My husband and I have been together for over ten years (you can read our love story here) . We’ve been married for almost eight of those years and, over time, we’ve learned a few things. A lot of these things are silly and probably trivial, like the fact that I hate sweeping up dust piles and my husband won’t eat pie. But, some of the things we have learned have proven time and time again to be foundational in keeping our marriage strong. I want to share those things today with you and hear any other advice you have to add.
1. Don’t say never or always.
I’m breaking the golden rule of blogging and starting with the best tip because, if you only remember one tip from this article, it needs to be this one. This is really the number one rule we live by. After we’d been married for a couple of years, I read this tip in an article about how to stop fighting. I don’t even remember the name or author of the article, but this one tip drastically improved our marriage.
I wouldn’t say that we ever really fought a lot, but, when we started implementing this tip, the fights sure became a lot shorter and less venomous.
The idea is that “always” and “never’ are fighting words.
Imagine that you say, “you never take out the trash!” because your husband hasn’t taken it out in a week. The reality is that, he took that trash out every time it was needed for the last ten months, so you just negated all of his hard work with that one word.
Now, you might think that always would be a positive word, but the same is true of its opposite.
Imagine your spouse says to you, “you always leave your towel on the floor after your shower!” but you normally put it in the laundry basket. You were just in a hurry and forgot it on the floor. Now your partner has made it sound like you’re a habitual slob because you made one mistake.
Now, go back to those same two situations and remove those words.
“You haven’t taken out the trash this week.”
“You left your towel on the floor after your shower.”
Do you see how much less emotionally charged those two statements are? It really makes such a big difference in not undermining your spouse.
2. Share your feelings.
Communication in marriage is priceless. Marriage can be an incredible opportunity to have nightly sleepovers with your best friend, but you have to build your marriage like that. Just like in friendship, sharing your joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures, fears and strengths builds trust. It has to be intentional, and it requires honesty and vulnerability. As humans, we need to vent. We need to share our feelings and what better person to share with than your beloved? You can grow together by sharing emotional intimacy.
On the flip side, if you’re not sharing your feelings with them, you’ll share them with someone else. This can lead to cheating and, ultimately, divorce.
3. Share your dreams.
What is your plan for your life? If you could do anything, what would it be? Talking about these things can help you create a shared vision of your future. That way you don’t suddenly end up finding out that you’ve been working in opposite directions for the past five years. Instead, you can discuss them and work together to realize each of your dreams.
This kind of conversation is how we ended up in Japan. We were talking about what we wanted to be and where we saw our future, and we realized that we had both always wanted to be missionaries. If we had never discussed that, we would probably still be living in Wichita.
4. Have a date at least once a month.
This gets harder and harder as your family grows. When we were first married, Brandon and I went out on a date almost every weekend. After Lisanna was born, we were able to manage it about every other week. After Arrow was born, it was closer to once every six weeks or so.
As the time between dates spread thinner and thinner, so did our tempers. It sapped out the romance, making us feel more like roommates and co-parents than best friends that are deeply in love. We could tell when it had been too long since our last date because we became less interested in each other and more easily annoyed.
We’ve made getting out together at least once a month a priority for the past couple of years. Especially in the midst of school runs, diaper changes, and constant house cleaning, it’s made a huge difference in keeping the spark alive.
5. Put your phones down.
The time that you have together is valuable – show each other that.
I can’t tell you how many times I would reach the end of the day and realize I hadn’t taken a good look at my husband yet that day. And this would be after we’d been together for several hours.
So whether you’re on a date or a school run, make sure that you and your spouse are completely focused on each other each and every day. I’m not saying it has to be every moment of every day, but set aside some time to be screen-free. Put it down and listen to each other’s feelings and dreams. Put it down and talk about your days – the funny parts and the not-so-wonderful moments. Put it down, look each other in the eye, and remember why you chose those eyes to gaze into until death do you part.
Do you do any of these things already? What other tips would you add to my list?