It’s Never Too Late to Intentionally Date Your Spouse: 15 Questions to Get You Started

Romantic Chinese Couple Enjoying a Coffee together.

I want to encourage you to plan an intentional date night. Make the reservations. Get a babysitter. (Trade with another couple so they can do this another night.) And, date.

Not just a normal date. That’s not what I mean by intentional. Date. Like you did when you were — well — dating!

Get to know each other. Sure, I know, you’re married now. You already “know” each other. But, great couples never stop learning one another. It’s part of becoming one.

And, With two unique people — as unique as you — yes you — it will take a lifetime together to fully accomplish.

Don’t assume you already know. Explore new territory with each other. Ask questions.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • What do you like best about me?
  • When do you feel most loved in our relationship?
  • If there was only one day you could capture, and repeat again in our marriage, which day would you choose?
  • If you had a “do over” of any day in our marriage, which one would you choose?
  • What is the best way your husband/wife encourages you?
  • Tell me (again if you’ve told me before) about your favorite childhood memory.
  • What was the first thing that attracted you to me (tell me again)?
  • What do you think is the hardest part about being a man/woman? (Each answer for their gender and the other)
  • What is the greatest fear you have about growing old together?
  • What did you admire about the way your mother and father treated each other?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What is the best way for me to communicate difficult feelings about you so that you are not offended?
  • Do you remember what we talked about on our first date?
  • When you meet a new friend, and they ask you to describe me to them, what do you say?
  • Who do you think was the most influential person/couple in your life in shaping who you are as a husband/wife? How did they influence you?
  • Who is one couple we both know that you’d like to have a marriage like theirs? Why?
  • If there were no limitations in life, what dream would you pursue?

Make this post better. Add some more questions.

Then comment and tell me how the date goes.

The more intentional we are with our marriage, the greater results we can expect. 

7 of the Greatest Needs of a Husband

asian mature couple

I  previously shared 7 of the greatest needs of a wife, based on personal observation and experience working with married couples.

Today I continue with the man’s side of the needs.

Here are 7 of the greatest needs of a man.

Respect – This is number one! I would even be emphatic and say every time. In my experience, men are using a different word that means this if they say it isn’t! Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” God knew what He was talking about. Men want to know that they are respected by their wives above every other person. Every man feels this internal pressure to excel. We need to be successful at least one place in our life. If we can’t feel that respect in our home, we will find that it somewhere else.

Ladies, you want your husband to love you unconditionally. Are you willing to respect him unconditionally? You probably aren’t always extremely “lovable”. (I can say that through my blog where I’d be afraid to say it in person — but you know it’s true.) He’s probably not always respectable. Do you want to be loved any less when you aren’t at your “best”? Neither does he in the are of respect.

Admiration – Men want to be desirable to their wives. That’s physically, but in other ways too. Are we strong enough — masculine enough for you? Do we meet all your expectations in a man? If our wife is always commenting on the sexier man in the movies or the more successful man in the world we certainly will not feel admired. As an example, if a family struggles financially and the wife complains about it all the time the man hears that as “I’m not good enough.” The greatest assurance of the fact that we have “what it takes” comes from our wives. Men who don’t sense this will often quit trying.

Ladies, if your husband’s success was proportional to your admiration of him — and the communication of that admiration — how successful will he be?

Peace and Tranquility — I get in trouble with this one, but men want their home to be a place to prepare for the world — they want to be able to relax. Men, that is never an excuse for laziness! (Laziness is a sin by the way.) I know this can be an ouch statement, but men want their wives to be their wife, and not their mother! Plus, and this is so important to understand, nagging never accomplishes what the wife hopes it will. It may get done what you wanted done, but not with the heart or attitude you hoped to go with the action. (If you are raising boys, remember this!)

Ladies, is your home a place of peace and tranquility? Someone said the wife/mother is the thermostat of the home? If that’s true, how comfortable are we living?

Commitment – Yes, men want this too! They want to know they are number one with you. Men don’t want to see their wife looking at other men or hear them commenting on how wonderful another man may be. They want to know you are faithful only to them. (Can you women tell we have shallow and fragile egos?)

Ladies, does your husband know he’s number one to you — that no man could ever take his place?

Acceptance/Participation – Husbands aren’t really looking for a wife who will try to change them. Granted many men need changing, but the Biblical way to do this is through prayer and modeling change for us.  Men also want our wives to appreciate our hobbies and interests, since it is so much a part of who we are as men.  You don’t have to love golf, but to know that the lower score is the better is a great plus when we come home after a good game. He’ll need to brag to someone. He’s hoping that someone is you.

Ladies, would your husband say you’re his biggest fan?

Be able to lead – Most men want to lead in their home, but don’t really know how. The wife should allow her husband to make some mistakes and not criticize us when we can’t do something as well as you can, (which we know is many things!) If we take the effort to fix the bed, don’t go behind us and straighten the comforter (or at least don’t let us see you doing it.)  If we find we can’t compete in an area, we just quit trying.  Applaud what we do right and we’ll try harder to please. We really do want to succeed!

Ladies, are you allowing your husband to sense your satisfaction in his abilities to lead? If you want him to lead, ask yourself, are you willing to follow if he does?

An emotional release – I saved the hardest for last. Most men do not know how to function in a highly emotional context. So, when our wives are upset, we panic. We move into a “fixing” mode, which is usually counter-productive. When you are emotionally upset, for whatever reason, and you know it isn’t his fault, it’s helpful if you can just let him know the two of you are okay, he didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, it’s not his fault and there is nothing he needs to do to fix it.

Ladies, does your husband ever feel responsible for your emotions that are completely out of his control?

Men, that is my list. What would you add?

7 of the Greatest Needs of a Wife

happy young couple

In my years of counseling and ministering to married couples, mostly in distress, I have learned some principles that run fairly consistent within each marriage. Couples really are not that different from each other.
There are common needs most men and women bring to a marriage in order to make the marriage the best it can be. We may use different terms, but the needs remain relatively similar from marriage to marriage. While this is based on my observations they seem to resonate with many couples.

I’ve also learned that understanding the needs is the first step in addressing them. We only know what we know. Here’s to a better understanding of each other’s needs. Be sure to read the husband’s greatest list HERE.

Here are 7 of the greatest needs of a wife:

Love – Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” How did Christ love the church? 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

Men, do you love your wife above everything else in your life (apart from your Christ relationship) including your work, your hobbies, your friends, family, and even the children? And, more importantly, do your actions prove your words?

Attention – Wives want to be listened to (even when the television is on) and know that we believe what they have to say is important. Our wives would prefer to talk with us over other women, even though another woman might better understand.

Men, are you truly listening to what your wife is saying? Again, do your actions prove this?

Protection – Wives want their husbands to be the defender of the family; not just against the strange sounds in the night, but against all the threats in society. They want us to take the ownership in leading our family spiritually and in teaching our kids how to defend themselves and stay strong in an evil world.

Men, are you working to protect your family — from all threats?

Security/Commitment – The wife wants to know you are going to be there forever. Wives often see their visually stimulated husbands looking at other women. Does she know you won’t cheat on her? Are you going to be faithful always?

Men, can she trust you? Do your actions build that confidence?

Appreciation/Value – Wives want to be valued for who they are as much as for what they do. Wives want to know we see them with value beyond just what she does to keep the household running. Is she more important than the stuff she does? Is she still beautiful?

Men, do you regular tell her what you admire about her? Do you genuinely compliment her — not just what she does?

Compassion – The Bible refers to women as the “weaker vessels”. Of course this doesn’t mean they are less than men, but that men and women are different. Women are going to respond differently to situations. They may cry easier, take longer to resolve things emotionally, feel tired quicker. Also, wives want a little romance in the marriage. (For most of us, if we’ve been married over a week they already know that’s not going to happen with you.) We can all, however, be kind, loving, and occasionally romantic. We usually get good credit here just for honestly trying.

Men, do you understand that your wife is not wired like you? Are you patient with her, allowing her to process things differently than you? Are you still attempting to be romantic at times — pursuing your wife — like you did before you were married?

Partnership – Wives don’t want to do life alone. They want their husband’s participation in raising the kids, making decisions around the house and yes, sometimes even picking out paint colors. They want someone to do life with them, not live two separate lives in the same household.

Men, would your wife say you are truly her partner? Are the two of you becoming one more everyday?

Ladies, that’s my list. Again, it’s from personal observation. What would you add to the list?

How Do I Get My Wife to Love Me Again?

couple in distress

The title is deceiving. I admit that. You can’t “get” anyone to love you. How that occurs is a mystery. (And, we’ll end this post in mystery.)

But, I wanted you to find and read the post if you need the help.

I wrote this post almost 5 years ago now and titled it “Winning Back the Heart of My Wife“. It continues to be a heavily searched post. I think it’s because so many men are asking the same question. They’ve lost their wife’s heart and don’t know how to get her back. They want to know how to “get my wife to love me again.”

I decided to repost this, with a few alterations, because apparently there is a huge need. And so yes, if you stumbled here looking for answers-that’s my intent, but please know this is not a perfect post. It won’t apply to everyone. It won’t be an “end all” to your situation. It is simply designed to gear your heart in a healthier direction, so you can better concentrate on repairing your marriage.

As I refresh this post, it’s early one Saturday morning and I have just had this same conversation with another man. He doesn’t know me. He found me online, but he is desperate. Through some bad decisions, he has injured his wife and she isn’t sure she wants the marriage to work anymore so he went searching for answers.

I told him as I’ve said so many times before, this type of help is hard to give over the Internet. Generalized posts can only help so much. His wife is unique; unlike any other woman.

I have learned, however, that there are some commonalities in these situations. In working with marriages in distress, I’ve discovered that most men have injured their wife emotionally at some level and many times don’t even know it.

A man seldom understands (this man included) how different a woman is from a man. Of course, we understand some of the physical differences, but women are usually more in tune with their emotions than men are. When life happens to them, typically their initial and dominant reaction is to respond emotionally. When someone hurts a woman’s feelings, for example, even though the information they receive may be false, they have a harder time working through the feelings associated with the emotional injury.

The heart, speaking in terms of the seat of our emotions, was created much like other parts of the body. When a finger is broken the body is designed to instantly start to heal and protect itself from further injury. The same is true of the heart. When a person’s heart is injured, it goes into a self-protective mode to keep it from further injury. Over time, after years of injury, the heart becomes almost calloused, refusing to allow anyone to injure the heart again. A woman who has had years of emotional injury doesn’t have much heart left to give, but especially to the one who has done the most injury.

When a sudden dangerous blow to the woman’s heart is delivered, such as when she finds out the man had an affair, the already injured heart breaks — and completely closes off from being hurt anymore.

Most men enjoy trying to “fix” problems, but men cannot fix their wife’s heart. And that’s the advice most men want me to give when they contact me. Emotions are not repaired as easily as one could fix a leaking faucet or program a computer. There’s no program. No system. No script. There’s not an “app” for that.

So what is a man to do if he feels his wife’s heart is injured? How do you heal a broken heart?

Of course, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He can come in, erase all the pain and make the heart brand new. Most of the time however, at least in my experience, He lets us wrestle with life’s heartache while we learn to better love one another.

In the former post I list these as “steps”. That was probably a poor choice of words. A better word might be suggestions. They are written simply as suggestions if a man wants to encourage the healing of his wife’s heart. These are good suggestions even if the man simply wants to improve his marriage relationship.

Here are my suggestions:

Seek God – I added this one to the previous post. It should have been in the first one, but honestly, I saw it as almost an unspoken understanding. It’s certainly what most men tell me they are doing at this point. Like the man mentioned above told me, he had never been much of a “church guy”, but now he desperately wants God to heal his marriage. Whatever draws you closer to God is a good thing — and will make you a better man, regardless of what happens with your marriage. Use this time to develop and strengthen your relationship with God. It starts, as all relationships with God begin, through a recognition of who Christ is and your belief in Him. Start there and grow.

Practice Patience – The first thing men need to do is to recognize that restoring a broken heart will not happen overnight. Emotions heal very slowly. Steps should begin to restore an injured heart or to rebuild the marriage, but men should not expect too much too soon.

Love Her – This is by far their greatest need. Most wives have their love need unmet. The standard for our love is perfection, since a man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5), so a man will actually never love his wife enough, without the help of Christ. The wife knows, however, when the husband’s attention is somewhere else. Most men sacrifice their marriage for their careers or other interests. A wife’s love need is there every day. A wife needs to know that she is second only to God in her husband’s affections. I have found that for my love for Cheryl to grow-I need Christ’s help. I pray for this often.

Romance Her – A woman has a need for romance. Most wives had a fairy tale idea of marriage when they were growing up. They realize early in marriage this isn’t reality, but their need for occasional romance remains. Men rarely know how to do this. A man should be genuine, but should recognize and value the uniqueness of his wife and find ways to give her romance. I gave my wife a “romantic” trip to New York City for Christmas one year. We were going to dance, walk through Central Park and just enjoy each other. It didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned it, but I earned huge points in the romance category with my wife.

Value Words – When a man comes home and says “This house is a mess”, being a mostly factual being, that’s probably all he meant. He looked around, made a physical observation and stated a factual conclusion. The wife, however, probably did not receive the information that way. The wife most likely hears lots of negative information, such as, “You have done nothing all day”, or maybe even, “I don’t like you.” That sounds impossible to most guy’s rational minds, but with emotions receiving information anything could be heard, whether that was the intended response or not. Men need to learn how to be gentle with their wives and the words they use. One question I ask men, “Would you let another man talk to your wife the way you talk to her?”

Communicate on Her Terms – Women communicate best heart to heart…not head to head. A man should allow his wife to see his true heart. This is difficult for a man to do, but he should be willing to be vulnerable with her. Men may need to ask their wives to help them learn how to say things to her. Men cannot talk to their wives as they would their guy friends. It’s rare for men to get very “deep” in their conversations with other men, especially when it involves emotions. Women require understanding, compassion, openness and honesty in communication.

Give Consistent Assurance – Trust is an important need for a woman in relationships. The wife needs to know that her husband is going to be faithful. Men should not take offense, for example, when their wife asks details about their schedule or the activities of their day. The wife desires to be a partner in her husband’s life and these details help her provide trust and security in the relationship. A man should also tell his wife frequently that he loves her. She needs this consistent assurance. As long as nothing major happens, most men can live with a “we said it once and meant it” attitude. This is not enough for the wiring of most women.

Encourage Truth – Ultimately life cannot be lived strictly by emotions. We need truth. Emotions are often unreliable. A woman who feels unloved may be very much loved by her family, but she fails to feel that truth because of years of emotional abuse or just because she’s emotionally having a bad day. Men should gently, but consistently speak truth in love, reminding his wife of her worth, her beauty, and her place in his life. Husbands have this ability better than anyone in the heart of their wife. Over time — truth, when given with love, can play a part in healing damaged emotions.

Be Consistent – The heart is damaged over years and years of injury. Sadly many women have deep and tragic heart wounds, but much of this injury will have been unintentionally delivered and small in terms of the magnitude of the incident. Years of emotional injury builds up in the heart until the heart becomes closed. The erasing of the pain will happen just as it was developed…a little bit at a time. The husband cannot try this for a week and then stop. Protecting a woman’s heart must become a lifestyle.

I remember once talking with a man whose wife was experiencing deep depression. As I talked with this man it became apparent that, though probably unknowingly, he had been damaging his wife’s heart for years. He couldn’t seem to understand why his wife was so emotional; “Everything seems to upset her”, he said. The man told me he had tried to help her through her problems and that everything they had going against them he could “fix” if she would let him. I am not sure I could have ever convinced this man that his attempts at “repair” were probably one of the chief causes of his wife’s broken heart.

Most men tell me they don’t know how to be who their wife needs them to be or wants them to be. And, most men don’t, anymore than our wives know how to be the wife we need. I believe if we want to grow strong marriages we will both, husbands and wives, have to keep learning. It’s never too late to begin! Ephesians 5 calls it a mystery, but the best marriages work through the hard work, to get to the greater gain. Great marriages are worth it.

One Simple, Genius Way I Strengthen My Marriage

calendar

I discovered a genius way to strengthen my marriage. And, it’s so simple.

First…

I calendar everything.

Then…

I share my calendar with my wife.

Told you.

Genius.

Simple.

  • It makes her feel a part of my day.
  • She feels more secure in the relationship.
  • We have less miscommunication because I forgot to tell her something.
  • When I get home, we have automatic points of conversation, because she knows what my day looked like.

Genius.

For detail people, I use Google calendar and she has an app on her phone that syncs. It’s also good because she can add social events to my calendar without seeing first if I’m available.

For us, this works best. Her job is more structured than mine, so there aren’t as many calendar items in her day. This may be opposite for some couples. When Cheryl is “at work” that’s about all I need to know. I meet with many different people in many different place in a week, so keeping up with my schedule is more difficult without this.

Plus, Cheryl is detail-oriented. She wants to know the details. I’m much less so than her. Again, this may be opposite for some couples.

The key is to do what makes the marriage work best for both spouses. This is one that cuts out a lot of miscommunication and adds a sense of partnership to our marriage.

5 Primary Reasons Marriages Fail

counseling distressed couple

I believe preparation is one of the best preventions for marriage failure. It’s the reason Cheryl and I committed much of our early years in ministry to premarital counseling.

If a couple knows the natural struggles most marriages experience, they are less likely to throw in the towel when their marriage encounters these problems and hopefully be more willing to look for help. They won’t be as surprised when struggles come to the marriage.

In my experience, there are a few leading causes of marriage failure. Interestingly, this same list is often what keeps us from having great marriages.

The leading causes of marriage failure (in my experience) are:

Boredom – Couples stop dreaming, learning, and exploring together. Often the busyness of life distracts them from simply having fun together.

Communication – Not understanding the difference in men and women and the different ways each communicate causes conflict and misunderstandings, which can bring huge wedges in the relationship.

Money – We all need money to survive. When a couple, or one in the couple, is on a pursuit for more it often drives couples to stress out over money, or the lack thereof. Money is also a major cause of arguments, especially when the couple has no plan for how to spend the money they make.

Outside influences – Whether it is work, hobbies, friends, in-laws or even children, couples often allow something or someone to come between them and distract them from each other. The marriage takes a backseat to other influences.

Tragedy – It is difficult for the best marriages to recover from a tragedy, but especially marriages that are already experiencing difficulties.

There are certainly other reasons marriages fail, but when the trail of the marriage that is breaking apart is traced it will many times lead back to one of these major causes.

If you sense your marriage is in jeopardy or if one of these issues is currently bringing stress into your marriage, do not wait until one spouse is ready to quit to do something about it. Get help now. Protect your marriage.

If you want some early warning signs for when it’s time to invest in your marriage, read THIS POST.

For more posts about marriage, go HERE.

7 Warning Signs It’s Time to be Intentional With Our Marriage

happy couple 2

Cheryl and I have been very intentional to protect our marriage. Every marriage bond can slip if the couple doesn’t recognize the signs of stress in the marriage and address them.

For us, we look for warning signs we need to take some extended time and invest in the marriage. That could be a long weekend or a day trip, or just a time where we turn off the television and talk. We have learned these mini-breaks from routine have helped us maintain a healthy marriage.

Here are 7 warning signs it’s time to be intentional:

When our relationship seems to be drifting further apart rather than closer together.  This is the big one for us. “The two shall become one”. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is your marriage? Is that higher or lower than a few months ago? If you try this exercise, both spouses should write the numbers on a piece of paper and share them with each other. One is usually more perceptive than the other. For me personally, if one person feels there’s a slippage in the marriage closeness, it’s time to take action. Be proactive rather than reactive.

When life has been routine for too long. I have personally learned in counseling and ministry that a leading cause of marriage troubles is boredom. We all get into patterns, habits and routines. That isn’t all bad, but over time and often for one spouse more than the other depending on the season, boredom can become dangerous. Occasionally we need to do something spontaneous, adventuresome or out of the norm.

When conversation becomes more tense or short-fused with each other. As a rule, we talk “nice” to each other. We believe that’s how marriages work. All of us can have a bad day, but when there are numerous bad days over an extended time we know we need a break from routine to address the marriage.

When too many nights go by without us spending quality time together. Strong relationships are built over time. This includes quality and quantity of time. We need time when we can talk deeper than “How was your day?”. When those conversations have become more rare, we have to intentionally plan them. (This was true before we became empty-nesters also.)

When we have pressing issues we need to discuss, but haven’t found time to have a serious talk. That could be about finances or health, the children, our marriage, or some future hope and dream. When something is on one of our minds long enough,we often have to invest extra time to address it.

When either of us is at a point of “stress overload” for an extended period of time. This is usually work involved, but may be due to a health situation for one of us or even situations involving our extended family. When our boys were still at home, it often involved something in their life. We have learned that stress on one of us — or both of us — as individuals will always impact us as a couple.

When one of us sense in our spirit that we need to “Get away!” We are both believers — spiritual people who have a relationship with God. It could be that there has been a weakening in our individual spiritual lives that is causing tension in our marriage. When one of us senses that we just need some intentional time together, we take that seriously.

The bottom line for our marriage is that God has called us to invest in the lives of other people. We know we can’t continue to pour into others until Cheryl and I pour into each other and allow God to pour into us. That takes intentionality. Plus, we both know, from experience, that the enemy is always looking for holes in our marriage. We must guard our hearts and our marriage.

Now here are a few disclaimers.

All of these may not apply to your marriage. You may both love routine. I would want to make sure you both do as much as you think both of you do — as in you – the one reading this. However, that may not be an issue for you like it is for us. And, you may have other warning signs unique to your marriage.

You’re marriage may need more intentionality than I’m suggesting here. This is more about maintenance for a good marriage. If you’re beyond that, get help. A good marriage is attainable when two people are willing.

Also, we don’t have children at home anymore. That gives us some unique advantages. We have learned we tend to fill our time either way — with children in the house or not — but the point is clear we can be more flexible if we need to be. (It’s a good season.)

I also should point out that being intentional doesn’t mean you have to “break the bank” to do so. Some will pushback that they can’t afford to travel out of town for the weekend or that they can’t afford childcare. I understand. So, find other ways to be intentional. You could trade time with another couple where they watch your children one day and you watch their children another. The key is to break the routine to address the marriage — not to spend extra money.

Finally, I realize this is especially difficult for marriages that are apart frequently, mostly because of work. I spent most of my life in a military town where this type post is much more difficult to apply. Most of us can make the extra effort to invest in our marriage if we choose to do so. For those with unique situations, I admit you’ll have to be even more creative. Even if, however, your intentional time together is via Skype – it would be better than allowing the marriage to drift apart.

What are some warning signs you need to be more intentional with your marriage? Are you there now?

7 Simple Ideas to Strengthen Your Marriage

man woman talking

I’ve shared recently about ways we injure our spouse without even knowing it. You can read the husband’s post HERE and the wife’s post HERE.

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.