Who influences your marriage? Besides the obvious—you and your husband.
When your marriage struggles, often we jump to blaming our spouse for not understanding us. But, rarely are marriage troubles caused by one party alone. I know that wasn’t true in my marriage, even though I defaulted to blaming my husband for the mess we were in.
Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.”
When your marriage hurts, those difficulties feel insurmountable. And they definitely don’t feel like opportunities. The only way to overcome the difficulty or difficulties is to take some time to assess what’s happening.
You cannot change or improve what you haven’t identified. But it’s challenging to emotionally disconnect from the conflict long enough to be honest about your current circumstances. When we’re focused on the obstacle, you can’t see anything else. The pain blinds you to possibilities. You may need to get away for a few hours and ask yourself some tough questions. Or, you talk with a trusted coach, counselor, or truth-telling friend to get a different perspective. Allow their questions to identify some potential negative and positive influences in your current situation.
Influence comes from many sources.
Influence is the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command; corrupt interference with authority for personal gain. (Merriam-Webster)
We find influence in many sources, not just people. And, some of your influences could be ideas, concepts, or people who lived before your time. Think of the historical figures you’ve studied or looked up to. How have their thoughts, actions, and lifestyles influenced yours today?
To better understand yourself and some of the ways you approach your marriage, take a look at your life, and make some notes about the following potential influences:
- How has your parents’ marriage, divorce, remarriage, or cohabitation influenced your views about your marriage or marriage struggles?
- Are your brothers and sisters married? If you had to rate each marriage on a scale of 1 to 5, how would their marriages stack up?
- What is your favorite movie? Evaluate the views of marriage or relationship in that movie?
- How many of your friends are married? Rate each marriage on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being a train wreck and 5 being amazing.
- How do your religious beliefs or non-beliefs affect your view of marriage and relationships?
- Do you believe your lifestyle promotes or prohibits marriage?
- Did you know your grandparents? How do you perceive their marriage?
- What do the people you follow on social media say about marriage or relationships?
- What music genre is your favorite? Does it promote stability in relationships or not?
- What kind of books do you prefer? How do your favorite authors portray relationships?
- What sites capture your attention?
- Do you listen to your spouse or do you reject the influence they might try to exert?
What about other influences on your marriage?
Jim Rohn famously wrote, “You are the average of the five people you spend your most time with.” I understand what he’s saying, but what if your strongest influence comes from a non-human source?
Some non-human sources to consider are the internet, books, Hollywood, and social media. The internet is not all bad by any means, but it is home to a vast array of horrible influences and countless sources of negative influences for your marriage. In our marriage, one horrible influence was pornography. Contrary to the popular saying and belief, “Boys will be boys,” is not a license to accept pornography.
You are not forced to accept one influence over another. As an adult, you choose your relationships and influencers. Similar to my vigilance and attempts to choose healthy food over comfort foods, my husband and I have the power to make healthy or destructive choices when it comes to influence. Sometimes, we must diminish or delete a negative influence on our well-being. That’s tough to do initially, but for your overall health, I encourage you to courageously take the necessary corrective action. Sometimes that negative influencer is a family member, you can’t completely remove them from your life. You can, however, limit your exposure to that person and erect healthy boundaries.
I’ve had relationships that needed to end. Each encounter with that toxic person affected my marriage relationship. While I didn’t possess the courage at the time to end it, neglecting that negative influence eventually caused its dissolution. The mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being I experienced at the end of that toxic relationship created space for new growth and health.
Is there anything keeping you from cultivating relationships to positively influence your marriage?
It may take some effort, but I’d recommend you look for marriage relationships within your peers and those a few years beyond you who exhibit healthy behaviors. Ask them to meet you for coffee. Before you meet with them, think about what you’d like to learn.
Do you have friends that bash their husbands? Change the conversation. Become a positive influence in their marriage. If it’s a pattern they enjoy and have no desire to change, then this could be a relationship that needs to end. Find a new positive friendship.
Are you that hubby-bashing friend? Pay attention to how you speak about your marriage. Our words reflect our hearts and influence our behavior. If you find yourself focused on the negative, that’s what you’ll find in your marriage. Granted, those obstacles need overcoming, but verbally bashing your husband doesn’t move you toward the solution. If you can’t seem to move beyond your Negative Nancy-ness, then find a coach who can. That’s an easy way to instantly insert some positive influence into your life.
Remember how some influence is from “non-human” sources? Please beware of your media intake. What you read, watch, listen to, and search out has great influence over you and your marriage. You control every input. Don’t use the excuse that you like to veg out in front of the TV or YouTube. What you absorb affects your thoughts, words, and actions. If you’re gonna veg, veg on the good stuff.
Sometimes the most positive influence on our marriage is under our own roof.
What about that guy with all the stuff in the garage? The one who stood out from all the rest for his great qualities. Your husband. If you want to improve your marriage, start listening to your spouse. Active listening doesn’t mean you become a doormat for his every wish. But, it does allow you to see beyond the words to his heart. And, as you connect to his heart, you strengthen your relationship.
Even now, when your marriage hurts, approaching the obstacle with the desire to resolve the issue helps you choose a resolution. This is a great place to put some new wind in your sails to solve this problem by loading up on positive influences. Wisdom from a long-married friend who doesn’t husband-bash, music that honors relationships and true love, books that inspire investing in our spouse, and celebrate marriage. “Power-up” and move towards the problem, not away. Don’t fall into avoidance to protect your ego or feelings. “Accepting influence is . . . about moving from a position of “me” to “we,” which requires a shift toward more maturity . . . .”
Your richest marriage comes when you seek “we” more than “me.” It’s time to influence your marriage positively.
What’s the best way to identify what’s influencing your marriage?
Set aside 30 minutes in the next 48 hours to write down everything that influences you and your marriage. Don’t edit the list. Just write it down. I suggest using paper and pencil, but if electronic notes are your thing, great. Then, next to each influence, write “positive” or “negative” or jot a + or – . Be honest even if you feel uncomfortable. This list won’t be shared with anyone unless you decide to do so. Set the list aside for a few days. When you think of other influences, write them down on this list and mark them as positive or negative.
Who or what influence on your list has “negative” or a “-”? When I first did this exercise, I felt surprised at some answers. And some new pain. This honest assessment of my influencers left me struggling to take the next step. Thankfully, I turned to an unbiased third party, a coach, to help me understand and layout a plan to change these negative influences to positive ones. After a few conversations, I had a better understanding of why I allowed this unhealthiness in my life, how it impacted me, and the best next step. I also learned some tools and tips to help me identify unhealthy triggers and establish new behavior choices to improve my life and marriage. Remember, change comes when you accurately identify the obstacles and commit to a new way.
You can overcome the negative influences in your marriage. It takes work and intentionality, but it is worth the result. Need help? Let’s talk.