My husband and I have been through so much in the past (almost) 5 years of marriage. We have bought a house, gone through two pregnancies, switched jobs, and also had countless fights and petty arguments. Together we have learned that a healthy marriage does not just automatically happen. It takes work – so much work! It also takes personal development and a desire (on the part of both spouses) to have a healthy marriage. There is a certain amount of sacrifice on the part of both as well because putting another person ahead of yourself is necessary but never easy. Although we are far from experts, read on for our top 5 tips for a healthy marriage!
1. Take a deep breath
Tough times in marriage are inevitable! For me, this often happens when I feel overwhelmed, the kids are screaming, and there’s just too much to do. These are the moments when my hubby will (again, inevitably!) ask me for a favor or for help with something. And I blow my top, snapping at him and shredding any remaining self-control that I have left. I immediately revert to the same-old destructive dialogue in my head about past arguments and this fuels a new, typically heated, argument. Yipes.
Through much practice, prayer, and discipline, I have learned to identify my triggers and take a deep breath in that moment of frustration. Visualize breathing in peace and breathing out stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. This helps keep me centered and gives me a greater ability to see beyond the likely pettiness of the situation and to stay focused on the big picture. I have extremely perfectionist tendencies so this has been a huge challenge for me but I’m learning to let go of the small stuff in favor of a healthy marriage.
2. Be vulnerable
Walls. They are essential for houses but terrible for healthy marriages. Through much counseling and self-reflection, I have become aware that I am a master builder of walls. My wall is triple reinforced and just as fake as George Bluth’s wall. Although reinforced walls offer protection, emotional walls create distance and I realized that this is exactly what I was doing in my relationship. I was creating distance and emotional disconnect from the very person that I longed to connect with the most.
At some point in my life, I decided that I needed to create walls to protect myself. It’s very possible that this was necessary and useful at that point in my life however it’s incredibly destructive in the context of a healthy marriage. A lifetime of wall building is tough to immediately overcome however awareness is the first step. I began overcoming it by telling my husband that vulnerability was tough for me but it was something I really wanted to work on. I can’t say that the wall is completely torn down yet, but I can say that I can finally see him peeking through and that we are both committed to the process.
3. Healthy marriages require forgiveness
Forgiveness is one of those “easier said than done” situations. In theory, forgiving and forgetting sounds easy but in practice, it is one of the toughest parts of marriage. I think that forgiving in marriage is especially tough because you see this person on a daily basis and it’s very easy (and tempting!) to keep score. “You never pick the kids up from daycare.” “You never follow through with what you say you will.” “You always come home late from work.” No matter how petty, people love to keep score! Keeping score worked for Toby and Pam but it most definitely does not work for healthy marriages!
Let go of the petty arguments by taking a moment to forgive your spouse. For anything and everything that may have happened in the past. Remember when I said this was an “easier said than done” situation? Forgiveness is so much harder than it seems! It is a daily choice that you make in favor of having a healthy marriage versus carrying a false sense of being right. Choose to let go of the past and you will be amazed at how bright the future is!
When was the last time you and your spouse laughed together? Laughter has a tendency to disappear when walls go up. Think back to the last fight you had with your spouse. Did you laugh? Probably not. Laughter brings people together like nothing else can and is vitally important for a healthy marriage. Laughing through the tough times is one of the best ways to grow closer as a couple.
Find ways to share joy and laughter as a couple. Our favorite source of laughter is our children because their antics never seem to end! Finding humor in the moment also dispels the stress that children also inevitably bring! Pets are another awesome source of laughter. Movies and TV shows also significantly increase the laughter factor in our house.
5. Get a hobby
Probably not what you were expecting for my final tip, was it? Hobbies are important because they give us a creative outlet and sense of fulfillment. They also teach us life lessons. Having hobbies enables us to tap into a deeper sense of ourselves and creates connection with who we truly are as a person. Anytime you connect with who you are as a person, you learn more about yourself and can therefore contribute to a marriage on a much deeper level.
This one is challenging for my husband and I because we have incredibly different hobbies. Despite our different interests, we each find fulfillment and meaning in what we do and this contributes to a happier, healthier marriage. Hobbies can be useful for bringing you together as a couple if you have similar interests. Taking an interest in your spouse’s hobby is also a great way to grow closer as a couple. Although our hobbies are on completely different planets, I am trying to learn more about my husband’s hobbies so we can spend more time together and strengthen our marriage.
There you have it – our top 5 tips for a healthy marriage. I sincerely hope that you were able to take something useful away from this post and if so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! Maybe you have your own tips for a healthy marriage and I’d love to hear about those too!