It’s the month, and in fact the day of LOVE that we are sharing this article with you. We are thrifty, but we are a married couple and so we often get asked what holds us together, what held us together during our few years of financial crisis. Before we share these practical tips, it is by the Grace of God and the strength that He gave and continues to give us. He is our foundation.
But there are some very simple practical tips that we have found that we feel has made our marriage stronger over the years. We are not perfect, we have quarrels and even arguments, but there is no argument that we are each other’s best friends and each others leg to stand on, rely on and continue to grow on.
We will tell you, the financial troubles we were having many years ago were certainly relationship and strength building. As a short summary, you may or may not know that we use to be in over $100K of consumer debt. You can read our story as shared so far HERE, but it took us 3.5 years to pay off $15K and we struggled, argued, worked, weren’t on the same thought process and more. We then made some big changes, including a very good and deep communication. The second 3.5 years, we paid of $85K and communication was one big key. This also led us into a better relationship and today, people accuse us of communicating too much. So there were many positive points from us working out of our debts together.
After 14 years of marriage, here’s our personal advice to strengthen your marriage.
This article is written by both of us as we express on this day our personal thoughts!
1. Hold Hands
It’s so very basic and yet so very intimate. Holding hands creates an unspoken bond, trust, love and a touch that is very hard to achieve with other forms of affection. This is such a sweet one. Nothing needs to be said, hold hands in public, in front of your kids, in front of others, whenever you can!
2. Turn in 30 minutes early together
We have kids….. 5 of them in fact and all little. Talking during dinner – impossible, talking in the mini van – impossible, talking on the phone during the day – impossible, chatting online – a little closer but not quite. You get the point. Well, one thing that we have found was to go up to our room 30 minutes before our bedtime. This is a very important time in our marriage. It is a quite time where we get to snuggle and talk about our cares, worries, hopes and dreams and share in a time of prayer.
And no, guys, this is not code for “make love every night,” if it happens, it happens, but it is us telling you how important this time has been for our marriage. Our most important conversations have taken place during this time, our most important snuggle without words time has occurred during this time – it is a special time. Don’t let television, or other things interfere.
We started doing this when our first was a baby. So before kids prevented us from having normal, uninterrupted talks during the day. The bedroom is a special place without the distractions of the world, whatever that may be. And don’t bring those distractions to bed during that time (tablets, smart phones, etc.). Set those things down and take the time.
We also find that we like to read and will actually go to our room an hour before bed to accomplish both!
3. Never talk bad about them to anyone else
This is advice passed down from previous generations. Our parent’s never talked bad about each other to anyone. Even if they were going through hard times, they did not “gossip” about their problems or about their “lazy” husband or “nagging” wife, etc. This will create more problems. This will solidify those thoughts you are expressing to your co-workers, your friends, your neighbors, etc. into your own mind.
Now we know that marriages have problems that need to be talked about and worked out by talking with others. Just talk about them to the appropriate people that are there to help as a profession, not as a “husband or wife” bashing session amongst friends.
Defend your marriage in both word and deed.
4. Ask questions
This might sound like an odd one. And in fact many spouses get very offended when their spouse asks them “personal” questions. But read what we are saying below carefully.
It is a very good thing to do and you should both ask and allow to be asked questions about anything! We are human beings, we are not perfect, we need to be held accountable.
Think about it – when we are kids or teens, a good parent asks their child questions like:
- “How was your day?”
- “Did anything go wrong?”
- “Where did you go today?”
- “What sites are you visiting online?”
- “What were you talking to your friend about?”
- “What texts are you sending and to who?”
We are not comparing a marriage relationship like a parent/child nor are we saying you would ask the same questions to your spouse as you would a teen, just using an example of how we require others to be accountable.
As adults and in our jobs, we are often asked similar questions and have to give an account of what we did, where we went, for how long and some even have to give annual or even quarterly personal performance evaluations.
Marriage is not an exception, nor should it be. We should feel comfortable with both asking and answering questions, being held accountable for the marriage relationship.
It would be foolish to assume that any one relationship is an exception to the potential affair scenario physically, but even emotionally. Even by religious men and women and even those in a good marriage. It is the basis and plot for thousands of television shows, movies, books, plays, etc. It is not a plot because it isn’t popular. And so we should do what we can as loving, committed spouses to hold each other accountable.
We are not talking about asking a direct question on the topic everyday, but asking questions everyday so knowing each other is a normal thing. Like “how was your day today?”
So if I ask Alex, “How was your day today?” And he says “it was good and we have a new employee.” I would probably then ask more questions, male or female? How closely do you work together? Is he/she married? Etc. You need to know what your spouse faces everyday!
When we were first married, I worked as a paralegal in a downtown office. The attorney that I worked for was married to a gal that previously had my position. It was a product of a paralegal working closely with an attorney and an affair ensued between them, resulting in the end to a 20+ year marriage between the attorney and his wife. He was a well respected and very religious man. Well, fast forward a year later and I was now the paralegal and she was the wife at home with a new baby. Nothing of any sort was ever on my mind, happened, said or slightly considered, but Alex would ask me questions about my day. I appreciated that! It meant he cared, he loved me and didn’t want anything to ruin our marriage. And that was the start of 14 years of keeping each other accountable. We have heard numerous testimonies of spouses involved in affairs and how this one step could have helped – affairs start by people asking questions to get to know each other, but they are prevented by spouses caring about their mates day too!
The point is, know each other so well by asking questions that can help to keep each other accountable! Your life together is not a closed book.
5. Easily admit and easily forgive
When you get married, you hang yourself on a shelf. Marriage isn’t about you. Being stubborn, competitive, haughty, bull-headed, arrogant, rude, bossy, demanding and always right is not right. If you want a strong marriage, be the first to admit fault.
And be the first to forgive. We are not perfect. You are not married to a perfect someone and they are not married to a perfect someone either! Don’t harbor bitterness and easily forgive.
6. Compliment the big things, but especially the small
Yes, your spouse loves to get your approval on the big things, but especially the small things. Pay attention to what your spouse is doing or has done and compliment it. Whether it is big or small. Make a habit to compliment a couple of things a day!
7. Be a safe place
If your spouse “needs to talk” or needs comfort, needs to make a confession, needs a shoulder to lean on, be that someone.
One of the best examples I have seen recently was actually on T.V. in the show Downton Abbey (Please note: this is a spoiler alert, so skip ahead if you don’t want to hear the bad news!). It was the first episode of Season 3. Lord Grantham had discovered that he made a bad railroad investment and that he had lost almost all of Lady Grantham’s money. He was very upset and worried to tell her. I was so shocked and encouraged by the way she handled herself. It was with much grace, beauty and mercy. She showed no anger or bitterness towards her husband. She listened and embraced him comforting him and encouraging him. He had horrible news that directly affected her and was about her and she handled it graciously. She was a safe place for him.
Your spouse will not want to talk to you if you are not a safe place to come. It is the same concept for children, they will most likely talk to someone else first or in total. But you want to be the safe place for all of them.
8. Be trustworthy
You gain trustworthiness in many ways and different ways for each marriage relationship. But some things that have developed trustworthiness in our relationship have been from many things, but including utilizing points #3,#4, #5 and #7 above. It actually takes time to build it as you have to develop a relationship to gain it, but you need to develop and keep it!
9. Have a 30 second hug once you see each other at the end of the day
This one is actually similar to #1. When you both see each other after a work day, just embrace and hug for 30 seconds. It’s 30 second investment that makes mounds of relationship building. You don’t even have to say anything. This is one of my (Cassie) favorite parts of the day!
10. Pray with and for one another
Finally, pray with and for one another on a daily basis. We pray for each other many times throughout the day. We also pray together at a few times during the day. And when you are doing the steps above, you will also know what to pray for!