5 Ways to change the environment in your family/marriage

A lot of people make new years’ resolutions to lose weight, work-out more often, read more, etc… But, what about some resolutions that might bring about some relational change? Those resolutions are rarely discussed, but may be more vital to a healthy relational environment.

Today I ran into a friend/acquaintance filled me in on some distance/frustration/angst within his home and marriage. After his transparent sharing he went practical, “Do you have ideas on what I should do?”

Mending wounded relationships is NOT simple and bandaides are rarely effective, but there are some simple, practical, and transforming actions that can be taken to change a tone/vibe/environment within your home and marriage.

Try these 5 actions for a week and see if the temperature in your home doesn’t change a little. Plus, even if your relational temperature is “fine,” these ideas may make it even better.

1. Leave the phone in the car: when you come home from work it’s too simple to get lost in texting, checking, and reading from the phone. You won’t be distracted when the phone left in the car. More time to focus on real people.

2. Shut the laptop: It’s too easy to come home and “get lost” in the computer that’s always on and calling your attention (blogs, email, Quicken, etc…). Turn it off and see if you can turn on some dialogue and/or focus on others.

3. Show up on time: If you tell your spouse that you’ll be home by 6pm… get home. Not 6:30…not even 6:05. If you make a commitment to a loved one, honor it. It’s amazing what simple actions will communicate about love and respect.

4. Turn it off ½ the time: I’m not asking you to become Amish and ditch all TV, I’m suggesting you cut your viewing time in half. Instead of the easy default of turning on the TV, cut it in half and spend that extra time engaged with others.

5. Leave a short note: Emphasis on “short”… I’m not suggesting 2 pages, typed out, double-spaced. What if you left your spouse and/or child a short note every day for a week? Short words of affection and encouragement can be powerful. And, if it’s not a regular practice, these notes will become treasures.

Yes, some relationships need BIG changes (intervention, counseling, accountability, etc…), but some relationships can be dramatically altered by some very SMALL and doable actions.

Don’t wait for the spouse/child to start… you start.

Question: What else requires a small effort that communicates a big deal? Share it here.


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  • http://www.newbeginningschurch.info Jeff Berg

    Great post… Great tips!!  
    I’m so thankful these are already a part of our marriage and family!!  In fact, we made a no “Screen Time” (TV, Computer, ipad, iphone, etc.) during the week for our family… This has transformed our time together as we do many crafts, projects or just impromptu dance parties!! (I have a 6, 5 & 2 right now though, sure it will be harder when homework begins to arise)

  • Jill

    Thanks for the great ideas. Computer time & TV are my big pits.

    I’m sure this is obvious, but eat at the dinner table. Somehow over the last year we moved from the dining room to the family room and I noticed relationships disengaging while our viewing of TV increased.

    Last week, I forced everyone into the dining room for dinner. Our boys (19, 18 & 16) decided to jokingly rebel by bringing up every imaginable disgusting topic to persude me this was not a great idea.

    The next night, I herded them back in, but the conversation wasn’t as eye-rolling.

    This week…they grabbed  their plates and have headed in their on their own.

    I know this isn’t going to happen every night, but at least on the nights I know we’ll all be home, I want to try to have a nice meal and to just be with them.

    I’m pretty confident that if we keep this up we’ll be adding a layer of insulation to our relationships with each other. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Bethanie Carlson

    I found some little cards at Hallmark that I started putting into my son’s lunch box this year when he started middle school where he was the “new” kid.  I’d become a little slack in getting them in lately and yesterday he came home and said, “I noticed that there haven’t been any notes lately in my lunch.”  This caught me off guard, because he hadn’t really mentioned anything about them in the past, and I didn’t think that they really mattered to him.  But I can guarantee that there was a note in today’s lunch!

    Another thing:  bring back games–from Sorry to Settlers of Catan, from Left-Center-Right to Monopoly.  It’s what we’ve started doing in place of so much tv, and it forces us to talk and have fun together.

    I second the family dinner idea!  

    • Doug Fields

      Just like a child….

  • http://linebehind.com/ Josh Pezold

    Great stuff man. I’m going to do everyone of them on Thursday night. Don’t tell me wife :>)  I’ll let ya know how it goes. I’d add… creating a relaxing environment. My wife just started her student teaching so if she came home to a clean house and dinner (when she usually cooks) I think that would give her some relief. Thanks for the advice Doug!!

    • Doug Fields

      Tonight is late Thursday night PST…how did it go?

      • Josh Pezold

        It went great!!!!! Cleaned the house (mostly), did the dishes, and she came home to a clean house and a note by the a burning candle. We talked about her second day of student teaching, baked cookies together in the kitchen, and watched some tv while eating dinner. Sorry couldn’t turn it off totally lol. But we only have netflix so it already counts as half. She even put her facebook status about what she came home to. Thanks Doug for the encouragement to be intentional with my wife. She’s worth it.

        • Doug Fields

          way to go!

  • chris

    Super post! Thanks for opening my eyes to areas I need to improve in. I’m currently consistent w/ #4 & #5…not so much the other 3.
    I’d add: Routinely ask your mate, “How can I be a better spouse?”
    When it comes to marrige/parenting/ministry, there’s no one I’d rather learn from! Thanks for openly posting your thoughts!

  • Mark

    Great Post Doug! Especially like the quiock note. Not much of a writer but willing to work at something like that.

    Couple things that I have done to let them know I am thinking about them.
    Quick call to find out if there is anything she needs from the grocery store or whatever for me to pick up or if my daughter is working at night asking her if there is anything I could drop by for her on my way home.

    If I have picked up the phone or computer, when I have agreed not to, a short apology does wonders.

  • Ron

    I believe in the power of the “unexpected surprise.” I like to buy simple “I love you” cards and give them to my bride every once in a while as a surprise. When I traveled I would leave cards in hidden places she was sure to find (under a bedroom pillow, in the fridge, etc). I also like to give her small gifts (remember when you were dating?). If I notice something she has is wearing out its a small gift, or perhaps a new album from a favorite singer, etc. If you stay observant its pretty easy to get ideas to fulfill the “unexpected surprise.”

    • Doug Fields

      good ideas..

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