Chris and I are very fortunate to have one another; we both give 100% to our relationship and we’ve learned how to put down our pride for the sake of a healthy, hot, and humble marriage! I know this isn’t the case for everyone, so if you are engaged to be married, newly-wed, or looking to reignite a spark in your marriage… keep reading!
First and foremost – BE FAITHFUL.
You might be asking, “that’s considered ‘hot’?” YES. ONE-HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE PERCENT, YES. Be faithful in EVERY outlet and opportunity you have. Chris and I have made this our number one priority and we have absolutely reaped the benefit. I don’t doubt myself, ever feel the need to compete, and the best yet – I don’t have to make excuses for my husband’s wandering eyes and lack of self-control. The whole “oh, we meet on the middle. Look don’t touch. I’m not concerned what he’ll do, I trust him so he can do whatever he wants. It’s the year of the woman and he’s supporting females!” y’all – come on. These excuses are tired and played out. You married this man to let him continue in his sin as though you taking his last name should make no difference in his life? The common lie is “I’m not a boring wife, I’m a cool wife!” but trust me: this lie will grow and manifest until you either hate yourself, your husband, or your marriage. There is no gray area on this topic. Once you start saying “okay” to one thing (he doesn’t watch porn, they’re just pictures), it gets increasingly harder to draw lines anywhere else. No ‘casual’ or ‘innocent’ following on social media (how can he help that Kourtney Kardashian posts sexy photos? Uh, by not following her!) Here are the rules Chris and I play by: nobody else and nothing else. Trust me, when you save intimacy for your spouse and your spouse only, there is nothing lacking in the bedroom. God will bless your discipline and then some!
Secondly – Make God the Author of your marriage!
This is actually number one, but, too many people play games with faithfulness so I had to at least get that one out there if all other points are ignored. Chris and I don’t succeed with ‘nobody else and nothing else’ by feeling solely responsible for the other’s actions. We have come to the reality that we are humans: we are flawed, we are sinners, and we will surely fail on our own. We’ve gone outside of one another for accountability. Whether it be a pastor, trusted friend or mentor; someone you can look up to and trust to uphold you, or Jesus Himself – it’s so important to take the weight off of your’s and your spouses shoulders. This gives us real relationship freedom. We don’t have to “check-in” every day or even every month, but if we wanted to, we could! This is real trust built on an unshakable foundation. Chris and I are very aware that we won’t just let each other down if we are unfaithful. Ultimately we are letting God down. He is the Author of our marriage.
Third – Communication is VITAL.
You won’t accomplish #1 & #2 without thriving communication. Actually, I’m not sure what good can be accomplished in a marriage without it. I use the word “thriving” because sometimes we believe if we had great communication last month, we’re all set for the months ahead. Or we say: “my spouse and I fell in love because we communicated well” – but is it still alive? This is something that can get put on a shelf in a hall closet and forgotten about for years. If the communication in your marriage is dusty and tired then your relationship might be too. I recently used the term “leave no stone unturned” to describe mine and Chris’ communication. It’s simple. We talk about making a $50 purchase to 5-year plans and everything in between. When it comes to communicating hurt feelings, we’ve established the common ground that:
1) our feelings are valid regardless of the situation and the reasoning/excuses/apology that will follow.
2) the outcome of communicating feelings is to get back on the same page. not to blame, make one feel guilty or wrong, but just to be heard and understood.
3) our true source of joy and wholeness comes from GOD and not one another. remembering this is key for healthy communicating.
Four – Complaining is not communicating.
If you come home from work and you complain for an hour – trust me, you did not just build up your marriage. What does complaining have to do with my marriage? E V E R Y T H I N G. I get it, we want to be that open channel for our spouse and they need to feel comfortable airing negative feelings to us, but that doesn’t come at the price of a positive household. This is something Chris and I have to be very diligent about. Okay, come home and let it all out in the next 30-minutes and then we won’t talk about work for the rest of the evening. Complaints don’t always need to be a conversation. Let your spouse unload and then say “OK! Let’s move on!” This isn’t insensitive. Think back on complaints you or your spouse have – would fixating on them FIX anything? Does the perfect answer exist? If not – move on. This might be morbid, but I often think about my complaints as “will I even recall this during my last living breath?” Probably not. If you have a nicer disposition greeting a cashier at the grocery store than you do greeting your spouse, you might want to reassess who gets the best of you? (Spoiler alert they should both get the best of you!)
Five – Stop gossiping.
Oh, man. Chris and I love a dramatic story. You’re spilling the tea? We’ll drink it. In the beginning of our marriage we weren’t great at anything I’ve listed above. Because the two of us weren’t our healthiest and best, we defaulted to looking down at others to feel better about ourselves. How do we overcome this? First, let’s all admit that when we are gossiping – we are sinning. Secondly, does anyone walk away from gossiping actually feeling upbeat? No, it’s like something we literally have to wash off in order to change the mood we’ve just created. Or, we stop washing it off and start to LIVE in the negativity it brings. Pretty soon gossiping about our family, friends, or anyone for that matter becomes all we talk about. It’s seems innocent for awhile, but the truth is you and your spouse can invest that time and energy in pretty much ANYTHING else and get more out of it. A good question to curb this bad habit is asking yourself: “Are my words about [__________] aligning with what God thinks of [__________]?”
Six – Let down your guard and have FUN.
Okay, wait. We can’t lust over other people, God is intentionally placed above my spouse, I’m telling the truth about my feelings, but I’m not complaining or gossiping? Where’s the fun? *SIGH* The fun available to us in a God-fearing marriage is so lost on this generation. A marriage turned towards God allows for a lot of free time, y’all! Chris and I will rearrange furniture to create better space to competitively kick a ball around the house. Remember playing random and dangerous makeshift games as a kid? Why not when you’re an adult and no parents are there to ground you? Get physical! Chris is extremely athletic and a natural at soccer, whereas I played for a week at age 5 and quit, never to return again. Who cares? We play sports barefoot, indoor or outdoor, and don’t hold back! We actually have a dent in our wall from when my sister-in-law chucked a football and missed (just like she told us she would). I don’t look at the dent in my wall and grumble – it makes me laugh! It reminds me of FUN times! Outside of my core group and spouse, you really won’t see me participating in sports. I’m not comfortable doing these type of things with a crowd of people. But, in my marriage – I am intentional about letting my guard down and having fun. What does that look like for you and your spouse?
Seven – Flirt with your spouse!
Flirting? Isn’t that like, what preschoolers do? Heck no! Flirting is the new foreplay! This topic needs to be fitted best to you and your spouse (what you’re both comfortable with). Sending a flirtatious text at some point in the day gives Chris the reminder that he’s not coming home to a tired, grumpy, mom who was drooled and pooped on all day. He’s coming home to a wife who is willing to put her motherly duties to the side and put her marriage first. I know, it’s not easy and some times it doesn’t seem fair. This definitely needs to go both ways. Flirting shouldn’t be translated into “tending” to your spouse. It’s not a chore. It’s literally a form of intimate communication that really enables your spouse to feel special. You can take an actual chore and make it sexy. Example: “Hey, do you know if the trash guy is coming tonight? I think he deserves a raise. ;-)” Your trash will get taken out quicker than ever before and your husband will LOVE being the trash guy. *LOL* This is a true win-win. If flirting seems awkward, take baby steps – it’s as simple as saying “hey you!” instead of “hey!” But seriously, let’s not pretend you don’t know how to flirt. Be sure you’re doing it with your spouse.
Eight – PRIVACY.
Y’all. Respect each other. I’m not sure how to go into detail on this one other than don’t overshare any part of your relationship that you haven’t both agreed on sharing! You WILL forget what they did to make you mad, but your best friend? Never, or at least not as easily. In the moment this can be a tough one because I don’t think intentions are always maliciously pointed towards our spouse. I think at times we are just looking for validation, but this brings us back to point two. If you have thriving communication, you can voice your feelings directly rather than going outside of your marriage. Remember, your feelings are always valid. Valid does not mean FACTUAL, RIGHT, or THE ONLY TRUTH, valid means reasonable, rational, and logical. You can also overshare positive things. That thing your spouse does for you and only you? Yeah, they might not be comfortable with your mother knowing about it. Just… don’t.
Nine – Appreciate individuality.
Chris and I have a lot in common, but we also have our differences. I didn’t marry him for him to mirror my personality, my desires, or my dreams. That’d be weird. If he wants to go out and spend 3-hours in the woods, well, I could think of some more productive things he could be doing… but… it’s how he finds his joy! Now, I specifically placed this as #9 because this topic NEEDS balance and understanding. It takes time. Example: I enjoy social media and have no trouble ‘sharing’ with others. Chris, on the other hand, is not social media’s biggest fan. The reason I might never be the blogger who shares all-day long, every day? I’ve adopted practices that Chris values, which is pretty simple, value real life on real time and eat your food while it’s hot! Another example: if Chris spent every single weekend (the only mornings Lewis and I have with him) out in the woods, I’d grow to resent his passion for hunting and the great outdoors. I’d eventually resent him. He’s aware of our family values, therefore, he places them above his hobbies. We agree on most all topics, but not to a blind place where one of us loses our independent opinion. I’ve heard it before “I just want you to agree with me!” It’s as simple as this: I don’t! I see where you’re coming from, but let’s agree to disagree. So, remember what you loved about your spouse before you spent every night together. Remember what you looked forward to seeing in them specifically apart from yourself.
Ten – There is no “final destination” for your spouse or your marriage.
There is only one unchanging aspect to life and it’s God. He is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Us on the other hand? I’m not even the same person I was this morning! Neither is your spouse! Don’t assume you know everything about them. Take the time to ask questions that are a little deeper than “how was your day?” Chris and I have a book that has questions in the back like “if you could eat lunch with anyone in the world, deceased or living, who would it be?” or “what are three things I do that you dislike?” We press into each other and love learning new things! We see ourselves as clay, always ready to be molded and changed. I don’t want to be finished pottery because although beautiful, it’s too fragile. One fall and it’ll break. Clay on the other hand can absorb a fall or two, or three or four. You get the point. Live one day at a time and allow yourself to live, truly live and experience each day as new. Learn about your spouse when you have the chance. As for your marriage, look at it with the same lens. It’s not a story-book with the perfect ending. It’s OUR story and God has given us the beautiful responsibility to make it not just worth reading, but worth L I V I N G.
I hope you found this helpful. Chris and I aren’t perfect, but we do have a marriage that I see less and less of in today’s world. God made marriage to create a relationship between human beings that model the relationship between Himself and mankind. Big shoes to fill? Absolutely. Something to take seriously? Absolutely. Something to love, flourish in, adore, and hold in the highest of regards? You betcha! Your marriage should be protected, celebrated, cared for, and adored. Your vows should be upheld. Your spouse is in God’s hands and they’ll be OK. Trust in Him, give Him your marriage, and these ten things (and so much more) will be easily achieved!