I am certainly not an expert on marriage. I don’t have a degree in marriage therapy or counseling. I didn’t study it in school and I have never been to a marriage counselor. My only “claim to fame” is that I’ve been married for 34 years.
We don’t have a perfect marriage and we’ve had our ups and downs, but we get along well and we don’t fight. We may not always agree with each other or we may have miscommunications, but we don’t yell at each other or have big fights. We both try to make each other happy and we both choose to love each other.
I think that’s a HUGE key: to choose every day to love each other.
Our society likes to romanticize “falling in love.” If we can fall in love, then it follows that we can fall out of love. But if we approach our marriage as an opportunity to choose our spouse all over again each and every day, we grow in our love of and commitment to that person. We choose to love that person, despite shortcomings, flaws, and idiosyncrasies. We choose it. Every day.
While I’d like to think that I wake up looking like a supermodel with perfect hair and no morning breath and with a happy, sunshiney disposition, I realize I don’t. At least one day a week I’m not quite perfect :), and I’m grateful my husband sees past that and chooses to love me even when I’m not at my best.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few key things. Here are a few ideas on how to make your marriage stronger and better.
Put Your Spouse First
Besides God, no one else comes before my husband. Not me. Not my kids. Not my other family. Not my friends. No one else comes first.
If I have to choose between spending time with my husband and spending time with other people, I will choose my husband.
Most of the time, I don’t have to choose between spending time with my husband or spending time with my kids because we spend a great deal of time together as a family. I love spending time with my whole family, bu I also love spending time with my husband.
I think it’s important to put your spouse first and make sure that he/she knows he/she comes first and your relationship is more important than any other relationship you have.
I’ve tried, over the years, to put my husband’s needs ahead of my own. I’ve tried to think of how I can help him and what I can do for him to meet his needs instead of focusing on meeting my own, or worse, demanding that he meet my needs. I’ve found that as I focus on meeting his needs and helping him, he, in turn, tries to meet my needs and help me. As we focus on helping each other, we both get our needs met, but it comes from a place of selflessness instead of selfishness.
Putting my husband first makes him feel loved and he, in turn, puts me first.
Spend Time Together
Typically, when a man and woman first meet and are attracted to each other, they want to spend time together. They go on dates and do activities together to build a relationship. They usually end up spending as much time as possible together. After a period of time, they may end up getting married.
After marriage, it’s even more imperative that a couple spend time together. We can get lost in our roles as husband or wife and lose the “us” part of the equation, especially as kids come along and life becomes more demanding and stressful.
Don’t do that.
Make it a point to spend time together. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to cost money. I try to make it a priority to spend time with my husband as much as possible.
Here are a few ideas:
- Take a walk together
- Sit outside and talk
- Go grocery shopping together
- Run errands together
- Go on a lunch date
- Take a picnic to a park
- Lock the bedroom door and talk
When you spend time together, and this is VERY important, turn off your phone. Focus on your spouse and connect with each other.
Make time regularly to remember why you wanted to be together. Laugh together. Work together. Have fun with each other. Just make time to be together regularly.
We like to schedule a date each week. Sometimes, we go to dinner. Other times, when our schedules are super full, we get a quick lunch together while we’re out doing errands. (Nothing says “I love you” quite like a trip to Walmart, haha).
One of our favorite activities is to take a walk together.
Communication. Communication. Communication.
My son used to tell me that I “over-communicate.” That may be true, but I like to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. Make sure your spouse is in the loop on kids’ activities, what you’re making for dinner, who might be coming over to visit, and what you want to get done around the house.
Yes, tell your spouse what you want to get done around the house. As much as we might think our spouse has ESP and can read our minds, very few actually can. If you want your husband to take out the trash, let him know you’d appreciate that. If you need help making dinner, instead of stewing over it, ask your husband if he might be able to help. If a baby’s diaper needs to be changed, you can ask for help. Letting your spouse KNOW what you need help with can avert many miscommunications and angry feelings. Spouses need to KNOW.
And, let your spouse know how you are feeling about something. If your feelings are hurt or you’re angry or you’re stressed or exhausted, talk about it. Work through issues with consistent, kind communication.
Something I’ve found to be useful is to say, “I feel like . . . .” rather than making an accusation. “I feel like I’m overwhelmed with so much housework that I’m too tired to do anything else,” rather than, “You never help around the house.”
“I feel like I need some more help with the baby in the evenings,” as opposed to, “You never help with the baby and I’m sick of it.”
Communication is a give and take process and it takes time and effort to effectively communicate consistently. But two people who are committed to communicating can make their relationship much stronger by regularly talking to each other.
Don’t Tear Down Your Spouse
I have heard women talk badly about their husbands and I always cringe. Tearing down a spouse is always detrimental, whether that is to his or her face or when he/she isn’t around.
Never, under any circumstances, bad mouth your husband or wife. Never. We need to be loyal to our partner and respect him or her.
I want to feel like my husband always has my back. And I want him to feel the same way. Complaining about our spouse, even if we’re joking, can cause feelings of resentment.
Some years ago, a group of women got together regularly to air their grievances. They talked about their husbands and what they didn’t like about them. Negative talk begat more negative talk and the result was that several couples got divorced.
Instead of complaining about our spouse, we could focus on his/her positive traits. We could focus on the reasons why we love him or her and realize that we aren’t perfect at being a spouse either.
Marriage takes time and consistent effort. It takes patience, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. It means that we work together to build each other up, rather than tear each other down.
The Most Important Question
Instead of focusing on what our spouse can do for us or do to make us happy, turn that around. Ask, “What can I do for my spouse today? What can I do to make him or her happy?” When we ask ourselves that question, it puts the emphasis on our partner instead of on ourselves.
Try asking that question once a day for a week and see if it helps improve your relationship.
Become the “Right One”
As a teenager, I used to think I needed to find the right one for me. I learned that I needed to become the right one. I needed to become the kind of person I wanted to marry and to be with. Now, after 34 years of marriage, I still try to be the best wife I can and be the kind of person I want to be with. If I don’t want my husband to be cranky, I should try to not be cranky. If I want my husband to be patient, I should practice patience.
Making a marriage stronger and better takes desire, dedication, and commitment. Putting our spouse first, spending time together, consistent communication, and being loyal to him/her will help us to strengthen our marriages.
A long, strong marriage isn’t about being in love, it’s about choosing to love that person. We can choose to love our spouse. We can choose to see his/her strengths. And we can choose to make our marriage stronger every day.