A proactive approach to marriage means taking responsibility for each choice you make.

How to Be Proactive in My Marriage

by Elise Wile

The difference between being proactive and reactive is the ability to take responsibility for your choices in life, according to best-selling author Stephen Covey in his renowned book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Just as you'll gain weight if you substitute premium ice cream for your usual lunch-time salad, your marriage will suffer if you make decisions that fail to take the relationship's best interests into account. Changing your outlook and putting yourself in the role of change-maker, rather than victim or observer, can take your marriage off the path of mediocre and put it on the road to fabulous.

1. Speech

If you want to be proactive in your marriage, change the way you talk. According to Covey, a proactive person uses phrases such as "I will" and "I can." A reactive person, on the other hand, tends to say things like "I can't" or "if only." Instead of making verbal or mental excuses such as, "I can't keep from losing my temper when my husband makes disparaging remarks," say, "I will choose to remain calm the next time my husband is insensitive." This gives you the power to control your own behavior in the marriage, which is key to improving and maintaining your relationship.

2. Set Goals

If you want to lose 20 pounds, setting fitness goals such as "Jog three miles each day" and "Eat between 1,200 and 1,500 calories each day," will help you to succeed. The same is true for creating a healthy marriage. Focus on goals that honor each partner's individuality, recommends family lawyer and mediation expert Selena Walckner on MaritalMediation.com. For example, if you want to keep the lines of communication open in your marriage, you might set a goal of eating at least one meal together each day. To keep disagreements from escalating into arguments, set a goal of deliberately using calm voice tones when you feel your buttons getting pressed.

3. Prioritize

If you fail to prioritize, your marriage will fall into a reactive mode. For example, if you schedule multiple sports activities for your children, you and your husband will likely struggle to find quality time to spend together. If spending time watching a movie alone with your husband once a week is important to you, put it at the top of your list and structure your life accordingly. Otherwise, your marriage risks falling into a rut as you struggle to keep up with other aspects of your life which have louder demands for attention.

4. Concentrate On You

Although taking a proactive approach is certainly better than the alternative, it nevertheless has its limitations. For example, you can't set a goal that your husband will stop working late and begin volunteering to get up with the kids in the morning. Focus your efforts on aspects of your relationship that you have control over, such as your responses to difficult moments in your marriage and the way you structure your time. This is the most effective and efficient way to begin to see real changes from taking a proactive stance.

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