Ten Tips for a Healthy Marriage

I figured a post about marriage was fitting since today is Valentine’s Day and coincidentally, I’ve been a bit more reflective about our marriage lately as my husband and I are entering into a new stage in our lives.  Our youngest child recently turned six and while it’s bittersweet to watch him and our three older children growing up so fast, it’s an exciting time for us as a couple and a family because we’re able to do so much more than we were when we had toddlers and babies at home.  I love babies and I cherished my time with them during those ages, but let me tell you, it’s soooo much easier to leave the house when you don’t have to lug a bunch of paraphernalia with you!  We have been married for fifteen years and together for twenty-one and in that time, we have experienced our fair share of struggles from death, sickness, careers, financial hardships, family issues, and challenges with parenting to name a few. Yet, we’ve miraculously managed to weather those storms and I firmly believe that we will continue to do so because we choose to stay committed every day.  So, if you’re looking for a bit of marriage or relationship advice, I’m certainly no expert but I will share what works for us and what we’ve learned along the way:

  1. Communicate: One of my good friends teases me that my husband and I over communicate ha ha.  But, I’d rather it this way than trying to read his mind and vice versa.  If something is bothering one of us, we talk it out.  I have learned over the years that it’s all about time and place.  I find that it’s best to broach a sensitive topic when we’re both relaxed and in good moods.  So, I like to bring things up when we’re going for a walk, taking a drive or we’re out to eat.  I’ve also learned when to let things go.  Choosing your battles is really important in a relationship.  So, for instance, I used to get upset about the house getting messy on the weekends but now I try to just roll with it a little more and remind myself I can clean and straighten up on Monday when everyone is gone.  Another tip about communicating is if you have trouble expressing yourself verbally, write it down.  Sometimes, I send my husband a text or an email when something is on my mind and I find it therapeutic to communicate this way. Plus it gives him time to process what I’ve said and think about how he wants to respond.
  2. Build Each Other Up: I can honestly say that my husband and I are best friends.  He’s the first person I want to talk to when I receive good or bad news and he feels the same way.  Whether one of us is feeling positive or discouraged, we try to be each others’ cheerleaders.  It’s not always easy to stick to this rule especially if you’re angry about something.  Sometimes, you want to highlight the other person’s flaws.  But, I’ve learned that nothing good ever comes out of that.  If I want my husband to improve on something, I find that if I say it constructively, he is more receptive and open -minded.  This goes for me too.  If he points something out that I don’t necessarily want to hear, I’m more willing to listen if he’s kind about it.
  3. Be Affectionate: I hope my mom’s not reading this but sex is really important so have a lot of it!  When you make the time for it, you feel more connected and you will fight less.  Plus, it’s fun.  Who isn’t in a good mood after sex?
  4. Laugh: My husband’s humor is one of the things that I was drawn to in the first place.  I find him to be incredibly funny and charming.  He makes me laugh all the time even in the midst of some pretty serious stuff.  I always joke that he makes me crack up laughing but I only make him chuckle so  I guess he’s the funnier one out of the two of us.
  5. Go on Dates: This one was tricky when our kids were really young and it still can be since their schedules are all over the place.  But, even if we get out for an hour or two, we always come home feeling more connected.  Being parents to four children can sometimes make us forget a time when it was just the two of us but when we go on dates, it serves as a reminder as to why we fell for each other in the first place.  When we can’t go out, we make plans to make dinner together and watch a movie.  Or in the warmer months, we sit outside on our deck and enjoy a cocktail.
  6. Give Each Other Space: My husband and I are definitely not connected at the hip.  He has his own interests as do I.  Moreover, we encourage each other to go out with friends whether it’s for dinner or for a night or two away.  I’ll admit that when our children were younger, I didn’t like it when my husband would be gone overnight.  But, now, I look at it as an opportunity to watch cheesy romantic movies (that he would never watch), not have to compromise about dinner, and not have to fight over the covers.  So, when he does return, I feel like I got my time too and we appreciate each other more.  Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
  7.  Be Honest: Trust is paramount in a solid relationship.  Lying erodes trust and that’s when resentment, hurt and anger can emerge.  Always tell the truth no matter how hard it can be.  It will save a lot of heartache in the long run.
  8. Set Boundaries: When you’re married or in a serious relationship, the confidence you share should be sacred.  Don’t discuss your issues as a couple with friends or family especially if you’re seeking unbiased advice.  Bring it up with one another or talk to an outside party such as a therapist.  But, dragging others into your problems makes things messy.  A marriage is between two people and no one else.  When you get married, you are each other’s priority.  Everything and everyone else comes second.
  9. Be Present: It’s easy to get caught up in who’s doing what and who has this and that.  But, when I take a step back and really look at the life we have built together, I can’t imagine having taken another path.  The hardships we have endured have strengthened us and made us appreciative of what’s most important: our kids, our health, and our faith.  I used to panic about the future but I’ve learned that we always figure it out no matter what.  So, I try to be in the moment as much as I can.  We’re driving down to South Carlina in a few days and my husband has challenged me not to have my face buried in my phone on the ride down. So, I’m looking forward to our talks, listening to music, and planning out our week.
  10. Say I Love You: People need to hear this.  It makes us feel cherished, secure and wanted.  My husband tells me he loves me all the time.  I have a harder time verbalizing this sentiment because I didn’t grow up in a house where it was said all the time.  But, I have realized through the years, that he needs to hear it too as do our children. Our most basic need is to be loved and to love.  So say it and mean it.  You won’t regret it.