Maintaining a healthy, happy marriage is not easy. (Anyone who’s been married for more than 4-5 years will tell you that.)
Let’s face it. Beyond the initial romance and fireworks, marriage boils down to real hard work and commitment. The differences that so attracted you at first will turn into opportunities for rifts, blame, and fights. The sparks that once flew will settle into a whispering ember. The forgiving that once came easy now becomes a lot harder.
They often say familiarity breeds contempt, and I sometimes see that in my own marriage too. How do we break out of that cycle, and change that familiarity into something good? Here are 10 little things we do that has helped us so far.
1. Remind each other to rest and relax
Some days once the kids are in bed, the hubby gets on the computer. And I do the same. Occasionally he reminds me to shut down, relax with him on the couch and watch TV, or have a light supper together. It’s nice to just sit together and chat after a long day, even if we don’t talk about anything serious.
2. Make time to talk
During a recent couple retreat, we made up a rule that anyone who talks about the kids first gets a demerit point. At the end of the retreat, we tallied points and the one who lost had to buy a nice treat. I have to say, it was very difficult to have a conversation without bringing up the kids! But it forced us to focus on each other and not get distracted.
I sometimes find it easier to connect while jogging, having a meal, or enjoying the sunset. So find an activity (simple is best!) that works for you both, and start chatting and bringing each other up to date about our lives.
3. Laugh together, do something fun
When was the last time you did something fun/new? Make time to do new things together; maybe learn dancing, pottery, golf, or travel to new places. We like to check out new cafes and restaurants. And sometimes, we go on a dessert date in the spur of the moment. We share a wunderlist of places to check out, so whenever we come across anything interesting, we just add it into the list. It certainly helps on those days when we don’t know where to go!
4. Support (don’t judge) during the low moments
When you’re having a hard day, the last thing you need is criticism, questioning, and someone offering unwanted advice. The only thing you need is a listening ear, and some empathy. Try some affirming words that communicate to your spouse “I believe in you.”
5. Think good thoughts, say good things
Negative thoughts about our spouses come to mind quickly, but good thoughts require some conscious rewiring. I find that in our culture, we tend to lack sorely in the compliments department. There is a bible verse that goes, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
The more we think about the good things, the more we’ll actually say it. The more you say it, the more affirmed the other person feels. Words are important to me, and I try to remind the hubby to be kind with the words he chooses to use. It takes practice, but we’re getting better at it.
6. Appreciate your differences
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve married an alien from Mars. He’s so different from me that I often struggle to comprehend it all. But…I remind myself of those times his different perspectives have helped me through difficulties, and it helps me to appreciate him better.
7. Give each other social space
On evenings when he has catch-ups with his friends, I cover for him. On some weekends, I may attend some short courses or meet up with friends too, and he covers for me. It’s healthy for us to each have our own social space. Plus isn’t it better that we ladies have someone else besides the men to air our thoughts /emotions with?
8. Find support in friends
A shared community is helpful as a couple needs accountability, trust, and encouragement when the going gets tough. I found this to be one of the biggest struggles as young parents because our leisure / social time shrank during those years. Thankfully we managed to keep in touch with some couples in church, and also with an older couple who walked us through pre-marital counseling. I often tell him I wish we had a couple mentor, people we can emulate and learn from, and navigate life with. But I think God has provided us with many godly figures to learn from too.
9. Touch daily
By this I mean, hug, kiss, cuddle, or give a shoulder rub. Of course, sometimes these lead to more physical intimacy, which is a good thing. These days, I find the man hugging the kids more often that me, so I let that be a visual reminder for me to hug him more, and not run into deficit in that department.
10. Renew your vows
We renew our vows every year on our anniversary. Every time I say my vows again, my spine tingles and I get transported back to that fateful day when we were wed. It’s a simple act that doesn’t take more than 5 minutes, but it reminds us of how sacred marriage is, and helps us want to be better at it.
So there you have it. Our 10 little things. It’s really the little things, done often, that adds up to a great marriage.
What has helped to make things work in your marriage? Do share with us in the comments below!