I'll admit, the first 3.5 years of my marriage were pretty bad. We had a lot of trials the first couple years, and it set a pattern for our marriage.
I was a complete control freak, and I told Jeff on a regular basis what he was doing wrong and how he needed to fix it. We yelled and fought all the time. I even thought I'd made a mistake marrying him. But my pride kept us together. I didn't want to be one of those couples that got divorced. I would stay married to him no matter how miserable I was. Plus, I was in seminary, so it wouldn't look very good if I divorced my husband.
Then my husband lost his job and was unemployed for about 6 months. That was a blessing in disguise. At first, things got worse. I tried to control him even more by telling him how he needed to be out looking for jobs, and what I would be doing in his situation. We fought even more (if that was even possible).
I finally got to a place where I gave up. I prayed about it, and decided that God was in control, not me. My constant breathing down Jeff's neck wasn't going to change anything. So I stopped. I talked to Jeff and told him, that it was his responsibility. If he wanted my help, I would give it, but I was done trying to tell him what to do.
Something amazing happened when I did that. Both of us changed.
I quit looking at his faults. I started focusing on the things that he did well, and that I liked about him. When he did something I didn't like, I didn't say anything. I quit complaining to my friends. And when I stopped speaking what I didn't like about him, I stopped thinking about it. I stopped dwelling on it.
I paid more attention to what he was doing well. I started praising him in those things. I started thanking him when he did something that made me happy. My attitude changed.
Through that, Jeff started feeling like he could do things right, or on his own. He was empowered by me instead of torn down. By changing my attitude, it changed his.
Our marriage isn't perfect now, but it's great. We don't just love each other, we actually like each other. We still argue some, but nothing like we used to.
I easily could have given up and divorced him. In my mind, everything was his fault. But nothing I did was changing him, so I focused on what I could change. Myself and my attitude.
I make a conscious effort now not to complain to others about Jeff. I make a conscious effort to find things that he is doing that please me and praise him for it. I purposefully tell others good things that he does. I still slip up, I still make mistakes, but it's better.
After our marriage started turning around, Jeff was in his accident. I was able to use the skills I learned to take care of him during the most difficult phases of his brain injury.
And now, 7 years into our marriage... we have a wonderful marriage. We love and trust each other. We get along and are able to communicate. We are able to work through our problems instead of yelling at each other. Our arguments are much less heated and last minutes instead of days.
The key to a great marriage is to change the problems that you find within yourself instead of blaming your spouse. No matter how much of it is their fault, there is always something you can change about yourself. Unless you are perfect, you are contributing in some way to the problem. So focus on yourself and look for the good in your spouse.