Earlier this week, I shared the first five tips for strengthening a marriage. If you missed it, you can read it here: 10 Tips For Strengthening Your Marriage
While none of this tips are life-changing or brand new ideas, it’s good for us all to take some time and think about we can intentionally love our spouse better. Whether your marriage is already strong or if you feel like it’s floundering, these tips will help deepen your relationship with your spouse.
So, without further ado, here are the last five tips to strengthen your marriage.
6. Have fun together.
This seems obvious. Of course we should have fun together. But it’s harder than it seems. Once kids come along, you can’t go out whenever you want. You have new worries and responsibilities that never really go away. As more kids come and longer work hours hit and more obligations in our churches and communities arise, our relationships can deteriorate to mere planning sessions in between running to the grocery store or to soccer practice.
You know what makes a stressful evening entertaining little kids during a rainy soccer game a whole lot better? Laughing with your husband.
That’s it. Merely laughing and deciding to have fun despite the circumstances switches the whole atmosphere from one of tension – where arguments can quickly arise – to one of togetherness, where you enjoy each other. What about a traffic jam when you’re in a hurry? This is one of my husband’s triggers. He hates sitting in traffic. While I don’t enjoy it, either, it doesn’t irritate me the way it does him, so it’s my job to lighten the mood and give us something fun to do while we wait. Since we have family down South and do way too many road trips down I-77, traffic jams are a common occurrence for our family. We have experienced the gloom of letting the annoyance get to us, but we’ve also experienced the fun of converting that extra time on the road into family games and filling our van with laughter.
Of course, there was the time when our newly-turned-five-year-old boy (who shall remain nameless, but he’s not the youngest) had to go potty desperately while we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a bridge in Virginia… but that story might involve TMI, so we’ll leave that one untold…
Even when life is calm, take time to have fun. Bring your kids to the park and play together. Turn on music and dance while you clean your house together. Watch funny movies and bring up the most hilarious parts to make each other laugh out of the blue. Sit on the couch after the kids are in bed and talk and enjoy living with your best friend. Life can be hard, but together, you can make it fun.
7. Plan for hard times.
We all know hard times come. Large bills. Home repairs. The death of a loved one. Those are the big things that pop into your head when you think about hard times, but if you’ve been married for long, you know little things become big things over time. Does your husband snore? Does your wife sing off-key while she cooks? What about the famous toilet paper roll question? These quirks may not seem like much, but if unaddressed, they can grow into huge mountains separating once-close couples.
My husband and I have discovered that if we talk about issues and make a plan – together – for how we will handle them, so much stress goes away. When our little ones were babies and we were both working, we made a schedule for who would get up with the baby in the night. We knew ahead of time who would respond if she cried. If we hadn’t planned, guess what? I am the lighter sleeper, so I would have either been the one who got up all the time and then would be too exhausted to get through my days, or I would have woken up my husband and then we would have argued over who needs sleep more.. while the baby cried. Talk about stress! Nothing good comes out of situations like that.
Now we don’t have any babies, but if my husband is very tired, he snores sometimes. My husband works amazingly hard and is a great dad, so he wears himself out. When he first started this, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t sleep. We didn’t have any empty beds for me to go to sleep there. I didn’t want to wake him up, since the reason for the snoring was his exhaustion. So I laid there, frustrated. Then over time, we talked about it and came up with a solution. It’s great! If he snores, I nudge him just enough to get his attention and ask him to turn over. He flips over and goes right back to sleep, this time without snoring. And I get to go to sleep, too! It’s a beautiful solution. He doesn’t even fully wake up, so he gets the rest he needs, and I get the rest I need, as well. See how nice it is to talk about something ahead of time?
These are easy problems, but discussing things ahead of time works for larger issues, as well. Making a monthly budget for our finances together has saved us fights over money. Talking about child-rearing for stages our children haven’t reached yet helps us work out ideas together before those ages come. In our family, I am definitely the planner, the visionary who likes to look ahead. My husband is the one who takes my ideas and dreams and makes sure we reach them. I imagine most couples have one person who is more likely to look ahead. If that’s you, talk to your spouse. Make plans for the future so you can avoid as many roadblocks ahead as possible.
8. Dream together.
This one is very similar to the last one, but more than just making a plan as to how you will handle the difficulties of life, take time to dream together. Where do you want to be in five years? In ten or twenty? What jobs do you want to have? Where do you want your kids to be? What are your spiritual goals, both as a couple and individually? Are there fun bucket list items you want to experience?
Working together towards a shared goal is wonderful for a marriage. It reinforces the teamwork of the relationship: two people working together as one. My husband and I have had many goals over the years, and the fun of reaching is only mildly more enjoyable than the fun of working towards them together.
Maybe you want to pay off your car debt. You make a budget and talk about ways the two of you can bring in extra money. Maybe that leads to a second job, or maybe to one partner developing a skill set they didn’t even know they had, like wood-working or knitting or technology. Then you talk about how you can cut spending, and now your family is sitting at the dinner table eating egg sandwiches for dinner AGAIN, but everyone is happy because you got to make an extra payment and get that much closer to your goal.
Maybe your goal isn’t financial. Maybe the two of you want to be more involved in evangelism, so you make a goal to have one or two new friends over for dinner each month. As you work towards that end, you pray together for God to lead you to new people. You work together keeping the house and yard nice enough for company. You cook together and build friendships with other couples together. And as you see your circle of relationship growing, you and your spouse have a deeper relationship because of striving toward that goal together.
9. Remember your spouse is your best friend.
When you got engaged, I bet you liked to hang out with your spouse. I bet you did everything you could together. Your soon-to-be spouse was your favorite person in the world. Well, this may be a shocker, but your spouse can stay your best friend! I hear all the time about the importance of “girls night” or “girls weekends”. About how men need to have a man cave where he can get away and hang out with his friends. While nothing is wrong having friends of the same gender, and those relationship are indeed important, the most important human relationship in your life needs to be the one with your spouse.
All the tips leading up to this one help build your marriage into one of best friends, where the first person you want to talk to is your spouse. The one you dream with is your spouse. The one who comforts you is your spouse.
If your marriage is where it can be, you don’t need a “best friend”, because you have your spouse. In fact, I often tell my husband, “You’re my favorite”, because it’s true. He is my favorite. Favorite person, favorite friend, favorite counselor, favorite exercise partner, favorite movie watching companion, favorite prayer warrior. He’s my favorite… everything.
Please don’t take me wrong here. I have a friend I call my best friend. We are very close. We talk on the phone and text a lot and see each other whenever we can. If I have a problem, I know she’ll listen and give me good advice. I am also very, very close with my mom and my sister. We go on girls’ nights occasionally. These things are good and valuable. But if the first person I go to with everything in my life is one of them and not my husband, that’s a red flag about my marriage. If I would rather go out and spend time with them than with my husband – on a regular basis – that’s a huge red flag.
Your spouse can – and should – be your best friend.
10. Grow closer to God together.
I know this is a cliche, but I saved the best for last. All of these other tips fall apart if your hearts aren’t growing closer to God. We are sinful creatures. We are selfish, prideful, and thoughtless. But God loves us and sent His Son to pay for our sins. If we ask Him, He forgives us and sends His Holy Spirit into us to give us victory over sin.
With Christ, we have the power to say no to ourselves. We can learn to love our spouses in a selfless way, like God loves us. As I study my Bible, pray, and learn from wise Bible teachers, I grow closer to God. As my husband studies his Bible, prays, and learns from wise Bible teachers, he also grows closer to God.
Guess what happens when you both grow closer to God? You grow closer to each other, as well.
As we seek to strengthen our marriages, don’t forget that the best thing you can do is to strengthen your relationship to God. There have been times in my marriage where I was the one falling behind spiritually, and my husband prayed for me and helped me.
Sometimes, it’s been the other way around, and I saw things in my husband that worried me. I prayed about them, not even mentioning them to my husband, and I saw God work in a powerful way in my husband’s life and grow him in those areas, much better than I could have done by trying to change him myself.
Now, maybe some of reading this are in the situation where you are a Christian, but your spouse is not. Pray. Pray hard and just do your best to live out Christ before your spouse. If you follow the other nine tips, most likely your spouse will respond in a favorable way. After all, everyone likes to be listened to with respect, to be served, to be treated with kindness. Your marriage may very well get stronger, and as it gets stronger, you will have more opportunities to live out the Gospel to your spouse.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Thanks for reading!