5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong
A marriage is the most important, fragile relationship you have. When I was little, I thought marriage was all about love and romance. And while that’s a nice thought, and this is definitely included, being married for the past almost 7 years has taught me that marriage is primarily about serving and choosing. Choosing Dan and serving Dan. Over and over, every day, til death do us part.
(If you missed the first part of mine and Dan’s story, make sure to catch up here!)
Dan and I had a really rough first 2 years of marriage. Immediately after our honeymoon, we moved to Connecticut for Dan to start graduate school. New state, new marriage, new home, no job, no money, no friends (other than my sister and brother-in-law). There was most likely some circumstantial depression happening, and Dan being gone 13+ hours a day for school didn’t help start our marriage off on strong footing.
And I still believed marriage was about love and romance. So when that seemed to stop- when I wasn’t happy and the butterflies disappeared, I thought it was done. I’ll spare all of the details, but let’s just say I spiraled into a very large tailspin of selfishness and anger. There were a lot of serious conversations, not only about how we could make it work, but if we even could. There were quite a few moments where I could have sworn that we were going to end up a statistic.
God worked in my life a lot. He used a lot of people to speak truth into my life, even when I was closed to hearing it. Eventually we got to a breaking point. I finally decided to give us a better shot; I made a commitment to Dan, and I owed him at least that.
Y’all, my sweet husband should have left me. A lesser man would have. There was not one ounce of me that felt like trying. I finally started hearing the truth that people were speaking to me, though, and I realized that my marriage wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my happiness. If I kept depending on Dan and my marriage to make me happy…I probably never would be.
So here’s the important part…
Even though I didn’t FEEL like trying in my marriage, I CHOSE to. And that has made all the difference.
In case you aren’t married yet, or you’re a newlywed who still has the butterflies- enjoy it, but don’t expect it to last forever. Y’all, there are so many days where I feel giddy in love with my husband. He makes me smile and laugh more than any other person, and I feel so truly blessed to be his wife. But there are just as many days where I don’t feel that. I feel a comfortable love, because I chose him and he chose me.
Once I made that choice- to choose Dan despite how I felt- it got better. I got better. It was still a process. There was a lot of hurt we both had to work through, but we were able to work through it together.
A few months later, when Dan graduated, we moved south. I was so nervous about this, because I didn’t want to have to start all over and have the same thing happen. We were both so secure in everything we had overcome, however, that we decided to go for it, anyway. And it was the best thing that we could have done. We were able to learn and grow in this new place together. We were able to make decisions as a couple. And nothing but growth has come from our marriage since.
Have there been some rough patches? Yes. Fights? Absolutely. But choosing each other daily has made us able to overcome these issues. Having grace and forgiveness towards each other.
So with all this said, there are 5 pieces of advice I like to think I’ve learned in the past 7 years.
1. Your spouse is not your enemy, and he is not against you.
Y’all, I am a fighter. I’m also defensive. When Dan and I would fight when we were first married, I would take everything he said personally. I would take it as a personal attack. Honestly, I still struggle with this, but I’ve learned to try and keep in mind that Dan isn’t against me. He’s not my enemy. Satan in the enemy, and he’d love to destroy my marriage.
But almost always, Dan and I have the same end goal in mind. He wants the best for me, just like I want the best for him. I forget this sometimes, but when I can remember this, I’m able to extend him a lot more grace and actually listen to what he’s saying, defenses down. This leads to a conversation versus a fight. So when you’re having an argument with your spouse, just try to remember where he’s coming from. He only has the best intentions and your best interest in heart.
2. Make Each Other A Priority
There will always be millions of things fighting for your attention. Especially once kids enter the picture. I’m fairly sure Dan and I could go a whole day without talking about anything other than Oliver and Zoey. It’s also not helpful that we both really like our phones, perhaps a bit too much. But make the effort, put the phone down, and don’t talk about the kids. We’re big fans of date nights in. We put away our phones and watch a movie (except we do use our phone to look up the IMDB trivia section for whatever movie we’re watching, because seriously, it’s gold).
We’re fans of games, and Dan is super sacrificial and will play Quiddler with (he draws the line at Boggle). We try to take advantage of date nights whenever we have the opportunity, and we spend time having conversation. You cannot live a lifetime with someone without them changing. To stay up with your spouse changing- stay talking to them. Stay open. Keep dating and keep liking your spouse.
I think this may be the first thing in any relationship book ever. But hear me out.
Dan and I had a really rough 2 years, well, for a lot of reasons, but primarily because there was no communication. I never told Dan how isolated I was feeling. I never told him that I felt like I was playing second fiddle to graduate school. If I had been honest about that, I know that so many things could have been prevented.
Even almost seven years later! Dan and I had a fight after Zoey was born because I didn’t feel like I was getting the amount of me-time I needed. But I never told Dan that I needed it. I just expected him to know. I know that’s a classic girl move, but it’s also a really great way to raise tension and have miscommunication.
Be open about your expectations with each other! What do you need, what do you want? How can your spouse help make that happen? These conversations are SO vital to the health of a marriage- so have them!
And I don’t mean just in the sexual way. Listen, I am not what you would call a touchy feely person. It is just not my love language. It’s a bit of a running joke about how I don’t like to cuddle.
But I do it anyway (sometimes). And we try to hold hands (though admittedly with two kiddos, this has gotten less frequent). Even if it’s just a hand on my leg as we’re driving or linking my arm through his at church- these are all connecting points. Those small touches are all intimate in their own way.
When Dan and I were working on fixing our marriage, it felt so.awkward to simply hold hands. We had just lost that connection point, and touch was weird. If we’re having an off day or going through a rough patch, so much can be solved simply by holding each other’s hands. It won’t fix a fight, necessarily, but I bet it will calm you down and just help you feel more in tune with each other. I know people make a big deal about sex in marriage, and it’s important for sure (just being honest), but don’t underestimate the small touches, too.
5. Always talk well of your spouse.
This one is so important to me and Dan. Hear me out here.
Vent sessions are needed. There are so many times when Dan has really pissed me off, and I vent to my close friends. So when I say always talk well of your spouse, I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about when people at work ask you about your spouse, say nice things. When you’re talking to your family, be positive. Now you don’t want to be fake, of course, but what this is doing is helping you to see and speak the best in your spouse. I tend to cringe when I first meet someone and their first response about their spouse is to complain or go off about how awful he or she is. I just think, “man, they must be really unhappy.”
If you spend time focusing on and verbalizing the negative aspects of your spouse, that’s what you’re going to see at home together. Lift him up to others. Be encouraging of him to others. And I bet this perspective will start to creep into how you begin to see him at home. Dan does this for me, too, and I love that when people meet me, they can genuinely tell me that they’ve only heard wonderful things. I fully believe them, and it makes my heart smile.
Let’s be real, this gets hard with kids! We take full advantage of my parents as babysitters whenever we’re around my family, but it’s so important! Even if it’s at home date nights, setting aside intentional time together can only bring good things.
(And just in case you’re in need of date night dress, my fave online boutique, Pink Blush, has the prettiest and comfiest maxi dresses. I mean, look like you’re all dressed up but feel like you’re in a nightgown? Sold. Even Dan couldn’t stop compliment this dress, so snag it here!)
Marriage is hard, and life makes it harder. It requires selflessness and sacrifice and everything that is counterintuitive to us as humans. Serve each other, choose each other, and show each other some grace- y’all got this!
Also- my friend Bethany did some AWESOME posts talking with her grandmother about her grandparents’ 60+ year marriage- make sure to check that out here!
I’d love to hear some things that you do to keep your marriage strong- let me know in the comments!!
Have a phenomenal day!