My wife and I are approaching the 11th anniversary of our marriage in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, those that make it this far are becoming few and far between. Finding those that have made it this far and are still happy is an even more daunting task. This got me thinking…. what makes us so different?
Now, those who know us well may make many jokes at that question, but in all seriousness- how are we able to be happily married to each other, still consider each other to be our best friend, and love the idea of being married to each other for the rest of our lives? I thought I’d begin with listing 11 things you can do- one for each year of our marriage- that will either sustain or bring happiness back into your marriage.
- Realize that the marriage is not supposed to be 50/50.
It is supposed to be 100/100. Each one has to put in 100% effort for it to work. There is no margin for error.
- Don’t try change your spouse.
You didn’t marry a renovation project. You married an imperfect person. Don’t forget that you are also an imperfect person. Just as you would like to be accepted for who you are, make sure you are extending that same grace to your spouse.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you’re on this side of the dirt, it’s all small stuff. Seriously, was the late dinner worth wounding the soul of the one you swore to cherish and protect? What about the T.V. show? Was that important enough for your spouse to feel like part of the Walking Dead?
- Keep intimacy alive.
Most of our lives fall into a rut from time to time. Intimacy can be no different, but it can have much different consequences. Go out of your way to be intimate in a way that your spouse will not expect, but will definitely appreciate.
- Allow time for friendships outside of the marriage.
A couple of times a month, make sure you’re setting aside time for your friends of your same gender. It is important to retain your personal identity and helps to break up the monotony of life.
- Don’t air your spouse’s dirty laundry in public.
You want to know one way to earn your spouse’s respect and have a deeper appreciation for your partner? When you’re hanging out with your other friends or are having water-cooler conversation at work, don’t talk about all of your spouse’s annoying habits or embarrassing mistakes. When others are complaining it can be hard not to do the same time, but refusing to engage in this behavior communicates to others that you have something better and shows a huge act of love to your spouse by supporting their reputation and not diminishing it.
- Do NOT discuss important matters at the end of the day when everyone is tired.
While it is good to make sure you are not going to bed angry, it is better not to hash out a serious issue when you and your spouse are tired and edgy. At our house, no major decisions or discussions happen after 9pm. If work schedules are crazy, set aside 30 minutes a week that is for no other purpose than discussing the hard stuff. You’ll find that you get more rest and are more ready to discuss these important matters when you’re both at your best. This leads to much better decision making and much more peace in the home!
- Forgive your spouse.
You are going to screw up. They will too. Know it. Forgive it. Move on. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
- Don’t stop dating.
If you have stopped, start up again! If it helped convince you that you wanted to marry them in the first place, why stop doing something that was obviously working? Date and date as often as possible. Enjoy each other!
- Cherish your spouse.
Cherish means to value something highly. How would you treat your most prized possession? You would ensure it was properly maintained in top-of-the-line condition, insure it, and protect it at all costs- right? It should be no less important to cherish your spouse. After all, marriage is part of an investment in your happiness- not to mention that of your spouse. Invest wisely- then protect your investment!
- Make the only source of pure love the center of your relationship.
You are an imperfect person. As such, you are incapable of loving with a perfect love. Only one can do that. Keeping God at the center of your relationship is key. If you are unified in vision you will be much more able to be unified in your goals. If you are unified in your goals, you will be more able to support each other without feeling like you are in competition with your spouse over who’s goals are realized first. You’re both headed in the same direction anyway, right? Keep the one who can show you how to love at the center of your love relationship. Without this, you can get close- but you can’t get it quite right. As I heard long ago, “close only count with horseshoes and hand grenades.”
Hope it helps!