Monday, May 25, 2015

10 Ways To Improve Your Marriage

As a wedding photographer, I see the time, energy, and money invested into a wedding.Yes, it truly can be the happiest day of your life, but what about the "from this day forward" part? How much effort is invested into the marriage itself? It's easy to slip into a relationship where you just co-exist. What about living in a marriage where you are having fun and enjoy being together?

10 ways to improve your marriage

As we approach our 10th wedding anniversary, I took some time to look back at the nuggets of wisdom I've gained and here are some things that I wish I understood going in:

1. Respect.  
Thank him for the work he does each day. Trust his decisions. He has been driving for years just fine before you were in the picture and your "tips" are not actually that helpful. What he is probably hearing from you is that he's not a good driver and you don't trust him.  Did he get some paint on the ceiling when he painted that bathroom? Don't point it out as I'm pretty sure that he knows it's there. Instead, just thank him for his hard work. Finally, always speak positively of your spouse in public.

2. Watch your tongue.  
Make your home a safe place where he wants to be and where he can be himself.  Over time he may become more comfortable sharing his insecurities and these are things that you should never use to hurt him. This is a hard one for me as I tend to speak before thinking about what I really want to say, especially in a heated moment. James 3:4-5 has a great analogy of our tongues being small but having the power to steer a conversation and relationship like a rudder on a ship.

3. Realize that he's not your girlfriend.  
I love saying "Guess how much I paid for this!" or "What do you think of this dress?". Gary's not into that game and won't share that excitement. He isn't sure how to answer the question about the dress other than saying "It looks great." You can let him know what you'd like to hear but I wouldn't count on him gushing like a girlfriend might. Also, he will usually try to solve a problem when all you want is to be heard with a sympathetic ear. Let him know you would just like him to listen if it's going to frustrate you.

4. Make him feel wanted.  
Let him know you think he's handsome. Reach out to initiate hugs and kisses and...whatever else. Let your partner know what you need, like, and hope for. Husbands–make sure you tell your wives that they are beautiful, too!

5. Put him before the kids (and/or work).
This can be hard, especially when the kids are young and just need us so much. Wouldn't you rather approach parenting as a strong, happy unit? Wouldn't you love to enjoy time with your spouse each evening once those little monkeys are in bed? One day they will move out and we will be left with our spouse. It is so healthy for kids to see this marriage relationship being a priority.

Ten simple ways to improve your marriage

6.  Be intentional.
Our 8th year of marriage was our hardest.  We were tired from having three young kids and were busy with work. We survived in a business type mode and there was not a lot of fun. Although we were working well as a team, we weren't connecting and enjoying each other's company. Make the effort. Even if the other person doesn't want to, just start and you will see results. Read books. Attend marriage classes or counselling. You can't change them but you can change yourself. When things are going well, don't stop putting in effort! You wouldn't quit working out once you were at the fitness level you were hoping to achieve so don't do that with your marriage either.

7. Focus on the positives.
If you see a wet towel on the bed and dirty clothes on the floor, don't let your mind start going to all the ways your spouse has let you down. Instead, focus on what he does do. He works hard. He takes care of the kids. He makes dinner a couple of times a week. He takes out the garbage. Whatever it is, focus on those positive things. Turn those negatives around. For example, if you're frustrated that he's a procrastinator, appreciate that he's laid back. This doesn't mean you don't need to mention the wet towel, just be aware of how often you bring it up and the tone of your voice.

8. Spend time together talking, sharing activities and in bed. 
Usually an investment in the first two leads to the third. Have fun together. Pray together. Share together. Figure out what activities you enjoy doing together and do them. Going into our marriage I thought we would always have ample time to hang out together and I didn't think about how life (kids) would affect that. We enjoy hiking as a couple and realized early on that playing tennis together was not an ideal activity.

Ten simple ways to improve your marriage

9. Fight fair.  
Try not to use the words "always" and "never" or "remember when".  If possible, enter the discussion calmly. If you feel like you are going to be unable to discuss something respectfully, I would encourage taking a few minutes to calm down. There may have been an incident where I threw a bag of potatoes across the kitchen. You don't want to say something you will regret. Don't be stubborn as it's not worth it to try and win. There is no winning. Try to work towards compromise and a solution. Working through a problem towards a solution is so much more satisfying!

10.  Recognize that we see things differently.
When I come into the house, I see shoes in the hallway, dirty dishes on the counter, and a laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs. What does my husband see?  Not those things. Sometimes they really don't see what needs to get done and it's not that they expect you to do it, they just need it pointed out gently. Other times, it's just not high on their priority list. Often I just ask for those items on the To Do list to be done by a certain date or time. Believe me when I say that it's not worth it to leave an item out to see how long it will take to get cleaned up.

Ten simple ways to improve your marriage

Please make sure you put the effort in even if the other person doesn't see the need.

Check in with each other to see where you feel your marriage is at.  We give our marriage a grade by using a percentage to get an idea of how each person is feeling (86% for me and 88% for Gary right now).  And finally, just to make things a bit easier; Whoever gets out of bed last is responsible for making the bed.

What advice would you give?

Love,
Louise

Please pin here for later:
Ten simple ways to improve your marriage

PS I asked Gary for a Bonus Tip from his perspective: Husbands, try to look nice before leaving the house.  Your wife feels it's a reflection on her in regards to how you are dressed.


9 comments:

  1. "Make the effort. Even if the other person doesn't want to, just start and you will see results. Read books. Attend marriage classes or counselling. You can't change them but you can change yourself."
    I couldn't agree with this more! Change starts with YOU and YOU are the only one YOU can change! Great List!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! I remember reading `The Power of a Prayer Wife' and that was in the intro or first chapter (Change me!) and that was a total mind shift for me as I kept thinking how I could change him-as if I'm perfect?!

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  2. this is a fantastic list - absolutely love it. kudos to you and Gary for being committed to working on your marriage!

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    1. Thank you, Kelly! Totally worth it. In the beginning I thought marriage was so easy and parenting was hard. Little did I realize the affect that one would have on the other and how, over time, it could change so much!

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  3. Happy Anniversary Lou! Way to go!!

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  4. Nice and descriptive post. Excellent information. To get advice on improving your marriage you can visit how-to-improve-your-marriage

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  5. We have made a very conscious effort to work on #7. Great advice. Of course we know spats will happen here and there but knowing how to deal with them is so important!

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    1. #7 is a good one. Somehow those things that annoy you seem to escalate over time :)

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