15-Minute Major Marriage Makeover
If your marriage is not everything you hoped it would be, the next 15 minutes could create a major improvement.
Please note: this makeover is not for marriages experiencing violence, threats of violence, addictive behaviors, or current infidelity.
Here are your instructions:
Take 2 minutes to list your biggest disappointments about your marriage. Write them down the left side of a sheet of paper. Leave room on the right.
Take 3 minutes to write alongside each one what you need. What need of yours is not being met by each of these disappointments? Be specific. Instead of "dishwashing," write "fairness in our division of chores" or "time for myself in the evening" or "stronger fingernails."
Take 3 minutes to list at least ten pleasing things your spouse does when your marriage is going really well. This second list is not the reverse of the first list. Do not write what would make you feel better about the marriage. List the nice things your mate does when he or she feels great about your relationship.
Take 2 minutes to circle any needs on your first list that could possibly be met some other way if you stopped expecting whatever is disappointing you. For example, a need for fairness might be met with some other chore. Stronger fingernails might be met with a dishwasher or paper plates. Time for yourself might be met with a shorter commute or a shorter workday or a housekeeper. Knowing he or she is not meeting your expectations inhibits your spouse from doing the things on that second list.
Take 3 minutes to list the most likely reason your spouse disappoints you on each item where you added a circle. Check the second list to see if it contradicts your reason before you write it. Focused on just one disappointment, you may see your spouse as lazy or unromantic or unfair, but if this does not describe him or her during the good times, think again. You know a lot more than you realize about your spouse's motivations.
Take 2 minutes to plan your request for a Third Alternative on one of your needs. A Third Alternative is one that meets your need and at the same time avoids whatever is stopping your spouse from meeting that need the way you expected. Pick one of those circled needs that you cannot take care of on your own. Fill in one of these opening sentences, then find a calm and unrushed time to say it to your husband or wife or partner in life:
"I love you, and I want to do what's best for you. Will you help me brainstorm some ways that don't require _____ from you but help me get the __________ I need?"
"I love you, and I want more of those wonderful things you do for me when I'm not nagging or moping. Will you help me brainstorm some ways that make sure you get all the _____ you need and also get me the __________ I need?"
That's it. You fell in love with the wonderful things your spouse does when all is well. Nothing has changed. If things are going less well now, your expectations of what else he or she should do for you may be what stands in your way. Marriages drift apart or turn unpleasant when we expect particular acts of love. Your spouse's love is not gone, only the ability to show it without a "Nice, but." Set it free again.