I don’t consider myself a marriage expert but I do have a great marriage. I know that isn’t something you hear every day. You’ve heard the statistics, half of all marriages end in divorce. Through good times and bad, my husband and I were determined to build a great marriage.
We weren’t destined for success or lucky. In fact, my husband had been married before and already had three kids. We didn’t start out with the best foundation; but here we are 11 years later living our happily ever after.
Building a Great Marriage
If you were going to build a house, you would dedicate time and energy to make sure it was strong enough to last a life time. We have a great marriage because we’ve spent a lot of time working on it. Just like a home takes regular maintenance, a healthy marriage does too.
Prioritize Each Other
My relationship with my husband is the most important relationship on this earth. He comes before the kids, my friends and anything else. That doesn’t mean I follow him around fanning him with palm fronds and feeding him grapes. On the contrary, I’m a busy person who owns a business and works full time. I also volunteer regularly and spend time with my kids and friends.
For us, prioritizing each other means we spend time connecting every day. We have always made our kids go to bed early so we could have that time together. Even when our kids got older we would send them to their room and allow them to read or play board games quietly.
We take each other into consideration when making plans. We discuss our work schedules, volunteer commitments, moms nights/guys nights, conferences, etc. Neither one of us “runs the show”, we do it together.
You may be thinking that date nights won’t work for you right now. That is OK. We’ve gone through several seasons of date nights from no dates when we first got married (hello we had 3 kids), to weekly date nights in our room when our kids got older (they had to stay downstairs and watch a movie), to having a baby and no date nights, to weekly date nights out, then another baby and no more dates, then weekly date nights again.
The point of that long run on sentence is that we made it work. Whether we had a babysitter or not, money to go out or not, we made a point to spend time together. Now we have at least two date nights a month.
Set Boundaries with Outside Relationships
This one may sound a little odd but it’s very important. The relationships you have outside of your marriage can ruin it. No one sets out to ruin their marriage. It happens slowly with small choices. Those choices may seem innocent at first but they build a wall between you and your spouse and a bridge from your heart to someone else.
These relationships might be with someone at work, PTA, or your church. Proverbs 4:23 says,
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
When you look to someone other than your spouse to meet your emotional needs you could be entering dangerous territory. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends that encourage me and pray for me, friends I can talk to when I’m struggling with my role as a wife and mom but our relationship has limits. These friends meet my emotional need for friendship. My kids meet my emotional needs too. BUT there are some emotional needs that only my spouse can meet.
If my husband and I are having problems it is usually related to a lack of intimacy. Those date nights are a great opportunity for emotional intimacy but physical intimacy is also important.
Yes, I’m saying it. Have sex with your husband.
Enjoy one another. Hopefully you will be married for a very long time. Make it as enjoyable as possible.
I understand there are seasons where it may be difficult or impossible for that to happen; medical issues, pregnancy, postpartum and other issues can stand in the way of physical intimacy. Don’t let them stay in the way of your relationship. Be open about your limitations (ahem, six weeks is not long enough to wait after having a baby) but keep talking to each other and if needed see a counselor together.
If you feel like your marriage is doomed I want to encourage you not to give up. Jesus can heal your marriage.
I’ve seen Him do it. I’ve seen a marriage reconcile after all trust was lost. I’ve seen a family reunite and hearts heal. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.
If you are struggling in your marriage consider talking to an older, more established Christian couple, a pastor or a counselor. I understand that it can be hard to do. First, before you do anything else, pray. Jesus can give you the ability to love your spouse. Maybe try this prayer…
My marriage isn’t what I want it to be. We’ve both made mistakes and I don’t know if we can overcome them. Lord, help me learn to honor You in my relationships. Give me a humble heart that will seek love over justice, forgiveness over anger, and reconciliation over shame. Lord forgive me for being filled with bitterness and turn my heart toward you and my spouse. Teach me to love the way You love and forgive the way You forgive.
In Jesus name, Amen
Holly loves spending time with her husband and kids who range in age from 5-22.