I'm linking up with Shay and Erika on the 2nd Wednesday of every month to share tidbits about how busy ladies like myself work to keep it all together. Note - I am human and may not always have it all together!
February's topic is: keeping your marriage strong.
Now, as you may know already, I am not married. I considered skipping this month because of that, but truth be told this topic is my specialty and my passion. I was previously married and got divorced five years ago. I am not proud of it, but I learned so much from it and do not feel I need to hide it. The divorce was the triggering event that launched me into my passion of studying Christian marriage and relationships. I actively dive deep into book after book poring over the pages with zeal and hope for "if and when" the day comes that I ever marry again. I listen to podcasts, read articles, and attend marriage conferences because they make me smile and fill my heart with a desire to use my knowledge to help others keep their marriages strong, faith centered, and excited to work through issues together. I want to cheer others on to see the good in each other during the hard times and to build a stronger foundation from the trials encountered so they can leave a legacy behind for their children. This is what makes me happiest in my spare time (puppies and babies not included in this statement, of course). I am a hopeless romantic at times, but I believe strongly in the power of a covenant marriage.
So what would I suggest to do to keep your marriage strong? I thought you'd never ask. The list below is not in any particular order, nor is it all inclusive of what I believe would help to keep a marriage strong.
- Keep God as the center focus of your marriage. Your marriage 2nd top priority. Your children 3rd. Some people may disagree with me on this (given I am not married, nor do I have children), however every single resource I have ever read/listened to encourages this as well. I won't go in to it in detail, but I encourage you to do some research if you disagree and in the end do what is best for your marriage/family. Only you know!
- Take a "vision retreat" at least once a year, or more often if it is needed. A vision retreat allows you and your spouse time away from the normal day-to-day life to reconnect (no kids allowed) and share your thoughts about how things are working or not working currently, and reassess your personal and couple/family goals. Are the goals still valid or do they need tweaking? Is what you're doing as a couple/family working towards achieving those goals or is it pushing the goals further away?
- Have a date night once a week (no kids allowed) to focus on each other and have a real conversation without the distractions of cell phones, kids, cooking, cleaning, TV. After dinner you can go do something fun together, time permitted.
- Ban cell phones during meal times, every day. Phones and social media are the #1 hindrance to a satisfying relationship. Who wants to compete for attention? I sure don't!
- Hug each other for at least 30 seconds every day, preferably longer and much more than once a day! The act of physical touch releases oxytocin among many other other health benefits you can read about here.
- Send each other thoughtful texts/emails throughout the day or leave notes for them to find that state something you love or appreciate about them. You can find tons of ideas or printable cards to use for this on Pinterest, so there's not even a grand expenditure out of pocket to make your spouse smile. And don't forget that just telling them that you love them can brighten their day.
- Keep a gratitude journal to document at least one thing you're grateful for for your spouse that day. You can present this to them at the end of the year or special occasion, or never at all! Regardless, documenting your gratitude will help you appreciate the person more.
- Celebrate your differences. Little things can drive anyone crazy, much less bigger differences in personality or lifestyles. When you find yourself feeling irritable (unappreciative), write out a list of your differences and then in a second column, write out a reason why each difference is actually a blessing to you. I promise you will find one for each difference. Example: He/she leaves their dirty clothes on the floor. I am neat freak. -- This helps remind me to relax, not take life to seriously, and reminds me that he/she has been home safely. And/or: He/she is forgetful with laundry because is so busy working hard to provide/supplement our family income that benefits us.
- Attend a marriage seminar/conference once a year. There are tons of these available that help a couple stay focused on each other and re-ignite the passion in their marriage so that the marriage doesn't get drowned out in the day-to-day, mundane chores that can breed and fester into bitterness.
- Read a marriage book and/or a bible study together. This helps unite a couple and bonds them in thinking and protecting the marriage. Discussions about the bible or marriage book triggers conversations and closeness.
- Hold hands. Pretty simple and ties in to #4 above. Physical touch does a lot for a couple and is the stepping stone especially for women to feel loved and intimately close.
- Reserve private time at the end of the day together. Pastor Jimmy & Karen Evans discuss this openly in their podcasts and at the XO Conferences. They had a required bed time for their children. The kids could be awake in their beds reading, but knew NOT to leave their rooms unless it was an emergency. Pastor Jimmy & Karen would then sit in their private sitting area with popcorn to talk each night about anything and everything they had on their minds that day. He states that doing this led to other things... ;)
- Treat each other with love & respect (read Love and Respect annually!), speak life giving words to each other, speak with encouragement, and LISTEN. Stop thinking of what you want to say before the other person has even finished saying it. This takes practice for some, but listening is one of the best ways to show someone you care.
- Be patient with each other. We're all human. We have good days, bad days, better days, worse days. When your spouse is down, give them grace and help to lift them up. They will learn to return the favor when you're down. You are on a team.
- Forgive, forgive, forgive. There will be big and small grievances. Unintentional hurtful words and actions. Believe the best of each other, always. Easier said than done, but with practice you can build a a stronger mindset to remember he/she didn't hurt you on purpose.
I could go on and on, but will keep this brief. If you're interested in more Christian based marriage books (and I hope you are!) you can check out my book reviews here (I'm slowing adding reviews) as well as the list of marriage books I have read here. If you have questions about any of the books let me know!
I hope you find this post helpful, and please share with anyone looking for ideas to solidify their marriage. If you haven't subscribed, please do below so you don't miss out on any future posts.