Marriage is a messy process. Hollywood would have us believe marriage is happily ever after all the time.
“We grew apart.” “We just wanted different things.” “We had irreconcilable differences.”
All of these things are often the reason for divorce. When they are simply saying the same thing – “We just didn’t invest in our marriage anymore; divorce was easier.”
Marriage is a choice. Daily. You must choose to love your spouse daily. Choose to put their needs above your own daily. Choose to see the good in them daily. Choose to work as a team daily.
There is a reason weddings have vows and licenses are needed for marriage. It is a heavy undertaking.
Once the “honeymoon” has worn off (and it will), and life really sets in (death in the family, sickness, special needs, pandemics), that is exactly when the marriage starts.
It is easy to “love” when people agree with you and life is going your way. It is a lot harder to love when you have been months out of work, or your spouse travels for work a lot, or your kids’ doctor’s appointments are never-ending and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
So how do you save your marriage before it fails?
1. Avoid parenting your partner: I think this is harder for wives sometimes. Often the comment about kids includes their spouse. When we parent our partner, we are saying we don’t trust them as peers. We actually disrespect them as adult humans. We create a separation between us. Instead, partner parent and see how that deepens your marriage.
2. Embrace differences: Remember when you were dating and you just loved how different your partner was? Being equally yoked is more than just a faith expression. A yoke was used to pair animals together to work together toward a common goal. It keeps animals moving in the same direction. But, it only works well if you pair the right animals together. A physically strong animal with a mentally strong animal is a great combination. Marriage is no different. You have been yoked together. Where I am weak, my husband is strong and vice versa. We pair well because we are different. Embrace this especially in the hard times (like when one wants to grieve a diagnosis and the other pushes forward or one is fighting post-partum and the other fights PTSD).
3. Be proactive: Don’t let resentment build. I have so many people talk to me about how their partner doesn’t help parent, or clean, or spends too much time in front of the video game and not with their child. But, these same people do not express that to their partner – the person who needs to hear it the most. Ask for help sooner. If the laundry is becoming an issue, ask for help. If mopping is your downfall, ask for help. If you have to reschedule or re-order your schedule, ask for help. The point of marriage is to have a help-partner for life. When we stop being helpmates and instead, become roommates, we invite separation and seeds of divorce to be planted.
4. Argue and Debate: Hollywood has ingrained in western society that arguing is wrong and harmful to a romantic relationship. Hollywood is stupid. Healthy arguing leads to creative solutions and stronger bonds. I don’t recommend daily arguing, or insulting, or physically arguing, but a healthy argument and debate can lead to a deeper understanding of your partner, stronger family bonds, and some incredible solutions. Two different people are becoming one unit. Change takes works, time, and is painful. The orange tree doesn’t start with fruit. It must stretch and go through growing pains, fight off insects and strong powerful winds, and more before it has a single fruit. A good harvest is still years off at this point. Marriage is no different. Work. Argue. Learn. Grow.
5. Get creative when it comes to romance: My husband and I have been on a handful of dinner and movie dates in the past six years. We have a weekly date night. It is easy to get comfortable and complacent in your date life. Don’t. Be creative. Think about the other person. Take turns planning it. Enjoy being silly or dressing up or just playing a game. Dates do not have to be dinner and a movie. Sitting in front of a movie where you can’t talk with your partner surrounded by a bunch of strangers is the farthest thing from a great date in my mind. I much prefer creating something together or playing a game. Check out these ideas for some creative date nights that won’t break the budget.
6. Appreciate each other’s efforts: Share responsibility. Before we married, we discussed the division of duties. I dislike yard work. He dislikes laundry and mopping. We simply divided the chores. His domain is outside and mines inside. He is an excellent cook and I am a great teacher. He does dinner and I do homework. It is about balance, an equal yoke. No one should feel they have all the responsibility all the time. Remember, they are doing work and investing. Thank them. A “thank you, you are appreciated and valued,” goes a long way. Recognize the effort. Give a thank you card, or surprise present for no reason, or simply send an “I appreciate it when…” text to your partner and see how your marriage strengthens. The Love Dare is full of great ideas and resources for this to become a regular practice in your marriage.
7. Sleep: Sleep is hard to come by the older you get. The lack of sleep leads to irritability, memory issues, anxiety, lower immune system functions, and so many other effects. When I have not been sleeping well, it shows in how I treat my spouse more than anyone else. Study after study, show the importance of sleep for our health. This translates to the health of our marriage as well. Don’t argue when tired. Table it. Don’t express frustration when tired. Table it. Don’t let yourself become sleep deprived in the first place. Talk about the quality and amount of sleep you are getting with your partner regularly. This will help them better understand you and may lead to some insight into the reason – ultimately leading to solutions that help you, your marriage, and your family completely.
For more ideas on how to strengthen your marriage, take a look at my Facebook page.