How to Keep Your Marriage Strong

5 habits to cultivate regularly to maintain a healthy marriage.

Google “marriage jokes” and these are some of the things you’ll find:

Marriage is not a word. It is a sentence–a life sentence.

Marriage is very much like a violin; after the sweet music is over, the strings are attached.

Marriage is love. Love is blind. Therefore, marriage is an institution for the blind.

I really despise marriage jokes. First, I despise them because they are critical, negative and completely discouraging. But secondly, I despise them because, at the core, they reflect the heart of a very broken society, with a very twisted view of marriage. They reflect a world around us that is struggling to see marriage as a blessing, but rather see it as a hindrance.

Turn on the TV and you will hear and see story after story of broken marriages, destructive relationships, struggling families and the on-again-off-again romance of Hollywood that confirms our society’s apathetic view on holy matrimony.    

I despise marriage jokes because I believe they affirm the very thing the Enemy is trying to do in the world around us: steal, kill and destroy our God-ordained, God-given, God-created relationships. They make light of a very serious matter and snuff the image of God in the very relationships that were meant to reflect and honor Him.

Marriage is a road full of really hard choices, ridiculous selflessness, and constant service. But it is a journey full of blessing, healing and hope.

Marriage is no walk in the park. It is a road full of really hard choices, ridiculous selflessness, and constant service. But it is a journey full of blessing, healing and hope. It is a hazy glimpse of God’s incredible love found in the eyes of another human being.

My husband, John, and I take this seriously, and we try to live out this kind of love each and every single day. Some days are way harder than others, and many times we make mistakes. But more than anything, we have committed to five things to keep our marriage strong:

1. Maintain Your Friendship

It’s easier to be friends than lovers. And those who start as friends make the best lovers. Friendship provides deep roots from which a healthy marriage can grow strong.

Each component to your friendship is like a string—and each one ties the two of you together and holds you close. Along with attraction, you share similar interests, hobbies, passions and beliefs that keep you connected.

But you also will have many differences, and you must work to maintain the friendship aspect in your marriage by seeing those differences as opportunities to learn, experience, and get to know one another even more. 

My husband and I love spending time together and experiencing things with one another. We consider the other as our best friend. We don’t let our marriage cover over our friendship—it only accentuates it.

2. Remember to Laugh

When I met John, I thought he was the funniest man alive. Now I know better,   but the truth of the matter is he keeps me laughing and makes me smile. We have so much fun together, and some of our most intimate memories involve us laughing until there are tears streaming down our faces. 

There is a time and place in marriage for tears of frustration, anger and sadness, but there should also be a time for tears of joy. Make that a priority in your marriage.

3. Confess to Each Other

As hard as it is, John and I are getting really good at saying sorry. But we’ve evolved. We don’t just say sorry anymore, because the word “sorry” doesn’t always hold much meaning. We have learned to confess to one another, to take ownership and responsibility of our sins, flaws and weaknesses, and to apologize specifically for how we have hurt each other. 

As humbling as this can be, confession can bring an intimacy that is far greater than any prideful “rightness” could ever bring. Learn to confess to one another, and then to forgive one another.

4. Regularly Express Affection

Affection is usually the norm for at least the first few years of marriage. But a few years (and maybe a few children) later, the “honeymoon” stage wears off and affection can fall by the wayside.

When affection is no longer the “norm,” it’s something you must MAKE a priority. Even when you’re tired and overwhelmed, expressing affection is an action and reaction to one another that involves being deliberate and choosing to make time for intimacy, romance and quality time. It’s a part of marriage that you and your spouse have to learn to integrate into your day to day, rather than just saving it for special date nights. 

When affection is no longer the “norm,” it’s something you must MAKE a priority.

John and I give affection through our words, loving glances across the couch while reading books with the kids, holding hands in public or even across our dining room table. We’ve learned to show affection through our words, our actions and our attitudes with one another. And let me encourage you in saying that a little love goes a long, long way.

5. Stop to Intentionally Connect

With so many opportunities to “connect” throughout the day via Facebook, emails, text messages and interactions with others, sometimes our need for real-life connections is depleted by the time we get face-to-face with our spouse at the end of the day. 

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John and I do our best to save our connecting for one another: to save our favorite stories of the day with each other, to call and text each other throughout the day, and to always save the last few minutes before bed as our time to emotionally connect. 

We’re deliberate in having deep and meaningful conversations with one another, and make the most of the time we’re apart by thinking about each other and then sharing those thoughts when we get the chance. We challenge ourselves to come together weekly to share what God is doing in our lives and to pray for one another. And truly, these are some of the most intimate moments in our relationship.

Though these things don’t really come naturally at first, in time, these small moments of connecting become second nature.

Marriage is not an easy road, and the proof of that is reflected in the many marriages around us that are falling apart. But God’s design for marriage is not to add burdens but to bring blessing into our lives. May God give us the grace to honor our relationships with our spouse, to invest in them and to show them the love of Jesus every opportunity we get. And may we be blessed in return.

This article was originally published at truelovedates.com

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