3 Attitude Shifts That Vastly Improved My Marriage Happiness

Recently, I was sharing with a friend how my daily happiness in my marriage improved when I finally realized two important things. Thinking more on the subject later, I added a third to my list.

I once expended a lot of emotional energy being angry or resentful or frustrated or disappointed with my husband over small stuff. He didn’t even have to be near for me to see constant reminders of his lack of love. I mean, surely a guy who loved me wouldn’t leave such a big mess for me to clean up. Surely a guy who loved me wouldn’t ignore my worry about unlocked doors, risk-taking children, and noises in the night. And surely a guy who loved me wouldn’t meet my can’t-you-see-it? explanations with his own store of anger, resentment, frustration, and disappointment.

Yeah, things were not going well in my marriage.

While some marriages suffer from huge problems in the happiness department, I believe many spouses are like me, with small stuff and daily letdowns piling up until you’re standing in a heap of hopelessness. So how did I get past it? What realizations released the weight of emotional pain I once carried around?

The word unhappy changed to happy on torn paper and white background + blog title

1. It’s not personal. Ask yourself: Is this truly directed at me? Is my husband maliciously trying to hurt me? Most of the time, the answer is no. Whether it’s leaving his dirty clothes on the floor, interrupting while you’re speaking, or not feeling like making love as much as you’d like, he’d behave like that whether he’d married you or not.

My hubby didn’t one day decide, “Hey, I think I’ll leave twelve pairs of shoes around the bedroom floor, just to trip up my wife and stub her pretty little toes.” Nor do I forget to go by the dry cleaners with my husband’s shirts because I want him to dig deep into his closet for his least favorite shirt to wear to a big meeting; trust me, I’m just forgetful everywhere in my life.

It’s not personal.

Even difficulties in your sexual intimacy may have little to do with you. Now, I’m not saying these things don’t have a real impact on you. (I have stubbed toes to prove it.) If your wife isn’t having sex because of an incident in childhood that had nothing to do with you, or your husband won’t patiently pursue your climax because he was erroneously taught that sex is for men, you are still experiencing consequences. But it’s not personal. So don’t add to an already-difficult issue by taking it personally.

I stopped feeling rejected and resentful when I learned to give my husband grace and remember he loves me. The man who would take a bullet for me wouldn’t turn around and plot my death-by-size-11-shoes. He just forgets to put them away. And once I diagnosed the problem more accurately . . .

2. The spouse to whom an issue matters most should take care of it. I wrote an entire post about how my husband cannot return the Worcestershire to its proper place in the refrigerator. Whenever I lovingly — or less lovingly — pointed it out, he was not opposed to my request. But ultimately, he didn’t care where the stupid bottle ended up in the fridge. It just wasn’t important to him. And me complaining that he should think it’s important didn’t get us much of anywhere — at least, anywhere good.

So when I open the refrigerator and see the Worcestershire taunting me sitting on the wrong shelf, I move it. I’m the one it matters to, so why not just take care of it? If something matters a lot to you, and not so much to him, just do it. Consider it an act of loving service and take pleasure in caring for the small stuff that makes your home and relationship a little better.

Wait! you say. How earth does this apply to the bedroom? Am I supposed to “take care of that” myself? No. Not saying that! Some things in marriage — the big stuff — should involve cooperation and unity. Whether you have sex is big stuff, we stuff. But you can take on some of the small stuff surrounding sex. For instance, if atmosphere matters to you, don’t wait on your spouse — just create the ambiance you want. If you can’t relax and make love in a messy bedroom, clean it up. If you want her to wear something more sexy, go buy it (taking her into consideration, of course). If he’s not as romantic as you wish, take charge of the romance.

But cease being upset that your spouse didn’t do something when you could easily take care of it yourself. Then you’re both happier. Which leads me to the final attitude shift . . .

3. Own your part. This one is so straightforward, and I’ve talked about it before. Basically, take responsibility for yourself in this marriage. So you think she‘s hard to live with? Well, are you rainbows and roses every day? You think he doesn’t pay attention to your emotional needs? Well, have you listened to his emotional needs and tried to meet them?

You know the saying: When you point a finger at someone, there are still three fingers pointing back at you. I spent way too much time and effort thinking about, praying about, and talking about what my husband was doing wrong. And I couldn’t change him. But I could work on me and make myself the best person I could be, and — wouldn’t you know it? — when I became a better person to be around, he was more motivated to make changes. No guarantees, of course, but owning your part of things can make a big difference in your marriage.

Thinking about your marital bedroom: Are you as understanding as you should be? Loving and kind? Listening and patient? Concerned about her arousal or his pleasure? Have you made sexual intimacy in your marriage a safe topic or a mine field? What can you do to own your part and make things better?

There they are: three attitude shifts that made a huge difference in how I feel day in and day out about my husband and my marriage. And when I stopped “sweating the small stuff,” we were able to better tackle the big stuff.  Years later, I can easily say I am a very happily married woman.

And currently, there’s only one pair of shoes my husband left out on the bedroom floor; I think I’ll go put them in the closet for him.

What attitude shifts have improved your marriage? What wisdom can you share with others from your experiences?

17 thoughts on “3 Attitude Shifts That Vastly Improved My Marriage Happiness

  1. libl

    LOL! I sometimes get upset at how sloppy my husband can be. He trudges his dirty boots across the floor I literally just cleaned. He throws his dirty work clothes on top of the clean bedding I just put on the bed. He dumps his muddy lunch pail on the kitchen table. He knocks clothes down in the closet after I put them away. He leaves whiskers in the sink, hair cleaned out from the brush on the floor, and used tissues don’t seem to make it to the garbage. I cam count the number of times he’s done dishes and taken out the garbage on one hand in 15 years!

    And it is my fault. Why? Because I saw his place before we married. Lol! What made me think that after marriage he was going to start being neat and tidy? He doesn’t do it to spite me. He literally (and beyond my comprehension) doesn’t see it and doesn’t care.

    That being said, I have picked a few areas where I have asked him to clean up after himself. One nice thing, though, is that he doesn’t mind if I take a lazy day with the kids and don’t bother cleaning the house. And honestly, one of the reasons he agreed for me to stay home was so that I would attend to the details and relieve him of that burden. I am good with particulars, he is not.

    One time I complained for help and he reminded me that we have children. If I need help, train them to help!

  2. Lina

    Aaagh, libl, we are married to the same man! When I saw my now-husband’s place before we married, it was almost a deal-breaker (and I was expecting the worst, because he would never let me in to see it). J, thank you, I really resonated to your post: the pointless resentment over such trivial things! I’ve sure been there! I keep reminding myself that he really does try, and he is neater than he was in his own place.

  3. Gene

    This is, IMHO, an insightful and well written article. These are the Love Busters that Willard Harley refers to in his book by the same title. While these attitude shifts are very freeing for the person who makes them, reading this article is a reminder to me that, on the flip side of the coin, I, as the thoughtless husband (or wife) should ask what these little (maybe not so little…) love busters are and correct them. My wife and I went through some rocky years, but we have had a renaissance that has made our marriage of 33-1/2 years a very sweet place indeed. I WANT to know what those little irritants are so that I can eliminate them. Keeping them around, however minor they may be, is like constantly scratching at a scab that never quite heals.

    1. J Post author

      Absolutely! On my side of things, I try to get better and better at the small stuff that matters to my husband. And when we both strive to bless one another, while giving each other grace, that’s when things are sweetest and smoothest.

      Thanks so much for pointing this out, Gene!

    1. J Post author

      Did you tell me that once before? Seems like I’ve heard that. But somehow, we just keep putting it in the fridge! (Me, on the right shelf; my husband, on the wrong shelf. LOL.)

  4. Sally

    3. Own Your Part
    Yes! I had been praying that the Lord would break down my husband’s walls, and one day God said loud and clear (not literally), “What about your own walls?” Oh! Seriously, up until then I didn’t think I had any walls. But I did, and they were all the same ones I wanted God to get rid of in my husband. I began working on those and what do you think happened? DH opened right up to me. 🙂 Marriage just gets better. 27 years this month. I am so blessed!

    And thanks so much for your blog. 😀

  5. Keelie Reason

    This is great advice. I especially agree with number two. We can get so bent out of shape when it comes to the way we like something. You are right, we can’t force our spouses to find something valuable that they do not find valuable.

  6. B

    This is a great post with some great reminders. The one I am struggling with currently is “he’s not as romantic as you wish? Take charge of the romance.” I can’t do that. I feel that if he feels I’m not worth flowers or a date, then it would be kind of weird to do that for myself. Buy myself flowers? That’s just kinda dumb. And I tried changing and mentioned to him that it would be nice to be surprised with flowers once in a while, but it’s been months, and no go, so I figure he figures I’m not worth the effort. It’s okay. I have been trying to focus more on what he does do, like provides for all our needs, and get over my not being worth a handful of daisies.
    I also tried to take the high road and asked him out on a date. But he was busy that night, and he said we could do something another night. So forget that. I am never asking again. It’s been weeks and many “other nights” have come and gone and we haven’t had a date. He makes me so upset (but I’m getting WAY better at keeping my mouth shut and keeping my feelings inside because my feelings are never helpful). But anyhow he makes me upset by constantly saying he wants to spend time with me, and then, nothing. We might sit on the couch while he watches flip this house for the 87,000th time, but that is not spending time together. I get it that he works so hard and is so tired and I’m getting really good at faking a good attitude, but his lack of interest in me still hurts, especially when I fall into the sin of comparing and I read about all these great romantic things most couple do.
    Sorry for the tangent, but thanks for the post. As always, you’ve given me tons to think about!

    1. J Post author

      Such pain in your response here. I pray that you and your husband can find time and commitment to really engage with each other.

      I do want to challenge you on one thing: You saying that his not buying you flowers shows he thinks you’re “not being worth a handful of daisies.” That could be taking personally something that isn’t intended that way at all. He may hear you, thinks that’s nice, but he just doesn’t think of it when he’s out, or he doesn’t get how important it really is to you because he can’t imagine why it would be, or he finds it hard to spend money on something like flowers. I’m just asking you to take a step back and ask whether the purchase of flowers is the best indicator of his love for you. If I were talking to him, of course I’d tell him to buy the flowers already! But since I’m chatting with you, I think you should reconsider how you’re viewing this incident.

      Please keep putting effort into your marriage. I am praying that you reap the harvest soon (Galatians 6:9).

      P.S. Daisies are my favorite. 🙂

    2. alchemist

      ..”so I figure he figures I’m not worth the effort”.

      That is called mind reading and it’s actually a dysfunctional thought pattern. You don’t know what he figures because you haven’t asked him. It does neither of you any good to attribute such awful motives to him.

      Maybe he really just is very tired. I work 60 hours a week. I am extremely tired most of the time. I also respond very poorly to being asked to do something suddenly. If my boyfriend asks me on a date on some random night, I’m very likely to turn him down. I also very rarely initiate anything, because I’m tired and I have a bazzilion other things to think about. Does that mean I don’t think he’s worth it? No. It means I’m tired.

      If your husband is an introvert, you may genuinely need to explain to him what kinds of things you want to do. And when you plan things you may need to present him with a few options and a few times. Don’t spring things on introverts. In my family (full of introverts) re-watching movies and even sitting in the same room reading (each reading their own book) totally counts as spending time together. And we need several days advance notice of stuff. Specially if there are going to be other people.

      If he genuinely never wants to do anything, even things you know he enjoyed before, he may have depression. And that also has nothing to do with your worth or his feelings towards you. Depression just sucks everything out of you and there isn’t much you can do to fight it on your own. He may even see that he’s making you upset and that may be making him feel more worthless and depressed.

      I can see that you’re upset, and I’m sure it is frustrating and hurtful, but please don’t jump to conclusions and please don’t give up on your marriage. Both of you are worth fighting for an excellent marriage.

    3. Mrs. Ashake

      Hello B. Reading through your post, one could actually feel the tangible pain you’re going through. What I’d like to say here is for you never to give up on your marriage. Eliminate all negativity and resignation from your heart, mind and soul. Have you ever asked yourself if you understand your man? Has he always given you flower gifts? Has he always been the type of man who leans towards such romantic inclinations? Why would you think he would wake up one morning and change suddenly? Sweetheart, most men are creatures of habit.The third part of J’s post says: “Own your part.” Ever thought that taking charge of the romance in your marriage may stimulate reciprocity from your spouse, no matter how busy he may be? Ever thought of surprising him with random, thoughtful gifts every now and then? If your spouse is as responsive (not nonchalant) to family needs as you say he is, surely the good in him would spur him towards reciprocity. Then you could reassure him that he can always surprise you with flower gifts (daisies, if preferred) in return. This can only take place if there’s an established culture of surprise gifts’ exchange – which you can always initiate. And a lot of patience and understanding to see things take the desired pattern you’d like, in your marriage. Take nothing to heart. Always give room for the benefit of doubt. May The Lord guide you and be with you always, in your marriage.

  7. Scott

    Another spot-on post, J,

    What strikes me about each of your three attitude shifts is that they all require me to be really intentional. If I go with my natural reaction, it would always be to take things personally, to wait for my wife to come around and deal with things and to push change in her direction. So for me, one key to attitude changes is to be watchful over my responses and not to go with my default emotional reaction, but to pause, think and challenge my instinct.

    The other thing these three attitudes have in common is they require an attitude of grace. Grace says, “I give you the benefit of the doubt.” Grace says, “I care more about keeping our connection than being right.” Grace says, “I believe you want to love me well, but maybe sometime I need to help you see what that looks like for me.” Grace is unmerited kindness, blessing and favor.

    Grace is a powerful invitation to intimacy.

  8. Dino Watt

    Great stuff. So true. I could care less about the bed being made. My wife loves it. However, she learned early on that me not making the bed, often because she is still in it when I get up, is not a slight to her and her desires. On that note though. I have actually used this to my advantage. When I know she is having a rough day or if she is a bit upset with me. I make sure to get the bed made while she is in the shower or making breakfast as a small way to cheer her up.
    Does she acknowledge it every time, no. But I know she sees it and it gives me a few needed mental brownie points.
    I’ve also found when it comes to “taking charge of what you want” that often we forget to actually ask for what we want. I have fallen into the trap of thinking, “well, it’s been 2 days, she should just know I want sex.” instead of just approaching her and, gasp, asking for it. So many guys I know complain about how dry their sex life is but when I ask them if they actually ask for it or plan for it, the answer is usually “no” and some excuse that their wife should just know.
    We do this even when it comes to things like saying, “I love you.” If I want to hear it form my wife, or if I want to hear that I am a awesome husband, father, provider or whatever, I actually ask her to tell me. And 99.999999999999 % of the time she does.

    1. J Post author

      Well said! We do need to speak up and remind each other, but also look for ways to show love to our spouse. Thanks!

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