The vows have been said, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the thank you notes have been sent. The wedding is officially over...now what? Now you're married, which is a huge commitment. Maybe it's only been 10 days, 10 weeks,10 months or 10 years... where you are in your marriage, you may have vowed to not become like every other old boring married couple out there. But it takes more than lip service and good intentions to build a love that lasts.
Here are 10 tips on how to get your love moving and lasting in the right direction:
1. Set aside time to connect every day.
The other weekend, Jarrett and I were out and I found myself noticing a very nice looking couple across the room. Her hair was lovely and her dress and make up looked as if she took great care in getting herself ready. The guy she was with was also dressed nicely in a button up collared shirt and trendy shades. Cute couple. They sat next to each other, over several plates of appetizers and, obviously, their meal. And, though they were close, they weren't connecting at all. This trendy and attractive couple were each glued to their phones: sitting side by side, but focused on other people and other things.
In a 24 hour day, you each have about 8 or more hours of being apart from each other: careers, commutes, conferences, ect... Carving out time every day for undevoted attention might feel impossible, but out of 24 hours, surely, it's worth the commitment of the health of your relationship to set aside 20 minutes for each other. And no, sex doesn't count!
If you can, try to ditch the apps during dinner time, so you can focus on each other more. It'll be a great time to connect about the day, destress, and enjoy one another. Maybe select one night a week where the TV is off- no couch surfing allowed. You can use this time to do an activity together or complete a home project. If you get in the habit of making time for each other right out of the gate, it'll be a lot easier to keep that connection as time goes on and if your family expands to include children.
2. Learn to attack problems, not each other.
The worst thing that could ever occur in a marriage- or any relationship for that matter- is for one or both people to refuse to find a solution. Pride never wins and ultimately, a refusal in finding harmony will result in distrust, disfunction and disinterest.
When things go wrong- and they will, some times- it leaves you with only 2 options: forgive or fight. Marriage isn't about being right; it's about being a team. Instead of wasting energy attacking one another in an argument, learn to focus your attention on the problem and be mature enough to explore solutions. In some cases, this requires a time out of sorts- maybe acknowledging each other's point of view, respectfully, and going into another room to cool down, pray or just rest. I prefer taking a shower when I'm pissed or feel misunderstood. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to collect yourself, just as long as you are willing to revisit the problem to formulate a solution.
The reality is that if you're mature enough to be married, you have to operate in maturity to maintain harmony, peace and love. Being angry and trying to punish each other to prove your point is unproductive and many marriages have collapsed because of an unwillingness to set pride aside. Don't let that be your story.
3. Know that it's okay to have separate interests.
Clinginess is never cute! It just isn't. He needs to be out of the house, sometimes. You need some alone time, some times. You each have friends, family, hobbies and new and old interests that shouldn't be ignored in your efforts to cultivating a healthy marriage. To do so is unhealthy.
Spending time away from each other provides you opportunities to recharge, invest in your self and give each other a break, which will ultimately enhance your relationship- fueling experiences that will allow for conversation, self discovery and more meaningful intimacy when you reconnect with one another. Remember, though the 2 must become 1, you are still individuals with individual interests, talents and callings. While it's important to share interests with your spouse, it shouldn't be an alarming concern to get away from each other from time to time. Give him a reason to miss you! Togetherness is always good for a marriage, but each person needs to take time for themselves as well.
4. Keep Communicating.
It's one of the most stated suggestions: Communication. And it's true. You can't grow if you don't know where you are and he is not a mind reader- neither are you. Some things are difficult to share: either because they are intimidating, uncomfortable or simply because we aren't quite sure how we feel. But effective communication isn't marked by jokes and flirting... sometimes, we have to have some serious conversations and that's ok.
When you are entirely comfortable having meaningful conversations, you'll find it a lot easier to broach more difficult topics. Nothing should be off topic in a marriage. Each of you have committed yourselves and your lives to each other. If it matters to you, it should matter to him and vice versa. Build trust and strengthen your bond through communication.
5. Get your finances in order.
We already know that financial problems is the number one cause of divorce in our country. Why? Because being broke is uncomfortable and ushers in a lack of stability. But there are plenty of ways to improve your financial situation or maintain a thriving household where income is not a pressure point.
Live in your means. I know we all have a credit card, or 2, but that doesn't mean you have to swipe every week or every month. Budget your life. Sit down and discuss your finances and your bills with one another. this is not a personal issue- it's a joint concern and each member of the marriage should be aware of the other's financial standing. If need be, don't go on that vacation and use the money to pay off some debt. Give your tithes, faithfully, as God promises to bless those who trust Him with their wealth (Malachi 3:10). Be responsible with your spending... is that dress really worth the money and the pain of disapproval from your husband? Will that new couch really add value to your marriage or will it just be one other item to collect dust and take away from your monthly savings?
Set yourself up for success right out of the gate. While you probably should have done this before getting married, figure out where each one is sitting in terms of debt and credit rating, and decide what to do about improving both of those. Be proactive, and you should be fine. I suggest researching Dave Ramsey's tools for financial freedom. Invest in a financial advisor, if need be. But create a plan and practice it in order to gain or maintain financial prosperity in your marriage.
6. Be open about what you want out of your sex life.
Sex is amazing. Thank you, Lord! What a clever idea of His! It's such an intimate part of married life and truly ushers in so many other benefits in your marriage, such as trust, health and, eventually, children.
Although many people don't wait for marriage to have sex nowadays, and so many couples find their sexual rhythm before walking down the aisle, it's still important to talk about what each person wants so no one is dissatisfied with the level of intimacy in the marriage.
Remember, communication is key. Don't be embarrassed or uncomfortable to discuss sexual pleasure and expectations with one another. The point of sex is that both of you should be fulfilled- it's not about one person being satisfied. It's about joining your bodies together, just as you have joined your hearts together. It's about mutual respect, sacrifice, pleasure and joy. If you want to try something, he should be open to exploring it, as you should be open to exploration with him. As long as the acts are edifying and not subversive, enjoy the marital bed... couch... counter top...floor...whatever you like, where ever you like!
If you are in a rut concerning this issue, don't neglect the power of a gentle kiss and a soft touch. Nature will take over, if you are willing to make the attempt!
7. Continue dating each other.
This is not to be confused with tip #1. Although it is important to make time for each other daily, it's vital to take some special, set aside time, to be together- alone, for the purpose of creating intimacy and memories. In other words Get Out of The House!
After you've been married for a while, careers, kids, and routine start to set in. Many married couples don't always go out as much as they used to. Around our 3rd year of marriage, I found myself being very grumpy with Jarrett. He'd come home and do his routine afterwork activities and we'd sit down to a delicious dinner that I prepared... again. I was cranky and annoyed with him. I felt stuck. I felt bored. But I wasn't sure what was wrong. We weren't at odds with eachother. He hadn't done anything wrong. What was up?
After some conversations and self reflection... I realized we both just weren't dating each other anymore. Somewhere between the new baby, my nonprofit, Jarrett's job and investing in our church lives and focusing on our savings account, we hadn't made time for dating. It didn't take much effort to correct this error. It made a world of difference for both of us- a time we can look forward to, get dressed up for and just be ourselves.
While date nights might need a bit more planning ahead of time, we all need that time to reconnect. Taking time out to remind yourself how special your spouse is to you and how special you are to each other is incredibly important and a wonderful way to incorporate communication.
8. Prioritize Priorities
Prayer, apologies, forgiveness... these are essential in loving well. They are more crucial than money in the bank or a thriving sex life. Try having sex when there is not forgiveness... it won't make much of an impact. Try family planning with no prayer... you won't get very far.
Remember, the spiritual investment in your marriage will create an atmosphere for the natural and physical aspects of your marriage to thrive. Love is not an emotion, it's a course of actions which involves self less deeds, commitments and a resolve to uplift one another- for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Keep the main thing the main thing and try not to let the petty things of our culture take your attention off of loving each other well.
9. Invest in Your Love
The media would have you think that expensive vacations or elaborate love affairs ensure lasting romance, but honestly, it's the little ways that build a great foundation. Investing in your love is not limited to sexual acts. Explore ways to invest in the total person: mind, spirit, emotions and body. Read books, attend marriage seminars, go to counseling, even, if there are issues or goals that you can't seem to find direction on your own about.
Investment takes time and it requires a willingness, from both partners, to seek what is relevant for the relationship and what needs to be let go of. Time has a way of changing all people. The person you were on your first date is not the person you will be on your 15th anniversary and vise versa. Give each other space to become who they are becoming and know that your involvement will shape them into their best, or worst. You and your spouse are sharing a life together, and what good is that if you are unwilling to make the necessary investments to improve your marriage? No marriage is perfect, so we must all be willing to take the lengths required to ensure love, joy and peace. Some times, we need help to do this, successfully. Don't be afraid to seek help!
10. Compliment your spouse and show your appreciation.
It's easy to take our marriages for granted, but it's so important to express your love to each other in words, as well as in deeds. Don't be afraid to tickle each other, to drop by their job for a surprise lunch visit, to leave a note in his car, even send the occasional eye brow raising picture to his phone! The little acts of flirtation can go a long way, for each of you!
Tell your husband that you admire him for whatever traits he possesses that you find attractive. Share with him your hopes and dreams for him. Encourage him with hugs and compliments. Women aren't the only one's who need love, attention and affection. It's a good way to make sure you don't slip into complacency with letting them know how great you think they are.
At the end of the day, marriage is a commitment between two people as you journey through life, together. The vows that state, "Forsaking all others", is a true statement. No one and nothing should ever have the power to get in between the two of you. As scripture states, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one" (Genesis 2: 24). This commandment illuminates the beautiful truth that marriage is the highest natural relationship that one can experience on earth and that deserves your devotion and respect.
Life will bring happiness, hardship, opportunity, and loss, and you will experience it all with your together. What happens to you happens to him and what happens to him happens to you. You are in this together, so explore, enjoy and encourage each other, every step of the way. Marriage won't always be fun, and it certainly won't always be easy, but as long as you keep that mutual love as a center point in your life, it'll all be worth it!