Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Tim Muehlhoff's book, Marriage Forecasting: Changing the Climate of Your Relationship One Conversation at a Time, (InterVarsity Press, 2010).

 

Just as every place has a climate, so does every marriage.  The climate of your marriage relationship can be a stormy one that's filled with conflict, a chilly one that lacks intimacy, or a sunny one that brings warm joy into your life.  If you don't like the weather outside, there isn't anything you can do to change it.  But you can change the climate of your marriage to make it what you'd like it to be.

Here's how you can change the climate of your marriage:

Focus on communication.  The single greatest factor that influences what your marriage conflict is like is how you communicate with your spouse.  More than what you say and do, it's how you say and do it that affects your relationship with each other the most.  Your communication climate can change throughout different seasons of how you communicate, depending on the value and satisfaction you and your spouse feel as you interact with each other.  So to improve your marriage climate, it's important to improve the way you and your spouse communicate.

Acknowledge each other.  Seek your spouse's perspective on the various situations you encounter and the different issues that you discuss.  Even if you don't condone or agree with your spouse's perspective, get to know it and try to understand it.  Give your spouse your undivided attention when he or she is sharing thoughts and feelings with you.  Ask questions to clarify and learn more.  Ask God to remind you regularly of ways that your spouse reflects His image.

Build trust between each other.  Do all you can to live with integrity so your spouse can trust you.  Tell the whole truth in all situations and follow through on your promises.  If trust has been broken between the two of you, realize that the process of re-building will be slow and gradual, but make the effort one step at a time.

Adjust your expectations.  Talk openly with your spouse about what you each expect your marriage to be like, and why.  Define what counts as expressions of love, respect, spirituality, romance, responsibility, and other issues that matter in your marriage, learning what's most important to each of you.  Use the knowledge you've gained to adjust your expectations of each other.

Strengthen your commitment.  Ask God to help you and your spouse remain committed to your marriage and continue to mutually invest in it.  If either you or your spouse harbors any nagging doubts that your marriage will survive, those doubts will negatively affect your marriage climate.  But the security of knowing that you both are truly committed to each other will improve your marriage climate.  Remember key moments of your shared history together, and put energy into your present relationship to make new memories together.

Resist cultural temptations that can harm your marriage.  Rather than rushing around in a constant state of hurry, trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once, slow down to give your spouse your full attention when you're interacting.  Instead of adopting a consumerist attitude that breeds dissatisfaction, ask God to help you become content with your lifestyle, and remember that your spouse is more important than material things or status.  Reject an overly romantic view of love and marriage and realize that only God is capable of loving you perfectly, so don't put too much pressure on your spouse and accept his or her imperfections.  In the face of a culture where divorce is commonplace, renew your resolve and efforts to making your marriage last.