5 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2011

Blended family

For me, 2010 was a year of personal discovery.
Mr. Right and my two step kids came along for the ride.
We accomplished some awesome personal goals. We found and donated a meteorite. We dealt with heartache on a level you may never understand if you are not divorced or raising kids from a previous marriage.
At times, we felt anger, fear and resentment toward each other.
But not more than we felt happiness, love and contentment.
The scales tipped in our favor.
With the end of year near, I wanted to share some things that improved my marriage in 2010. When I sat down to write this post, I realized the improvements didn’t directly involve Mr. Right. While things like date nights, having sex and communication no doubt improve a marriage, the things that really made a difference were much more unique.
All of the ideas on this list helped us grow – both as a couple – and as individuals.
Today, we are deeper in love.
And here’s a bold statement, but a true one:
We are happier today than we were on our wedding day.
Why? Because we’ve each made an effort to take the bad in life and improve it. Which has affected everything –  our marriage, our kids, ourselves.
Here are five surprising ways to improve your marriage and inspire those around you:

Get out of debt.

This year, we finally did it. With the final car payment made, we demolished our $42,000 debt snowball. Besides our mortgage, we are completely debt free; for the first time since we met, we have money in savings. That’s an amazing feeling.
Don’t be deceived – the process to get out of debt wasn’t easy. At times, we argued. The kids asked, “Are we poor now?” There were months we totally blew our budget.
The good news is – it’s possible. Even if you’re a twit about money, like me. Learn more by reading:
The Married Money Management series by Dustin @Engaged Marriage.
Get Out of Debt with the Debt Snowball Plan by Dave Ramsey.

Quit your day job.

Before you jump to conclusions about this tip, hear me out.
This June, I quit my day job. Up until then, our family lived within a whir of constant chaos. We were stressed out, burned out, used up.  We were doing a lot of things, but nothing very well.
By getting out of debt, we were able to downsize our lifestyle to live on one income. This let me opt out of the rat race to be at home. Now, I work on freelance projects while the kids are at school.
When they come home, I switch into mortar mode – taking care of the homework, teacher’s notes, dinner and cleaning up before Mr. Right even walks through the door.
It’s improved our life in a major way. We’re all a lot less stressed.
Here’s the post that made me believe I could quit.

Try minimalism.

Getting out of debt and living a downsized lifestyle are related to minimalism. If you’ve never learned about it but want to try, my advice is to start small.
For instance, I’m just wrapping up a minimalist clothing experiment myself. The idea was to wear only 33 items for 3 months. My take on it?
I like it.
A lot.
I’ll never go back to my bloated closet again. Sometime in January, I’m giving away most of the clothes I now realize I don’t need or use.
If you want to learn more about how to minimize areas of your life, read:
The Dress with Less Challenge by Courtney Carver
A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home by Leo Babauta
101 Physical Things That Can Be Reduced In Your Home by Joshua Becker

Each week, go on a digital sabbatical.

Instead of spending the weekend trolling Facebook, zoned out to another reality TV show or Tweeting – turn it all off and actually live your life. Be present with your kids. Talk to your spouse. Hear your own thoughts. Disconnect from distraction at least once a week and notice how peace descends.

Shrug off the burden of doing it all.

This world is filled with pressure.
Pressure to be skinny, pressure to get kids involved, pressure to be happy.
I felt it all the time before some of the changes above. I pushed myself to be productive. My house was spotless. My schedule, tightly packed.
I was also stressed to the max, irritable and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Now, I’m still productive. I still take on a lot. Instead, I get to choose what to carry. I’ve shrugged off the world’s burden of doing it all.
My message to you is simple, just like the title of this blog.
If you want a better marriage, do things that improve your life and future. If you’re unhappy, get off the couch and do something about it. I’m not saying that to be mean or arrogant, though it might sound that way. I’m telling you this because years ago, a certain girl I know really needed to hear it. Maybe you need to hear it now.
New year, new you?
You decide.