Because let’s face it, we all need a tune-up now and then!
1. Say “I’m sorry” first
I am terrible at this one.I’ll admit it. I like to wait until I’m feeling it. This is a mistake.
Don’t wait. Admit you were wrong. Admit it even if it was a mistake. Admit it even if your spouse’s wrong was (in your eyes) much bigger.
Say you’re sorry without equivocation. Never “I’m sorry, but…” Just “I’m sorry.” It’s a full sentence.
2. Fight fairly
Notice I didn’t say, “Don’t fight.” Conflict is a part of life, and any relationship worth investing in will go through seasons of conflict.
The key is to fight well. Don’t name-call or belittle. Don’t avoid or berate. Remember you’re on the same team.
Work to find the root of the issue rather than just fighting about the surface thing it seems like the fight is about. An argument about where to go for dinner probably isn’t really about your preference for Thai food over Chinese. It might be that you haven’t felt loved lately, or he’s been overworked, or you are struggling to trust each other.
Dig deep. Listen well. Be kind. It’s worth it.
3. Offer small gestures of love
My husband put a note in my lunchbox on my birthday last month. Just a handwritten note, scribbled on the back of a preschool flyer (sorry, Miss Vanessa!).
It took him maybe five minutes to write.
It made my whole day.
We usually think of big acts of love as the most important in a marriage, but these small things pack a big punch.
Is your wife overwhelmed by a big project? Vacuum the living room to surprise her. Is your husband a wonderful dad? Maybe a back massage is in order.
Life’s made up of little moments. Make them count.
4. Show physical affection
Not just sex–though that’s important, too. Keep holding his hand. Rub her shoulders. Hug.
Touching is good.
5. Laugh together
I was reading to our older son before bed. He began asking eighteen bajillion questions on each page. “Who is that? What is that? Why is he wearing a hat? How come he has that hat? Do I have a hat like that? Can I have a hat like that? Why is that a door? Why is the door white?” Etc., etc., etc., ETC., OMG…
I glanced at Daryl, who was biting his lip to keep from laughing…and I totally lost it. Worst case of the giggles I’ve had in years. We laughed and laughed and our older son asked, sternly, “WHAT is so funny?”
“The Cat in the Hat,” we guffawed, is SO funny!”
We realized in that moment that we’d been facing the newborn-plus-preschooler season of life with way too much seriousness.
Seriousness can spell death to a marriage.
Keep laughing. Even at Dr. Seuss.
6. Keep dating
I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before. But as years wear on and if kids come, this gets tough. So keep doing it.
If you can’t go out–and I get it, there are seasons we can’t, either–stay in. Look each other in the eye and remember why you started this whole business of being together in the first place.
7. Figure out the ways they need to be loved
My husband is a quality time guy. I’m a gifts girl. He doesn’t need long, countless hours to feel loved and I don’t need rocks from Tiffany’s, but he does need dedicated, focused time, and I need a box of See’s candy now and then.
We often receive love differently than our spouse, so tune in to how your loved one best feels loved.
8. Turn off the screens
Just do. Really. And put them far enough away that you won’t be tempted when they vibrate or ping or buzz.
9. Take balcony time
Youth ministry guru Mark DeVries writes of the importance of “balcony time.” It’s when you climb up to your metaphorical balcony and look at the whole picture of an organization. What’s working. What isn’t. What could be better. What needs to be scrapped.
It’s true of ministry, and it’s true of marriage. It may not feel super romantic, but it’s incredibly helpful. Do it a couple times a year, at least.
Ask, “How are you? How are we? How are things?” Then really listen to the answers.
10. Out-love one another
Marriage isn’t a 50-50 partnership. It’s a 100-100 one. Give. Love. Serve. Try to out-love your beloved, and soak up all their love for you.