20 Years, Huh?!

I find it so hard to believe that I’ve been married 20 years today, and we had our first date 21 years ago today! Marriage is a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes, I feel like we’re still newlyweds. Other times, I feel like a wrinkled old couple, still in love and teasing each other.

I’ve learned and grown a lot since knowing my love. The Lord’s used him to help change me into a better person. My husband amazes me and challenges me daily.

I’ve learned some things that go against many of the love stories I grew up reading.

Love isn’t just candlelight dinners and roses. I prefer steak and a potted flower that he plants for me!

It’s not just make-out sessions and making love each night. Though I don’t mind either!

Love doesn’t have to be a fancy dinner and dancing or a movie. Love is holding hands while watching Netflix in your jammies.

Love isn’t month-long vacations to island paradises or cruise ships. It’s working for 15 hours a day without complaint because the family needs to survive.

Love isn’t buying the most expensive dishwasher. It’s washing dishes when you think it’s the worst chore ever.

Love is doing your job even through the pain because it needs to be done.

Without further ado, may I present to you 20 tips for a stronger marriage. Note that some of them may have been mentioned in my most recent marriage post.

1. Put God First in Your Life & Your Marriage

God has to be the center of a marriage for it to thrive. This doesn’t just mean in word only. The closer you are to Christ as individuals, the closer you will be to each other. Let go of your expectations for your spouse; all of our needs should be met in God, not each other. We each have a responsibility for our OWN relationship with God and letting HIM meet those needs – don’t expect your spouse to fill what only God can.

2. Put Your Spouse Before Yourself by Choosing Love

Sometimes you might not “feel” the love any longer. But, true love is a choice, not a feeling. You must choose to love your spouse every day, no matter what. You don’t fall in love you grow in love. Help each other and seek to find selfless ways to serve one another. Have compassion. Love unconditionally, even if he’s done something to hurt you. Marriage shouldn’t be viewed as “this is what I want in a spouse.” It should be viewed as “What does God want in a spouse?” Also, marriage isn’t about how happy this person can make me, it’s how much can I serve and love this person? Be selfless, not selfish.

3. Keep Your Spouse Before Your Children

It was the two of you to begin with, and it will be the two of you once the kids have flown the nest. Don’t ever side with the kids over each other. (After 14 years of parenting, this is still hard for me! But I’m getting better.)
An abusive situation is different. If you or your child are being abused by your spouse, please get help. Don’t stay.

4. Stay Spiritually Connected

Pray for and with your spouse and read the Bible together. Doing so will make a stronger bond than you ever imagined. Make your petitions through prayer and commit yourself for waiting on God’s timing. Wives, trust your husband to be the spiritual leader of the home.
If your spouse is a Christian, and seems to have lost interest in spiritual things, don’t automatically assume this is a spiritual problem; often, there is an underlying physical infirmity that needs to be addressed. Help him figure it out.

5. Be Kind, Extend Grace, & Remain Thankful

Be patient. Trust the person you married. Show grace. Be kind to each other. Have each other’s backs. Leave room for grace. Respect each other. Thank the Lord for your spouse every single day. Rejoice in each other. Did I mention grace? Yes, lots of grace and cake! And ice cream.

6. Be Best Friends

Marry your best friend, and stay best friends. This means spending time together, keeping up with each other’s likes and desires. Be willing to weather any storm together. Support his goals.

7. View Your Spouse as a Fellow Human

Remember that your spouse is still his own person, to be treated as respectfully as you would treat anyone else. Let him be himself and don’t try to change him…accept him for who he is. Assume positive intent. Acknowledge the goodness in him, and do your best to overlook the negative. Learn to put him ahead of yourself. (The good old golden rule applies to husbands, too!)

8. Praise LOUDLY and Blame Quietly.

Praise and compliment each other. Build each other up; don’t tear each other down. Don’t get caught up in husband-bashing; beware of airing “dirty laundry” in front of others. If you must share about your husband’s shortcomings, it should be for one of two purposes: to ask for specific prayer for him, or to help another wife who is struggling in her marriage. Be real and authentic, but also be tactful.

9. Listen More Than You Talk

Trust, communication, respect, friendship, honesty all roll up with this. Give each other a chance to speak, and listen to understand, NOT to respond. You have to put the work in, and always always have each other’s backs.

10. Speak His Love Language

To love one another, listen to what your spouse needs from you, not what YOU think they should need. Realize early on that what makes you feel loved probably is not what makes your spouse feel loved, and vice versa. Get to know each other’s love language and love accordingly.

11. Be Honest and Open

Trust and communication are very important. Always be honest and open with each other. Do not keep secrets from one another. Listen to understand and not to respond.

12. Don’t Stress the Small Stuff

Don’t go looking for problems where none exist. Pick your battles. Is this important enough that it will matter in a month, a year or years down the line? Ask if it’s worth a fight before bringing up a complaint–which should always be told to God first.

13. Keep It Between Just You Two

Never fight or argue in front of the children. You need to be a united front for them. It is healthy for them to see small disagreements, but refrain from yelling or hurling insults with them in earshot. (Another of my failures!)

14. Disagree Fairly

Marriage is a team sport; work WITH one another instead of against. Be silent and just listen when your husband is upset. Do not “one up” in arguments. When you are upset about something, let him know. Address conflict head-on, even when it’s tough–otherwise it will fester. Be willing to walk away from a situation if you feel it’s getting too heated. Calm down, then come back to talk calmly. Do your best to be open-minded about his opinions. Understand that if you must win all the time, you are forcing your partner to be a loser. Give a little and fight fair.

15. Never Go to Bed Angry

Resolve all issues before your head hits the pillow, even if it means you are up all night. If you can’t agree to disagree, at least agree to end the conversation with an “I love you.”

16. Apologize to and Forgive Each Other

Apologize to your spouse when you are wrong, and even when you think you’re in the right. Once you’ve forgiven him for something, do not keep bringing it up. Do not hold a grudge. Show grace and mercy when you’ve been wronged.

17. Stay Physically Connected

Keep the spark alive. Deliberately make time for intimacy, even if it’s inconvenient. Touch often. Never let him leave for work without a good-bye hug and kiss. Hold hands. Snuggle. Don’t be afraid to dress up for him. Touch his face, rub your fingers through his hair. Practice kissing.

18. Have Fun Together

Spend time with one another, daily if at all possible. Make date nights a priority. Laugh often. Find things you both enjoy together and go have fun! Never stop having fun and laughing together. Laugh at the little things and keep them little things.

19. Commit for Life

I know it’s hard in this day and age to stick it out. But if it’s within your power, remain together. Be true to each other. Keep your commitment to each other. A covenant with God is not meant to be optional. The best thing, before you even get married, is to agree to never ever get a divorce. If it’s not an option, when times are tough between you, your first thought will never be…”Okay, let’s talk divorce…” but rather, “How can we fix this?” Remember that his family is your family, too, as yours is his. Consider every person who would be affected by a severed marriage.
I will mention again though, that if you’re in an abusive situation, please get help. Don’t stay.

20. Put the Phone Down & Don’t Be Afraid to Say, “Yes, Dear!”

You lived without a phone this whole time, and you will survive without it now. Leave it plugged in. Walk away, and just be together without it. And, without snark, a little “Yes, dear,” can solve many troubles!

Thanks Goes to…

Thank you to my best friend, the love of my life, my hero, my soul mate, the father of my children, and my other half. I fall more in love with you each day, and could never imagine life without you in it. I love you, Bear!!!

Thanks so much for the valuable input from my friends and Facebook followers! This list wouldn’t have been as good without you. Below is a full list of the contributors!

Krys Holtsclaw, Marco Rincon, Denise Osborn, Titus Gene Goff, Kathy Katona McIntosh, Kelly Tupick,
Amanda Cline, Angie Neat, Julie Showerman Varner, Janie Langerman, Regina Tittel, Tamilyn Godfrey, Diane Francis, Belinda Biggs Burton, Kathy Morse, Desirae Blythe, Angela Hendricks, Betty Blades,
Sarah Osenbaugh Moorman, Vanessa Hall, Heather Baker, Amy Lehman, Michelle Solis, Joan Scott, Karen J. Tallent Dietrich, Diane Snow Sambdman, Leah Colwell Adams, Rick Melanson, Sue Swansby, Theresa Moneal Tillman, Petula Sinclair, Mindy Carpenter, Terry Mayer, Denise Melanson Summerall, Melissa Morones, Deb Swanson Hight, Erin Longdin, Gina Lorraine, Stephen Tara Sowards, and Tim OKeefe

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