The other night we had a young couple over for Breakfast 4 Dinner. When they learned that we have been happily married for sixteen years, they asked what makes a marriage work. So here are 8 real-life ways that we keep our marriage healthy and strong.
1. Keep on learning.
When you’re dating, there’s so much to talk about, because everything is new. So you discuss your political and theological ideas, your family background, your hopes, dreams and struggles. After years and years of being together, you have heard their funny stories (perhaps over and over!), and you know everything about them.
Unfortunately, as we work steady jobs and raise babies, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Toddlers aren’t exactly inspiring conversationalists. 8-5 jobs aren’t always stimulating either. So we have to make an effort to learn new things, and have stuff to talk about.
2. Date night.
Perhaps it seems obvious, and at first, every night is date night. But as time and commitments move on, it’s important to carve out time just together, talking, having fun, and enjoying each other. Dates don’t have to be expensive! Here are 22 inexpensive date night ideas, and here are some home date night ideas too. It can be tough after kids come along, but if you can’t afford a babysitter, find another couple that wants to trade childcare. The point is: prioritize alone time with your spouse. Get face to face and conversing and stuff…
3. Don’t let offenses get swept under the rug.
If one partner is upset, take the time to work through it. My husband is much better about this than I am. If I breathe wrong, he is inquiring about deeper issues (because he knows they’re there). Sometimes I’d much rather not bother to dive into what’s really troubling me. It takes energy, time, and trust that I don’t always want to put forth!
But it’s worth it. Because we work through issues regularly and promptly, there’s no backlog of poison when something does come up.
4. See what can be let go without an issue.
Even though we talk through most everything, I’m also learning to see what I can let go. Some things we’ve hashed through enough that I need to take a deep breath and humbly release my expectations. I walked through that process in the middle of this post. Since I cannot change someone else’s habits, sometimes I have to adjust my expectations and love them the way they are!
For example, I love to make my bed first thing in the morning. However, if I am not the last one out of the bed, obviously I can’t make it. We’ve long since talked through how bed-making is important to me, how I feel it makes our room tidy and fresh for the day. At this point, when I notice that the bed is still unmade I have a choice: I can get angry (and hash through it again), or I can let go of my demand and smile as I make the bed. There is so much more to this man than this silly demand of mine! And if the bed is unmade, it means he is HOME, which is far more important to me anyway!
Imagine that we are gears grinding against one another as we work through our day. Manners are the oil that smooths the roughness from our home. By establishing habits of politeness to one another, we oil our relationships with grace and blessing. It’s not just words, it is an attitude of deference, of yielding to another person.
6. Speaking well to each other.
Beyond “Please” and “Thank you”, let’s take a candid look at the way we talk to each other. Are our words encouraging or disparaging? Of all people in the world, my spouse is my responsibility to encourage. Do you remember who they are at their best? Of course you know their faults and weaknesses… pray for those. But speak the good that you know!
7. Speaking well of each other to other people.
It is painful to hear couples speak disrespectfully about one another. It wounds the insulted spouse, and also slimes the onlookers. Since I am on his team, and there is no reason for me to reveal my spouse’s weaknesses to others. In fact, to speak poorly of him reflects even more poorly of my own character. Does that mean we always pretend that they are perfect? Or pretend that everything is just fine when it isn’t? We all know that no spouse is perfect. Nevertheless, no one needs to be torn down in public. When there are struggles weighing on you, use discretion, and don’t broadcast them. Find a trusted friend to walk with you through your difficulties, someone who will encourage you and pray with you.
8. Dream together.
One of our favorite things to do is to dream together. What is next for us? What new adventure awaits? What is a trip we’d love to take? What would be a fun family outing? What do we want to do once the children are more independent? If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why? If you could do any job, what might it be?
The other day we were marveling that we never get sick of each other. What a gift! Here’s to many more years together! What have been keys to your marriage lasting well?