Our family was in Kansas City last weekend celebrating the wedding of our best friends' daughter! It was a glorious celebration. As the bride and groom walked around the room during the reception to greet people, Alli introduced DJ as her "HUSBAND". Every time she did it, she would say "I can't believe he is my husband", with a sweet tone, blushed cheeks.
To keep that flame of love for years to come, I want to share 10 habits that I have noticed in couples who have a happy, strong marriage. In every marriage, there are "love banks", which are either deposited in or withdrawals taken. These 10 habits deposit and keep the love bank full of your spouse.
1) Not trying to change each other~ When we get married, we have fallen in love with all the "imperfections" of our spouse....as the years go on (more like months), those imperfections stand out as things needed to be changed. Trust the Lord to move on your spouse's heart if there are issues you see. Instead, ask the Lord what needs to change in YOU.
2) Framing your demands as requests~ My husband is very good at this. He has learned how to speak my language, so he frames his needs as requests. Learn how to speak to your spouse in gentle tones and frame what you need in a different way. When we make demands of our spouse, those words can cause our hearts to become defensive and we can go into a "self-protective" mode.
3) Vocalizing your appreciation~ Do not underestimate the power of blessing and praise of your spouse. Wives, this is especially essential for our husbands. The greatest need of a husband is to be admired and respected. If you can tell him how much you appreciate what he does for you; for the kids; praise him for a project he has completed at work; etc...it deposits into his love bank.
4) Focusing on the positive~ Whatever you focus on will increase in your life. If you are focused on all the things that are wrong or the issues, that will be all you see.....instead, focus on those things that are positive. Every day speak out loud 5-10 positive traits that you see or things you are thankful for (for your marriage or for your spouse). Even if they seem trivial, speak them out anyway because it changes your heart posture.
5) Taking trips down memory lane (Building memorial stones)~ This is key to keep the foundation of the marriage strong. Take time to revisit vacation photo albums (or pictures online); on your anniversary, look through your wedding photos or watch your wedding video; talk about the day of your child's (ren's) birth(s). These are the type of memorial stones that are mentioned in the Old Testament. The Israelites were told to erect monumental stones so that they would remember God's faithfulness to them...and they were to tell the stories of God's love and faithfulness to the next generation. As husband and wife we need to recount the stories of God's faithfulness to your marriage and your family.
6) Not getting too comfortable~ Keep the spark lit in your marriage by challenging the status quo (don't get too comfortable). Go on an adventure; try a new sport; take up a hobby together; try something together that you would not do on your own; etc. My husband loves to bike ride and I am a runner, so we have been separate in our work-outs. A couple years ago, Greg asked me to try biking and I wasn't that thrilled to do it, but I did give it a try. Well, I loved it! One time and I was hooked! Now, we bike together and have tried various trails in our city. We are planning a trip to bring our bikes and bike daily or hike on our vacation. If I had stayed comfortable, I would've missed out on a new adventure and a new passion!
7) Having rituals of connection~ This may sound boring or maybe mundane, but if connection times are not planned, they may not happen for months (especially in the busy season of parenting young children). I have friends who have planned connection time when her husband get homes from work. For half an hour, the kids need to play by themselves, so mom and dad can share about their day. Greg and I have date night once a week and we have done that for many years. We write it in our planners, so nothing else can steal that time from us. If you have "quality time" in the top of the love languages, connection time can make or break intimacy.
8) Knowing your spouse's call for attention~ I know when Greg needs my attention. He has definite signs that show me I haven't paid enough attention to my husband and marriage. Greg knows my signs too. Because I have "quality time" as my #1 love language, if we haven't had time together for a week or so due to work commitments, Greg can "read" me. He will say, "We need to have time together soon don't we honey". "YES" is my response. Each of you need to know the signs that say your spouse needs attention.
9) Doing the little things~ Marriage is made strong by taking care of little things for one another. What can you do today that would speak love and commitment to your spouse? Ask your spouse, "What are some little things that I could do that would bless you today?" If you want a real challenge for your marriage, try the LOVE DARE (a 40 day devotional and activation to show love and commitment to your spouse).
10) Laugh a lot ~ Life is hard. Don't take yourself so seriously. Greg and I opened a restaurant several years ago and on opening night (Friends and Family night), we had invited about 100 people, but our girls had sent the invite out to all their contacts on Facebook. We were overwhelmed with hundreds of people. It was a sea of people as I looked out at those waiting to be seated. The night was an absolute disaster~ everything that could go wrong, went wrong. At the end of the night (about 2am), Greg and I finally had finished cleaning up and we sat down at a table and he said, "Well that was horrible". And then we just started laughing and could not stop. It was a night to remember! We talk about that night so much and will measure all "horrible" events to that evening. Laughter is good medicine! Laughter heals physical ailments and it heals emotional hurts. Make it a goal to laugh together!
What area some habits you have seen in strong marriages? I would love to hear what you are doing to create a happy marriage!