It’s the week before Valentine’s Day. Do you know what you’re going to give your spouse? What if you could give away something that would cost you no money, yet reap dividends for years to come?
Studies show that healthy marriages help people live longer (and yes, the key word there is healthy!) plus reduce the risk of depression, cancer, pneumonia and heart attacks. (Conversely, unhealthy marriages can send us down a major downward spiral toward all of those negative health effects.)
My husband and I have been married for 19 years and by no means have a perfect marriage. But we’ve got a thriving, healthy one that has weathered a few storms. Job layoffs, cancer, and the sudden death of a parent to name just a few, and we’ve helped mentor other couples along the way.
I shared the following tips at a moms group at church this morning, and thought I’d pass them along. They’re in no particular order, but I pray they can help benefit you and your marriage. (And if you’re reading this and you’re not married, you might know someone who’s married, who would benefit from your wise friend perspective!)
Take a look below, and please comment with any more tips you have to share!
* No secret lives; share your accounts. By this I mean your bank accounts, social networks, e-mail passwords, facebook log-in info, etc. If you’re willing to sleep with the man, you should have total access to his stuff and he to yours. That said, if he’s in a men’s accountability group or something equivalent, that doesn’t mean you read every e-mail he receives (and vice versa). My husband & I don’t read each other’s journals, so we have private space to process.
* Celebrate your anniversaries, and make them extra-ordinary. Get away for a Weekend to Remember (can’t say enough good things about these! We’ve been to 14! Use our group code, raquels, for discounts on your registration) Maybe head to dinner at your favorite restaurant. Extraordinary doesn’t have to be expensive, but you should make it a big deal. Maybe just a new pair of sexy underwear and a candle. Throw in a music mix on Spotify, iTunes or a CD and you’re golden.
* Don’t send private messages to the opposite sex. Wherever possible, cc someone else, even in the work world. Copy your spouse, or give each other access to your phone, e-mail, etc. for the occasional ‘spot check’ to see what’s going on in his world (and yours). One possible exception we make: if it’s within 30 days of Christmas or a birthday that ends in a zero. If my husband were to ever have an affair, at least I know it’d be short-lived!
* Make your worship time together a priority. For couples who attend church together weekly, the divorce rate is less than 10%. Can’t get your husband to join you? Then make Sundays extra, extra special after you’re home from church. Try telling him, “Honey, I feel so connected to God after what I heard this morning, I can’t wait to have you join me in the bedroom tonight!” What man can resist that?
* Pray. Your marriage can really take off when you begin praying for your mate. Did you know that for couples who pray together daily, the divorce rate is way less than 1%? What if your husband is a believer, but won’t initiate this? I am asked that all the time! Try asking if you can pray out loud and hold each other. After several weeks, he might want to join you.
* Stay connected physically. His Needs, Her Needs author Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. tells us that your husband’s #1 need is sex. A man has a physiological need to ‘release’ every 72 hours. Which means you can be part of the release, or not. But here’s the crazy part: if he’s like most men, he needs sex to want intimacy. You probably need intimacy to want sex. Do your part to break the “crazy cycle”, as the author of Love & Respect Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls it. It’s okay to initiate and barring major issues, your husband will think so, too.
* Don’t share a meal with just one member of the opposite sex unless you have each other’s permission. This might take some creative scheduling and planning, but it’s very do-able. And my husband is great about calling me ahead if he ever gets stuck with just one female co-worker going out to lunch or needing to meet during a meal. And it’s always a public space if this ever does happen.
* Talk daily. Keep track of each other’s days – know each other’s routines and schedules. Spend at least 15 minutes together in conversation. Really listen to each other. For him, it’s some good connecting time, while for you, it could even be considered foreplay. Even if you’re in different cities, TALK EVERY DAY. If that’s not possible due to work time zones or military deployment, write an e-mail or snail mail every single day that you’re apart.
* Eat at least one meal together every day. Sounds simple enough … and it is. But make it a priority as much as you possibly can.
* Aim to go to bed at the same time as your spouse. Of course there might be some seasons of work or health where that isn’t so easy, but make the effort to fall asleep together, not just sleep in the same room.
* Have some “code words” for just the two of you. Inside jokes, nicknames, etc. can go a long way to developing your personal love languages as a couple.
* Share at least one long kiss a day. I’ve been issuing the challenge to women for years to have a 10-second kiss and the typical response is, “Are you crazy? We never do that?!” Well, it’s time to try. It can do wonders to increase your connection to your mate.
* Find at least one or two friends who can pray with you and hold you accountable in your marriage. Give them permission to ask you tough questions, and seek professional counseling when it’s needed. I always say that the best counselors are relational tow-trucks. They help us get out of (and hopefully stay out of) deep ruts!
Now I realize this list might seem overwhelming, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Pick one or two things that you personally could do, and build them into your marriage for the next few weeks. Then add two more, and so on. I’d love to hear your feedback if you do!
And really, as I looked at this advice, it appeared to me that happy couples can really just go back to keeping it simple and what happy couples have had throughout history. God and prayer, fire, food, and great sex. If you only have time for these four things, you’re still pretty well off!
What do you do to keep your marriage from spiraling downward?