10 Ways to Sweeten Your Marriage (Part 2)
Welcome back! Pardon my french, but this is part deux of my 10 Ways to Sweeten Your Marriage. I hope you have been encouraged so far! If you want to read the first five ways you can find that here. And now on with the story!
6. Break The Negative Cycles
This one is not easy! But someone has to make the decision to break the negative cycles in your marriage. I'm talking about when you withdraw from each other because of hurt and are no longer trying to meet each others needs. Maybe you had a fight and your spouse said something very hurtful and never apologized. So, instead of talking about it and dealing with the issue, you kind of just ignored it but the hurt was still there. And, over time, more hurts built up and has caused you to withdraw from your spouse since you feel like you can't trust them with your heart anymore. It caused you to pull away. Since you aren't interested in meeting their needs, they aren't interested in meeting yours. You might even try to hurt them because they hurt you and back and forth it goes. You see it just builds and builds and goes round and round in the same cycle. All marriages get into these kind of hardships. (FYI- I'm not talking about real destructive behaviors that are dangerous or extremely unsafe.) Someone has to decide that their marriage is worth fighting for and are willing to sacrifice their own needs to save it. This is not a popular thing to do! Once a lot of marriages reach this point many people start to think about leaving, especially if this has been happening for awhile. Someone has to be mature enough to see the big picture, that they gave their word to stay together no matter what, and that the life and family they built together all rests on them choosing to stick it out.
Did you ever hear that what you sow is what you reap? It's like the seeds that you plant are what is going to grow. Makes sense right? Well that principle is true in all parts of life. If I want love to grow, I need to plant seeds of love. If I want patience to grow, I need to show patience to others. If I want tenderness, I need to give tenderness. How do you do that to your spouse when you feel so empty and haven't much to give? You make a decision that "we" are more important than "me". You fight for something greater than yourself. And you keep doing it, even if you don't see results at first.
When we hear about or read a story of someone laying down their life for another, we usually think that is an admirable quality. Heroic even. But are we willing and can we choose to do that in our own story? Can we sacrifice for our spouse whom we may not like very much at the moment? Can we forgive someone that may not be sorry and accept an apology that was never received? Can we choose to love when we don't feel loved at the moment? This concept goes against popular belief and how we feel, but it's so worth it! You will experience amazing changes in your marriage as your spouse recognizes and values your efforts, as a healthy spouse should. It will draw you closer together and make stronger than ever before.
When you stub your toe or hit you knee on something what is the first thing you do? Usually you grab that spot and rub it. Touch is so soothing and comforting. Touch can help reduce anxiety, inspire positive thinking, expand trust, boost our immune system, lower blood pressure and on and on. When you see your spouse rub their neck because of a stressful day, or you see that frazzled look in their eyes, reach out! A soft touch can change an anxious mood.
Newborn babies crave human touch. We are born to need it! When we adopted our sons from foster care I knew they both needed lots of love and hugs and kisses to help them heal. I read that you need 12 hugs a day for emotional healing. That's a lot of hugs! But I watched them heal day by day into two healthy little boys, and I know the hugs helped! Never underestimate the power of a simple touch! Hug each other! Reach out and touch someone! ;)
8. Do Small Things With Great Love
I've read that we all have a love bank inside of us. That in order to withdraw from the bank, regular deposits needs to be made. We need to be giving to each other everyday. I think that is where the little things come in. When we love each other in this way our marriages stay healthier!
It's nice when you have a special day, like an anniversary, to celebrate, but most of our loving comes in the day to day. If you only show love on the special days, you're going to miss out because most of our life is built by a whole lotta regular days. It's choosing everyday to show love and make something special out of that day.
The other day I had to run errands. My husband wanted me to take his car instead of mine because it was icy out and he was worried about the tires on my car. (He has since put new tires on my car.) He doesn't really like sharing his car because he likes his car to stay really clean and I have a habit of messing it up. I felt loved and cared for by this one little act. He was looking out for my good. As I was out driving I noticed his car needed gas. We live far out from town, so I filled his car up with gas. I knew on Monday morning he wouldn't want to stop and get gas on his way into work. I was showing him that I love him and was trying to make his day easier and to thank him for caring for me. I was looking out for his good. They were just little things, but both acts spoke love to each other. We took care of each other and that speaks volumes! Attention is the purest form of generosity.
9. Do Something Unexpected
The richest gifts in this life require time. Sometimes it's hard with all the craziness in life, to step out and do something unexpected. It takes time, money, and some vulnerability to plan something unexpected. A lot of people are afraid of putting themselves out there, because you don't know how their spouse will respond. (As a side note, if you're the receiving spouse, be excited and grateful no matter what!) A lot of people try at the beginning of a relationship to do new and fun things, but over time stop because their efforts aren't valued. That is a sad thing because sometimes the unexpected things can be some of the sweetest memories of you life! It's important to have fun together and be happy!
Let me share a story about when something unexpected saved our marriage. Years ago, when I was pregnant with our third daughter we found out she had Hydrocephalus. That means fluid on the brain. Fluid was collecting in her head and putting pressure on her brain as she was developing. We had to go to specialists all the time to watch her development while I was pregnant with her. Hers was very severe. I went through tons of tests and ultrasounds and also a lot of negativity by many of the doctors of how her outcome would be. She was delivered a month early so they could do surgery on her brain and abdomen to put a shunt in to drain the fluid. I spent a few weeks in the hospital with her in the PICU while she recovered. My family was an hour and a half away. It was Christmastime. It was hard and I was lonely.
We made it home in time to celebrate Christmas. When I brought her home from the hospital I was so scared she wasn't going to live. The first night home I thought she wouldn't make it through the night. We had to watch for all kinds of signs that things were going wrong. Needless to say it was a stressful time. At the same time as this we had another child who was having some severe health problems. We were taking her to the doctor but the issues were going undiagnosed. She was missing school and we were staying up nights with this daughter as she was in pain and couldn't sleep.
A month after bringing our baby home from the hospital, she started having problems. We had to take her back to the hospital for emergency surgery. This was the hardest time of my life up until now. We were barely sleeping and didn't know how we were going to get through all this.
My marriage with my husband felt non-existent. We were in full-on emergency mode. We weren't communicating at all or sharing what we were going through. We withdrew into ourselves. We were spending a lot of time apart, as I was in the hospital and he was home trying to hold things down with the other 3 kids. Plus I just had a baby and had tons of emotions to work through! We were living in the same house but it felt separate. We barely spoke except what absolutely had to be spoken. We got to the point where we barely looked at each other in the eye. It was bad and I didn't know how we were going to make it.
Then one night when we were going to bed and it was just us, my husband surprised me with a big bouquet of flowers. Next he had a card that he had poured his heart into. He shared how much he missed me and how much he needed me. I felt my walls that I had built up over the past few months just come crumbling down. That was the start of us rebuilding our relationship that we had neglected for too long. It was a lesson we never forgot, because a few years later we would go through an even greater trial as we almost lost our daughter and she suffered strokes on both sides of her brain. As we went through the next time, we did not lose each other but pulled together through it.
One simple act can save your marrige!
10. Give Each Other The Grace To Be Human
Sometimes it's not anything major that happens in your marriage, but little things, that can add up to steal the love and joy you have together. It's the spitting the toothpaste in the sink and not rinsing it out, or the leaving your tools in the middle of the floor, or the talking about the same thing over and over that can cause aggravation.
I mean what did we expect when we got married? What did we think it would be like to be married to the same person for 50+ years? Did we think that we wouldn't annoy each other?
But remember your husband is just a man. Your wife is just a woman. Let's give each other the grace to be human, to have the freedom to make mistakes and not be perfect all the time. Let's overlook some things, because we are not perfect either. Remember the golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated? Let's put that into practice again. When you are grouchy or tired because you've had a hard day, try to remember they feel like that too sometimes. When you want to veg out on your phone for awhile and just need some alone time, don't be offended when they need that too. When they mess up, try to overlook some things, just like you would hope they would do for you. It takes a lot of pressure off each other and sweetens up the environment of your home. When you live day by day in an atmosphere of peace and love, joy and laughter, sweetness and tenderness, it can change your marriage. You two can be the ones to succeed and make others wonder, what do they have that makes their marriage so sweet?!
I hope you have been reminded that it's the simple things that can make a big difference. It's in the day to day things and the way you treat each other, it's where your expectations are and where your heart is that can help improve your marriage. It's learning to stop doing the hurtful things and doing more of the sweet things that can make a big change! I hope you have taken somethings away from this to sweeten your marriage!