I married my high school sweetheart. We met in weightlifting class to be exact. He went off to the Navy and I went off to college. So, we had a long-distance relationship for a couple years. I remember people reminding us how long-distance relationships are so hard and that they don’t last. We were determined to make our love work, despite the odds and despite the distance. And we take that same determination for our marriage.
We joke around and say no one is getting out of this marriage alive. That means till death do us part, and not by the hands of one another, of course. We don’t consider divorce an option for our marriage and because of that, we’re willing to work at our love and commitment with a mindset that we won’t give up on one another. We also refuse to have a dysfunctional, miserable or unhealthy marriage, so that means we don’t settle for whatever we get, but that we work to have an intentional relationship. Marriage is hard work, but it’s the kind of work that’s worth the effort. We strive to stay on the same team. We have to remind ourselves and one another, especially when we’re upset, that “I’m in this with you”. Doing so helps to ground us and brings us back to the conversation with less defense and more of a willingness to listen.
Now, that’s not easy. And there are times when we’re frustrated with one another and ready to storm out of the house. But we have some ground rules around how we handle fights and we work hard to hold one another accountable, even when that’s the last thing one of us wants to do. For example, we’re not allowed to leave the house mad. It’s not okay in our house. That does two things for us. One, it encourages us to get control over ourselves and to settle the issues without running from them. And it also keeps us from living with regret. Because we don’t know if when you walk out of that door that you’ll come back. Now I know that’s sort of scary to think like that, but we’d prefer to not take that chance. That doesn’t mean we don’t have time-outs, but even those have limits, or they’ll turn into the “silent treatments” or passive aggression. We’ve learned these rules for our marriage over time and they’ve helped us to have more respect for one another and for our marriage.
We’ve been together for nearly 16 years and married for nearly 12, so we’ve basically grown up together. And we’ve had a lot of ups and some downs too. And now that we’ve been married for nearly 12 years, I’ve realized there are some things a healthy marriage needs every day.
And I want to share them with you and encourage you to consider these 3 things for your marriage too.
1. Connection: As a married couple, you have so many things grabbing for your time and attention, that scheduling time to intentionally connect with one another can seem like one more thing to add to your list. But the connection is vital to the health of your relationship.
Try this: Try adding my 10 by 10 check-in tool to make sure you’re connecting with one another. The 10 by 10 check-in tool is where you aim to call, text, video chat, write a letter, and/or talk in-person about things unrelated to the kids, chores, work, tasks, but instead about you, your marriage and what’s on your heart. The goal is to spend at least 10 minutes of your day by 10 PM to check in with one another.
2. Honest communication: If you’re not disagreeing with one another sometimes, then someone is likely not being honest about how they feel, but they are instead staying quiet. Sometimes that silence gives way to passive aggression, resentment, and other unhealthy feelings. Instead, you want to make sure you’re having healthy and honest communication.
Try this: Aim to talk about what’s going on with a goal of staying on the same team as one another. Honest communication happens when your goal is to share how you feel, own your feelings and discover how the two of you can come together to make sure you’re both feeling heard, valued and cared for. Honest communication takes time and practice. Honest communication rarely uses phrases like: “you make me feel like”, “you should”, “it’s your fault”. Instead, honest communication says, when you did X, I felt like. Honest communication takes accountability and ownership, while also inviting the other to share their accountability and ownership. And then you both work towards a solution. Most things in your marriage don’t happen in a vacuum, instead, both of you are contributing in some way to your realities. It doesn’t mean one is the blame and the other is the victim, but that in many cases there’s something both of you can do to make things better. Of course, abuse of any kind is never a shared reality and is not justifiable or okay.
3. Intimacy: You’d be surprised how many people think that intimacy is the same as sex. But it’s not. Sure, it can be a form of intimacy, but intimacy is much deeper than this. Intimacy happens when you’re spending time listening and being heard. When you’re spending time caring and being cared for and it’s when you’re serving and meeting one another’s needs emotionally and physically.
Try this: Ask your spouse what makes them feel loved by you the most. Get specific. Then make it point to do more of this, even if that means setting a reminder on your phone.
And while I’d love to say that we hit the target on all of these things every day, but that’d mean we’re pretty perfect, and we’re not. But we do strive to do these things and more to stay strong in our relationship. The goal isn’t perfection, but instead progress.
Which of these three things does your marriage need more of? I’d love to hear from you.
Want a free resource to help you strengthen your marriage by working on connection & intimacy? Grab the 7-day intentional love commitment right here to work on growing your marriage.