During our early years of marriage, I found myself at several bridal showers where each married woman would share one piece of advice. Some were goofy and some were serious. I loved gathering the advice for our own newlywed state, as well as considering what advice I might share myself. I’ve spent the bulk our 7 years of life together studying marriage through experience and education. Here are 7 principles that I believe will strengthen any marriage – no matter what stage you are in.
1. Spend Time Together
Keep your spouse as your top priority by finding unique and consistent ways to spend time together.
When you are dating you sacrifice sleep and other priorities just to spend every possible moment together! It’s a blast, it’s exhausting, and spending that time together is exactly how you fall in love.
But, for some reason, when you get married, real life hits really fast, and it can be hard to keep up with the rest of the priorities. Often, spending time together intentionally can become a thing of the past.
I think the reason for this is that you don’t have to bend over backwards to get together anymore. You fall asleep in the same bed, see each other around the house, and you don’t feel like you have to “make it happen”.
I’ve compiled a few simple, almost obvious, things that have worked for us or other couples I’ve seen, and I’ll be sharing them soon! Try a couple of these out, or just allow the ideas to spark your creativity, then make a plan to just be together. You’ll be amazed to find yourself falling in love all over again.
2. Be the Best Version of Yourself For The One Who Matters Most
From a young age I was known for being bright and bubbly while with my friends or at church. I rarely had a fight or disagreement with friends, and my bad moods never showed while among my peers. But the second I was home I could be ornery, rude, and bad tempered. My dad used to remind me constantly to put on my best face at home, because my family members mattered most.
While dating, I was this same happy, fun, easy-going version of myself. It came naturally and I know I wasn’t faking. But upon getting married, Ryan got to see the side of me that could be tired and grumpy. This is natural, but I soon realized how fast I could put on a smile again when showing up to a family party or work.
My dad’s old advice came back into my mind and I remembered that I needed to be my BEST self for Ryan, because he mattered the very most. I knew if I could find the energy for other people, I could make more of a concerted effort to be that person for Ryan.
This doesn’t mean hiding your true feelings or never expressing a negative opinion. But remember who you were when you were dating, and remember that marriage needs continual dating to keep that spark alive!
3. Pray Every Night
This one is so simple, but I promise – it works.
In my experience and based on my beliefs success in marriage comes so much easier when we involve God.
Adding God to the equation invites and allows us to begin to work on ourselves. It’s a natural result that when we try to be like Him, we will begin to make small and meaningful improvements in our own lives. We will be more loving, patient, understanding, and kind in the best ways.
We can assume that, if our spouse is on the same page as us, they will do the same – without any nitpicking from us.
By praying together each night, you and your spouse determine together your commitment to allowing Him to be a part of your relationship.
This advice was given to a prominent leader in our church that I admire greatly. It has inspired us to continue praying each night, together, and we have felt this same strength.
“May I offer you newlyweds a formula which will ensure that any disagreement you may have will last no longer than one day? Every night kneel by the side of your bed. One night, Brother Monson, you offer the prayer, aloud, on bended knee. The next night you, Sister Monson, offer the prayer, aloud, on bended knee. I can then assure you that any misunderstanding that develops during the day will vanish as you pray. You simply can’t pray together and retain any but the best of feelings toward one another.”
Many people have seen the “triangle” depiction of marriage, with husband and wife at opposite sides of the bottom, and God at the top. As each spouse moves closer to God, they automatically move closer together.
4. When Compromise Doesn’t Work…Be Willing To Sacrifice
There are two different people in every marriage. That means two different opinions, two different stories, and two different preferences on almost every single activity you will ever do.
Compromise is vital in any marriage. It’s talked about frequently, and I think most married couples understand the basics of the whole “give and take” thing.
But, sacrifice is a whole different ball-game. This is the total “giving-up” of your own personal preference and opinion. Simply because it makes your spouse happy.
I think most issues can be solved with a simple “win-win” type of compromise, where both spouses can be happy. But be prepared for those times where you need to totally give in, even though you hate it, just because you know it means a lot to your spouse.
5. Selflessness Is the Key To a Happy Marriage
This is pretty much the culmination of everything I learned from my degree in Marriage & Family Studies.
It’s not a popular concept in the world we live in, which is almost always “me first”.
I promise that as you selflessly remember that you are married to another person, that they have thoughts, feelings, emotions, and busy lives as well, you will find yourself able to care for them uniquely and specifically in the way they need. And they will adore you for it, and often respond in the same way.
If you put up your guard, waiting for your spouse to wait on you hand and foot before you will selflessly be what they need, you’ll be waiting a long time. But if you can consider them, even before you consider yourself, I guarantee they will follow suit. Sometimes it may be differently than you would expect, but the selfless love will be there. Pay attention!
6. Be Confident and Remember that Your Spouse Married You For a Reason
I could talk about this one all day. I probably will at some point.
Bottom line, the biggest issue at the heart of every disagreement we have ever had is insecurity – usually my own. Do not let insecurities rob you of any ounce of happiness in your marriage.
I’m not speaking for every marriage, because emotional abuse is real, and not every spouse is nearly as kind as they should be.
But, in so many marriages, there is love and appreciation that exists but may be unspoken. If it is unspoken, don’t fill in the silence with what you fear it may mean. Men are often the guilty party in saying less than they feel. But don’t wait for them to follow a script you wrote out in your mind. Learn to read between the lines.
If you are forgetful, write it down. Don’t allow yourself to forget that they love you. They married you for a reason – for a million reasons. They won’t always tell you the reasons, but the fact that they are around and wearing your wedding band is an amazing symbol every day that they want to be a part of your life.
Own who you are, and love who you are. You spouse will find this the most attractive quality about you. If you want to have your feelings hurt, pretend like you are the most confident person in the world – how would you respond? You’d probably laugh. So laugh! Don’t make a big deal out of little things. Remember how amazing you are, and I promise – your spouse will too.
7. Love Who You Marry
In the last point I talked about how your spouse married you for a reason.
Well, it goes both ways. You married your spouse for a reason. Again, probably a million.
You made a decision to marry the person you loved the most. The work of marriage is to spend your life loving the person you chose to marry.
I know that you won’t always see the worst side of your fiancee while dating, but you could have assumed that your fiancee wasn’t a superhero 100% of the time.
So remember the awesome things, and never forget the reasons you chose to marry this one person.
I have a dear friend whose marriage exemplifies this principle. Her fiancee, raised in a different religion, had no intention of joining hers. She knew this could cause major issues with the over all culture in their home and the rearing of their children. In her hesitation, she consulted with a trusted mentor. He simply said, “he’s a wonderful man, who will take care of you. Never expect him to change, because that’s the only thing that will hurt your marriage. When you choose to marry him, love him for who he is, enjoy the journey, and perhaps with time he will change.”
I’ve never seen anyone live this advice so exemplary. I’ve seen so many people nag their spouses to be who they wish they were. This amazing woman never seemed to have a single complaint on her lips, and it showed in their marriage.
Remember: You married your choice. Love them, and be more patient than you want to. At least you will enjoy the journey in the meantime. Change takes a long time, but it’s always possible. Until then, focus on the good.
What Are YOU Doing To Strengthen Your Own Marriage
After working for a divorce attorney for a year, I found one common theme. Every divorce and marriage issue was the fault of the other party. At first I couldn’t believe the firm’s good luck of always getting the “good guy”. Then I saw the complaints coming back, and realized our client had issues to. The truth is, pretty much all of us do, and few divorces are one sides.
We have no control over what our spouse does or says, and we simply cannot force them to change. So – look at the options. We can leave Or we can just let it happen while our bitterness grows OR we can do the only thing we actually have control over – change ourselves. It won’t always salvage a failing marriage, but personal growth and improvement is never a waste of time.
So consider what YOU, personally, are doing to strengthen your marriage. Read this post from Ryan, reminding us that we can change our spouse by first changing our self.
If you think that you could improve on even one of these 7 principles, I promise there is nothing to lose, except maybe your pride – and I promise it’s not as bad to lose as you might think.
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