One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again. – Judith Viorst
As we shared in Part 1 of the “How to Save your Marriage” series, we recommend a phased approach to marriage renewal. This post explores that first phase.
Phase One – The First Forty Days
Whether you are renewing your marriage to avert an apathetic decline or you are rebuilding after a near-collapse of your relationship, the first phase is critical.
As I explain in Chapter 7 of The Phoenix Marriage:
“The first forty days of your marriage renewal are crucial in changing the atmosphere of your relationship and generating the momentum you need to carry you forward. It won’t be easy. Breaking patterns and habitual ways of thinking and interacting will prove an enormous challenge. We’ve chosen forty days, in part, to help you establish new patterns of behavior. Throughout the Bible, forty days has been shown to be a significant time period. “
During those forty days, you need a clear set of goals and practical actions that you and your spouse can take to put your marriage restoration on a solid footing.
Setting Goals to Save your Marriage
Like any endeavor, by establishing and articulating goals it crystalizes your focus and builds a sense of urgency. During your first forty days of renewal, the two of you will want to identify a set of goals to achieve. Some of these goals will be unique to the particular challenges faced in your relationship. Others address more general issues which we found to be common amongst many couples.
Common Goals for Marriage Renewal
- Break old habits and start new routines
- Learn to communicate openly and authentically
- Rebuild your friendship
Of course none of these goals will amount to anything if you don’t put them into action.
Taking Action to Save your Marriage
Identifying practical actions to rebuild your relationship is essential. There’s a long list of potential actions the two of you could choose to take, but we identify three common categories here.
(In the book, we describe the set of actions you and your spouse could take in much greater detail.)
- Action 1: Clean house – A lot of factors contributed to the problems in your relationship. One step you want to take is to clear out any negative influences that are holding you back (alcohol or drugs, prioritizing other relationships, bad communication patterns, toxic relationships, etc.).
- Action 2: Fresh start – Establish new patterns and routines to change the dynamic of your marriage. The tone and the tempo of your interaction must change. Open communication is a necessity. Prioritizing time together is essential. Grace and love must be the guiding principles of your union. Finally, daily and persistent prayer makes the whole thing work.
- Action 3: Have fun – Your renewal won’t last if its all about work and sacrifice. You’ve also got to have fun together. Especially during these first forty days you need lots of time together. Time to talk, laugh, play, and recapture the friendship you had when your relationship first began.
Make it real. Make it practical. And give yourselves some grace and understanding as you work together to walk out your renewal day by day.
If you want to save your marriage, you have to fully commit to the process. The first forty days are intense and require a tremendous degree of dedication. Through your combined efforts and a dependence on God, you will establish invaluable routines and a firm foundation for your new relationship. The next phase – “Healing and Rebuilding” will involve a greater focus on rebuilding trust and healing the wounds from the past. For now, enjoy the excitement and simplicity of this initial phase of renewal. The journey to restore your marriage has just begun!
The Phoenix Marriage – Your most important earthly relationship can be restored, renewed, and reborn. God creates beauty out of ashes.
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