How To Be Intentional In Your Marriage

I posted in my Facebook group, Joyfully Married (click here to join!) yesterday a question about intentionally feeling love and connection. I asked the amazing ladies in that group what they were planning on doing that day to intentionally create the feeling of love and connection. And there was a little confusion.

I realized that talking about ‘being intentional in marriage” is kind of ambiguous and that some people may not know what I am talking about, or may not know how to even get to that point.

So today I want to clarify and take it a little deeper here on the blog. 

When I talk about being intentional, I mean consciously making a choice. Being intentional is taking the time to think about what that choice will mean, what possible outcomes may come from it, and is all of that in line with our ultimate goals and values. This is in contrast to being reactive which is acting unconsciously in response to some outward stimuli or circumstance. 

Being reactive is normal and instinctive. Our brains are designed to delegate as many decisions as possible to the lower brain so that it can be conserve energy and be as efficient as possible. So when faced with a new circumstance, we subconsciously scan our past experiences and emotions and react based on those experiences. Super efficient. 

But not super helpful if we want to create a new and different outcome. 

Being intentional is not a natural occurrence for us. We have to think about it. Most of us are never taught how to be intentional with our emotions or relationships. We aren’t taught about it in school and usually not in our homes either.

So it is totally natural when you come into a marriage where you are constantly being faced with circumstances that feel out of your control to rely on that unconscious reaction and bypass intentionality all together. 

For example, several of my clients get frustrated with themselves because they can’t seem to stop yelling at their husband and kids. They know that they don’t want to because it feels terrible and they feel like a horrible wife and mother when they do it. But then the end of the day comes and they can’t seem to stop themselves when the kids are being wild at bed time and her husband is just zoning out on his phone. So they yell, just like they have always done. And they feel stuck. 

That is the unintentional reaction at work. 

So when we are talking about being intentional, we are talking about developing the skill, strengthening the muscle that enables us to stop in the moment, and choosing a new direction. 

It is a skill that can be learned and just like building a muscles, takes time and practice. 

So here are some things that you can do today to start strengthening that muscle. 

  1. Notice your reactions after the fact. I tell my clients all the time that awareness is the very first step to change. At first, you are going to start noticing after the fact. You will be in the shower thinking about an argument that you had last night and you will notice the exact moment when you stopped being intentional and started reacting. You will know because you will recognize that you started feeling fear or anger or resentment and that was why you started yelling. You will start to see that you could have responded with intention which would have led to a different outcome. Noticing it after the fact is a huge accomplishment! It is always the first step. 
  2. Practice being the Watcher. Sounds kind of creepy…be the Watcher…but let me explain. When you take the Watcher perspective you step out of your mind drama and look at the situation from an outsider’s point of view. How would someone who doesn’t know you or your spouse see this situation? Being the Watcher allows you to see the situation objectively and with your higher brain that can act with intention. One of the best ways to practice this everyday in a low risk environment is through meditation. There are some really great apps available that help introduce you to the practice of meditation and help you develop this Watcher muscle. I love the Calm app with its 30 day intro to meditation series. Even just 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference in your ability to access this Watcher perspective.
  3. Talk to your spouse about your new goal. Get him on your team. You can have a conversation where you tell him that you are wanting to gain more control over your reactions and that you know you are going to mess up at times, and that it is all ok and part of the process. Make sure that this comes from a way of wanting to connect with him and share with him, not coerce him into taking the same steps or as a way to manipulate him in any way. You are just sharing what is going on in your life and the goals that you have. 
  4. Be gentle with yourself in the process. Remember it is like building a muscle. It takes time and practice to become intentional in your marriage, but you can start right now. Every little bit of effort counts and moves you closer to your goal. When you start noticing your reactions after the fact, the temptation is to beat yourself up over it. This is another reaction that isn’t helpful. Notice it with your higher brain and use it as information that will help move you toward your goal of a more intentional marriage. 

Doing the work to create and intentional marriage is accessing your power. It is stepping into emotional adulthood and taking full control of all the things that you have control of in the marriage. And from that place, you can accomplish so much good. 

If this feels impossible for you right now, I would love to help. This is the kind of work that has helped make my marriage stronger, more connected, more loving, and more fulfilling. When you are acting with intention, you can communicate more clearly. You can talk about issues that are close to your heart and vulnerable in a productive way rather than getting defensive or hurt. You can actually use those issues that you are fighting about right now to take your relationship to a new level of emotional intimacy. 

I can help you make the change because I have done it in my marriage and I know the way. Just click the button below to set up a free consult call and I will help you find your way too.