It refers to when young Christians start dating at the beginning of the academic year and are engaged by the end of the second semester. And, while this might sound a little exaggerated, it’s not dramatically uncommon.
With all this in mind, marriage can begin to appear like it is the finish line. Something that, once achieved, will be complete and finished. This is not the case. What Christians couple quickly realize is that marriage is not a finish line, it’s the crack of the gun as the race begins.
The Best Relationship Advice to Keep your Marriage Strong
1. Intentionality is love.
This is a simple phrase the encapsulates a lot. Rather than a piece of advice, the phrase is more of a foundational principle upon which the rest of the advice sits. The term love can be tricky because it can be interpreted as an emotion or state of being.Both of these things can change, and when that happens it can be difficult to understand how to move forward in love. That’s where this simple phrase comes in handy. Always remember intentionality is love
Intentionality is thinking about the other person. What do they want? What do they like? What would make them feel special? Doing something that moves in the direction of answering one of these questions is living intentionally with another. It could be as simple as when you go to the store also buying your wife her favorite candy bar or her favorite flowers.
Or, it could be as grand as setting aside money throughout the year so you can surprise your husband with tickets to his favorite team’s playoff game. The point of intentionality is thinking about the interests of another, specifically, your spouse.
It can be big or small, but it has to be about them. If both you and your spouse can get into this mindset, then you are on the road to a happy marriage.
2. Don’t Stop Asking Questions
It’s not uncommon for married couples to develop a knowledge of what their partners like and dislike. This is a powerful expression of intentionality. However, it can lead to an unhealthy mindset. Sometimes a couple will say things like, “I know everything there is to know about him/her.”This is a great sentiment, but untrue. Human beings are constantly growing and changing, which means in a relationship you need to be constantly learning who your partner is becoming. A great way to do this is to keep asking them questions.
Don’t fall into the “I already know everything about them” trap. It might sound nice, but the reality is this type of thinking often keeps people from growing in a relationship because they stop asking questions. Instead, live intentionally and ask questions.
This might look like coming up with a list of interesting questions and asking your partner some of them on your date night. It doesn’t have to be an interrogation, but everyone likes being pursued. It makes them feel seen and known. Asking questions is a great way to fortify your relationship and keep in intimate conversation with your spouse.
3. Show the World
Somehow in the world today public displays of affection have become uncouth. While it’s not good to make a scene or be inappropriate, something as simple as holding hands, a brief kiss, or sitting close to your person are easy ways to make them feel loved. This also sends messages to friends, family, and coworkers of where your allegiance lies, thereby, strengthening your bond together.
Also, even beyond a public display of affection, physical touch is a powerful bonding agent and expression of love. And, whether you are a hugger or not, everyone needs physical touch. So don’t hide from it, casting it off as immature or inappropriate, instead, embrace it is as another way to show your spouse that you care.
4. Get Good at Fighting
For some reason, people think the absence of conflict is indicative of a good relationship. But the reality is conflict will arise in any relationship. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when. With that in mind, you and your spouse will want to take time examining how you fight.
Do you blow up? Or do you stuff your emotions? Do you cling closer to your spouse, suffocating them? Or do you pull away and become icy cold? Everyone handles conflict differently, and one of the best ways to have a happy marriage is to learn how to handle your conflicts well.
5. Being Willing to be WrongMarriage is a two-way street, and nobody is perfect. That means each of you is going to make mistakes sooner or later. When this happens, you will need to be ready to say one of the hardest sentences in the English language, “I was wrong.”
This might sound simple, but when you are fighting with your spouse over the proper way to cut vegetables or fold clothes, and it escalates to full blown battle because neither of you is willing to be wrong, then there is a problem.
Luckily, it’s a human problem, so you aren’t alone. Nobody wants to be or likes being wrong, but it’s a part of being human. By learning to acknowledge your errors, you will save yourself and your marriage a whole lot of heartache.
6. Don’t Forget Sex
Many people assume that a regular, healthy sex life is a given in marriage. However, in the busyness of life, this often doesn’t happen. While sex doesn’t define marriage, it is still a very, very important part of a healthy relationship.
As life gets busier and busier, a spontaneous sex life may not be realistic, but that doesn’t mean you should stop having sex. Instead, it means you may have to schedule specific times of the week to make sure it actually happens. That doesn’t mean it has to be robotic and scripted. It just means it needs to be intentionally timed.
7. Get Help
If you feel like there is tension in your relationship that won’t go away, consider Christian marriage counseling. One of the biggest mistakes couples make is waiting until things are out of hand to go into counseling. Some of the best marriage advice you can get is to go into counseling before things are out of control.
If things are headed down a bad road, you will be able to right the course before people get really hurt. And if you are already in a good place, then Christian marriage counseling will only strengthen your marriage and improve your communication. These sessions will also be amazing places to help you and your partner communicate about your needs in a healthy way, producing a happy marriage.
Not even the best marriage advice can give you a shortcut or magic spell to create a happy marriage. It takes time, patience, and intentionality. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, but it isn’t easy.
Christian couples need to recognize their marriage vows on their wedding days are promises to run a long journey with the partner filled with plenty of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Entering marriage isn’t the time to go on autopilot. Instead, it is the time to begin a lifetime, perpetual pursuit of the person you love.
Photo credits: Leah Elliott and Michelle Taulbee, copyright 2019, all rights reserved