The secret is out, there is no pill or potion that will make your marriage instantly better. Although, I suppose if there was such a remedy it would sell like organic mustache wax at a hipster convention. Being that a potion isn’t available, Selena and I have found that if we keep these few habits in place, our married life is ten times more enjoyable and fulfilling!
1: Emphasize Gratefulness
Many verses in the Bible tell us to give thanks and be grateful. This is reason enough to practice this gratefulness regularly! The benefits of thankfulness are obvious to those who practice it daily, and perhaps those benefits are why God commands us to be so grateful. God is a pretty smart guy… (Want Bible verse references? Here you go.)
If that’s not enough evidence for you, how about this? It’s science. Researchers are starting to quantify and measure how gratitude tangibly affects us. Dr. Robert Emmons (Professor of Psychology at UC Davis) did a study and discovered,
“Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.”
Emmons also evidences that gratitude is a “chosen attitude” that improves your health if it’s habitual. He reveals that those who express gratitude will see significant improvements in relationships (ex. marriage), academics, energy, and dealing with difficulty. (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
Instead of “the kids are stressing me out“, how about “what a blessing to have kids“. Or instead of “home maintenance is annoying“, think “how blessed are we to have a home to take care of?”
Here’s a cool kicker: I did some research of my own on gratitude a few years back, and I found one case study* that empirically proved that gratitude specifically toward God had an even greater effect on overall human health (as opposed to generic gratitude toward the universe etc)! Pretty compelling, yes?
2: Give Affection Purposely
What is purposeful affection? It’s the kind you give because you know your spouse needs/desires it, and you want to meet that need/desire. Selena needs good, focused conversation and quality time, so I give it to her. Sometimes I fall short, but I’m getting better at it.
I love it when Selena encourages me or gives me an affirming touch in passing; I eat it up! I also love when we …. you know… have relations. Ok, sex. We’re all adults here.
Gary Chapman wrote a book many of you will recognize, “The 5 Love Languages“. It’s great for understanding how you can show love and receive it. If you’re not familiar, you can take the quiz and see what your language is!
My main point is this: make it a habit to give the affection your spouse needs as often as they need it! Go out of your way, after all, they are your better half!
Life can be a grind and if you grind something too much, it turns to dust. Get out and have some fun together! Do what you enjoy and enjoy doing it. Selena wrote a post about some simple things we do to unwind. Whenever we neglect playing together, we both get edgy; so we’ve learned to make playing a habit we adhere to.
A major part of playing together is making sure you have extra margin in your life. Margin is the extra space you create in all facets of life: time, money, and energy. If you’re working too much, it will be hard to play. If you’re financially overextended, you’ll feel pressured to make ends meet.
Make playing a priority by trimming back your financial and time commitments wherever possible. This could be small tweaks to your spending or larger life adjustments. Just don’t forget to play together, and play often.
4: Plan for Sex, and Do It
Sex is so much more than physical. It’s physical evidence of an inner nakedness and commitment – mind, body, and soul – to your spouse. Culture at large tends to make sex a purely physical phenomenon, which can become our mindset in marriage if we’re not careful.
Planning for sex is like planning to have a good conversation, except communication happens without words (not that you can’t talk during sex). Selena and I realized a few years back that complete openness is key in this area. We discussed each others’ expectations and needs and discovered a frequency/intensity balance that works for us. In short, we aim to be intimate 2-3 times per week, with “freight-train sex” being once every 2-3 weeks.
5: Put Jesus at the Center
This habit is by far the most important! If it wasn’t for our unified stance on the importance of Jesus in our lives, Selena and I would probably not be together. He governs us. He shows me how to love and be a leader, and he shows Selena how to love and honor.
It’s one thing to believe in Jesus with your head, and another believe with your heart. As we note in our many posts and core values, everything in marriage comes down to Jesus. So what does it mean to “put Jesus at the center”? Here are some tangible ways:
- Pray together
Pray constantly, but also pray in depth for each other. Pray for issues you’re facing. Pray for your kids. Pray for your community. Pray for moments and pray for minutes. Just pray as much as you can!
- Study the Bible together
Walk through a bible study alongside each other. Read aloud. Read separately, but concurrently.
- Discuss the Bible together
What are you learning? How can you apply it to your marriage and work lives?
- Serve Jesus together
What has God convicted you to do for Him? How can you serve Him with your marriage? Some adopt, others server at church, and some volunteer in their communities. What has God called you to do?
- Attend a Bible based church together
Be a part of a community of believers. Meet other couples who can sharpen and refine you. Mentor younger married couples and be mentored by wiser people.
- Worship together
Worship is so much more than singing. Our God is awesome, and it’s good to reflect on that in your family. Give thanks as a family for the goodness of God. Also, recognize God’s awesomeness in your surroundings, and marvel in it together!
Ok so this post went long, sorry about that! There may not be a pill or potion that can magically transform your marriage over night, but I do believe these habits are a great start.
Question: What is one habit that helps your marriage? Answer in the comments below.
Encouraging Marriage Quotes and Images
Sharing openly with friends is a great way to encourage others and reinforce to yourself what you believe. Here are some images we’ve made easy for you to do just that. Just click the image and select where to share it – the quote will be pre-populated. There are many more images to browse & share available here.
*For posterity, here’s the gratefulness toward God case study: (Rosmarin, Purutinsky, Cohen, Galler, and Krumrei, Journal of Positive Psychology. 2011.)
Top image by Julie Cannon, Thrive Photography