A common request after those posts is that I should share ways to strengthen the marriage. I should note that I’m hesitant to offer what appears to be therapy by list, because a good marriage is far more than a formula. Actually, all of life is, including leadership. Any area of our life where people are involved — which is pretty much all our life — can never be reduced to 7 steps or 7 suggestions. Plus, just being honest, it’s always easier to point out the problems than to fix them.
So, you’re naturally wondering, why I share so many lists. I’ve been called the “list king”.
Well, for one, that’s the way I think. I also know, however, that one reason some enjoy my blog posts is that I give lists which people can easily identify with and apply to their own life. finally, lists can be effective. I may post more about this idea later, but I don’t believe we can always determine outcomes, but we can often determine the things that stimulate or encourage outcomes. (Again, I may post more about that later.)
Basically, using that idea, I can’t force my marriage to be better. I also can’t change my wife. (Not that she needs changing — but for discussion purposes.) But, there are things I can do which can help my marriage improve, and often those things don’t start with my spouse — they start with me — they start with things I do or we do together.
One suggestion someone offered as a way to improve a marriage is to consider the opposite of the ways we injure our spouse. Just take the 7 points in each of the above referenced posts and do the opposite of them. That’s good, but I thought I would add some more. Another list of stimulants.
Do you want to strengthen your marriage? No, there’s not a formula. But, maybe some of these ideas can help.
Here are 7 simple things you can do to strengthen your marriage:
Share calendars – It seems simple, but it gives Cheryl great comfort to be able to follow my schedule throughout the day. I know many spouses, probably especially some men I know, reject this idea as too intrusive, but for us, it has strengthened our relationship. Cheryl knows who I’m meeting with, what the key stresses of my day are, and usually what time I should be home so we can eat together. (Or if we have dinner plans.) She loves living life with me. For most wives, they go through their day thinking about the people they love. (Not that men don’t, but it’s different for most of us. We tend to think only about the thing we are concentrating on at the time, whether that’s work, our hobby or our family.) By sharing a calendar there are fewer surprises for Cheryl (and me). Sure, everyday is full of things we didn’t plan, and we can spend the evening talking about those, but it helps us feel a part of each other’s day when we have a general idea of what we are doing.
One tip: Spend 30 minutes today sharing each other’s calendars for the next month.
Plan regular escapes together – Periodically we place an escape on the calendar for a few weeks or a couple months from today. We both live stressful lives and our best times are often when we purposely get away from everything and everyone. It could be for a day trip or a couple days, but we need to know the “catch up” time is coming. The more stressful the season the more this is needed.
One tip: Look a couple months out and plan an escape. Put it on the calendar you now share. Do it today.
Have a date a week – At least once a week we need time for just us. Every week. Even as empty-nesters we’ve learned how critical this is for our marriage. We have a tendency to fill our schedules with lots of activities and we need some time to slow down. This goes on our calendar. Every week.
One tip: Find one night (or one day) and put it on your calendar for the next couple months — until it becomes a habit. Then keep it there.
Increase communication – Cheryl and I can usually tell when we haven’t been communicating enough. We start to miss details about each other’s lives. We have to repeat ourselves to each other. It’s usually when one or both of us has the heaviest agendas and we are running at full speed. It’s easy to get into routines and have surface conversations. In times like this, we will often discipline ourselves to take a walk together, go for a drive, or even go to the mall together. It takes us away from the routines, phones and television and forces us to simply be together — and talk. Communication is the fuel of a healthy marriage.
One tip: Tonight — put your phones down, close the laptop, cut off the television, and for at least 30 minutes, talk. Bonus health points to take a walk together. (If you’re old enough — like us — you can even power walk the mall. 🙂 )
Communicate better – It’s not enough to spend time talking. We’ve got to learn to communicate more effectively. We all need to practice our listening skills and the gestures and body language we use. Often these are heard louder than our words. If you become as conscious of how you are saying something as much as what you say, you’ll find yourself injuring the other person less and causing fewer conflicts. It’s important to ask each other questions that spur deeper discussion and get to the heart of an issue rather than surface talk.
One tip: Come up with a series of open-ended questions, 3 to 5 total, of things you’re curious about your spouse. (Such as: What’s your favorite memory of our first few dates together? Be creative.)
Spend some time dreaming – Dreaming stretches the heart and mind and there’s no one we should dream with more than our spouse.
One tip: Make a dream grid for each of you and for the couple. It can be one grid combined if you prefer. For each spouse and for the marriage, list 2 or 3 dreams you have. If there were no limitations, what would you like to do? Where would you like to go? Who would you like to meet? Place this somewhere in your house you’ll see often.
Pray for one another – Did I really have to list this one? But, would you be honest enough to admit almost all of us are weak in the area of prayer at times? And, who more important to pray for than the one with whom we are to be becoming one?
One tip: Buy a notebook of some kind and make it a prayer booklet. List new prayer requests and update old ones at least weekly.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list. You’ve got ideas. Remember, none of these are fool proof. There’s no secret formula to a good marriage. It takes commitment, intentionality and hard work. And two people. But, two people working together can take actions that can spur a healthier marriage.
What tips to you have to strengthen a marriage?
Read THIS POST on some cheap date ideas.