In a culture that tends to throw marriage out as soon as it becomes less than utopia, how do you keep a marriage thriving when it seems everyone around us encourages us to throw in the towel? The short answer?? Work. Here are some of the things that have worked really well for J and I.
1- Trust your spouse’s love.
To love someone is to believe the best in them… even when knowing their faults. So, I know that when my husband does something that hurts me, it was not meant to do so… because I trust in his love for me.
2- Always consider your spouse.
Marriage is not about putting yourself on an altar to sacrifice your happiness so that he/she can be happy. If you are miserable constantly, check if it’s right. But every day, every time CONSIDER your spouse. And I mean, at EVERY opportunity.
3- Don’t JUST be lovers.
If you are only interacting in a physical/sexual way, you will not last. Be a friend… a best friend. Relate. Connect. Share intimacy…not just sex.
4- Also… be lovers.
A husband will not feel loved when slighted physically. A wife will not feel as emotionally connected when going a period of time without intimacy. Don’t buy the lie that men are the only ones that need sex. Women do too (differently in frequency usually) just for a different purpose typically. Men actually physically need sex with their spouse regularly. Women need the emotional connection that sex provides. If you do not have sex with your spouse regularly, the man will feel rejected and the wife will feel distant. This usually creates a downward spiral of a lack of rule #1…leading to quick frustration and stupid fights.
5- Speak kindly about your spouse.
Do not fall into the caricature of speaking about your spouse as “the old lady” or “the lazy husband”. Your friends/coworkers will think of your spouse the way you tell them to. And your spouse can become the title you give them. Speak life-giving words about your spouse. Words have power.
6- Communicate to UNDERSTAND, not to win.
If you are in a disagreement and want to win, you will lose regardless of who comes out of the discussion with less bruising. Take a breath, lower your voice and try to UNDERSTAND each other.
7- Acknowledge the priority.
There is a belief today that your kids are the most important relationship in your life. IT IS A FALLACY. Your marriage is the most important relationship in the world. If it is not, it will fail. Your kids will thank you for leaving them, so you can go on date nights. Love them enough to love them second.
8- Invest in your relationship.
If there is ever a good investment to be made, invest in each other. Put money down to do date nights, vacations (sans kids), marriage conferences and gifts for each other. Put money on things that matter.
9- Be kind to each other.
A girlfriend once told me, “you are nicer to your husband than you are to other people”. While this could serve as an indictment that I should be kinder to people in general, I took it as a compliment. We should be kind to our spouses. Each spouse should speak with love, gentle tones for the purpose of giving life to the other. If you are kinder to your boss than you are to your spouse, consider this an encouragement to check your priorities. Be kind.
Some hide their lack of consideration and kindness to their spouse under the mask of humor. We have a rule: Laugh with each other never at each other. A joke is funny unless it is at the expense of someone else, especially your spouse. This allows the woman to be completely vulnerable at all times without fear and the man to feel respected. Intimacy can only be achieved when there is safety in that vulnerability.
10- Make the choice.
There is only one way to make a marriage survive daily…choose every day to put your spouse before yourself. That feeling will wear off. The “I do” because I’m turned on will fade. Choose to be a spouse of integrity that says “I love you because I choose you”. You can make decisions every day to build up your marriage or tear it down. Make a point to see the good and improve on the challenges.. together.
Marriage is not difficult. It’s not complicated. It isn’t always easy, but it isn’t difficult. When done right, it is the biggest blessing this side of heaven. But at the root of it, it is a discipline in selflessness and self-sacrifice. If you can’t do that, don’t get married. But you’ll be missing out.