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How to Grow as a Spouse

You want to grow as a person.

In your marriage, personal flaws are naturally going to be revealed. Things like: selfishness, pride, needing to win, not listening, control, negativity, passivity—you get the idea. And so you make efforts to change and grow. Sometimes heroic efforts are made.

It is not uncommon, however, that the only one who notices the effort and the change is the one who is making the effort! That can be discouraging and disheartening, can’t it?

So how can couples come together and connect around the efforts each is making to grow in their marriage? What can bring encouragement and positive reinforcement to be certain the right focus is being made?

Marshall Goldsmith wrote a leadership book entitled What Got you Here Won’t Get You There. Though the book was written to help people in the marketplace change personal flaws to move ahead in their careers, the coaching he provides in this area is golden.


Goldsmith has coined the word “feedforward” as a way of getting suggestions for what one can do in the future. In marriage it is significant in acquiring mutual agreement for how growth can take place.

First, as you identify an area of growth in your life, initiate the conversation with your spouse and describe the area in which you want to improve (unless, of course, they’ve already described it to you!).

Next, ask them for two suggestions for the future that might help you achieve a positive change. If they don’t want to participate, then ask someone you trust to give you two suggestions.

Finally, say, “Thank you.” Don’t argue. Don’t counter with your own suggestions. Humbly receive what they say.


The key for change and mutuality is to regularly ask for feedback on your progress (in this case from your spouse). Put it in your smartphone or on the calendar to ask your spouse every couple of weeks the the following: “Last month I told you that I would try to get better at ____________. You gave me some ideas and I would like to know if you think I have effectively put them into practice.”

Goldsmith says that that question forces them “to stop what they’re doing and, once again, think about [your] efforts to change, mentally gauge [your] progress, and keep [you] focused on continued improvement.”

Follow-up  builds trust that you are actually making the effort. It says that you care about being the best spouse you can be for them. In addition, follow-up helps your spouse verbalize the positive efforts you are making and internalize what they hear themselves saying.

These two simple steps can go a long way in helping you grow as a person, and as a couple as you build your marriage!