There are a lot of men who want to fix their marriages. While it sounds counterintuitive, the best way to fix your marriage is to fix yourself. Because, when you improve who you are as a man and how you’re showing up as a husband, you’re naturally going to produce a better marriage. Sure, a strong marriage is the result of the things that both you and your wife are doing but there’s nothing you can do about her. That’s why it’s best to focus on the one thing you can control – yourself.
This message today is catered to any man who might be going through a rocky situation in their marriage, a separation, or even a divorce. If you’re not in that situation or you’re single, I’d encourage you to read this as well as the discussion we have is going to help you in your marriage when that time comes.
Look, marriage is tough. Anybody who’s been married for any amount of time understands how challenging marriage can be. When two people together who have different cultures, ideas, backgrounds, and beliefs, it’s challenging, to say the least.
The more that you go to work on yourself, the stronger that your marriage is going to be. There’s a trap (and, it’s the very same trap that I fell into when I got married) that the very first thing to go when getting married is removing all the things that helped me become a better man. And, I did that because I wanted to spend time with my wife. I wanted to be around her. I wanted to be connected to her. I let go of all of my friends, my hobbies, and the things that lifted me up and, instead, focused all of my time, energy, attention, and resources on her. That isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself but it came at the expense of my own wellbeing. Any man who’s listening to this, who’s gone through challenges in his marriage, understands exactly what I’m talking about.
So, if you’re single or you’re just getting married, please heed my word of caution. Do not let yourself go. Continue to take care of yourself. Continue to find ways to edify, uplift, energize, and recharge yourself, because, when you do, you can come back into a marriage more successful and engaged.
Today I want to talk to you about my own separation from my wife which was nearly 10 years ago. I want to share that insight with you because I think there are some important things that need to be discussed and some similar situations that you might be experiencing in your own life or will at some point. From there, I’ll share seven different strategies here that are going to help you go to work on yourself so that you can come back to the relationship more engaged, energized, and recharged.
Roughly 10 years ago, my wife and I got into an argument one evening. We had been married for four years at the time. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what that argument was about. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure that it was insignificant, that whatever it was we were arguing about was petty and just not worth arguing about. But all of the years of frustration, bitterness, animosity, and contention had led up to this argument. I remember saying to her, “I don’t even want to be married anymore.” And, when I said that, she said the same thing back.
Now, the next morning, I left. I went to northern Utah for some training in my business. I got about an hour on the road and I thought to myself, “Man, what are you doing? Your marriage is falling apart. Your wife’s going to leave you with your six-month-old son. And, the business isn’t particularly doing all that well, either. So, why are you going up for this training when everything else is falling apart around you?”
So, I turned around and came back home. She was still there. I told her that I didn’t want her to leave and that I wanted her to stick around and see what we could do to work it out. I loved this woman. But by then it was too little, too late. She decided that she wasn’t interested in that and left. She went and moved in with her parents.
For the longest time, there was anger, frustration, and resentment. How could she do this to me? Why was she being disloyal? Why didn’t she love? Why didn’t she appreciate me and all the things I was doing for the family? How could she take my son away? I blamed everything on her.
Now, when I talk about this, a lot of guys will say. “Well yeah, she had something to do with it.” That’s absolutely right. And, she would be the first to tell you that she had something to do with the demise of our relationship as well. But that really doesn’t matter because I realized I needed to work on myself.
Around this time, I came to the conclusion that my marriage might be over. Up until that point, I thought that we could work it out. Everybody said. “Give up Ryan. It’s over. Move on. It’s over.” But in my heart and soul, I knew I didn’t want to do that without giving it every effort to work.
This was the very first time that I actually thought. “Maybe these people are right. Maybe this marriage is over.” As difficult as that was for me to wrestle with and as challenging as that was for me to think about, it was the single greatest moment, in my life for positive change. That moment has literally, over the past decade, transformed the landscape of our marriage, transformed the landscape of my fitness and my business, and transformed every single area of my life. The revelation that I had at that moment was that, although the marriage might be over, I’m going to accept responsibility for the one thing that I have control over. And it wasn’t the marriage and, it wasn’t her. It was me.
Up until that point, I thought, “If only I can get her to change. If only I can get her to do X, Y, and Z. If only she would see the errors of her ways. Then our marriage would work out. Then everything would be fine.”
The problem was, I was trying to manipulate, coerce, strong-arm, and do everything that I possibly could to “win her back.” At this specific moment in my life, as I was sitting in my truck thinking that the marriage was over, I decided, for the first time, potentially, in my life that I would just go to work on myself – that if the marriage was over, I was going to be the greatest catch for the next woman to come into my life. And that’s exactly what I did. I went to work on myself.
I’m going to share some specific strategies here with you in a minute. But as I went to work on myself, she responded to that. It was as if I flipped a light switch on the wall with her. She saw that I was serious. She saw that I was doing different things. She saw that I was doing the work to become a better man, a better father, and a better husband. We call this ‘influence’. We cannot control and manipulate what other people do and think but we can influence them. We influence others by becoming more influential.
Now, about this time here’s where everybody says. “Oh Ryan, you’re a beta. Or you just succumbed to her wishes.” Guys, that’s not what this is about. As I went to work on myself, I built confidence in myself. I began to take care of myself. I began to respect and appreciate and even love who I was becoming. That’s what she resonated with. As I continued to go on this journey of self-discovery and self-improvement, we started to date again. There was a new energy, enthusiasm, and excitement in our relationship that had not been there for years. For the first time in four years, I was more capable of bringing something to the relationship.
What a lot of men will do is drain all of their wife’s energy from them. They’ll ask their wife to provide both the feminine and masculine energy. They’ll ask them to be the supporter: emotionally, mentally, and physically. When a wife uses up all of her energy and your energy is now depleted, there’s nothing new coming into the relationship. The way you know that this is the problem, is your wife says. “There’s no spark. There’s no fire. There’s no love. I’m not in love with you anymore.” That makes sense. You drained her energy from her because you weren’t creating and providing your own energy. That’s the trap that I fell into. That’s the trap I was talking about earlier. The trap where you’re no longer energizing, uplifting, and edifying yourself. So, you ask her to do it. Any human being can only do that so long before they are completely burnt out.
So, as I said before, we started to date again. I was in Salt Lake City for some training in my business and I got a call from my wife. She said, “Ryan, I want to come back home.” That was roughly 10 years ago. Now our marriage isn’t perfect. We have our ups and downs, we have our challenges, and we argue from time to time. She’s stubborn, I’m stubborn. We’re both set in our ways. We both have certain ways of doing things. There are challenges. But we’re better equipped because she knows how to take care of herself and I know how to take care of myself. I’m strong without her. She is strong without me. And because we’re both strong independently, we’re stronger together.
If she had to rely on me or I had to rely on her for everything within the marriage that would pose a huge problem, as it did. In the next couple of days, as of the release of this article, we will celebrate our 14 year wedding anniversary. We’ve got four kids and life is good. Of course, it has its ups and downs and challenges but it’s never been better because, I’ve learned what I’m going to share with you here shortly. I learned to take care of myself. I learned to build trust, credibility, and confidence in who I am. She sees that. She recognizes that and we’re strong because of that.
Now, I do have to say this, and this is the uncomfortable truth: You could do everything I talk about today. You could completely go to work on yourself. You could change who you are completely and become a new man entirely, and the marriage still may not work out.
I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope that your relationship continues. I hope that it stays intact for decades and decades. But the reality is, it doesn’t always work out. But I will say this: it’s never a bad idea to work on yourself. The more that you work on yourself, the more that the situation and circumstances around you have a way of taking care of themselves, whether it’s with your wife or potentially, a new partner down the road. Take care of yourself. Focus on yourself. Implement the seven strategies that I’m going to talk with you about today and things do have a way of working themselves out.
TIME AND ATTENTION
If you’re going through a divorce or a separation, the first thing you have to understand is that you’ve got to give yourself time and attention. Give yourself the time and the space to heal, mend, and go to work on yourself. Focus your attention elsewhere, not on her.
A lot of men look at a separation as a negative time. And it certainly is. Let’s not beat around the bush. It’s dark. If you’ve been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But you have an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for you to go to work on yourself. Take this time to work on yourself, to improve yourself, to enhance yourself. Look at it as an opportunity to redefine who you are and how you’re showing up.
EXPOSE YOURSELF TO NEW INFORMATION
You are a product of the thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and actions you take. The reason that your marriage isn’t working out the way that you want it to is because there are certain inputs that you have in your brain that are causing you to produce certain outputs. In this case, an unhealthy relationship. The only way to improve your situation is to change the information that you’re putting into the six inches between your ears.
When I went through my separation, I began to read books and listen to CDs on self-help, how to communicate, how to grow a business, etc. I was reading all kinds of books.
Put new information into your brain. That is the only way to create new results. New information in, new results out. If you continue to do it the same way over and over again, you are going to produce the same results you always have. Or you think that maybe I’ll just do more of the same thing or the same thing even harder than I did before, you’re going to produce the negative results that much quicker. It’s not going to improve the results, it’s going to exponentially increase the damaging effects of whatever has been produced in your life up to this point.
BUILD A BAND OF BROTHERS
Having a band of brothers is critical for married men. I see a lot of guys who, when they get married and into a relationship, leave their buddies. They spend time exclusively with their girlfriend, fiancee or wife. You have got to build a band of brothers. You’ve got to do it now. You’ve got to find men to spend time with on a consistent and regular basis. If you’re not doing that, you are not energizing yourself. A strong band of brothers is going to give you much-needed accountability, comradery, brotherhood, laughs, activities, enjoyment, and energy you need to then go into another relationship and be successful.
As I went through my separation with my wife, I had realized that I had forsaken all of my friends. I was alone. Nobody was around, not because they weren’t willing to do it but because I had forsaken them long ago. I found myself alone every night without anything to do. So, what did I do? I thought about her and I thought about my son. It became a destructive loop I fell prey to.
You have to build a band of brothers. If you’re not going through a separation or divorce or there are no rocky challenges in your marriage right now, you still need to build a band of brothers because there might be some challenges at some point. But even outside of that, it’s always good to have good friends who you can rely on for support. They will support you. You will uplift them. They will uplift you. Give yourself some regular space every single week to spend time with the band of brothers.
GET YOUR FITNESS IN CHECK
When I went through my separation with my wife, I was 50 pounds heavier then I weigh today. You have to get yourself in shape. Yes, there are obvious physical benefits that come from being in shape but, also, everything that’s required to get into shape – discipline, dedication, commitment, consistency, sacrifice – are the same set of skills that are required for success in any other facet of life. There are mental benefits of being in shape too: clarity, focus, drive, and determination. All of those things will help you be a better man.
I have a lot of people who ask about how to build confidence. The way that you build confidence is by doing the things that are going to build confidence. Part of that is getting into the gym. And, the more confidence you have, the more people (including your wife) will naturally be attracted to you.
FIND A HOBBY
You have to find something that you enjoy participating in. I, for example, do woodworking. I’ve got a shop out in the backyard so I’ll go out there for an hour or two and just do some woodworking. Another hobby I enjoy is bow hunting. I just picked up bow hunting last year and I’ve been on a couple of successful hunts. Archery has been a hobby that I really enjoy and it gives me focus and clarity needed to reenergize myself. Also, I just started running. That’s been advantageous and helpful for me. I also do a little bit of hatchet throwing. I go outside with just my hatchet and the board and work on form.
Have these types of hobbies has really been a good outlet for me as things get challenging in my marriage and the stress of work. I also have friends who do all of these things as well. So, I can go spend time with my band of brothers while I’m engaging in my hobbies. If you don’t have a hobby and engaging hobby yet, try everything. Explore broadly. If you have considered playing the guitar, play the guitar. If you want to start painting, learn to paint. If you want to create a podcast, do that. If you want to throw hatchets or start bow hunting, do it. The barrier to entry for any of these hobbies is so low that you can take part in any hobby in a matter of just a few hours if you decide that you want to do it.
GET YOUR FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER
I’m a financial advisor by trade. I’ve been in the business for just over 10 years. And, I can tell you that money is a leading cause of anxiety, stress, arguments, and divorce inside of a marriage. A lot of it comes down to communication. But, look, if you can get your financial house in order, you are going to be that much better off because you’re not stressed about.
I’ve been there. I’ve been in situations where I did not know how I was going to make the mortgage payment. Those situations did absolutely nothing to help my relationship. All they did was compound the problem because I was stressed. And, I was taking that stress out on her. We didn’t know how we were going to make the mortgage. We had a small son at the time. It was a real challenge. So, get your debt paid off. Learn a new skill in order to secure a promotion at work. Get a new job. You’ve got time to start a business on the side. Make a little extra money. Get that debt paid down. Invest. Learn. Read a book about investing, budgeting, and how to pay off debt. This is going to serve you well and reduce the level of stress you have on your life and your marriage as well.
If you’ve been married for 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, you’re probably at a point where you just haven’t challenged yourself. You’ve made the excuse that you don’t have the time or the energy, or you’ve got this obligation and that obligation. I’m telling, the more you can challenge yourself and the more you can push yourself outside of your comfort zone, the more confidence that you’re going to be in yourself. You’re going to have more success because you’re developing the skillset, virtues, and confidence in order to succeed in other areas of life. If you’re not challenging yourself physically, mentally, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, then you are doing yourself a huge disservice.
If you want to fix yourself and in turn, fix your marriage. You’ve gotta find a way to continue to push. It’s so easy to fall into default mode, to be complacent and mediocre in life. That mediocrity will produce the exact same results that you’re enjoying, or not enjoying, right now. Push yourself. Challenge yourself. Do something that scares you. Get outside of your comfort zone and see if that doesn’t help you build confidence in yourself.
I know this is not an exhaustive list. I know I could go on and on about all of the things you should do. But if you take these 7 suggestions to heart, you will fix yourself.
And, again, I’m not here to tell you that if you fix yourself that your marriage will magically be fixed. The unfortunate reality is that maybe it’s too late. Or, maybe your marriage is beyond repair. But I will tell you that the likelihood of you salvaging your damaged marriage is significantly higher if you stop focusing on her so much by trying to manipulate her, coerce her, get her to change, and win her over. Instead, turn all of that attention, time, and energy around and focus it on yourself. Engage yourself. Engage your body. Engage your mind. The more you do this, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to salvage your marriage.
And if you don’t, like I said, 10 years ago, “You will be the absolute best catch for the next woman to come into your life.” And, there will be a next woman, if you learn to take care of yourself.