Erickson: What steps can I take to strengthen my marriage?

The following opinions expressed by Scott M. Erickson are his own and do not officially represent the views of the American Counseling Association or the Wyoming Mental Health Professions Licensing Board. The expression of these opinions does not constitute a real or implied counselor-client relationship.

My wife mentioned to me that it might be nice to discuss some ways to strengthen marriages. Here are some things she has taught me about how to do that.

Accept the things about your spouse that are not likely to change. First, an obvious caveat: we should never accept physical, emotional, financial, or sexual intimidation or abuse from our spouse or anyone else. There are, however, things about our spouses that are not immoral or dangerous and, yet, are annoying and downright frustrating (I am laughing inside thinking of my own wife reading this). “Why won’t they change?” we ask ourselves, shaking a clenched fist into the sky. Perhaps a more effective question to ask ourselves could be, “Why am I demanding my spouse to change?” Irreconcilable differences that destroy marriages often begin with one or both spouses forming expectations for each other’s behavior based upon nothing other than preference. I have come to learn that strong and happy marriages are built upon daily choices by both spouses to retain and strengthen commitment despite sometimes driving each other bonkers.

If possible, change the things about yourself that make it more of a challenge for your spouse to love you. There are things about our history, upbringing, past choices, and pervasive personality traits that we simply cannot change. However, there are other things that we could (and perhaps should) change in response to the love we feel and our eagerness to make life with our spouse better and more fulfilling. I sometimes hear spouses say something like, “He/she should love me for who I am.” A deeper, more mature and powerful and romantic love might ask something like, “What can I adjust about myself that that would make a significant and positive difference to him/her?”

My wife is a pro at both skills mentioned. Thanks, Holly, for being patient with my awkward and halting efforts to take my own medicine.

Scott M. Erickson is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Kemmerer who has provided counseling services in southwest Wyoming for the last eleven years. Erickson’s mission is to “be a dynamic catalyst helping you to empower your best self.” He can be reached at his website or his Facebook page: Erickson Counseling & Coaching LLC.

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