How to Change Your Behavior so Your Marriage Can Improve (And Linkup)

Even though as a counselor I had to slog my way through lots of classes on Behavioral Psychology or Behavior Modification back in my old school days, I never really felt like behavior alone could create lasting or powerful change in marriage or relationships.

However, that’s viewing things from the inside out, like Matthew 15:18 talks about,

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”

Change Behavior

This reminds me that . . .

I must change my heart in order to change my behavior in marriage. Click To Tweet

So that’s exactly where I begin to work—on my heart—so that my change of heart quickly translates into positive and changed behaviors. It is in that place that my husband can feel the impact of the “outside in” . . .

My “outside” behaviors move in to his heart—changing the culture and attitude in our marriage.

How do we move from the heart to the start of a new culture and attitude in marriage?

How do we move from the heart to the start of a new culture and attitude in marriage? Click To Tweet

Here’s How I Change My Behavior for the Better . . .

1. Ask God to Examine My Heart

I do this as a daily part of my prayer journaling. A great prayer to pray is Psalm 139:23-24,

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

God is faithful to answer that kind of prayer!

2. Anchor My Prayers in God’s Word

I get the greatest insights from God about my heart not just by asking Him what needs to be changed in me, but by anchoring my prayers to whatever I’m reading in Scripture during that day. I take the passage I’m focusing on and consider how well I’m living that out in my life and marriage. #inviteconviction

The more time you give to this kind of examination of your heart, the greater the positive impact on your behaviors in marriage. And the best part is, your spouse doesn’t have to change behaviors at all for you to feel the positive impact of this on your marriage and life.

It’s not easy, by a long shot! But it is so very worth the effort!

3. Commit to Live Out the New Behaviors God Reveals

That’s probably the most important piece to have in place in this process, because if you are not open OR do not change in the way that God has revealed to you, your life and relationships will not change for the better either. In fact, I would say, they will only get worse. If that’s where you are, then the best thing to do is to ask God to soften your heart to the changes you need to make.

My Real-life Example . . .

There were a lot of years when I only focused on my husband changing his behavior in marriage. I would pray for that. I would scheme for that. And sadly, I would even question God as to why He wasn’t on my “change-my-husband-bandwagon.”

You would have thought that since I was making time for God each day, my heart would have changed, and as a result my behaviors would have followed suit. But it only seemed to make matters worse. That’s because, in my time with God, I was focusing on my husband’s heart and behaviors changing and not on my own.

4. Keep Changing for the Better No Matter How Little Your Spouse Changes!

This one takes moving back into that “heart change” that keeps this behavior bandwagon moving down the right track. It’s cyclical, in other words. You can’t sustain the positive behaviors that your marriage requires—especially when your spouse does not change for the better—unless you are returning to the loving embrace of Jesus for your refueling and healing day after day after day.

Today is the last in my Back to School Series—7 Lessons on Learning How to Love Well When the Winds of Marriage Grow Colder. If you missed the previous posts in this series, click on the link to view them all.

I’ll be starting a new series in October on Spiritual Warfare in Marriage with my 7 year Blog-aversary on Oct. 10th that includes a HUGE (insert Donald Trump voice) giveaway. Then in the following two weeks, I’ve got a couple of guest posts coming from Lori Schumaker and Leslie Newman who will be sharing their thoughts on this very important topic, so I know you won’t want to miss a single one! 

 

Which of these four important behaviors do you need to improve on the most in life/marriage?

 

What hinders you from giving to your marriage in this way?


Here are some lovely linkups I join – Mondays @ Soul Survival,  Moments of HopeLiterary Musing MondaysTestimony TuesdayJennifer Dukes LeeWriter WednesdayCoffee and ConversationCoffee for Your HeartSitting Among FriendsFaith and FriendsFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

Let’s Get this ‘From Messes to Messages’ Linkup Started!
Add any links that are uplifting, helpful and encouraging to our spiritual lives, marriages and families! Be sure to add a link on your blog back to “From Messes to Messages” or Messy Marriage as well. For linkup guidelines/button, click here.

Messy Marriage

  • Hi Beth! As usual, you’ve shared some real nuggets about marriage. This is quite a nitty-gritty post. For many years I asked the Lord why my heart responses toward my husband weren’t as Godly as I wanted them to be. The Lord eventually showed it that it takes the work of the Spirit in my life to change my heart, so then my responses would change as well. Basically, more Jesus =”s a more loving response toward hubby. Yes, It is an inside out kind of love we are seeking here, and it only comes from Jesus Christ. Thanks so much for sharing and hosting. Can’t wait to see your exciting anniversary series and guest post by Lori! Have a blessed week!

    • Yes, I love that, Tiffiney–more Jesus means a more loving response toward our spouses! I’m working on thinking about that every time I’m tempted to make it more about me! ha! But it’s true! And very powerful when I lay it all down to the Lord to handle. Thanks for your encouragement, sweet friend! Always great to hear from you and see you in the linkup as well.

  • It always helps when I say to the Lord, “Lord, thank you for my husband and i praise you for my husband.” Learned that from an older wiser friend whose husband is a lot like mine. (:

    • Yes, that’s a real perspective changing prayer as well, Sue! Thanks for adding that to the conversation, my friend!

  • Beth, I really like #2, asking God how I’m doing with today’s reading, but I agree that #3 is absolutely essential!

    • Thanks, Donna! You’re encouragement means so much because I know that you live this out and teach about it at your place as well. Thanks for joining the conversation and for your beautiful transparency at your place and here!

  • Beth, thanks for linking up on Mondays @ Soul Survival, too!

    • You’re are more than welcome, dear friend!

  • pioneerpat1

    Very beautiful words. Thanks for hosting and have a wonderful rest of the week.

    • Thank you, Patrick! I appreciate your encouraging words and hope that you do the same–have a great week!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Beth, this is a wonderful post, and I love the way you’ve broken the process down into its essentials. I tend to use Scriptural ‘stories’ rather than verses, because I sometimes loset he context on verses a bit too easily. Stories keep me grounded.

    I completely agree that changing oneself has to be ‘for its own sake’. If we try to change for someone else, to please them or make amends, it’ll be doomed to failure.

    In a very minor way, I did this during our first season of marriage; I tended to dress in baggy cargo shorts, sandals, and ragged ‘beer logo’ t-shirts, and Barb wanted me to be a sharp-dressed man (yes, she’s a ZZ Top fan). I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it, and I was unhappy…and this silly, small thing made the climate of the marriage worse and contributed to the divorce that would occur within a year.

    I was not mature enough to see that I was trying to hold to a youth that had already passed, and she did not see that I was entirely unfit to EVER grow up. had we known the basic issues, we would have laughed. Instead, it cost a LOT of tears.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/09/your-dying-spouse-367-road-not-taken.html

    • Susan

      Andrew, I had a dream about you last night. You called me in the dream.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        Susan, I was calling for help. Worst night of my life. But I’m upright and fighting back.

        Don’t need no morphine. I’m going to bite off pieces of Satan instead. He’s pushing me too hard, and he will reap the whirlwind.

        • Susan

          Well it worked, I prayed from 4 a.m. – 5 a.m. (eastern time). See it wasn’t a good-bye call after all. WE LOVE YOU AND B.

          • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

            Sure did work, Susan, and you hit the heart of the worst hours.

            Love you back, and I am more determined than ever to beat this. To quote Tennyson:

            “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

    • Yes, the stories in the Bible are so relatable and practical in getting us back on track, Andrew. But I love both the principle-driven passages as well as the stories. I’ve learned how to scour the Scriptures in a way that excites and encourages me. There are things God brings to the surface through those efforts that I never saw before and they deeply impact me when I find them in that way. But yes, every person must use the Word in the way that excites and connects them to God’s truths. Agreed on the changing others comment. It’s a dead-end in life and relationships. But oh wow! How God reveals what is necessary when I turn the focus back on myself!

      I forgot that piece of your story–divorced after a year to Barbara, that is. I’m so glad you both found each other again and were able to forge this incredible bond that you have now–in large part, I’d say, to your illness. I hope that you see it that way too. It’s always amazing to me what I realize through my “aging process” that I missed in my youth. It sounds like you have experienced those same wake-up calls that come with wrinkles and pain! Lol! Thanks for your encouragement, dear friend! Praying for you!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Beth,
    You pointed out several key truths….one I read is that we can’t control others’ behavior, we can only control our own. Trying to manipulate or change our spouse just doesn’t work (I speak from experience). Like you pointed out, I can only work on me and my behavior. Another key point is that God will not change my heart unless I’m steadfastly in His Word. That’s where He speaks to me and reveals what my heart needs to hear. These are the things that I can do something about and that is bound to have a good impact on my marriage. Thanks for great reminders this am.!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Yes, I say all of this from my own discoveries in life and through God’s powerful and “dividing” Word, Bev. It’s like God does surgery on me every time I sit at His feet. But it’s a surgery and pain that is so very welcome, for I have lived a better life and found a healthier marriage because of it! Thank you, sweet friend, for coming by and linking up! I’m praying for you and your most recent health crisis!

  • Hi Beth …. as I’m reading your post, the old chorus ‘Change my heart, oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart oh God, I want to be like You’ is playing in the back of my head. I’m so thankful I don’t have to somehow do this on my own. I’d just never happen …

    • Yes, one of the golden oldies, Linda! The hymns hold such important truths to meditate on–not to mention, the songs of newer artists like Chris Tomlin! 😉 Thanks for stopping by to encourage me here, sweet friend! Prayers and hugs coming your way!

  • We certainly can not change our husband. No matter how much we want or wish we could. We can however make changes to ourselves with God’s support! What a great reminder today. Thank you!

    • Yes, Cassie. My mom used to say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” I think I’ve tried to ride a few phantom horses in my day! ha! But yes, there’s such empowerment when we get that truth through our heads and lived out by our hearts. Thanks so much for joining the linkup, friend, and for encouraging me to boot!

  • Sarah Geringer

    #4 is so important and so true. Can’t wait to see Lori and Leslie on here soon, and if you ever want me to do a guest post, I’d be honored, friend!

    • Oh yes! That’s one that we often want to forget when the going gets tough, but it’s just as important as the others, Sarah. I’m grateful that it is something you exhibit and endeavor to live in your life and marriage. It’s a commendable effort and perhaps one you could write on for a guest post one day?? I do know writing about our marriages can be hard to do, especially when it involves our mates. But I try to take the tack of writing about “my messes” in marriage, rather than on my husband’s messes. Seems like I have an awful lot of fodder for that one after seven years! Lol! Thanks for linking up and encouraging me too, my friend!

  • Susan

    This series and your questions have made me “think.” I think I’m doing this marriage thing about 96.5% right. LOL!!! I think I’ll see it through. LOL! Love ya Beth.

    • Well, that’s great to hear, Susan! Not many can make that kind of boast! I do hope you see it through, though I have no doubt you will, my friend! Love ya right back!

  • Karen

    These are great points. we become so focused on what is wrong with our spouse that we forget that there are plenty of things that need changing in US too… and while we are busy praying about him, it’s good to think about what the content of HIS prayers are about us! thanks for the perspective shift!

    • It truly is a discipline to focus on the good, because–optimist or not–the negative is more glaring and shouts for notice, while the positive slides in under the radar! Lol! Thanks for coming by and joining the conversation!

  • Great post, Beth! How my eyes opened on the day I realized I’m not my husband’s Holy Spirit. I missed last week’s linkup because I was on vacation, but you were in my thoughts. 🙂

    • I bet there was even a sound-effect of some kind heard in heaven on the day that our eyes popped wide open to this truth–to this insult, in fact! But yes, it’s never an attitude or practice we need to keep, Kelly. Thanks for your kind words, as well as keeping me in your thoughts! I do appreciate both!

  • bluecottonmemory

    Not just in marriage, but in raising sons – God goes and has impact where my words do not. I agree – we need to continue drawing close to God, continuing sharpening ourselves. I’ve come to understand that the most important part of living is not in the prayer answered, but in the wait of a prayer sent out. Your argument drives that home! Blessing to you this week, Beth! It’s so nice to be able to stop by!

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  • Your advice is so timely and right on. Thanks so much for linking up again with the #LMMLinkup this past week.