she will never be emotionally alone. She will always know I’m with her and for her.
Always have my wife’s back. As her partner, I’m there to assist her and make her life better. As long as we are married, she will never have to carry her responsibilities alone. She will always know I’m helping her with whatever life throws her way.
Always see my wife and love her. As her lover, I cherish her and reassure her that she is valued. As long as we are married, she will be fully seen, known, and wanted. She will always be desired and loved.
These are the three basic roles of a spouse. While the roles are three, the applications are many. Every marital problem can be sourced back into one of these three areas. Which means the more we strengthen these three roles, the better we will navigate marital struggles and improve our relationships.
How can you make your marriage better? The fastest, easiest, and most controllable action you have in improving your marriage is to better understand your role as a spouse. While it won’t solve every problem, it will lay the groundwork for meaningful improvement.
Friends, Partners, and Lovers is a good way to move your marriage forward.