Marriage is hard, guys. It really is. No one ever told me it would be…not that I would have listened. It takes constant work and attention to make a marriage work. People drift apart and marriages fail. Add children to the mix and time and attention has to be split. It can get messy and often, it does, unfortunately.
Hubby and I have a strong marriage, but we had to make adjustments when we became parents. The most stressful time, in my opinion, was when the Captain was about 3 and D was 1. We were still adjusting to Hubby’s new job, living in a new town, and being a family of four. It seemed like the Captain kept getting sick and D had chronic ear infections. It was hard to be optimistic about anything and our relationship did suffer because we didn’t prioritze correctly. Instead of turning to each other, we just bickered a lot. It was hard. It felt like we were in a hole and we had no idea how to get out. But, by the grace of God, we managed to get out, but we had to do it together. We realized what was important to us and did everything to make things better….and it worked.
Obviously I’m not a professional marriage counselor and we have only been married for 9 1/2 years, but here are my personal tips to keep your marriage strong….or at least what has worked for us.
1. Respect each other. This should be obvious, but respect is missing in a lot of relationships. I try to remember….if I don’t want my spouse doing it, then I don’t need to be doing it. If you don’t want your spouse badmouthing you to his/her friends, don’t do it either. If you don’t want your spouse to go to lunch with a member of the opposite sex, don’t do it either (even if it is “completely innocent” to you.) If you don’t want your spouse looking at naked pictures online, you don’t do it either. This also goes for respecting their opinion, which was a huge pill for me to swallow. No man likes to be belittled and told that his opinion doesn’t matter. Men need respect from their wives and if my husband feels strongly about something, then I make it a point to respect his opinion and work with him instead of just doing whatever it is I want to do. This is especially true about parenting. Even though I may spend more time with the kids, he is still their dad and needs to have an opinion, too. Just think….what will happen if one day he stops having an opinion? That means he doesn’t care and is disengaged.
2. Go on dates. Oh man, is this a hard one. I can always find a million reasons why Hubby and I don’t need to go out on a date. No one wants to baby-sit three kids, we need to save our money, Baby Brother is going to cry, blah blah blah, the list goes on and on. But, the truth is…uninterrupted dates are so nice and we must make it a priority. Even if we are only gone for an hour, it is nice to be able to devote all of our attention on each other without having to worry about the kids. Try these couples trivia questions if you want a sweet date night in!
3. Give your spouse what he/she needs. Find out what it is that they need and make every effort to give it to them. When Baby Brother is having sleepless nights, Hubby has helped me out so I can get a nap or at least some extra help with the boys (or a coffee on the really bad days!) He always asks if I need anything if he is at the store and I always check with him, too. But beyond that, we need to find out what our spouse needs and try as hard as we can to give it to them. Love, respect, intimacy, companionship, a button sewn back on a shirt, a warm cup of coffee….it could be big or small, but it’s important!
4. Communicate. It’s hard with kids to get an untinterrupted word in. Hubby and I text all day because we have to. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a clue what was going on! It’s not a constant thing, but if I need to tell him something, I’ll send him a text. If I’m thinking about him, I’ll send him a text. Some days are long and a text from the hubby makes it easier. And, since our kids go to bed later than the average kid, there’s not a lot of time we have to sit around and chat together, but we try as much as we can. Find a way to communicate, no matter how you go about it.
Try these good morning messages for her, to make her feel loved and special!
5. Have a daily devotional. I know there is never enough time in the day for everything you want to accomplish, but taking a 5-10 minute break to just read together, pray together, and reflect on a prompt is so helpful. And it makes communicating easier.