Since we’ve moved to Tennessee and restructured the way we do life, I will be honest and tell you that it’s been a challenge for our marriage. It’s brought a lot of new issues to the surface and we’ve had many long, hard talks (and yes, some out-and-out arguments) as a result.
As we’ve struggled through together, our marriage has grown and it’s been good. Not easy, mind you, but good. And I know our marriage is going to come out stronger as a result.
Working through these things and not giving up until we find resolution and oneness has made me appreciate our marriage even more. Some days, we might be at odds and frustrated with each other, but because we are both committed to our marriage “till death do us part”, these storms are making us stronger instead of ripping us apart.
If you’re going through a tough time in your lives right now, I wanted to share five keys that have helped us to have a strong marriage — even during the recent storms of life:
1. Stop Coasting
A good marriage doesn’t just happen; it requires a LOT of work and time and effort. Just like you couldn’t expect to build a muscular body without putting in a lot of time weight-lifting, so you can’t expect to have a strong marriage if you’re not constantly building it up.
Make time for your spouse. Go throughout your day looking for ways to build up your spouse, encourage your spouse, and love your spouse. If you’re too busy to invest in your marriage, you’re just plain too busy.
2. Don’t Keep It G-Rated
Seriously, people. You are supposed to be lovers, not roommates. Act like it.
Look for ways to keep the spark alive. Flirt with your spouse. Whisper sweet-nothings. Think about what you used to do when you were dating, engaged, and newlyweds and bring some of that romance back into your marriage.
Truly, what happens in the bedroom will affect just about every other area of your life. In most cases, if you make romance a priority, it will clear up a host of other problems and issues.
3. Find the Good and Praise It
There are always a host of things we can point out, pick at, nag, and criticize. If we spend all our time focused on that, we’ll be frustrated with how far short our spouse is falling from where we want them to be.
On the flip side, there are always, always, always good things to praise. Become a noticer of the good.
Go throughout your day looking for things to be thankful for about your spouse. These could be little, everyday things or big, major things. The more you focus on the good, the more good you’ll probably see.
4. Ask Forgiveness Often
A good marriage is built around a lot of humility and the ability to say, “I was wrong, will you forgive me?” Those are hard words to say, but they are necessary.
We all make mistakes. We all say words we shouldn’t say. We all respond in anger at times. When that happens, be willing to admit you are wrong.
Don’t stuff things and just try to be extra nice to make up for your short-comings. In addition, don’t blame your spouse. Owning our own mistakes and apologizing for them is the first step in restoration.
5. Learn Their Love Language
While I don’t like to box people into specific categories, every person has a unique love language — the way they feel most loved.
If you’re unfamiliar with the five love languages, they are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. In many cases, you’ll be a mix of a few of these, but you’ll almost always have one that is dominant. If you’re not sure what you love language is, you can take this quiz here (and be sure to have your spouse take it, too!)
Once you know what someone else’s love language is, it really helps you to be able to demonstrate love in a manner that means the most to them. For instance, my dominant love language is Words of Affirmation. It means the world to me when Jesse tells me how much he appreciates me and how proud he is of me. This speaks love to me much more than buying something for me does.
Jesse’s love language is quality time. It’s very important to him that we spend time together and just be together — without me acting rushed or like I’m busy. As a Type A person who does not have the love language of quality time, it’s been a learning experience for me to figure out that just being with him is extremely meaningful to him.
It’s taken us years to figure these things out about each other, but as we’ve put forth effort to learn each other’s love language and to be intentional about expressing it, our marriage has grown much stronger. And it’s been every bit worth the effort!
What are some ways that you have found help keep your marriage strong?
Note: This post was written for couples who are in healthy relationships where both parties love each other and want to work on issues together and personally. If your spouse is abusive, please, please, please don’t hide the abuse out of fear or let your spouse convince you it’s your fault. Get help immediately.