Before I dive in here, I feel I owe you a major update. I mean this is HUGE, COLOSSAL NEWS:

My three-year-old is officially wearing Lego Star Wars underwear. If you don’t understand the significance of that statement, it means that we are Full. On. Potty. Trained. No more diapers for him…still lots of poop stories to share with you…but nonetheless, a gigantic triumph has occurred. Hallelujah! 

This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love;
the more they give, the more they possess.—
 Rainer Marie Rilke.

Check out Over the (Honey) Moon, parts one and two to read about my bad attitude in marriage.

How do you love a person that is completely other? How do you love a person when everything in you wants to run the other direction? How do you love a person when you feel like your marriage is being burned in a fire? A friend once told me, “It’s not that marriage is hard. I can handle hard. It’s that marriage is painful.”

Marriage can offend us to the core because we are called to be something completely outside of ourselves, completely selfless, in order to make it work. 

Years ago, I needed to do something to make my marriage work more effectively and more joyfully. The late great Nora Ephron said to, “Be the heroine in your own life; not the victim.” I no longer wanted to see my marriage as something that was happening to me.   

I want to stop here and acknowledge that I am not talking about enabling abusive behavior. If you are being bullied or shamed, or if you are the bully, get help. Now. I believe God can and wants to heal you, precious one. 

I am talking about the times in marriage when you want to escape, when you fantasize about someone else. I am talking about the times when I am the one making my marriage a nothingness.  

So, what if I performed an experiment? An old-fashioned attitude adjustment. I desperately wanted to to revamp my marriage. But, I also knew that I got super frustrated every time we attempted to do something like this together and it failed. We bought The Love Dare book. We read the first chapter together. I did the “dare.” (We were supposed to do something extraordinarily thoughtful for the other person. A big gesture.)

Kevin forgot the dare. I was pissed. We never opened another chapter.

So, could I do this experiment even if he wasn’t willing? In fact, could I do it in secret?

I know it takes 21-30 days to break a habit[1]but that’s only if you replace it with a positive habit. I’ve told you the story about my pastor’s son who was dealing with stinky feet. He and his wife kept reminding him to put on new socks every day. Soon he began to complain that his shoes were too tight. Apparently, he was putting new socks on over the old socks.

I didn’t want to put old dirty socks on over my negative attitude in our marriage; I wanted to begin something new. I’m not naïve enough to think that I could fix all of my marriage issues in 30 days, make a copy of the results, package, label and sell a method to other unhappy wives…but could I make some difference at all?

I refused to spend the rest of my life in marital purgatory.

To use a cliché, I wanted to take my marriage by the horns and ride it like a mechanical bull. (Okay, just kidding, that’s a terrible analogy. If you’re wondering, I’m from Oklahoma. So yes, I have actually done that.)

30 Days of Trial (And Error)

These “trials” are essentially my personal guidelines for marriage–some general rules I try (and often fail) to  live by. Some of you are going to be like, “Duh, Aubrey, obviously this is how you should focus on marriage.” But, I’m a little slow on the uptake. 

These are also what I began to focus on intentionally (and secretly) for thirty days. I wish that I would have documented those first thirty days for you, years ago. It would serve as some hilarious fodder. But as I’ve said, when my marriage feels out of whack, I put my Attitude Experiment into full effect again. It’s my marriage reboot. I will, eventually, let you in on how my most recent 30 days went.

For now, let me tell you what I set out to do:

Trial 1: Say Yes, even when I’m not in the mood. This might include saying, “Not right now, but tomorrow morning I would love to meet you in the bedroom.” Or, “After you put the kids to bed and let me take a bath, then I’d consider it.” But, it does mean, never flat-out rejecting my husband. I used to think that sex was simply a physical release; at times that made me feel used. I have come to understand that sex is not just a physical release (although, that’s a great benefit) but, it is a way to minister to my husband. He feels more emotionally secure, confident, and manly when he knows that I want him.

Women have a whole lot of valid reasons for saying no—we’re tired of dealing with kids who need something from us and we don’t want to give something else away. We feel ugly, fat, and exhausted. Our bodies are not what it used to be. Our husbands’ may not be speaking to us in our love language, so why should we help them out? 

Plus, the breastfeeding years? I just didn’t want ANYONE ELSE around my girly places. But, could I inspire my husband to love me better by serving him in this small way? 

I know sex is a heavily emotional topic. If you need to experience some healing, or a find a new vision for sex in marriage, or even some inspiration, I highly recommend reading The Sexually Confident Wife, by Shannon Ethridge. (TMI: there is a page in there that changed my sex life. Woo Hoo!)

Trial 2: Take Care of My Needs, and not expect Kevin to fulfill them. On Parks and Recreation (the best show of all time), a couple of the main characters have a day. It’s called, “Treat Yo’self! Day”

Most of the time, Kev and I are broke, so hiring a sitter or a house-cleaner is not an option. But instead of giving excuses not to treat myself or blaming Kevin for not taking care of my needs, I started giving myself permission to exercise, to spend time with God, to wake up early and write, to go out with friends, to buy myself little gifts, to feed my soul.

Trial 3: No Bullying. The media has a lot to say about kids bullying each other online, in school, on the bus. But, what if I were to admit that I am sometimes a bully to my husband and children? I needed to be more intentional about how I encouraged my family. This included intentionally complimenting my husband privately and in public, and guarding my emotional responses. I know there are times when my family has felt like they have to walk on eggshells around me. I don’t want to be that person.   

Trial 4: Pray Regularly For Spouse. This means meeting with friends, or meeting with Kevin, or meeting with God alone to take regular time to pray for his heart, his job, his integrity, his love for us, his relationship with God, and our marriage.

Trial 5: No Romance, Outside of Marriage. I’m a sucker for romantic comedies. I saw Safe Haven last weekend, not a comedy—but that’s my kind of thing—emotional manipulation? Bring it on. But, I have to remember that my husband is neither Ryan Gosling nor Josh Duhamel. And in fact, Ryan Gosling isn’t even the Ryan Gosling of The Notebook. So, if  there are movies or shows or books or articles or songs or anything that make me feel like crap about my marriage, that cause me to compare my real life husband to a really fake character, then I can’t have it in my life anymore. Similarly, if I am holding onto memories or feelings about old relationships, or anyone other than my man, I have to let those go without looking back.

A few years ago, I threw out a huge garbage bag full of old journals and photos, some that were linking me to the past. I know that sounds dramatic, but I needed to release some strongholds physically because I believe that actions speak louder than words–and sometimes we need those actions to free ourselves.

Trial 6: Practice Thankfulness. We’ve talked about this on the blog before. There are great gifts that I miss out on daily unless I am intentionally writing them down and thanking God for them. Thankfulness is a discipline. 

Trial 7: Help Him to Love Me. It’s taken me a while to realize that my husband is not a mind reader and he does not speak my love language naturally. So, a few years ago, I literally gave him a list–a file on his computer. It’s entitled, “Gifts You Can Get Me When I Need To Feel Loved.” I organized it in price-ranges, from free to expensive. I usually tell him during these thirty days (or other times in marriage) to go to the list. I NEED the list because I need to feel loved by you

Trial 8: Ask For Forgiveness– I’ll tell you more about this later, but I had to ask for forgiveness for my attitude, and I want to be a person who seeks and gives forgiveness regularly.  

Trial 9: Get Help– During “Marriage Reboots,” we’ve sought marriage counseling, I’ve gone to a counselor-friend, We’ve read books together, sought advice separately, etc. During one of our rough periods in marriage, Kevin went to counselor alone to work on some of his own issues with anger and shame. It brought so much healing to our relationship. 

Trial 10: Ask God to Change My Heart. Kevin tells a story of a time in college when he and his buddies were desperate to stop some bad habits. They were a group of college guys, so you can only guess what those habits were. They developed something called a “sin jar.” They’d have to put money into the jar every time they failed. Soon, the jar was filled with IOU’s, and then abandoned altogether. But, when they began to join together and pray, spend time worshiping God, and studying His word, He changed their hearts. The point is, we can’t will our attitudes or our marriages to change, but God can. He wants to do something beautiful and new in our lives.   

I want to end this post by saying one thing. If you are feeling unloved, unlovely, desperate, burdened, in pain, brokenhearted, misunderstood, or simply tired in your marriage, I am praying this over you today:

Psalm 45: 10-14 says:
“Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor him for he is your lord. All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown in woven gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king’ her virgin companions follower her—those brought to be with her. 
Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king”

God is enthralled, mesmerized, entranced, taken, by YOU.  You were created to honor him, live in joy and gladness in his presence, and to experience his deep love for you. 

You are a bride of the King. Don’t you forget it. 

(Otherwise, I’ll be forced to ride my mechanical bull all the way to your house to help you remember.) 

Next Up: A guest post by Dorothy Greco and 
I’ll share way too much information with you on my experiment. 

[1] I have no scientific proof of that, but that’s what I’ve heard anyway.

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