Marriage Plan - Part 2

A marriage plan is key to a happy marriage. Marriage coaches, counselors, and therapists recommend following a marriage plan. Left to our own, we tend to wing it or read marriage tips. In my previous post about making a happy marriage plan, I discussed why those two methods fail. In this article I give you the very same step-by-step marriage plan I teach in my various marriage coaching programs. I want you to be abundantly happy within and in your marriage. Following this marriage plan can do that.

Marriage Plan - Part 2

Advantages of Using a Marriage Plan

There are many advantages of having a good marriage plan.

  • The state of your marriage will improve
  • You will feel closer with your partner
  • Your children will have a shining example of a great marriage
  • You will feel more love, intimacy, and passion
  • You will have less conflict, arguments, and fighting
  • You will better understand yourself and your partner
  • You will be happier and have less stress
  • Your marriage will be a positive role model for others
  • Less stress and increased happiness contributes to better health

A happy marriage is a wonderful thing. You can have that kind of marriage. When you develop the necessary habits and disciplines, you can have the abundantly happy marriage you dream of.

Cautions of Using a Marriage Plan

Remember in Part 1 of this 2-part series where I presented that most couples wing it or read marriage tips? That behavior is creating a divorce rate that is 60% higher than it was in 1960. Their households are often rife with conflict and pain. Studies indicate that a third (33%) of all marriages are unhappy. These are your friends, neighbors, folks you work with, folks you go to church with, and even family members. They try to put on a good face when in public, but at home, they want things to be better in their marriage. You will be different, doing some different things, and that will put pressure on you and your family.

When you follow a marriage plan and create your happy marriage, you are going to stand out compared to your friends who are winging it or reading marriage tips. You are going to be doing some different things than you did in the past. Sometimes, you will put a priority on your marriage and family, and that will mean not doing some things with these folks that perhaps you once used to. They will put pressure on you. They will feel a loss if you are not there and pressure you to join them, taking you out of the habits and disciplines necessary for a happy marriage. This is called the Crab Mentality. While one is climbing out of a situation, others will try to pull you down to join all the others. They are not trying to be mean or hurtful. They don’t want to lose you. However, you will need to stick to your newly formed habits and disciplines. Sometimes, it will be a challenge.

It won’t be just you feeling the pressure, it will be your entire family. As part of your marriage plan, you may make decisions that puts family and marriage first. That may change some of the activities you, your spouse, and your children participate in. Your children may resent that they are not participating in the same events as their friends, and you will have to be creative in working with them and explaining to them the benefits of the decisions you make.

It might be a challenge, but what should keep you motivated in following your marriage plan are the abundant rewards that follow. Focus on the dream marriage you desire.

How to Use a Marriage Plan

Before I created the 38 Minute Method, I studied a variety of coaching programs. I studied successful marriage coaching, life coaching, and business coaching programs. They all had many similarities and I compiled the best attributes from each. A marriage is complex. There are different personalities involved, and not all parties may be motivated to participate in a marriage plan. As with all coaching programs, there is no magic bullet. I wish I can guarantee that the 38 Minute Method will absolutely work quickly, but like all coaches, I can’t. Just as in weight loss, a client put on the weight over time and it will take time to get it off. In a marriage, the current situation developed over time, and it will take time and effort to resolve it.

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Marriage coaches, counselors, and therapists look at the total picture and then break it down into segments. Each segment may work on different issues in the marriage. The 38 Minute Method Marriage Plan is designed to work in monthly segments. Each 30 days focuses on a particular issue of the marriage. Within each month there is a 5-step process that works to resolve an issue. Think of the process in terms of each month. At the beginning of the month you start with step 1 and sequentially follow it up with steps 2 and 3. The vast majority of the month is spent on step 4. At the very end of the month complete step 5. The following month, repeat the same process adjusting steps 1, 2, and 3 to focus on a particular issue of concern.

Once you do this for a couple months it will become natural and easy to follow. Any marriage plan works best when both partners are involved, but will also work if only one partner is following the marriage plan. The most important thing to remember and keep prominently in mind is why you are following the plan. Always keep it fresh in your mind the results you are after. When challenges present themselves, remembering why you are doing this will strengthen you and keep you focused.

Lastly, have fun doing this. Think of this as a fun challenge, adjusting and adapting to what happens. Look for ways to implement the 5 steps and have fun doing it at the same time.

The 38 Minute Method Marriage Plan

The 5-step program is explained below. The graphic for each step looks a little like a periodic table of elements. It’s not meant to look complex or represent something that is difficult. It is meant to represent a scientific and studied approach. A lot of research and psychological factors are involved in this marriage plan. It is meant to be worked in sequential order, step 1, then step 2, then step 3, and so on. Below is an explanation of each step. It is not meant to provide the content of each step as that is far more than the purpose of this post. The content of each step will be based on your individual situation and changes with each month. Some examples of such content are below and more are included in other posts on this site. Let’s begin.

Step 1 – Beginning Assessment

Step 1 - Beginning AssessmentJust like planning a vacation trip, you can’t calculate driving time in Google maps or any other mapping program, without first knowing where you are now and where you want to go. The beginning assessment is a series of questions that clearly identifies where you are now in your marriage, what’s working, what’s not working, and what you want to change. All following decisions and actions are based on the answers to these questions. This is not a long series of questions like a test. This step can usually be done within 15 minutes, or longer if you need more time to seriously contemplate about the questions.

Questions can be like these:

  • What are you most grateful for regarding your marriage?
  • What are the top 3 things you admire most about your spouse?
  • What are the top 3 things your spouse does that irritates you?
  • What is common to these 3 irritating behaviors?
  • When your spouse does these things, how does that make you feel?
  • Why do you think your spouse does these things instead of what you want?
  • How many different ways have you conveyed how you feel to your spouse?
  • Do you think your spouse is intentionally trying to irritate you?
  • What exactly would your spouse have to do to resolve this?
  • What is impeding your spouse from resolving this?

There are many other questions that can be asked here. In any month, there shouldn’t be more than 10 questions. Any more would be beyond the scope of the monthly segment.

Step 2 – Mindset

Step 2 - MindestMindset, or attitude, is what to focus your thoughts on during this month that can help achieve the desired results. All the marriage experts I refer to here at 38 Minutes to Happiness have mindsets that lead to a happier marriage. For example, Dr. John Gottman’s Principle #6 is allowing your spouse to influence you. His research found that couples who don’t stick to their own opinions on all issues, but rather, allow their spouse to influence them, are more successful and happier. That is an example of one mindset. In fact, for this example, Dr. Gottman found that if a husband doesn’t share power with his wife, there is an 81% chance the marriage will self-destruct. Imagine now that during the next 30 days you focus on sharing power with your spouse, and not sticking to your guns on all issues. One might say this is a matter of picking your battles.

Mindsets have an awesome power in marriage. What we think has a tremendous impact on our actions, and therefore on the behaviors of our partner. Each month, have 1 or 2 mindsets to focus on.

Step 3 – Mechanics

Step 3 - MechanicsImagine you are building your home and all you have is a handsaw and a hammer. The house you build is going to be greatly limited because you don’t have the necessary tools to build your dream home. The same goes for your marriage. There are tools you use in your marriage. When you don’t have the necessary marriage tools, or mechanics, the resulting marriage will be greatly diminished. You may have heard of Dr. Gary Chapman and his 5 Love Languages. That is an example of a mechanic. During this 30 day segment you will focus on giving love to your spouse the way they like to receive it. To do that, you first need to know what their preferred love language is, right? It would also help to know yours and make sure your spouse knows what it is.

There are many tools, mechanics, one can use. Having a good variety on hand and consciously using them during the month is what step 3 is all about.

Step 4 – Motion

Step 4 - MotionNothing happens until you put steps 1, 2, and 3 into motion. You can think about your marriage all you want, but until you decide on how you are going to do these steps, and doing it, nothing changes. As Tony Robbins often says, “Massive results requires massive action.” The more results you want, the more action you have to take. Going back to the weight loss analogy, the more weight you want to lose, the more exercise, portion control, and healthy eating you have to do. (Can you tell I’m working on losing some weight!)

In a marriage, putting these steps into motion takes planning. Using the examples from above, let’s recap a plan for motion. First you identified certain things you’d like to see changed. You were specific and you tried to empathize with your spouse as to why certain things aren’t happening. Second, the mindset you are focusing on this month is allowing your spouse to influence you. Rather than sticking to your guns, you are going to calmly discuss issues and agree with your spouse on certain issues. You can elaborate that you think otherwise, but you are going along with his/her point of view and will support it. Third, you are going to find out your partner’s love language. You are going to think of various ways to give love the way your spouse wants it and make the time/effort to display it as often as possible.

You may be thinking this is all good, but how are the things from step 1 going to change? In the middle to latter part of the month you make time to discuss things with your spouse. At that time you calmly discuss the items from step 1 and let your partner know how you feel when certain behaviors occur. You do not make it a quid quo pro. You do not say you are doing these things from steps 2 and 3 so the behaviors can change. That is a major no-no. The behaviors need to change because the partner wants to change them due to a love for you.

If you are a frequent visitor to 38 Minutes to Happiness, you know I am a staunch advocate for family dinner time. That is the best time to have these kinds of conversations. Please follow the link for more details. If both of you are on board following the 38 Minute Method marriage plan, this should be easy as both of you are working towards the same goal. If only one party is following the plan, no problem. It just takes a little more skill in having the conversation and focusing on your desire to create a happy marriage for the two of you.

Step 5 – Ending Assessment

Step 5 - Ending AssessmentAt the end of the month, it is time to evaluate the results of your efforts. This is simply a recounting of what worked and what didn’t work. You need to be perfectly honest in the assessment and especially in reviewing how much effort was put into it. If you didn’t see much improvement, but also recognize you missed some golden opportunities to express your mindset and mechanics, take that into account. This is a final evaluation, but one that will lead into the next month starting over again. Maybe you’ll repeat a mindset or a mechanic. You can review what happened and plan on new motions to put it into action.

Be creative and have fun with it. While it is a serious endeavor with serious consequences, there is no reason you can’t be creative and have fun with it.

Action to Take Now

Do something today. Do not wait until the first of the month to roll around. Do a beginning assessment right now. Start to ask quality questions about yourself and your partner. If you’re not sure of mindsets or mechanics, start thinking about how to express love to your spouse. One mindset to always have working is that you are in this marriage for the long haul. You are committed to making it work. When talking with your spouse, it’s about making things better. Tony Robbins has a phrase called CANI. It stands for Constant and Never-ending Improvement. Always be working to improve your marriage.

I hope you found this article to be of service to you. It’s rather long, but necessary. Throughout this website you’ll find references to mindsets and mechanics. Use them in your marriage plan. If you have some books on marriage or have a treasure trove of marriage tips, review them now in light of mindsets and mechanics. Marriage tips will almost always be a mindset or a mechanic. Now you have a way to use them properly within a marriage plan. Categorize them and put them to proper use in your very own marriage plan.

Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

About the author

Mark Jala is a certified marriage coach, researcher, and consumer advocate. Certified in Strategic Interventions, Mark bases all of his services and advice on verifiable research. With nearly 40 years of problem solving experience, Mark has developed a holistic approach to marriage coaching which provides a context and execution plan not seen in ordinary marriage services.

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