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Are you struggling to get along with your spouse? Consider a 30-day marriage challenge to improve your relationship.

Perhaps you feel like your marriage is so bad that it is hopeless, and a 30-day marriage challenge won’t work. Trust has been broken, and you both have little to no communication.

Before you give up, give yourself 30 days for God to work on you and your spouse. Allow Him to change both of you in ways you never thought possible.

In this post, we will address how to break the cycle of a critical spirit and change the trajectory of your marriage with a 30-day marriage challenge.

Are You Stuck in the Blame Game?

Before we discuss the 30-day marriage challenge for couples, let’s address the blame game. Let me guess: each of you points fingers, thinking the other person needs to change first.

The classic line erupts from one of your mouths, “If only my spouse stopped doing ______, we wouldn’t have problems.”

Or how about “You made me do this!” (They can’t make you do anything. You choose.)

Somehow, you think everything is your spouse’s fault, so you continue to force a change with your words.

How’s that working for you? 

Your spouse may try to please you for a while, but eventually, the change will not be permanent because criticism does not produce a heart change (nor does the opposite, the silent treatment).

If you are caught in the cycle of blaming, bitterness, defensiveness, or withdrawal, commit today to stop pointing fingers and forcing a change. You can only change yourself, not your spouse.

I know it seems upside down. You feel like your spouse should change first, but this is how God’s economy works: The way you change your spouse is to change you.

When you change, it forces your spouse to change how they interact with you because you are no longer doing things the same way.

RELATED: How to Change Your Husband With These 5 Powerful Prayers

What is a Critical Spirit?

So, what is a critical spirit, and do you have one?

A critical spirit stems from long-simmering resentments. It seeks to condemn, blame, denigrate, and destroy with words. It often manifests as complaining, stonewalling, contempt, controlling, noticing failure in others more than oneself, and being judgmental. 

(I know. You think this is what your spouse does, not you.)

When the verbal lashing is over, one can feel disrespected, inadequate, and unloved, causing the other person to withdraw, act in revenge, or completely give up.

In contrast, positive words involve opinions meant to build up, encourage, cheer, hope, endure, and believe in a person even after a failure (See 1 Corinthians 13).

This is what God does with us. He sent us a love letter—the Bible—to tell us how much he loves us. So much that He gave up His child for us so we could live free from negativity.

He wants you to reflect Him and do the same (without giving up your child).

Why Do We Criticize Our Spouse?

Most of the time, criticism and sarcasm play a big part in the cycle of an unhealthy marriage because you are angry due to simmering resentments; it comes out left-handed in the small things.

Because of this, you are stuck in a negative cycle, and no one is willing to change it.

If you want to do a 30-day marriage challenge, realize it starts with you being kind, loving, encouraging, and positive. I know this is hard because you may not think anything positive can be said.

If this is the case, start using God’s perspective as your perspective. What does God say about your spouse(and you)? Look up verses, put them on notecards, and say them every day with your spouse’s name in it.

This will retrain your thinking about your spouse.

In Matthew 22:37 and 39, God commands us to “love Him with all of our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our souls and to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves.”

RELATED: Christian Marriage Advice: 10 Best Tips For a Christ-Centered Marriage

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What Does It Mean to Be Critical of Your Spouse?

If you want to know how to change your spouse with a 30-day marriage challenge, then it is time to see how a critical spirit plays out daily.

It starts with little things, like how she cleans the house, hangs the towels, or makes dinner, or how he bathes the kids, squeezes the toothpaste, mows the lawn, leaves out food, or speaks to you.

If it’s been happening for a while, you will start criticizing, embarrassing, or berating each other in front of the kids or in public.

Over time, the narrative of your marriage becomes hostile. You are constantly cutting each other down.

This is why a critical spirit is wrong and sinful. It is destructive to any relationship and must be stopped.

This is Satan’s strategy to tear your marriage further apart so that reconciliation is next to impossible. When spouses feel they can’t do the small things right, they will not try to change the big things.

Did you know Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10)? Are you following in the same behavior? Would your spouse say you are an accuser?

Proverbs 15:15 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels” (The Book).

RELATED: Spiritual Wholeness: 6 Powerful Ways to Mend a Relationship

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How Can I Change My Spouse in 30 Days?

If you want to do a 30-day marriage challenge and move forward into a healthy marriage, then it is essential to examine your heart and see what part you are playing in hurting your spouse and, ultimately, your marriage.

Moreover, in what ways do you not display God’s character (love)?

John 4:16 says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (New Living Translation).

Focus on being encouraging and not critical. Your job is to cheer for your spouse, just like a coach or a great teacher cheers for a student.

Think about this…Your spouse has been cheered by his or her parents in sports, a job, and then you come along and “boo.”

Would you want to come home to “boos” every night?

It doesn’t mean you negate your feelings or ignore issues; you choose to believe the best of your spouse and speak life instead of death. You believe in them in every way possible, just like their parents hopefully did.

RELATED: For further explanation, read this article on encouraging your husband by Dave and Ann Wilson (FamilyLife Today).

From now on, make it your goal to catch your spouse doing things “right.” You are on the same team. When your spouse wins, you win, too!

And when you tear down your spouse, you tear down your marriage because you are one.

This is the spirit of the 30-day marriage challenge.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing ” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV).

RELATED: War Room Prayer Strategy: 7 Tips to Pray Powerful Prayers

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What Is the 30-Day Marriage Challenge?

Try these three tips when you do the 30-day marriage challenge. Why? Because it takes 30 days to break a habit. At the end of the month, you will have a different marriage.

1.  Be positive (rewire your thinking)

Be positive in your words and deeds. Forgive and overlook minor offenses. This doesn’t mean you ignore bad behavior; handle it calmly and even-toned without responding to criticism.

Make 3-5 positive statements before you counterbalance and approach with your concerns.  Affirm your spouse and say “thank you,” especially when they are willing to talk about an issue.

Gratitude is always a part of healing a broken relationship.

To help you rewire your thinking put specific scriptures on notecards and say them daily over your spouse. (Add his name in the pronouns.)

2. Love with kind words

Chances are that you have withdrawn to protect yourself. For the next 30 days, you must push yourself to step out to love and say positive things to your spouse. Make your words sincere, and do this often, both publicly and privately.

The key to overcoming this negative spirit is to swap out hate for love, tearing down for building up, and grief for grace.

Many of you will struggle with this after one day. Keep going! Your struggle only shows how deeply you are entrenched in blaming, hatred, and criticism.

Check out these printables to give you more ideas on how to love well.

RELATED: 5 Reasons to Forgive Those Who Hurt You (Even If They Don’t Deserve It)

3. Fast and pray for your spouse

Fasting and praying will help you change your attitude and forgive your spouse. It will loosen the chains of injustice, break oppression and the yoke of family strongholds.

I highly suggest using the prayers at the end of each chapter of The Power of a Praying Wife. Stormie O’Martian does an excellent job covering every subject possible. (There are 31 chapters)

When you get time, read the whole book, but for now, start praying the prayers every single day for a quick start.

Isaiah 58:6-7  says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

RELATED: How to Change Your Husband Without Saying a Word

4. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries with a spouse is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship. Here are some steps to help you establish boundaries effectively:

  1. Self-Reflection: Clarify your needs and values. Understand what is important to you and where you feel uncomfortable or stretched. You are setting a boundary for what you will and won’t do, not what your spouse can and can’t do.
  2. Communicate Clearly: Express your boundaries directly and respectfully. Use “I” statements to avoid blaming or accusing your spouse. For example, “When you _______, I feel ______.” or ” “I don’t feel safe. I am not okay with that.”
  3. Be Specific: Clearly define what behaviors or actions are acceptable and which are not. Provide concrete examples if necessary without name-calling or accusing.
  4. Listen Actively:  Listen with intent and understanding. Allow your spouse to express their perspective and boundaries as well.

You don’t have to agree, but you must respect their feelings, validate them, and try to understand what they’re saying.

  1. Negotiate and Compromise: Sometimes, boundaries may need adjustments. Be open to discussing and finding a middle ground that respects both parties’ needs.
  2. Consistency: Establish and enforce your boundaries consistently. This will help establish trust and mutual respect over time. To do this, you need to know your worth as a child of God.
  3. Seek Support if Needed: If setting boundaries feels challenging or if there are deeper issues, consider seeking support from a counselor or therapist. Setting boundaries is difficult, especially if you have never done it before.

Remember, setting boundaries is about creating a healthy balance between your individual needs and the needs of the relationship. It’s a process that requires ongoing communication and mutual understanding.

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What to Do After the 30-Day Marriage Challenge?

After the 30-day marriage challenge, examine your marriage. I believe you will have a much better attitude. And hopefully, you will see an overall change in the spirit of your marriage.

By all means, keep setting boundaries, encouraging, loving, forgiving, etc.

Once you remove your unhealthy reactions, your spouse will be more center stage and able to deal with the bigger stuff. Psychologically, your spouse needs to feel good about dealing with the small things to help overcoming the big stuff.

Shaking off a critical attitude might seem impossible, especially when it’s become a part of who you are. But don’t fret! If you ask the Holy Spirit, He will give you the power to love your spouse like Jesus loves you.

Did you do the 30-day marriage challenge?  Comment below.

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This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement (and reconciliation) from my Christian family but also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.

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Julie is a wife, mom, teacher, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, parenting with a touch of humor.

51 Comments

  1. I just loved this part “Your struggle only shows how deeply you have gone into negativity”. Thabk you very much for beeing so clear and brave in writting those words. Those were the push I needed. Ready to bring more joy and gratitude to my marriage and family right now!!

    • Romina, I am so glad this was helpful for you. Dealing with your part will definitely help your marriage in so many ways. Praying for your spouse will really push it along. God can help the most troubled marriages if we will put a stake in the ground and say no more.

    • Erin, I am so glad that you use these same points in therapy. Having a critical spirit is destructive in any marriage. Thanks for the comment.

  2. There is so much truth here! I’ve found that the things I nag and fuss about the most are the things that become sore spots in our marriage, but when I change the narrative and instead begin to encourage and come along side my husband, real change begins to happen. But it’s not just his actions that change, it’s my heart and attitude toward him ❤️

    • Erin, yes! You have the concept down. I know it is tempting to push your husband to change, but you can only change yourself. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I have found this to be so true in my marriage as well as in my relationship with my children. When I am overly critical and don’t leave room for grace or personality differences then it tears us apart. I have had to learn to tame my tongue and it has made a huge difference in our family.

    • Sara, I know what you mean. It is easy to filter everything through your own lens and not see outside that scope. We miss so much when we don’t have empathy for others and understand how they feel. Thanks for your comment.

  4. It seems like such an uphill battle to get rid of this spirit, its hard work working on yourself!

  5. I couldn´t agree more with you!
    I have a critical spirit and I´m coincidentally addressing this issue on my next post, tomorrow!
    How I found a way to stop criticizing my husband and focus on my own flaws instead and how that made my 20-year-old marriage feel like it was brand new again!

    • Carla, that is great. I hope you share how and what you have done to make your marriage new again. Thanks for your comment.

    • Vaishall, I guess it depends if you are the one giving or receiving. I have run across some critical people and it is not fun being the object of their attention. Thanks for your comment.

  6. It’s so important to address this! It makes me cringe when I see couples do this but I know I’m SO inclined to be critical. I know praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help guard my mind and mouth from criticism.

    • Bailey, I think it is in our DNA to want to criticize others. I have to really watch my mouth too. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Yes! These are all so true! I often have a critical spirit. Some of it comes from insecurities, but I also saw this critical spirit modeled in one of my parents because of their anger in the marriage. It’s so easy to get caught up in a cycle of “how your parents did things” but I have been trying to improve because like you said, we are a team and my husband should be cheered on, not criticized.

    • Kristin, it is amazing when you shower someone with praise instead of criticism. Good for you for working on it. That is the best thing possible.

  8. Super introspective post. I think everyone has every emotion at some time and we should all be self aware.

    • Shanab, yes it good to be self-aware. I think we all have to work on things in our life. It is just a part of our nature.

  9. This post was much needed. THank you so much for this post. I have noticed that I do have a critical spirit at times and it was definitely modeled by my mom within her marriage during my childhood. Something I certainly don’t want to repeat. Praying and working on it for sure.

    • I am so glad you are working on yourself. We all have issues to deal with from time to time. Thanks for your comment.

  10. I think we all do at times so always something to keep working on.

  11. This is a new concept to me and I found it very interesting. I never looked at it quite like this. Sometimes you get so caught up in being right instead of fixing the relationship. You are right, if it isn’t constructive it seems it won’t actually fix a problem.

  12. What a great post. I never experience a bad marriage because I am not but I have seen them fall apart.

  13. Sheena Moncatar Reply

    Oops, I am single and not yet ready to settle down. However, your post got me glued ’till the end. To make a marriage work it actually involves a whole lot of effort from both parties. Lastly, I agree that a critical spirit is the heart’s “negative attitude” that seeks to condemn, tear down, and destroy with words. But I do know that at the end of the day when two parties are willing to compromise, everything is going to be alright.

    • Sheena, I am so thrilled you enjoyed this post. Something to think about if you get married someday. Thanks for your comment!

  14. Thank you for sharing this very informative. Although I’m not yet married I will always remember your points and Yes I agree to all, the Root Cause Of A Critical Spirit especially when pride intervenes.

  15. Elizabeth O Reply

    The points you mentioned here is very true. They can create a cause in the marriage and to run smoothly our marriage life we should avoid these circumstances.

  16. Matija Antonić Reply

    We all know that marriage is never gonna be easy, there will be hard times and fights, but during those times you shouldn’t blame your spouse for things you have done, if you see there is a problem you need to talk it out, communication is key to keeping a marriage last 😀

  17. The success of a marriage is a two-way process. I am blessed to have a husband who is patient and very forgiving. I think it is just because we just respect each other so much.

  18. Monidipa Dutta Reply

    In marriages, stress is a leading cause of interpersonal tension and dysfunctional relationships. … A lot of the stress in marriage is avoidable when both parties are aware of stressful triggers.

  19. Hello,
    I am not married but I found this very interesting. My parents have been almost married for 30 years I can I se from their marriage that marriage is not easy. However marriage can last if two people are willing to fight.

  20. You are so right when you wrote that you can’t change another person. Trying will just make you crazy.

  21. I think there are many concepts here that we need to remember. There are definitely things I will apply in my marriage.

  22. Keshia Richmond Reply

    Tons of people have a critical spirit and this was such an interesting read.

  23. I’ m not married yet but some of my friends had a problem with marriage but they are the strong bond relationship to resolve their problems.

  24. I’ve never even heard of this before so this whole post was a learning experience for me! great job!

  25. Great post, going o book mark this. Sometimes I feel as tho I’m being unfair to my husband, he’s a saint but I completely identify with many of these.

  26. This is something I’m working on in my marriage. We both realized that we were wrong, so we decided to go to marriage counseling. My husband and I are getting much better at not criticizing each other, it’s great.

  27. Marriage is not easy, but the real marriage will resolve the problems!

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