Several years ago, I was in an unhappy marriage. My spouse was not making me happy, and I wanted him to change. We weren’t communicating effectively, and we were arguing often.

Have you ever desperately wanted to change your spouse?

At some point – I don’t remember exactly when – I recognized that I needed to stop focusing on changing my husband, and instead focus on changing my marriage. In order to change my marriage, I had to look at my own role in the relationship:

What can I do to change and therefore make our marriage better?

I have to admit: I’m not the biggest fan of taking responsibility and working on things myself. It is much easier to cast blame and expect the other person to change. However, I really wanted our marriage to improve, and I decided that I had better be willing to change.

Want to change your spouse? Begin by changing yourself!

{Sorry if you came here looking for a formula to change your spouse!}

There are 3 adjustments I would recommend making if you want to change your spouse, and ultimately change your marriage. But it starts by changing YOURSELF.

1. Adjust your attitude.

What is your general attitude towards your spouse? Are you normally kind, positive, and generous towards him? Or are you usually snarky, nagging, and frustrated?

Our attitude is linked closely with our thoughts.

When I was in my unhappy marriage several years ago, I was often having a pity party in my head. I frequently dwelled on the negative aspects of our relationship, and I felt bad for myself and the fact that my husband wouldn’t change.

In her book, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”, Amy Morin points out that self-pity is destructive and unproductive.

One way that self-pity is harmful is that:

It leads to more negative emotions…. Once you allow it to take hold, self-pity will ignite a flurry of other negative emotions. It can lead to anger, resentment, loneliness, and other feelings that fuel more negative thoughts. -Amy Morin

Do those feelings and attitudes sound familiar? If so, it’s time to focus on changing your attitude.

The problem is, we often feel that our negative attitude is justified, or if not, at least it is dependent upon what is happening around us. However, “the people who do best in life are those who realize they have the power to choose their attitudes.” (Keith Harrell, “Attitude is Everything”)

[bctt tweet= “You have the power to choose your attitude toward your spouse.”]

In Philippians 2, Paul tells us to have the same attitude of Christ Jesus. What was Jesus’ attitude? It was one of service and humility.

Even if you are not a Christian, you can recognize the benefits of having a humble attitude. Instead of having a demanding attitude, we can choose to have a humble attitude towards our spouse. We can choose to serve our spouse, even if they are not behaving in the way we want them to.


There is an ancient Native American legend about the 2 wolves inside of a person. The legend states that the wolf that wins is the one you feed.

This is a great analogy for our thoughts and attitude. Whichever thought pattern we choose to feed, that is the one that will continue to grow in our life.

If you are looking for a way to change your thoughts and feed a positive attitude, here’s a great resource: 10 Ways to Feed the Good Stuff in Your Marriage.

2. Adjust your words.

After you adjust your attitude, the next step is to adjust your words.

Earlier in our marriage, I learned the hard way that I was hurting my husband with my words. I used to make “little comments” about him, sometimes in public, which were critical. While I did not intend them to be hurtful, they were.

Also, there have been times that I have spoken critically directly to him – telling him something that I am not happy with in a blaming or accusatory way.

The way we speak to our spouse is of utmost importance.

Often it is more about the way we say something than the actual words that we use. Research shows that tone of voice is more important than the words we speak.

However, there are times that adjusting our wording can also make a positive difference.

Instead of saying something like “You always…”, you can use “I feel…”. For example, if I am feeling neglected by my husband, I can approach it two different ways:

“You don’t spend enough time with me” OR “I would really like to have a date night with you soon.”

Both are conveying the need for spending more time together, but one is doing so in a critical way and the other is doing so in a positive, inviting way.

Amy Morin says, in reference to watching others display behaviors we don’t like, that “making demands, nagging, and begging won’t yield the results you want.”

The fact is, you cannot change your spouse.

But you CAN be wise about the words that you use and how you speak to him.

Proverbs 15:4 says “Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

[bctt tweet= “Our words have the power to bring life, or to crush spirits. Which one would you rather do?”]

3. Adjust your ACTIONS.

After you adjust your attitude and your words, then it’s time to look at your actions.

We often hear the saying, “actions speak louder than words,” and that really can be true in marriage. If my actions are not lining up with my words, my husband is likely going to believe my behavior over what I’m saying.

Changing your actions can be very simple, but often we choose not to do so for a variety of reasons.

There are very few things that my husband is somewhat particular about when it comes to the household. One of the things he appreciates is when the vacuum cleaner gets put back where it belongs. However, there are plenty of times that I have left it out wherever I stopped using it. Usually I have a good reason (i.e. excuse) for why I didn’t put it away – but when I’m honest with myself, I know that it would have taken me approximately 60 seconds to do so.

When I do take the time to put the vacuum away, this little action speaks loudly to him, even though it doesn’t matter that much to me.

Making small efforts to do something to show your spouse that you appreciate them can make a huge difference.

Another action to consider adjusting is how you are spending your time. As moms, we often get caught up in caring for the kids, and our husbands become last on our priority list.

Even though it’s often unintentional, this can leave our husbands feeling unimportant. It is a good idea to examine our behavior, especially how we are spending our time, on a regular basis.


One way to start adjusting your actions is to know what your spouse’s love language is. (You can download the 5 Love Languages quiz here).

If you want to get the best return on investment, then spend your efforts by doing things that your spouse would appreciate.

My top love language is acts of service, and recently, Scott did a couple things specifically to help me out around the house. This meant more to me than if he were to buy me flowers or tell me he appreciates me. Those things are nice, but the tangible help with household tasks gets him major bonus points.

Everyone has a different love language, but once you know what your spouse’s is, make an effort to adjust your actions to show them love in THEIR language. This can take more effort than we are used to, but the payoff can be exponential.

Ephesians 4:32 reminds us how we should be treating each other in our marriage: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

As we make adjustments to our attitude, our words, and our actions, we will see changes take place in our marriage, and quite possibly in our spouse. When I make an extra effort to show grace, to speak kindly, to think good thoughts about Scott, often he responds in a similar manner.

[bctt tweet= “Adjusting our attitude, words, and actions can produce significant changes in our marriage.”]


Over time, making these adjustments has resulted in a healthier marriage for me and my husband. But it’s important to keep in mind that these changes won’t happen overnight.

Amy Morin says:

Whether you’re hoping to improve your marriage or you want to start your own business, expecting immediate results can set you up to fail.

In addition, you must be open to continually evaluating yourself and how you are treating your spouse. There are still times that I have to consider my thoughts, words, and actions and make adjustments as needed.

Get outside help if needed!

One final thought: If you have developed patterns that are unhealthy, and you are finding any change to be nearly impossible, it is OKAY to seek outside help for this. Sometimes we need a neutral 3rd party to help us work through and develop different thoughts, words, and actions in our marriage.

But at the very least, I encourage you to work on making any adjustments you can, especially in regards to your attitude.

Want more ideas on how to improve your marriage?

Check out my curated list of Marriage Resources for you here.