Because we’re mere days away from Valentine’s Day, it seemed fitting to gather up everything I’ve learned about love and marriage into one place. I hope it encourages you or maybe helps to put a little fire back into your marriage.
Cheers to love.
1. Marriage is hard work. Become okay with this. In order for it to flourish, you need to be willing to do this work. This means dates and conversations and putting the others needs before your own and leaving notes in their car and asking how their day was and having enough humility and care to work through a disagreement to get to the other side. It’s work- worthwhile and gritty work.
2. Especially in light of #1, find a counter-balance in being playful together. Never lose the fun. Do something silly, spontaneous, outrageous just to make him laugh.
3. The man I’m married to now is not the man I married. Translation: We change. Life is a rushing river and we shift to keep up with the flow. The art of marriage is being able to recognize and embrace our experiences and how they have developed us and grown us without resenting it or wishing for what we used to have opens us up to grow together rather than apart.
4. Try as you might, you’re not going to change your husband. Not with reminding or nagging or subtly hoping he understands your meaning. What you can do, however, is work on becoming more graceful and forgiving; this will serve you well.
5. Marriage comes with on-the-job training. None of us go into it knowing exactly what works. It involves a bunch of trial and error and learning what works best in your own rhythm. It’s okay to not know what you want your marriage to be about yet– you’ll learn.
6. When I feel good about myself, I stop looking to my husband to give me worth and value- something he’s never going to be able to do himself. Our confidence has to come from a source other than our husband.
7. Someone has to go first. Apologize first, yield first, diffuse tension first, love first. Why can’t it be you?
8. Dates don’t have to be dinner and a movie. Do a day date and go mountain biking, go on a hike, explore downtown and discover local shops. Become a hometown tourist for the day and see your city with a new perspective- you might begin to see your marriage with new eyes, too.
9. There’s nothing to hide in marriage and the sooner you become comfortable with that, the better it is. This is about emotions and secrets and decisions but also our bodies. Just wait till childbirth.
10. Words are like salt in a recipe- you can always add more, you can never take them away. Be discerning and intentional about the words you sprinkle out in a conversation or argument. Make sure you want them to stick; some leave a terrible aftertaste.
11. Sometimes you just need to grab a carton of ice cream and two spoons and go sit in your front yard to eat it.
12. It’s okay if your husband doesn’t remember your favorite kind of flower. This is not a reflection of how much he loves you.
13. Just say the thing. Guys need us to just say it. We can’t subtly drop hints or passively ask questions or hear our sighs and know how angry we are or assume they know what we’re referring to. Sometimes they just really are that unaware- just say the thing and say it clearly and straightforward and it will shorten your arguments by 75%.
14. When you’re at a party, don’t ask “Are you ready to go?” when you are, in fact, ready to go and you hope he picks up on your unspoken cue. He will answer your question with how he feels, which is “No,” and you will be left to socialize for another hour. Instead, say “I’m ready to go.” He will miraculously understand your message.
15. Binge watching a show together is oddly unifying. Some of our favorites: Friday Night Lights, Lost, 24.
16. Tell your husband thank you. Say it often- husbands love to feel appreciated because who doesn’t? For everything- for working hard at his job, for putting his laundry away, for changing the babies diaper. This does not make you weak, it makes him feel appreciated. Just because it’s things he should be doing anyway- still say thank you. Gratitude creates more positive change than nagging or bitterness ever could. Bonus: he’s more likely to do even more.
17. Make shared memories together. Lots of them. Both in the simple daily routines and big life experiences. Then remember them together and talk about those favorite moments.
18. Kissing is fun. Do it as much as you can.
19. Be generous with your love. Even when it’s hard.
20. Talk. About everything. Even when it’s awkward, even when it’s hard, brutally honestly, always.
21. Don’t worry about your marriage looking like anyone else’s. Find your own rhythm. Rock it.
22. Every relationship has seasons of ebb and flow. Stay the course. You’ll get through it. I’m cheering you on. For real.
23. Watch other marriages, read books, talk to friends about what makes their relationship work best. And then decide for yourself how your own marriage best functions. I know it’s hard to believe, but you really are the one who gets to figure out how your marriage works.
24. In light of #23, be prepared to flex and change your mind. Know your core values, but be willing to see other perspectives if need be.
25. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger: Wise, biblical advice that taken too literally can cause more problems than healing. The principle is to extend forgiveness and reconcile as quickly as possible- it might take a few setting suns at times to truly become unified once again. We’ve had knock-down, drag-out fights at 1:00 in the morning and have both said things we didn’t mean and shouldn’t have said in our exhaustion- all in the name of trying to work out problems that same day. Sometimes a clear head with a fresh nights sleep doesn’t make the problems seem as big anymore or at the very least, turns our hearts toward each other more.
26. If your husband falls asleep on the couch in the evening, it is nothing personal. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be with you, it’s not that he finds you that uninteresting, he really is just that tired. Give him some grace.
27. If your husband puts salt and pepper on his dinner, he’s not announcing that you served a terrible meal, he just thinks it needs salt and pepper.
28. If your husband turns most meals into a chip dip, it’s fine. He still loves you.
29. Not that I learned any of these from experience as I got over my own insecurity or anything. Here is the moral: Trust his love for you. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
30. Don’t let silly things like salt & pepper, tortilla chips, keys on the counter, become what makes or breaks your marriage. This is not what love hinges on. There’s going to be one million annoyances and idiosyncrasies in marriage and in your husband- it’s an art form to overlook them and not make an issue out of every single one. Focus on the big things- the sacrificial love, communicating through everything, teamwork, generosity with our time and our hearts- instead of the small. Don’t let the unimportant things become important.
31. Don’t get lazy at love.
32. Be intentional about making out (and more!) with your husband- when you are physically close it helps you to feel emotionally close.
33. Find a shared activity that’s fun for you both and work out your life so that you can do it together.
34. Surround/protect your marriage with hedges- i.e. Don’t be alone with a member of the opposite sex and if there are times you have to for work, etc., tell your spouse. This helps prevent emotional closeness to a member of the opposite sex that’s not shared as a couple.
35. Give out grace and forgiveness like they’re confetti
36. Don’t keep score about anything.
37. Have friends who have the same commitment to their marriages and can keep you accountable and tell you when you are being stupid. Seriously- girlfriends who you can vent to but then will call you out on your junk when needed are worth their weight in gold; keep them close. Mine have helped me see my husband and myself more clearly more times than I can count.
38. Always assume the best of each other- don’t let your assumptions or bad attitude make up false “truths” about your spouse.
39. The First Five Minutes Rule saves nights: Whenever you come back together in a day, after work, school, etc, make sure that in the first five minutes you look each other in the eye, be interested in each other’s time, get headed in the same direction.
40. Hold hands as often as you can.
41. Go back to the simple things you did or said when you fell in love and don’t assume that you don’t need to say or do or notice those things anymore.
42. Never underestimate the power of vulnerability in admitting your weaknesses to your spouse. But also be honest about your struggles AND victories- don’t forget to also talk about the battles won and the strength gained. Remember that your spouse is your person- they’re with you in it. Allow them to be.
43. Be willing to do more so they have to do less. This is sacrificial love right here.
44. It’s the little stuff that makes up a marriage- Saturday morning pancakes, touching his arm when he comes near, talking about what happened during the day, remembering an important meeting. Love is much more ordinary than it might seem at first, but this is where the magic is.
45. Find reasons to celebrate. Make them up if you have to. A job promotion, a year without a speeding ticket, a half-birthday. Tape streamers to the ceiling, blow up balloons, make their favorite dinner. Create an atmosphere of fun and celebration and reclaiming joy. It’s contagious.
46. Connect at the foundation: Increase your awareness of the presence of God in your life and in your world and talk about it together. When you connect at the core of your being and at the most foundational levels of your heart, your connection on every other level deepens as well.
47. Love is a choice. We don’t feel in love every single day. I am not easy to love every single day. There have been seasons in our marriage when we have had to choose to love the other because we weren’t necessarily feeling the butterflies-in-the-stomach-I-want-to-spend-every-second-with-you kind of love. Nothing feels more exhausting and hard than a rough season in your marriage, but I am so grateful we didn’t throw in the towel- if navigated well, those difficult seasons have the potential to draw you closer rather than drive you apart. Lean in and choose love.
48. Make a goal in your life to work toward, and it doesn’t necessarily have to include your spouse. Sign up for a race, start a business, take up a new hobby. Then, the fun begins when you get to become each other’s biggest cheerleader, celebrating successes and spurring them on when it gets hard.
49. Marriage not always sexy. Sometimes a toilet gets clogged. Sometimes the car oil needs to be changed. Sometimes someone has to puke. The sweet spot is where the two of you learn to navigate these seemingly simple and mundane parts of life and intertwine it with your relationship to embrace real life together.
50. Remember that marriage = life + best friend. It’s an experience-sharing, party-hosting, cheering-the-other-on, celebrating successes, raising tiny humans, swinging at life curveballs together, talking into the night, becoming a truer version of yourself kind of adventure. It is hard and good. Do the work, for better and for worse, and love always, choosing him as he chooses you, again and again and again.
Looking for more encouragement in your marriage? I’ll drop a little love note in your inbox once a month but to get you started, here are five ways that have helped strengthen our marriage.