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My wife, Ashley, recently talked me into buying some P90X3 workout videos. I was reluctant at first, because I pictured myself hopping around the living room wearing leg warmers and spandex like the people in my Mom’s 1980’s workout videos. I’ve never looked good in spandex.

I eventually made the purchase, but what really sold me is that I walked past the mirror one day with my shirt off and took an honest self-assement. I had to admit that I looked a whole lot more like a “before picture” than an “after” one! I believe that honest self-assement is the first and most vital step in any form of improvement, so I’m inviting you to take a moment to give a quick assessment to your marriage.

Every marriage is unique, because every person is unique, so I’m reluctant to squeeze people into categories, but I do believe that categories can be sometimes be necessary. As I’ve interacted with couples all over the world, I’ve come to believe that every marriage can fit into one of three basic categories. Please take a minute to read all three and then place your marriage (in its current state) into one of the three categories. Remember that where you are now doesn’t have to where you stay!


Take an honest self-assessment of your relationship. Which of these “3T’s” best describes your marriage right now?

1. Thriving.

This is the top-tier of marriage health. It doesn’t mean that things are perfect (because they never are), but it does mean that things are healthy. This health is evident through consistent communication, transparency, laughter, trust, goal-setting, physical affection, mutual encouragement, shared faith and a mindset that includes peace with the past, contentment with the present and anticipation for the future.

2. Turbulent.

This second level of marriage health is one of “comfortable dysfunction.” It can feel sustainable, but it’s not healthy. Turbulent marriages are “bumpy” and are usually characterized by a mindset of keeping score. This can be done in subtle ways, but basically, both spouses are only willing to do as much for each other as they expect to get in return. These marriages have ceased to become true partnerships, because each disagreement has a “winner” and a “loser” where Thriving marriages recognize that in all situations, you either win together or lose together.

3. Toxic.

This is the lowest level of marital health and if it remains unchanged will typically end in divorce. Toxic marriages are the opposite of thriving. Instead of communication and transparency, they have secrets and deceit. Instead of affection and encouragement, they have criticism and manipulation. They are caught in a smothering cycle of discouragement and typically blame each other instead of working together to find a solution.

Once you’ve determined where you are right now, make a plan and take action to move forward towards continuing progress to achieve and keep a Thriving Marriage.

Some resources to help you get started are our New video series on sex, intimacy and communication in marriage and our bestselling book* “iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage” and our brand new iVow online marriage enrichment course for couples.

For additional tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, please connect with me on twitter.

Another free, marriage-building tool is our free video series on “The 4 Pillars of a Strong Marriage” 




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