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Once again, it is my privilege to introduce you to a new resource to help strengthen and encourage your marriage. With so many excellent resources available today it makes little or no sense to put up with or end a struggling marriage. In my view, except in cases of abuse or unrepentant cheating, most couples are far better off fixing their relationship than ending it.

Jim Burns is the President of HomeWord and the Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University in California. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 30 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage and Closer. Jim and his wife, Cathy live Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca and Heidi.

I’m so pleased that Jim can now add being a guest on TWOgether as ONE to his distinguished resume. He will be offering several tips to improve a marriage – your own or someone you know. TWOgether as ONE can be heard every Monday evening at 6:00 on KLJH 107.1FM.

Improving your marriage starts with you

Building a healthy and strong marriage takes work. It’s easy to blame your spouse for problems in your marriage. But, if we really want to develop and maintain intimacy in our marriages, we have to lay aside the “blame” game and focus instead on what you can do to build your marriage relationship.

Understand that you set the mood, tone, and atmosphere in your marriage. You can change the atmosphere of your marriage almost immediately with A.W.E. (Affection, Warmth, and Encouragement). This is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned for my own marriage.

Certainly conflict, anger, and frustration happen in the best of marriages. But a marriage filled with A.W.E. is a decision not to live a life based on circumstances or reactions to your spouse. It is a decision to proactively live a life filled with self-control in which you choose to set an atmosphere that leads your relationship to a healthier place.

To create a more positive atmosphere in your marriage you will need to quit blaming your spouse, kids, parents, mother-in-law, boss, or the dog! They are not responsible for your unhappiness. Sure they may be contributing to your hurt, but unless there is abuse in your life, you are responsible for how you respond.

A – Affection. The basic need of all people is to love and be loved. Your marriage needs affection in order to thrive. You can create an atmosphere of intimacy and closeness through affection. If you are not naturally affectionate, don’t fake being overly mushy, but work on it. Couples who hold hands, kiss passionately, and bring gifts like flowers and chocolate to one another are couples who have a much better chance for a healthy relationship. Back rubs work; saying “I love you” in a hundred different ways works; showing tenderness and honoring your spouse works wonders for your relationship. Choose intentionally to focus on bringing affection to your relationship and you will almost certainly see immediate results when you do.

W – Warmth. Keeping a relationship full of warmth takes a lot of work, self-control, and focus. Think back to your dating days. Naturally, there was much more warmth to the relationship back then. Why? We worked at it and we didn’t feel the need to fight out every battle. Sometimes marriages slip into bad habits, and a lack of warmth is just a bad habit. Too many relationships are trying to function with a constant low-grade anger and negative atmosphere, and this is just like trying to live life to the fullest with an infection and fever.

Don’t get me wrong. Every marriage takes work and focus. With today’s fast-paced life you can find reasons to be angry with our spouse and kids twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but how is that going to help the situation? Think warmth.

We all have emotional bank accounts. To have a healthier marriage, we need to make more deposits to our spouse’s emotional bank account than withdrawals. We make withdrawals from our spouses account by a host of negative behaviors like nagging, negativity, shaming, rudeness, refusing to apologize, and heaping guilt on them. By contrast, making deposits into our spouse’s emotional bank account is all about those times when we offer them warmth: saying we’re sorry and meaning it, making and keeping our promises, showing kindness and thoughtfulness, putting their needs ahead of our needs, tenderness, hugs, tone of voice, and having fun together.

E – Encouragement. For many, there is a natural tendency to focus on the negative side of life, but that just doesn’t work in a marriage. There is incredible power in encouragement and affirmation.

Showing encouragement involves being available to your spouse. Your presence in your spouse’s life makes all the difference. It sometimes speaks louder than words. Your availability, both physically and emotionally, says to your spouse that he or she is in a safe relationship.

Find ways to affirm and encourage your spouse. Some people receive encouragement through words, some through presence, some through gifts, some through kind actions. The key to encouraging your spouse in the best way possible is to literally make a study of them to figure out what works for them.

Building a healthy marriage isn’t easy. If you believe the secret lies within the “if only my spouse would change” department, then you’ve got it wrong. All marriages include a measure of pain, problems, and frustrations. Conflict is inevitable in relationships. But, it is important to remember that there is one person who can make a difference in your marriage atmosphere; one person who can get you started down the road to a better marriage, and that person is… you.

Ron Price is the owner and operator of Productive Outcomes Inc. and the author of "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work," an e-book available on Amazon. He can be reached at 505-324-6328.

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