“You’ve got to make time to invest in your marriage.”
If you’re married, it’s likely you’ve heard that phrase at least once. But it often seems like people are constantly telling young married couples to “invest in their marriage” without explaining what on earth that actually means.
While it sounds like a noble idea, the concept of “investing in your marriage” can seem so far away for many couples, particularly during the first few years of marriage. As you’re trying to balance, work, family and a social life, it’s hard to figure out how to find the time or energy to “invest” in one more thing.
As a counselor, I know that offering blanket statements like telling people to “invest in their marriage” can often discourage more than encourage. So, in a practical sense, what does it actually mean to invest in your marriage when life is crazy and beyond?
Here are a few bite-sized things to consider doing as ways to invest in your marriage:
1. Connect Spiritually
One of the most beautiful aspects of marriage comes with the opportunity to emotionally and spiritually connect with another human being. And the gift of Christian marriage gives us an opportunity to connect, not only with one another, but with a holy and almighty God.
Often, believing couples tend to take their spiritual connection for granted, forgetting that some of the most intimate moments in marriage are when we’re sharing our hearts, communicating what’s in our spirit and talking about our relationship with God.
Some of the most intimate times I spend with my husband are the moments we sit, hand in hand, at the end of the day and just pray about whatever is going on in our lives. It’s a simple act, yet it has a supernatural outcome.
2. Communicate Meaningfully
Believe it or not, the average married couple spends just minutes a day in active and meaningful communication. It’s also a known fact that communication gets less and less with each year of marriage.
Hearing that saddens me, because there is so much joy in being able to communicate with your spouse. When it comes to communicating, it’s important to realize that there are levels of conversation. Facts are the most superficial level, followed by opinions and ideas, followed by the deepest level of sharing our feelings and emotions with one another.
The truth is, each level of conversation is important, and has to be deliberately worked into conversation. If you want to do something small that will have a big impact on your marriage, set aside 10-20 minutes a day sitting face to face with your spouse for the sole purpose of communicating. Don’t let this be the time to discuss conflict or problems, but just a time to catch up and keep up with one another. Consider asking open-ended questions like: “What was the best part of your day today?” or “What’s something I can do to help you out this week?” The goal of this time is to enjoy each other and encourage one another.
3. Touch Often
Before we had children, I remember observing a couple we were friends with who had children. Between feeding their kids at meal times and keeping them occupied during our fellowship time, I noticed they hardly ever had any physical contact with each other. No hand-holding. No snuggling on the couch. No arms around the shoulders.
Fast forward a few years and a few kids later, and I totally understand the struggle of trying to connect physically with your spouse while being pulled in a million different directions. But the truth is, even during seasons of life when it’s hard to come by, physical touch is such an important part of investing in your marriage.
Take inventory of your marriage, and find times (or even schedule times if you have to!) where you can be deliberate about holding hands, making love or even doing something as simple as touching your spouse’s back as you pass them in the kitchen. Physical touch conveys to your spouse that you notice them, desire them and I want to be near them. Talk about a great investment!
4. Confess and Forgive
As much as we talk about confession and forgiveness within the Church, we often fail to apply it in the context of our marriages. Because let’s be honest, it’s a hard task!
The idea of being vulnerable and sharing your weaknesses and shortcomings with another person can be a hard pill to swallow, which is precisely why God calls us to do it. The practice of letting down our pride in the act of confession opens the door for the opportunity to forgive, which is the sacred glue that holds marriages together.
The couples I see in my practice who are highly satisfied in marriage are not the ones who have the least amount of disagreement, but the ones who have the most forgiveness.
God has forgiven each one of us of so much, and those who live in that freedom are freed to forgive others. Invest in your marriage by taking the time to search your heart frequently, being honest with your spouse about the things you are longing to change and the areas where you need to ask for forgiveness.
5. “Get Away”
They say that couples who “pray together stay together.” But I think it can also be said that couples who play together have the most fun!
Life can get busy, and the stress of it all can make us lose sight of the fact that God wants us to enjoy one another and the life He’s given us.
Invest in your marriage by setting aside the time to go out at least once a week (or stay in if you can’t afford a weekly sitter) and do something fun! Play a board game on the living room floor, go out for a fun dinner, take a hike, pack a picnic lunch, go on a scenic drive. The possibilities are endless, and what you’re doing matters less than who you’re doing it with. Rekindle your love for one another by rekindling your friendship.
Investing in your marriage often means doing small things deliberately that will ultimately have a huge impact. Whether you’ve been married for five days or 50 years, it’s never too early or too late to start making a difference in your marriage.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.