I saw something like 15 weddings on social media this past weekend and it really made me remember life when I first got married. Look at that picture above! Isn’t my wife gorgeous?! How in the world did I land her? How in the world could I have been such a terrible husband at the beginning of our marriage? It’s only by God’s grace I have gotten better. Marriage is definitely challenging and it has a steep learning curve.
Let me say from the onset, I am the farthest thing from a marriage expert. I am a novice and a moron. That’s a lot of the reason the first few years of marriage were so hard on us. In fact, its pretty clear, to anyone that knows me, I am just figuring this stuff out as I go along. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some things along the way. Below are 9 recommendations of things (I learned the hard way) that you should be doing in your marriage.
1) Have A Growth Perspective
If you are Christian, then this will make a lot more sense. Christians talk all the time about “sanctification”. Its a word that describes the growth process of becoming holy. I think I am better husband now than I was 5 years ago and hope, in time, I will continue to get better and better. We need to remember that our spouse is in a growing process too. Its easy lose sight of this fact when you are in a fight. Remember that you are both on a journey and to frequently look back at where you have been and what God has brought you through. Dialog about the past and how God has changed you both over time. This can really create the grace filled environment that marriages thrive in.
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6)
2) Vocalize The Words “Will You Forgive Me” and “I Forgive You”
I know this seems elementry-ish, but it really works! There is something truly compelling about directly asking your spouse the question, “Will you forgive me for ____”. Make sure you clearly state what it is, too. Its a cop-out to just ask for forgiveness just because you feel bad. Think about the offense and spell it out. Choose your words carefully – its powerful. Equally powerful are hearing the words “I forgive you for ______”. It may seem weird and robotic at first. But, stick with it – you will love the results. I am usually on the “Forgive me for ____ ” side of the conversation, and it is freeing to hear my wife say “Jack, I forgive you for ____”. It provides closure in a gospel centered way.
3) Invest In Each Other’s Hobbies And Passions
Do you and your spouse have different interests? Perhaps, you love college football while your spouse loved LARPING (please note: my wife did not even know what LARPING was). Whatever it may be find joy in learning about the others passions and hobbies. It doesn’t mean it has to be your passion too. It just means you love a person enough to want to know everything about them. I have learned that while I may not love going to the same places and doing the same things as my wife, I do find great joy in seeing her excited about it. Invest in your spouse’s interests not because of the interests but because of your spouse. This is a great way to find commonality in couples who, seemingly, don’t have a lot in common.
4) Put Down Social Media
OK…this is one I am still really working on it. Our phones have become extensions of our bodies. Smart phones are practically part of the American uniform. We have become so used to being entertained or distracted that we are missing out on life. We are 20, or so, years into the so called “internet age” and the effects on marriage have not been all that great. Be intentional about putting the electronic devices away and having conversations. I have heard of some families that have a basket by the front door and when people come in they are required to put their phone in it. Angry Birds can wait. Your marriage is infinitely more important than anything you can find on Pinterest. Invest in your spouse not your profile.
In fact, if you are reading this and your spouse is sitting next to you, then stop reading this and engage them. You can read this blog, like it, and share it with everyone you know later.
5) Don’t Underestimate The Power of Touch
For some couples this is natural and for others it takes a little more effort. Touching, hugging, and kissing throughout the day builds very deep bonds. This may seem like second nature to some newly weds but its easy for this to silently become infrequent, especially when kids enter the picture. Kids have a way of taking so much of our attention and energy that at the end of the day the only viable option is sleep. Make it a point to physically acknowledge one another when your spouse enters the room. Remember to embrace the embrace.
6) Plan Your Evenings (Especially, If You Are Staying In)
I can be somewhat of a homebody. So, its easy for me to be content with no plans. I enjoy taking evenings as they come. However, my wife loves to be out doing things and accomplishing tasks. However, with 3 small children, it is rare that we are out after 9. So, one of things we have learned is to make at home plans. Earlier that day or, even the day before, we will decide that we are going to watch this one TV show. Or, do this home project. Or, have a date night on the back porch with margaritas. Or, do such and such bible study. Whatever it is, its good to have plans and to have something to look forward to. The goal here is to avoid the “what do you wanna do?”, “I don’t know, what do you wanna do” conversation. We all hate that and its just wastes valuable time. Plan ahead.
7) Pray Together
Am I the only one who things that this is the hardest one on the list? I am terrible at initiating and carrying through with this on a regular basis. This is strange to me. I know the benefits of it and believe in them. But I have the hardest time being consistent with this. Praying, alone, with someone of the opposite sex is a very personal and emotional thing. If you do this consistently, it will certainly intertwine you both together, like a rope, stretching out towards God. Its a beautiful thing.
8) Don’t Go to Sleep Mad At Each Other
You have probably heard this one before and I endorse it. If at all possible, try and resolve the arguments before going to bed. However, there are some situations that can be too large for it be resolved in a single night. Learn to be able to recognize when these are and address them that way, together. Communicate clearly and calmly that its getting late and you both need your sleep and you can pick back up the discussion in the morning. Learn to hit a pause button. There are very few arguments that make progress past 1am. Sometimes taking a break from the arguing to sleep is just what the relationship needs. I say this cautiously, because some will try and abuse this to avoid conflict. So, I will say again for clarity – If at all possible try and resolve the problem before going to sleep.
9) Have A Growth Perspective
Wait…didn’t he start with this one? Yes, I did.
I am starting and ending with it because I think it’s the best note to end on. If you try and implement these, or other marriage tips, do so with grace. Be patient with one another recognizing that you are both growing; it’s a process. You will fail and that’s ok. Create a home environment where it’s ok to fail. That’s the gospel, right? We lean and trust on God’s forgiving grace. Let that permeate through your conversations and your trials.
I remember a sermon I heard several years ago. It was by an older gentleman who said somewhat shockingly, “My wife has been married to 6 different men”. This was followed by a long, awkward silence as it struck everyone in the room. He then said, calmly, “I have been all 6 of those men. I have changed so much over the 56 years of marriage and she has had to put up me through every phase and change.” That’s key for survival. We are all growing and changing. It’s likely that person you are married to will be completely different, with different interests, ideas, feelings, goals, and motivations in a matter of years. Learn them. Study them. Enjoy the ride, because no matter what, God’s grace is sufficient.