This week, Don and I celebrate our 26th anniversary.
In honor of our marriage, I offer the following list of marriage-building ideas. These are things that I think have contributed to the health of our marriage. I’m far more deeply in love with Don now than I ever dreamed possible on the day we wed.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Or even prescriptive. In it, I am reflecting on our marriage. This does not take into account situations with which I have no experience; such as abuse.
Our wedding invitation included a quote from Ecclesiastes 4:12: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” As a metaphor for the Christian marriage relationship, it is apt; the third strand is the Lord. There have been a number of times when our cord was severely frayed, but that third strand has held us together!
An ideal marriage can be symbolized by an equilateral triangle. The top point is God. The husband and wife start on the bottom two points. Ideally, they are moving toward God (i.e., along the sides of the triangle). As they move closer to God, they are also moving closer to each other.
Marriage is hard work. But such rewarding, worthwhile work.
Here, in no particular order, is the list:
- Never, never, never go to bed angry.
- Pray together every day.
- Forgive readily – even if your spouse doesn’t ask for forgiveness.
- Apologize quickly – even if your spouse refuses to see where they are to blame.
- Practice humility.
- Set aside regular time to feed your relationship (date night).
- Practice gratefulness.
- Find common interests (other than just the kids).
- Work to see life from the other person’s perspective.
- Hold yourself to the highest possible standard. Hold your spouse to the lowest standard.
- Give each other space to learn and grow independently as a person.
- Do something unexpected.
- Seduce each other; don’t ever let the fire go cold.
- Practice random acts of kindness.
- Kiss often. Tender, long and slow.
- Take the time, frequently, to meet each other’s physical needs.
- When tempted to be irritated about an annoying habit, consider how you would feel if your spouse was gone. Is it really worth complaining about?
- Regularly remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place.
- Don’t be surprised when your spouse screws up. They are a sinner just like you.
- Turn off the TV (or other glowing screen) and communicate…. Share hopes and dreams. Not just facts.
- Set goals together.
- Be willing to compromise.
- It’s more important to show love than to be right.
- Don’t criticize…. Be an encourager.
- Don’t be surprised that marriage takes work. Anything worth having is worth working for.
- Decide together that divorce is not an option.
We sometimes hear of couples who split up after years of marriage, saying something like “He isn’t the same person he was when I married him.” Why on earth would you expect him to be the same person? He has grown and changed just like you (we hope!) have done. Embrace the change. Grow together!
Don’t ever think “it can’t/won’t happen to us”. It can. Having a mindset of invincibility just means you are less likely to work for the precious thing that is a good marriage. Don’t try to imitate anyone else. Consider your own spouse. His/her personality, etc. Do what suits your marriage. It’s OK to be different from everyone else.