After celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary last week, I was thinking what I would like to share about marriage. Specifically, how to have a thriving marriage.
I personally know many marriages where the husband and wife live more as roommates than lovers. It makes me sad! Because I know from experience that marriage can be such a wonderful experience.
You may think that the reason your marriage is rough, is because of whom you married. Maybe. In some instances, that is true. But many marriages that I see fail, it is not because one partner is irrevocably damaged goods or completely wrong. Usually, it is because both partners have issues. Because we are all sinful at heart.
Let me note here – very clearly – that I am not talking of abuse. Obviously, if there is an abusive partner, then you need to leave and get help.
5 ways to have a thriving marriage
(1) Physical touch. Physical affection is free! There should be plenty of hugs, kisses, intimacy, and just loving touches. Especially for your husband, ladies! They love touching and being touched. Don’t shrug off touches. Don’t stiffen and refuse hugs. Even when you are a little ticked off – melt into his arms and you might be surprised how much better it makes you feel!
I know, sometimes we kind of wanna be mad at him! We want him to know how frustrated we are. Or maybe we are giving him the silent treatment and let him know by our stiffness, how ticked-off that we are.
Ok, go back and read that last paragraph again. Seriously?! Is that a Christ-like way to act? Nope. If that is why we are refusing cuddles and lovin’, then we better check our heart! (did you just read that in John Crist’s voice?!! Haha!) Anyways, avoiding physical touches is a surefire, fast way to start breaking down closeness in the marriage.
(2) Date night. Hang on! I know – this advice used to bug me too until I realized that ‘date night’ doesn’t have to mean leaving the house or the kids. We haven’t always had extra money for eating out. That’s ok! You can have dates wherever you are, with whatever you have.
The main purpose is to spend time together, preferably in a situation where you can talk. Over the years, we have:
– went on evening walks,
– put the kids to bed early and set up a special dinner for the two of us (I decorated while he was at work),
– ride with him when he checks mineral, water, or feeds hay (can take the little ones along!),
– played board games and more.
When we have a little extra money we like to:
– Go to buy a Coke and a chocolate bar at the convenience store, talking on the way there and back, of course.
– Go out to eat.
– Go see a movie.
– Ride to town together when he has an errand.
I will say (and my man agrees wholeheartedly) that it is very important to spend time together away from the kids, occasionally. We were married before we were parents, and we will be a couple long after the kids leave.
If you can’t afford a yearly motel stay, then drop off the kids with grandma or a friend, and stay home alone one night. (absolutely NO cleaning, either!) Trust me, the kids will be ok. Even the most clingy, momma-babies. Once they are weaned, drop them off! Go home, buy a pizza, break out a funny movie, go to bed early – just have fun!
I know some you will say: “oh, but we do everything as a family!” Well ok. But here’s the problem: your kids won’t always be there with you. When they leave – will you even know your partner? Because trust me, you don’t get the same kind of one-on-one while the kids are around.
There is something about connecting with your spouse – making memories together with just the two of you – it builds up a marriage. If you don’t believe me, go ask several couples whose marriages are solid, and who have been married over 15 years. See what they say. 😉
(3) Communication is vital. I purposely didn’t put this first, because we all get tired of hearing about ‘communication is key!’ or maybe that’s just me. 😀 Haha! Anyways, it IS true, though. We have to be able to talk about everything.
- No lying or hiding financial things. Be open and give grace.
- Remind each other of your love for one another. Yes we know it – say it anyways, and often!
- Don’t allow little gripes to stick between you. They will fester and grow until you can’t fix it easily.
I know that in a marriage, eventually, something big will come along. Something that leans on the very door of your soul. Something that the two of you cannot see the same way. Whether it is a religious difference, a matter of integrity, some moral dilemma, parenting ideology – whatever. At some point, you will likely face a big hurdle. The answer is not to just meekly accept the other person’s point of view. That just starts a bitterness in your soul that will consume you one day. I believe there’s a better way to deal with it.
- Pray about it. Pray that God’s will is clearly seen by both sides. Pray for wisdom. Pray for unity.
- Ask other trusted, Godly friends for advice. Sometimes we are so close to the issue that we just can’t see the situation clearly. Be ready to hear that your spouse may be the one in the right!
- Talk about it. Be clear. Even tell them how you feel. But stay calm. Screaming and yelling is never acceptable. “You never…!” and “You always…!” are not ok. Don’t attack their character when you are upset about a specific issue. Stay on topic. Tell them you really want to understand and see it from their point of view, and that you’d really like if they try to see it from yours.
(4) Go to bed together. I used to think this was just something important in our marriage. But I have heard so many couples bring this up – that I think it must be a universal issue. But here’s the thing; there are two ends of every night. There are the evening and the morning. If your spouse wants to go to bed together, just switch your evening activities to the morning.
I know, it’s not as fun to get up at 5 am and browse Pinterest or watch your show or clean your house. After 18 years of marriage, I can tell you that a loving, close relationship with your husband is far more valuable than a clean house or any personal goals. Trust me on this.
A couple things you can do:
- Rearrange your day so your cleaning is done before bedtime. Yes, it’s possible, but you may have to stop checking your phone so much and get the kids involved.
- Give up a show or DVR it and watch it during the day. (seriously? You’re gonna throw a fit over a tv show?!)
- Get up earlier than you normally do, and do your things then. Mornings are a wonderful, quiet time for moms! Learn to love them.
Again, this is an issue of building the bonds between the two of you. In the present moment, it seems small. But over 10, 15, 20 years, these tiny habits build up into thick walls. You get to decide if they are walls between you or walls of protection around your marriage.You get to decide if they are walls between you, or walls of protection around your marriage. Click To Tweet
(5) Eat breakfast together. Most wives that I know who don’t eat breakfast with their man, say their husband doesn’t care, or doesn’t like to eat breakfast. But oddly enough, many husbands who hear that I cook breakfast for my husband every day, comment on how they would enjoy that.
I have an idea… how about you ask him if he would enjoy it if you would get up and eat breakfast with him? If he likes to cook breakfast – lucky you! You can just eat cereal. If you don’t eat breakfast – no worries, just sit there with him. You don’t have to talk. You can even be on your phone, (gasp!) as long as you both are ok with it.
But I’m telling you, it’s another one of those little things that bind heart and soul together. And yes, you can change your habits. 🙂
Be sure to hug and kiss and say “I love you” before he leaves for work. If you do this every day for 20 years, you will have said “I love you” 7,300 more times than if you slept in. You will have shared 7,300 cups of coffee, and smiled at each other 7,300 more times, than those who don’t start the day together. You will share 7,300 more kisses and hugs! I’d say that is totally worth it.
No, it’s not a big deal. But what if, in the long term, it is? What if it is not the big stuff, but the tiny, everyday things, that create strong, lasting, loving marriages? One small act of love at a time, over many thousands of days, add up to a sturdy house of marriage that keeps you warm and cared for. Stop up those little cracks that let in cold air. Work on your marriage every day. Never let it grow boring or stagnant.
Nothing is wasted, no act of love unnecessary. It seems fruitless now, but keep after it. Year after year, you will see the wonderful return on investment that you made.
These are some things that I believe have helped Cliff and I to enjoy a close, loving marriage. We have had our hard spots, for sure, but always God has brought us through.
Recently, I was saying: “I’m sorry you had to put up with me through all these hard things.” And Cliff responded: “I haven’t put up with you. We have been through some tough things – but we went through them together.”
That is why it is worth it. To go through everything – together.