Every marriage is a work in progress. I have yet to find the married couple that has figured everything out. I have met some people who have given up, but I have yet to meet someone who has it all under control. Paul even spoke of it as a mystery in Ephesians 5. He wrote, “ 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery,” (Ephesians 5:31-32a). The challenge with mysteries is understanding the clues. If we can understand the clues, we can get closer to the answer.

Too often we settle into our old habits and old ways and just accept things as they are when with a little effort, we could drastically improve our relationship with our spouse. If your marriage is not what you wish it to be, there are some specific places where you can look for clues that will assist you in solving the mystery.

Past Experiences

It has been said that our life is the sum of our experiences up to this point. Both your experiences and your spouse’s experiences have an effect on the relationship. Thinking through where we have been and what we have done and the people we have interacted with, including the family relationships that we were raised in, will offer significant clues with how to adjust to make our marriage better.

Past Hurts

Hurt people, hurt people. We tend to lash out in places where we feel pain or have previously felt pain. Often we are more guarded in a particular place if we have experienced pain there. This does not mean that we do not need healing, but it can help us be more aware of our own defensiveness and understand why our spouse struggles with particular subjects.

Current Stresses

Sometimes our current pressure is what is driving the tension or problems in the home. It may not be the thing that the conflict is about, but it may be the underlying factor. For example, if we are experiencing stress at work or our finances are in disarray, it may cause us to lash out about other things or make us more irritable in general. When we understand how stress affects our attitude and our life, we can work to alleviate the stressful areas and also be more aware when it is affecting our relationship.

Repeated Complaints

If something continues to be repeated it is likely something that needs to be addressed. Is there something you have heard numerous times from your spouse? If so, it may be a clear indication that it is an area needing attention. Turning a deaf ear to a constant complaint will improve nothing and may, in fact, cause damage that will be even more difficult to repair than making a small adjustment that has been requested.

Just becoming aware and making a single adjustment can make a significant difference in your marriage. Do not settle for a bad marriage. Search for clues that will make things better. Not just ways your spouse can change, but ways you can change and adapt to have the best relationship you can have.

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