Some things work better for some couples more than others, and every marriage is so different (which is really important!), but I also realize a lot of couples struggle with similar issues. Matt and I did a little bit of research on marriage topics before we got married but I never really came across any ‘quick tips’. I definitely don’t know it all, and I have caused some major disruption in our marriage with my stubborn and selfish ways (obviously, I have been married twice!), but I’m learning as we go, and I typically learn from my mistakes… It may take me a couple of times, but I usually get it!
So along the way we found these 7 things really helpful in our marriage and I hope they can help you!
- Counseling– Yep, I said it and it WORKS! Matt and I went to pre-marital counseling before we even knew our wedding date and it was the best thing we could have done. Along with so much more, it made us realize the significance of having similar values before we made the decision to spend the rest of our lives together. It also made us realize that expectations in marriage often lead to disappointment. Sure, we all have expectations, but when they’re unrealistic and we expect our spouse to meet them, we often end up in a tough situation that was completely avoidable in first place! Matt and I made sure we went to a Christian counselor so we were on the same page spiritually, this was important to us but it’s not for everyone and that’s ok! Even now, from time to time, if we have a circumstance that arises and we can’t seem to get on the other side of it, we call Rikki (our counselor and dear friend) and she helps us work through it. She has been one of the biggest blessings for our marriage! Since Matt and I had both been previously married, we were completely committed to making this marriage work, and we truly believe that counseling is an amazing tool to help us work through difficult things that arise. And let me tell you, blending families IS NOT EASY! Also, from time to time, Matt and I have our own individual counselors that we talk to, sometimes we just need that!
- Praying Together- Sure it may sound ‘cliche’ to some, and completely foreign to others, but please, trust me on this, praying with your spouse is one of the most powerful tools we have. It’s not easy, especially the first 27 times, but it’s so worth it! It’s unexpectedly intimate, a little embarrassing in the beginning, and so amazing. Kneeling before our God and pouring our hearts out together is astounding. I wish I could describe it in words, but I can’t. Sometimes it’s more powerful than others, but inviting the Holy Spirit into your marriage will bless you. Expecting God to work in your marriage is having faith that He will, and it’s totally different than the expectations I was talking about having with your spouse. We believe that it takes 3 to make a marriage work, God, ourselves, and our spouse.
- Spending QUALITY Time Together– We have all heard it before and some are really doing it which is AWESOME, but it’s really easy to get swallowed up in our everyday lives. Our kids, our careers, friends, travel, whatever it may be, can distract us from quality time with our spouse. Some people only have time at night when the kids go to bed, and that’s OK! As long as its un-distracted attention. We were given a challenge a couple of years ago to spend at least 5 hours a week with our spouse, alone. This didn’t include doing stuff that kept us from engaging with each other like going out with another couple (which is important too!). Matt and I kayaked, read similar books and talked about them and worked out together. We even got into some tv programs, which is really rare since my husband is not a tv guy! Strange I know. 😉
- Respectful Communication- Ok, is it just me or are we all guilty of flying off the handle a time or two…. Or three or five? This is a tough one. It’s not that I have a hard time respecting my husband, but I have a hard time with my harsh tone of voice. I’ve often heard ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’ and I didn’t believe this for the longest time….. until I listened to myself talk when I was REALLY irritated. I not only snap at my husband this way, but my kids too and I hate it! I am working on it, praying about, trying to change it and I feel I have come a long way. Speaking like this is disrespectful to my husband and kids and neither of them deserve it. It’s really sad how we can break someones spirit down so quick with a harsh tone of voice and a few distasteful words. I try to A. walk away if I feel like my head is going got explode because at that point I know something really mean is coming out of my mouth and B. pray about what is going to come out of my mouth!
- Your Spouse Before Your Children?!– I know, I didn’t buy it either, until we did it and felt the power of it. As a mother, our first instinct is to be there for our children, but as a faithful servant of Christ we are called to put our marriage second only to our relationship with God. I had been taught this many years ago, but one divorce and a couple dysfunctional relationships later, the concept of putting another man ahead of my kids was so out of reach and out of this world if you’d asked me! When Matt and I attended our pre-marital counseling, this was one major lesson we learned. It took some time and a whole lot of TLC for our kids, but eventually we got it and so did they. Matt and I make it a point to make time for each other and our children know it’s the way it is. Whether it’s a bike ride, an evening walk, a trip somewhere or just an evening with our door locked at 8pm just so we can talk and watch a show together…ALONE! I truly believe they feel a great sense of security knowing that our marriage is a top priority.
- Humor– I’m sure you can imagine why this is important! If we can’t laugh at ourselves and our spouse, how boring would our lives be?! One thing that drew me close to Matt was his sense of humor. He is super quick and whitty, where I try to be funny but I’m not funny and I laugh at myself when no one else is laughing… But I also realized how serious he is about other things that I’m not. Matt is a business guy and I’m a silly blonde hair stylist that likes to talk and laugh, so he knows when to be serious and a lot of times I DO NOT. We have really balanced each other out in a lot of ways, and this is one of them! I encourage everyone to laugh off the petty stuff and invite humor into your marriage!
- Transparency– TOTAL transparency. Scary word hey? I know. This takes time and I know there are some couples out there who can never be completely transparent with their spouse, but how much more relaxed and at peace could we be if we were?! I’m not talking about farting and pooping in front of each other (although that’s pretty dang transparent!), but I’m talking emotionally AND physically. My dad is reading this so I won’t go into detail about the physical stuff but you catch my drift. 😉 If we want our spouse to open up to us about ANYTHING, we need to be transparent with them too. And we also need to make it a safe place for them to do it. If I’m constantly nagging at Matt and making him feel like a piece of garbage, then the last thing I can expect for him is to talk to me about his feelings. If Matt gets caught up in work and I feel like I am being ignored, the last thing I want to do is open up to him. Transparency with your spouse leads to trust and security in your marriage. I still have room to improve in all areas (no one’s marriage can ever be perfect), but especially in this one. I’m really transparent with everyone, even strangers I just meet, but I have some closed off areas in my heart with big caution tape and a lot of bandaids from old wounds. Little by little those wounds are healed and Matt and I become closer and closer. Marriage is constant work but a job worth while.
After writing this there is so much more I could share, but sometimes too much is too overwhelming. Please feel free to share some tips you have or anything that helps your marriage become stronger and healthier!