My husband and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and I’ve been reflecting on the ways our relationship has grown over the last ten years. Here are five things I’ve learned that strengthen my marriage:
1. Over-communication is key.
Communicating well is important in any relationship. But in a marriage, I’ve found that I can’t assume my husband knows anything (and I mean that in the most loving way!). In our early years together, I would get upset because he didn’t know what I was thinking - even though I hadn’t told him. It turns out good husbands don’t make good mind-readers, and I need to tell him what I’m feeling, where that feeling is coming from, and what I need from him - all of which take a lot of vulnerability.
Now, I make sure to tell him when I’m feeling overwhelmed, for example, and how he might be able to help, which often means I’m asking him to just listen and not offer any solutions. I also try to take his feelings into consideration, such as asking if he wants to have a certain tough conversation now or table it until after the kids go to bed. This “over-communication” also applies to finding time to tell him when I appreciate what he’s done, even if it’s just day-to-day tasks! “I’m so grateful you loaded the dishwasher before bed!”
2. Do the thing your spouse hates the most.
We’re talking chores here, not pet peeves. My least favorite chore is doing the dishes, so Brandon makes a point to do them often and it makes me feel taken care of. He dislikes doing laundry, so I’m in charge of that and it’s a joy for him to find clean clothes in this closet without lifting a finger.
3. Make amends before going to sleep.
While we were engaged, we were given the advice, “Never go to sleep mad at each other.” Every couple has disagreements, and I don’t expect that will ever go away. While there have been times when one of us might still be feeling a certain way at bedtime, we try to put the argument into perspective, focus on the reality that we’re on the same team, and apologize before falling asleep, even if that apology is just, “I’m sorry we’re arguing.”
It helps us to have a spirit of humility and genuine love. We might not understand why our spouse has a certain opinion or reacts in a certain way, but we can acknowledge that they are doing their best and making choices that make sense to them in that moment.
4. Speak well of your spouse to others.
It’s normal to want to complain when you’re frustrated, but I avoid slamming my spouse in conversation with friends and family. My husband and I will have friendly banter when we’re in a group together, but when I’m on my own with my friends this “rule” helps me focus on his positive qualities instead of revealing any character flaws - and it ensures that I don’t regret what I share.
This lesson comes with an important caveat: It is good to problem solve issues in your marriage with a trusted friend! Sometimes a therapist can be helpful, too.
5. Pray together and for your marriage.
We’ve found praying together each night to be unifying and fruitful. It’s a tangible way to express gratitude, an opportunity for quality time, and a practical way to weave prayer into our nightly routine. Sharing intentions with each other helps us process experiences we’ve had throughout the day and bring them to God in prayer, together.