– In my first year of marriage, I wanted out. Counseling didn’t seem like an option because I didn’t have any big issues or so I thought There was one decision I had to make if I was going to stay in this marriage. Stay tuned to the end for a relationship quiz to help you determine how healthy your marriage is. For the best marriage advice hit the thumbs up if you’re excited about this video and subscribe to our channel, hit the bell to be notified when we post a new video every Wednesday. Hi, my name is Danielle West and my husband and I co-founded Intentional Marriages. We’ve led over a hundred couples through an incredible marriage curriculum. And I now privately host an online workshop for wives who want to take their marriage to the next level. In this video, my husband and I will share the one decision we had to make in order to make it in our marriage.
– Marriages are worth working on, just like our careers are worth working on, our health is worth working on, our finances are worth working on. No one stands at the altar thinking they’ll be part of the high divorce stat. So what can you do to be on the winning side of this statistic? You begin the work of building a thriving marriage by looking in the mirror, taking an honest assessment and then working on what you discover. Working on your relationship creates a thriving stronger marriage. If we don’t, we lose the potential of our dreams for a happily ever after. I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten to this point in your marriage, but in our first year I wanted out. I didn’t know how to express my frustrations, I cried myself to sleep and kept my heart to myself. It was the commitment of us going to counseling the past 17 years, almost once a month, where we learned our individual roles in the state of our marriage. Now, we’re not going to suggest that it’ll take you 17 years of counseling to learn these techniques. Our hope is for us to reduce these lessons that took us decades into days for you.
– Yes, we made a decision before we were married to go to counseling. Now this wasn’t necessarily out of being wise, but out of fear. Danielle was afraid of repeating her parents’ marriage and I was afraid of getting divorced again. In my first marriage I was blindsided when my former wife asked for a divorce. Now she would have told you that I should’ve seen it coming but men as you know, we can all be knuckleheads. So counseling helped me see my role in the divorce. And it was a real wake-up call a two by four if you will And I didn’t want it to happen again with Danielle, but before you know it, you know, life gets busy, you’re living parallel lives. So Danielle and I decided to commit to seeing a counselor on a consistent basis for the rest of our marriage. And we’ve been going to the same counselor for the past 17 years. And this was our plan for being intentional to both work on ourselves and our marriage.
– I’ll never forget going to counseling with Russ and how I couldn’t wait to tell on him and watch our counselor fix him. But that only caused our counselor to work on me instead.
– Yeah. It only took Danielle a few times to realize it would boomerang back and hit her in the head, every time that she wanted our counselor to fix me.
– It can be easy for us to think to ourselves, “If only my husband would”, or, “If only my wife would”, we may be tempted to think that working on our spouse is a way of working on our marriage, but it doesn’t take long to see that it isn’t very effective. Take a listen at what marriage expert, Dr. Gary Smalley said on this subject.
– [Russ] Yeah, this is what Gary said, He said, “It’s a lie to think you can change your spouse. You think you can change them. And you believe that if you change them, you’ll be happier. That’s the lie. All the research shows it never works with anybody. So I tried changing my wife and she tried to change me. And I gave up. So After 38 years of marriage, I began the wonderful adventure of working just on me.”
– Dr. Gary Smalley wasn’t the first one to recognize this. Matthew was a 1st century tax collector who became a follower of Jesus. He was an eyewitness to Jesus’ teaching and recorded what he saw in the book of Matthew. Listen to what he records that Jesus said, it says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. How an you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there’s a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Now, Jesus didn’t say it was wrong to help your spouse overcome defects and flaws to take the speck out. He said you could only do that effectively, when you’ve dealt with your own junk, then you can see clearly to lovingly help others deal with their faults.
– [Russ] Our marriages will get better when we work on ourselves, regardless of whether our spouse works on themselves. For example, our expectations will decrease while our peace increases. So working on ourselves, will help us take more responsibility for any negative baggage we bring to the marriage. And what this will do will naturally help us draw closer to each other. Now for us fixers, our spouse does not want us to be the captain of their personal improvement program, right? Instead they crave our acceptance of who they are including the habits that irritate us, instead of constantly telling them how they should behave, model the behavior you desire and want from them.
– We’ve learned that rolling your eyes at your spouse, being defensive, shutting down are all conditions of our own heart. Russ has been a great example of modeling the behavior he desired from me by looking at the plank in his own eye. Why don’t you explain your thought process on this?
– Sure, sure. One of the ways that I’ve learned to make this principle practical is about paying attention to when I’m frustrated with Danielle. What I’ll do is I’ll ask myself this question, “Why am I so angry?” When I get upset with Danielle, her action normally creates a level two kind of frustration but my response is a level 10 and it doesn’t correlate to the situation. So I know it’s on me to walk myself through this exercise. So here’s what I do, ask myself, “Why am I so angry?” And of course immediately, my brain says, “Was because of what Danielle did or said.” Well no why dd her words or actions make me so angry? “Well, it embarrassed me.” Okay. But why does being embarrassed make me so angry? “Ah because it reminds me of how I hated to be embarrassed by my dad when I was growing up.” So when I have an intense angry reaction to feeling embarrassed, I’m actually reacting to how it felt when my dad embarrassed me. I’m having that 10 response to a two circumstance. And here’s an example, Danielle can misunderstand something that’s said in a group setting and it embarrasses me. And unfortunately for me, I feel that same intensity of embarrassment that my dad made me feel. So I quickly jump in and point out how she’s wrong and correct her and as you can imagine this does not end well for either of us.
– But Russ has modeled paying attention to his emotions really well for me because I noticed being on the receiving end of him being so angry creates an air of defensiveness within me. And most of the time it’s not a natural tendency to be the first one to take responsibility or assume the best of our spouse. But when Russ goes through this exercise on his own he comes back to our conversation, taking responsibility for the argument, which helps me drop my guard and take ownership for what I could have done differently.
– [Russ] And as Regi Campbell says in his book “Radical Husbands”, “When there’s tension in the marriage, let go of the rope because we’re all trying to win a tug of war.”
– But it’s so hard to let go of the rope because I have lots of ideas on how to fix things, especially you, but for some reason you don’t appreciate that.
– Oh yes, how well I know. But seriously, one of Danielle’s greatest strengths is she’s a great problem solver. She’s a true fixer. She’s constantly improving situations which is why she was so successful in the business world. And unfortunately it’s a big challenge in marriage as we do not appreciate being constantly improved or fixed by our spouse. The truth is, that you may feel like your spouse’s flaws are log size while yours are only specs. And it’s possible that you may be correct but Jesus warns us not to begin there. The most effective way to change our marriage for the better is to deal with whatever’s in our own eye. Changing our marriage begins with a choice to change ourselves.
– Another principle we’ve learned is we judge each other harshly, but not ourselves. The only thing I can see are Russ’ actions or what he says but I don’t know his intentions. It’s why we get so frustrated with each other because sometimes actions don’t reveal the true intentions.
– Yeah. Here’s an example of a big fight we had the first year of marriage. It was late one Friday afternoon and we had a wonderful date planned that night. And a friend of mine that I hadn’t spoken to in a long time called me and want to know if I wanted to go to the local high school football game. But I told him I couldn’t but hope that he had a great time, then Danielle on our way home call me, and I told her about my friend’s conversation. Well her response was, “Well, I hope you have a great time.” And I immediately got angry and had a very negative reaction because I assumed that she thought I wanted to go to the game with him instead of the date with her. When actually, she was trying to be kind and putting me ahead of herself. So I incorrectly judged her intention based on her actions. Now our spouses can’t read our mind. It’s important that we assume the best, that we ask clarifying questions and we coach each other on what we desire or want. Now we’re going to talk more about coaching each other in session three.
– Before we talk about baggage, let me add one point. These principles apply for all marriages. However in some marriages, a spouse may be facing extenuating circumstances such as addiction or mental illness. If that’s your situation, we would encourage you to see a professional counselor for guidance on the best way to handle it. This material will help because every marriage has termites in the basement. But an addiction addiction is a fire in the kitchen. The house will burn down if you’re only focusing on the termites in the basement.
– That’s a great point. Now let’s talk about baggage. When we get married, everyone shows up with a U-haul full of baggage. That baggage is unmet needs and expectations that we subconsciously put on our spouse. Now, Danielle and I had tractor trailers full of baggage when we got married.
– Yes, mine was a single tractor trailer. And remember yours is the double tractor trailer?
– Unfortunately, that is so true. Now our marriage counselor shared a stat with us when we were engaged. If you take the percentage of couples that get divorced and combine that with the percentage of couples that never get divorced but never have a healthy marriage, he believes that combined percentage is 85 to 90%. So he asked us while we felt we would be in the 10 to 15% of long-term healthy marriages.
– And if we weren’t scared before, we certainly were now.
– So the answer on how to be in the 10 to 15% club is to be intentional. It’s not just going to happen because we were made for each other. Our pastor Andy Stanley did a great four-part series called “Staying in Love”, which we highly recommend. And I love his tagline for the series, he says, “It takes a pulse to fall in love “but it takes a plan to stay in love.” So what’s your plan? If your objective is to change your spouse, you will be frustrated. If you’re willing to look at yourself though and see how you can be a better husband or wife, then your marriage will get a lot better.
– And a plan can be as simple as just showing up for over the next few weeks, ask curious questions of each other and discuss the content. We are so glad you’re here. Unless you’re willing to look in the mirror at your own flaws, you will always be pointing the finger at your spouse. This one decision was humbling for me but it took the pressure off my husband. No one wants a spouse who was head of their personal improvement committee. Take this relationship quiz to learn how you can better connect with each other. And if you like that quiz, check out this next video of more assessments to help you understand each other’s motivations. Remember, to have an extraordinary marriage, be intentional.