For those of us who have been married for more than, let’s say, 5 minutes, we know that marriage can be tough. It can be rewarding, joyful, loving, and rocky – sometimes nearly all at the same time. The honeymoon phase never seems to last all that long – and if you’re like my husband and me, you never really got one. Yet somehow, through all the rough patches, the fights, the wondering if we had made some colossal mistake, our love for each other has grown and become stronger. Those tests define what your marriage will be, and we can bend and change with them, or we can let them break us.
I am always looking out for ideas of ways to strengthen my marriage. I’ve found lists, and articles on what to do, and what I notice in many of them is that the focus is often on changing your partner to suit your needs and wants, but I’ve learned that changing the way you are with them can have far more of an impact than trying to change them. An example that comes to mind is my struggle with my husbands often lack of affection with me. I went for months criticizing him, telling him how it made me feel unloved, and then I had an epiphany. How much did I touch him? How much did I do things to make him feel loved? Not much, let me tell you. So I shifted my approach. I rephrased it – instead of complaining about what he didn’t do, I told him how much I appreciated and enjoyed it when he did do it. And I made sure to show him affection too. It’s amazing how much that did. Suddenly, he’s making an effort, because he knows that I need and want it.
Suddenly, I feel like I’m on some sort of soap box. But it is such an important thing to me, and not just for myself or for my husband, but also for my children. I want to give them a loving example of what marriage is all about. To show them as women how they should demand to be treated by any man that comes into their lives – and one of the primary ways they learn that is from their father’s treatment of their mother.
In that vein, we make an effort to have date nights with each other. Time away from the kids to refocus on each other and remind ourselves that we are more than just mom and dad – we are husband and wife. And the girls are beginning to recognize the importance of that for us.
I came across a list that I had jotted in my journal of things to do to strengthen your marriage, and I wanted to share it here. I didn’t jot down the citation for it – I think it may be a compilation, I believe at least a few came from the Huffington Post.
- Remind your spouse not only that you appreciate them, but why you appreciate them.
- Say thank you for the little things. They can get lost in the chaos of our busy lives, and suddenly, we end up feeling taken for granted.
- Don’t keep score. Marriage is not a game of tit-for-tat.
- Be honest with each other.
- Take care of your appearance. Being married is no reason to let yourself go.
- Foster relationships outside of your marriage, and encourage your spouse to do the same.
- Watch your words.
- Don’t let things fester. But don’t pick fights. Choose the battles worth fighting, and fight them in the moment, not months or years from now.
- Learn to let go, to forgive. Not every slight must be addressed. Not every insult was intended to be an insult.
- Be content with the ebb and flow of marriage. Don’t compare yourself to other couples. What’s right for you is right for you and may not be so for anyone else.
- Be kind to each other.
- Be intimate, be passionate – both in the bedroom and outside of it. Intimacy with each other can take many forms: reading a book together, going for a motorcycle ride together, etc.