While the experience of marriage can be a mixed bag— some days good some bad, some joys some sorrows— there are many things we can do to make a gradual yet lasting impact on our marriages and our mindsets. I often tell clients, I don’t believe most people walk down the aisle as husband and wife with intentions of making each other angry, sad, or miserable. I believe what happens is many of us expect marriages to function on auto-pilot, requiring little investment of our time and energy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Marriage— a healthy marriage requires the active participation of both partners and the fruit or return on that mutual investment can be epic.
Here are 5 things you can do to strengthen your marriage:
- Pray for your marriage and your role. Often our prayers are focused on what our partner said or did that we dislike or have an issue with. Here the emphasis shifts to the marriage and its purpose AND the role we play as a partner. Yes, that’s right, our words, actions, and even our silence influence the quality of our marriage. Take a moment to pray and thank God for joining you and your spouse; ask God for guidance on fulfilling your purpose as a couple; then ask God to help you be real with yourself about what you are or are not doing that may be negatively impacting the quality of your marital experience.
- Spend time connecting with your partner. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but you might be surprised how many couples say they can’t remember the last time they spent time together, alone — for the sole purpose of connecting. Our lives and days are FULL!!! The calendar is filled to the margin with academics, activities, and let’s be honest annoyances too! So we have the opportunity to get creative when it comes to making or taking the time to intentionally connect with our spouse. You can likely recall the days/nights when you moved mountains to spend time with your significant other, even if only long enough to see them, smell them, touch them, kiss them, hold them. There was something about the connection then that made the relationship seem worthwhile. I encourage you to tap back into that experience by being deliberate in your efforts to plan time together. It may be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee together in the morning; meeting for lunch; Netflix and Chill (after the children are in bed) or a well-planned date. Being an adult doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t have fun! I believe every marriage should have an element of fun and laughter, as they cushion the relationship when there are seasons of tension and turmoil. You and your mate have the opportunity to remember or discover what makes you laugh and what you both enjoy. Maybe it’s a funny movie; a comedy show, the plan can be simple or lavish and only really requires your desire to be together alone to maintain or kindle the connection.
- Check in with your partner about their day and/or what’s important to him/her. Because we know our partners, we might assume that we know what they’re thinking or how they feel about a situation or circumstance. In order to maintain open lines of communication, it is helpful when we put aside our assumptions and ask open-ended questions about what’s going on for or being experienced by our mate. A simple statement of interest can go a long way as it conveys the sense that we are still curious about each other and how we’re experiencing life— the highs and lows, the bitter and the sweet. You might try asking your partner, what’s going on for you that you’d like me to know about? Or How are things going at work with that project you mentioned? Again, the goal is to reach for your partner in an effort to maintain intimacy before and beyond the bedroom.
- Share what you’re experiencing and/or what’s important to you. Sometimes we can be so other-focused that our personal concerns go unattended. Here we have the opportunity to share what life is like from our vantage point in an effort to invite our partner to see and hear where we are. Just as checking in with them has value, self-disclosure also initiates a connection that can improve our intimacy.
- Tell your spouse something you appreciate/value about them. Let’s face it, we know the strengths and weaknesses of our partner and we can choose to use our words for good— to build them up and remind them of their worth and value in our lives. Couples have the unique advantage to speak life and affirm one another. Here the goal is to offer specific statements of affirmation about who your partner is, what they do that you appreciate, how they make you feel, what you’ve come to love about them, and how they add value to your life. This exercise alone can be memorable and serve as the catalyst for ongoing affirmation that buoys the couple unit and each partner.
Marriage is full of moments that can be maximized with intentional effort to create a relational safe space for one another and you have a significant role to play in how that environment is sustained over time. Start today with one of the above strategies and watch the gradual shift— you may be surprised that it begins within.