Proven Pointers for Strengthening Your Marriage

"And they lived happily ever after..."

That's what everyone is looking for, isn't it?

Blog. Couple talking. 6.23Somehow the sound of that phrase causes us to think there's a kind of magic that settles like morning dew upon the woman and man who fall in love and promise to love each other for life. Surely this means life will be bliss, day after day.

Doesn't it?   

Well, not quite. Not for two human beings, imperfect as we all are. Besides, no one is happy, happy, happy without fail, 24/7.

What is true is that like every other living thing, even the best marriage takes T.L.C. Regularly. That is, both marriage partners nurture and look out for each other.

For life.

"Love," by itself, is not enough

I'm not a professional, but a lot of Christian counselors tell us there is a secret to growing a strong marriage and it's pretty clear-cut. Here's the formula:

We before You

You before Me.

We:  What nurtures and strengthens our marriage comes first, before either partner's personal desires. 

You: Each of us places the other's needs and wants ahead of having it our way. (If that sounds belittling, think how sweet life could be if both partners lived this way.)

Me:  What I want, what I need to be happy, the way I want things to be ranks last. 

The problem is that on the inside we're all two-year olds yelling, "I want it my way!" 

Never think this means personal needs and wants don't matter. The question is, what matters most right now? And what helps build strength into our marriage relationship?

Once you have clear answers to those questions, you know how to weigh your choices. 

Don't be threatened when one or the other's expectations seem to change a bit here and there over time. It's not just young children who have "stages".

What matters is that your sense of oneness stays alive--and grows stronger. 

Keep first things first

When both husband and wife aim to live this out they send each other a secret message: "I love you. You and what you need from our marriage comes first with me." 

All this echoes Philippians 2:4:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Real life calls for give-and-take. Inevitably, some days it will be all about one and other days it will be all about the other. 

That's life. For everyone.  

Add in new joys and challenges

Children bring blessings with them, but they interrupt time together for Mom and Dad. This calls for ingenuity to make sure you stay connected as a couple.

Why bother? Because the two of you nurturing your relationship is good for your children, too.

Whether you realize it or not, your darlings are watching how you interact with each other. They smile and feel all warm inside when they see Dad pat Mom on the butt, or notice how Mommy gives Daddy that "special smile." 

Your strong marriage gives your kids a sense of security. They feel reassured they don't need to worry, even if their best friend's parents just split up.    

As you two give each other the gift of love you also give your children the gift of inner stability.

How can a couple keep love alive?

Make it a habit to find your own way to snatch some time for the two of you every day, like after work. Be prepared, perhaps by keeping a special snack drawer and healthy veggies in the fridge. Hungry youngsters well may consider this time a treat if you allow them to watch special programs or the like. 

This frees up a bit of time when Mom and Dad adjourn to a quiet corner--even in the same room--where you can reconnect and talk with fewer interruptions. 

Be creative. It's all about finding what works for you.

First, last and always, talk. Talk. Talk. And listen.

Speak words of love, too

Just hearing the words sincerely spoken helps turn attention off ourselves and back to building strength into the marriage. When one or the other has had "one of those days," it will lift both your spirits as you gently mention qualities you see in them and truly admire.  

Many counselors advise couples to hold hands, which means facing each other eye-to-eye--even when you are not in the mood. Even if it feels forced, just this skin-to-skin contact reminds you that underneath it all, you two are the same people who breathlessly promised to love each other forever.

Day after day, each one's words matter and have a lasting effect on both.

Years ago the poet Ogden Nash laid out his own catchy formula for husbands and wives who want to stay married:

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it,
Whenever you're right, shut up.

Again and again we will fail

But we keep trying. When we slip up, we forgive each other--and ourselves. That's way better than nursing hurt feelings and growing bitter. 

It is achingly lonely to be stuck on a cold hill of injured pride.  

Could it ever be too late to make a new beginning? Almost never, except when there's abuse.  

Even if only one partner changes--and perseveres--the effect can be positive. Healing can begin, something to build on.

A husband and wife who seek to live out these principles develop an enduring bond. Each one feels safe with the other. Trust grows and becomes a firm foundation. Love grows and blooms. 

This translates into a marriage that lasts.

Enduring wisdom to live by

The Apostle Paul tells us how to live as Christians and it also describes how to keep a marriage strong. Here is Philippians 2:2-5, as it reads in the J.B. Phillips Paraphrase: 

Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you.

Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves.

None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people's point of view.

Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be.

Whether married or single, here's to living strong in Jesus! 

May your heart be filled with His love and peace and joy,


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