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How to Change Myself to Save My Marriage

The 4-Step Self-Improvement Plan He’ll Notice in a Hurry

What can you change about yourself to save your marriage?

If you’re asking yourself that question, my hat is off to you.

Wanting to change myself is not what got me here–I wanted to change my husband!

It seemed pretty clear he was the one who needed to change. If only he would watch TV less, help more and be more affectionate, I thought everything would be okay.

The problem was the more I tried to get him to make such changes, the more mightily he resisted.

Before I knew it, my marriage was on the verge of divorce.

Finally, I saw that something needed to change, and there was only one thing left: me.

Once I launched this self-improvement plan, guess who started watching TV less, helping more and even making love to me! That’s right–when I became my best self, my husband did too.

That’s how the Six Intimacy Skills were born, and they have saved thousands of marriages for women like you who were willing to change themselves.
Here are the four steps to take to save a broken marriage from separation or divorce, even when he doesn’t want to improve.

1) Pump Oxygen Back into Your Relationship

controlling relationship

Greta’s husband Mario wanted to buy a motorcycle.

Greta thought that was a terrible idea, but instead of objecting, she decided to experiment with choosing to trust him by saying, “Whatever you think.”

Feeling the full weight of that decision on his shoulders, he must have changed his mind. He never did get a motorcycle, but the intimacy and connection at Greta’s house improved.

Next Mario was thinking of buying a luxury car. Sounded expensive to Greta, who decided to respond with trust again by saying, “Whatever you think.”

No luxury car was forthcoming, but the playfulness and passion at their house was increasing, which was exciting and gratifying.

So far, so good.

Then came the day Greta’s husband asked what she thought about him making a sketchy business decision that put tens of thousands of their hard-earned dollars at risk.

What did she think? She thought it was a bad idea from the start. She also secretly wondered if his brain was even working right, because he already knew she likes to be cash-register honest and this deal didn’t even seem above board!

She wanted to veto it, but as a long-time student of the Six Intimacy Skills who had saved her marriage when it seemed hopeless, Greta made another decision entirely. She decided to respect her husband’s thinking.

What he was really asking her was whether she trusted him to make this decision, despite her misgivings about the deal.

Although their finances are intertwined, she recognized that his business decisions were, well, none of her business.

This time he took the risk–and paid the price.

When he told Greta that the worst-case scenario had happened, she simply said “I hear you.” There was no reprimand, no crying and no “I told you so!” from Greta, who surprised even herself with her serene response.

That’s when his head started spinning like in The Exorcist.

He exclaimed, “Any other woman would be letting me have it. And here you are being so calm.”

The connection Greta felt in that moment was priceless. And the intimacy she had just put in the bank would pay dividends for years to come.

That’s because respect is like oxygen to husbands, and Greta’s husband was no exception. She had shown him big respect in the form of trust without criticism when he failed.

In this vulnerable moment where his humanness was on painful display, it was clear in his voice that he was getting the very oxygen he needed.

Their marriage became more intimate than ever. (Come to find out, respect is the best aphrodisiac too!)

Instead of wife lessons, Greta’s husband got life lessons.

Maybe that’s what helped him become more prosperous than he ever had been within just a couple years. He found other ways to get tens of thousands in their bank account–many, many times over.

Better yet, he wanted to spend that money doing things with her, like “summering” together, as he liked to call it, and even going skiing in the winter too. While that itself could cost him thousands in potential income at the restaurant where he waited tables, making memories with the family was more important to him.

If your marriage is on life support, how could you give it some oxygen? How could you show that you trust your man’s thinking?

Respect sounds fine and dandy, you might be thinking, but what if there’s something big at stake?

Your fear may be legitimate, and only you know what’s best for you.

Fear is a familiar old friend to me, along with the control it breeds. But trying to control so I can stop whatever I’m afraid of sucks that oxygen right back out of the relationship.

But since you’re still reading, I know you want to make your marriage last and thrive like Greta did. I admire that because it takes courage and commitment.

So if there’s something you find yourself wanting to control, whether it involves finance or romance, including the future of your relationship, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions: What are you afraid of? Is your fear realistic? Can you control it?

And the big one: Is trying to control it worth the intimacy it would cost you?

2) Try These Magic Words

Respect in Relationships

Maybe you are ready to pump some oxygen into your relationship, but if you’re anything like I was, you’re not sure where to start.

For one thing, I thought I was being a respectful wife!

I had no idea that trying to improve him and doing things for him that he was perfectly capable of doing for himself were disrespectful, costing me the very intimacy I longed for.

I thought a good wife was supposed to be “helpful,” but I was being more like his smother-mother than his lover.

For any chance of drawing my man out of his man cave back into my arms, I had some cleaning up to do.

I was the one feeling rejected and disrespected, but my success rate in getting him to show accountability was nil.

Which meant, if I wanted to make things work, I had to be the bigger person and practice the very kind of respect I was hoping to see from him.

Fortunately, I learned some magic words for restoring intimacy instantly. These words are vital if there’s a cold war or even just a chill, including in the bedroom.

Now, actually getting these words out of my mouth was a tall order.

It was an awkward phrase, to say the least: “I apologize for being disrespectful when I _________.” I filled in the blank with the specific ways I had dismissed, demeaned, criticized or controlled him (or at least tried to).

I’m not sure whether those magic words cast a spell, but it sure seemed like it.

He wanted to spend time with me and have deep talks. Whether I was racing him to the mailbox or working on my laptop, he just wanted to be near me. Like when we were dating!

Best of all, the magic is lasting.

Once my slate was clean, I felt so dignified I wanted to keep it that way. When I tried to control him again or dismissed his thinking again (I’m a mere mortal woman, after all), I issued the same apology phrase.

I admit it was pretty uncomfortable–so much so that my disrespect slowed way down.

I know that it takes two to tango, and I bet your man has some apologizing to do himself. But when you inspect your side of the street for your part in the breakdown, what is it that you would clean up?

I can attest that the view from the high road is well worth the trip.

3) Practice the Most Powerful Skill of All

expressing gratitude in relationships

Speaking of disrespect, naturally I thought that the best way to get my husband to do things the right way (my way) was to point out the error of his ways. Yet somehow, complaining about all of the things he was doing wrong wasn’t helping.

But when I tried another tack, suddenly things improved. I intentionally looked for things for which I was grateful, big or small, and began to see more of that showing up.

It was as if I exchanged my gray-colored glasses for a rose-colored pair.

Unlike the old lenses, which magnified the negatives, my new glasses illuminated all of the things that really were working.

In the bad old days, when my husband did the dishes, I’d say, “Now what about the counter?”

Instead, I now stretched by simply thanking him for doing the dishes.

What a concept!

Before I knew it, he was doing the dishes all the time. Seriously. I didn’t have to do dishes anymore. Like ever.

What could you express gratitude for?

If he takes you to a restaurant where the service or food is lousy, how about letting him know you appreciate him taking you out?

If he texts you rather than calling, how about letting him know you’re happy to hear from him?

If he feeds the kids cereal for dinner while you go out with friends, how about thanking him for helping you get that much-needed time away? (Your kids will survive and be much happier when they see that their parents are happy too!)

When Sofia’s husband came home from the bar to help with the kids but was too drunk to actually help, she even went so far as to thank him for coming home.

And Sofia had the same experience as me: As she began to notice and express gratitude for the things her husband did, he was inspired to do more things to please her, including coming home instead of going to the bar. Which made her more grateful. Which was a virtuous cycle.

And way more fun than our old cycle of griping, complaining and bickering.

4) Make Your Marriage Fun and Flirty

happiness in relationship

When your relationship is falling apart, it’s one of the most stressful things you can go through.

It takes up a lot of energy, for one thing. And then who’s got enough energy to be your best self so the relationship can improve?

You can easily get stuck in the mire, like I did.

Fortunately, there is a way to sidestep that mire is to restore yourself and make yourself happy with–get this!–frivolous fun. No joke.

Before you roll your eyes at that idea, let me share something I discovered through my own research that was pretty shocking.

When I asked thousands of men how important it is to them that their wife is happy, they all said the same thing: It’s the most important thing.

It sure is hard for him to feel he’s successful that you’re happy when your reserves are low.

If you’re anything like me, getting too tired, hungry or overwhelmed leads to complaining, criticizing and controlling. Who knew that these behaviors are as scary as Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining?

All work and no play makes Laura a resistible girl. (Okay, that’s my last horror reference for the day.)

Watching silly cat videos, dancing or going for a bike ride, on the other hand, take me from horror to happy.

Showing myself a good time even seems to make me irresistible. At least my husband seems to think so, even when I’m working and he scooches up to me on the sofa.

What frivolous fun would increase your magnetism?

If you want to go wild, why not start a smile campaign while you’re at it, smiling at everyone you see? Especially your man, starting when he walks through the door.

Your happiness will go a long way to him not only feeling successful as a husband but wanting to pile on since like attracts like.

If your marriage feels like it’s falling apart, you might think it’s too late to apply these four steps to saving it. But when women on our campus find the courage to experiment even when they think it’s completely hopeless, to paraphrase Thomas Wolfe, miracles not only happen, they happen all the time.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

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