10 Ways to Sweeten Your Marriage (Part 1)
Alright. Valentine's Day is over and things have probably settled back into the same ole routine with your spouse (Or maybe you never left it). It's nice to have a day like that to put a little focus on your marriage, but a successful marriage takes a lot more than just one day. Maybe your marriage has been feeling like this winter weather, a little cold and a little dull, and you're ready to sweeten it up a little bit? Well I hope this 10 Ways To Sweeten Your Marriage will help!
The good news is that no matter where your marriage is at right now, it can always get better! Relationships naturally drift towards isolation and it takes a little work to grow closer together again, but it can happen! They say that marriage is falling in love over and over again, but always with the same person. I can say, after 20 years of marriage, it's true! By making an effort, you really can feel like newlyweds again!
This list is nothing profound. It's just some good things to remember and bring into focus. I heard Dave Ramsey (The Total Money Makeover guy) speak about how he wanted to learn to be better at handling money. He said he studied millionaires and looked at their habits and what they invested in to learn what he should be doing with his money to be successful. Once he learned those habits and put them into practice, he started to study billionaires to learn how to be even better. I think that same principle can be applied to anything, even marriage. If you want to be successful in your marriage (not just survive), you can look at other good marriages or relationships, and ask yourself, what are they doing that makes them successful? How do they treat each other? How do they speak to each other? What do they invest into that makes them work?
Most of the time, it just takes a willing heart to make things better. So many people get to a place where they feel stuck and believe that things can never change, but they can! People believe that because they have drifted apart from their spouse and they no longer feel "in love", or hard times have come and they are having a hard time getting past it and now the relationship feels over. You both made a commitment to each other and you need a little (or a lot) of tenacity and grit to see this thing through, especially in today's world. It is so much better to fight for your marriage, the one you have invested in for years and built a family with, than to give up and try to switch to someone else! The same problems usually repeat themselves over and over. I just read about a celebrity marriage that lasted 10 days! Yikes! Let us have a little more fight in us than that.
So let's talk about how to sweeten things up...
1. Have a Grateful Heart
The truth is, we can't change anyone else but ourselves. So I started with this because most issues come from the heart. We need to make sure our heart is in the right place. You can't control someone else, but you can control what you think and how you're feeling. Try to focus on the good things of your marriage. Find things to be thankful for.
Before I met my husband, I was a single mom with 2 little girls. I had been through a terrible relationship before and, after several years alone, I was very lonely. I had been on many blind dates, but nothing ever worked out. I hated being single! I busied myself with my daughters, work, going to school, and hanging out with my family, but at the end of the day, I still cried myself to sleep. I begged and pleaded with God to send me the right man for me.
When I finally did meet him, it was so wonderful!! On one of our first dates, I remember walking out of a room to meet him, and to see him stand up after he was waiting there just for me was so sweet! When we first got married I would watch him sleep and think how blessed I was to have him next to me!
The truth is, I still feel that way! I have never lost that feeling of gratefulness for my husband. In fact, it has deepened so much more because I have seen this man, through hard times and good, be the strong and steady backbone of this family. I have seen him over and over again, lay himself down for the rest of us. Is he perfect? No, but neither am I. But having a grateful heart has softened me when things were rough between us. The grass is not greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.
2. Notice the Little Things
In the day to day of life, it's so easy to miss the little things. We can take so much for granted. When someone always does something for us, over time we can just expect them to do it. And when things become an expectation, we are no longer thankful for it. When they don't do it, we get angry. It doesn't take much effort at all to open our eyes and look past ourselves and notice the little things our spouse does for us.
I was just speaking the other day to a friend who shared how much she hates to do laundry. She shared how it takes so much of her time to wash it all, fold it, and put it away. And the worst part was, no one appreciates her efforts! They only notice it if it isn't done.
Try to open your eyes to see the little things that your spouse does that you may not thank them for. Did those clothes just appear in your drawer all nice and clean and folded? Maybe he starts your car every morning for you on his way out the door? Or maybe she cooks dinner every night even after working all day? My husband gets me a glass of orange juice every morning before he leaves for work. That's 10,000 times he has showed me that he loves me and that he is thinking of me. I try to always notice it and thank him for it. Love is a thousand little moments that add up to a lifetime.
3. Think Good Thoughts
It is easy to focus on the negative. I heard someone say the other day that as a people, Americans are addicted to talking about what is wrong. We talk about our aches and pains, we talk about our relationships that are having problems, or the issues at work. It is easy to forget all the blessings we have in our life and focus on the problems.
The same is true with our spouse. I know for me, as a woman, I like to try to help people or even fix people, especially my husband. Sometimes, I find myself thinking, "Well, if he would just do this ___, things would be better." Or I think about our relationship and say to myself, if he would try harder (or whatever), then I wouldn't be feeling like this. But those negative thoughts aren't helping our situation, they are actually separating us. They are making me feel angry or upset at my husband and pitting us against each other. We are on the same team, trying to make it together in this world.
See, what I'm thinking about and dwelling on will eventually come out of my mouth and not in a good way. I really need to guard my thinking about my spouse. For every negative thought I think I make myself think three good thoughts about him to replace it. I'm not trying to say to ignore things that need to be dealt with, or put your needs aside if there are real issues, but sometimes it's just our own perfectionism that gets in the way and we need to think good things about our spouse and not focus on their faults. It's easy to focus on the few small issues and miss the big picture of how truly blessed we are. One negative thoughts can become our reality if we are not careful. Thoughts go to your heart, and from your heart, you act on it. And that brings me to my next point...
4. Use Your Words Carefully
Our words have great power. And it's not just what you say, but how you say it. We have the power to build others up with our words, or tear others down. How will you use your words?
I grew up with 4 brothers, two older and two younger, I was right in the middle of them. You'd think that I would learn something about men, right? Not as much as I would have liked! I really didn't understand how important my words were until I had a son of my own. My little boy would look to his Mama all the time for confirmation and affirmation. Was that good, Mom? Am I strong? Watch this Mom! It made me realize that my words were building him up. He saw himself, like I saw him. The same is true for woman too. Every little girl twirls around asking if she looks pretty. And every woman still wants to know if her husband finds her beautiful. A few kind words go a long way.
In marriage, we are the closest people in the whole world to each other. No one else sees as much in your spouse as you do. So what you say to them and say about them is so important! No matter how much we can put up a front, our thoughts and beliefs about each other matter. A wise person builds up his spouse, not tears them down. So choose your words carefully.
And when there are issues between you, don't come at them, come to them. You are working together on this marriage! Speak the truth about the situation with love and learn how to communicate and to work it out together.
5. Communicate Everyday
Twenty some years ago, when my husband and I started dating, there was this thing called a telephone. You picked it up and dialed a number and you would actually talk to the person on the other line. When we were first dating we would stay up for hours and hours on the phone talking about anything and everything. Even though we had work or go to school in the morning, we wouldn't get off the phone because we just wanted to talk, or even just hear each other breathe as we were falling asleep on the phone at 2am.
I'm sure most couples started out this way too! How is it that years later couples barely speak to each other or find it hard to talk to each other? They only talk about the basics to get through the day, like who is picking up this kid from practice, or that they have a meeting and will be late, or you need them to grab something from the grocery store. Communication is so bad for some that they don't even know much about each other anymore. But it is so important!
Communication can be very difficult for many couples when it doesn't come naturally. But making it a priority, and working on it everyday can turn things around. My husband and I find it easier if we make some time every day just to talk, even with seven kids! We get rid of all distractions, shut off the tv, put down the phone, kick the kids out of the room, and shut the door! We look each other in the eyes and talk about our day and what's been going on. We talk about how we are feeling and what's stressing us out, we talk about the kids, we talk about our plans and our dreams, just anything and everything! The point is, we talk every day. We make it a priority to connect with each other. It is especially important to me, since I'm a words person, to connect in this way and my husband makes sure he does it! Talking together, like we did when we were dating, always draws us together and helps us to feel closer.
Well that is the first 5 ways to sweeten your marriage! Because this post is getting long, I'm going to save the next 5 for the following post! I hope you have enjoyed reading thus far. Like I said, there is nothing profound, just some simple things that can make a big impact! But many times, that's how it goes. Thanks for following along!