I think when I first got married I seriously believed that the passion, the puppy dog love, the “she’s perfect” all the time concept, the I can’t get enough of her – all of it would remain forever. Love makes you stupid. I thought that my wife and I would always have a hard time keeping our hands off each other, that we would want to sit as close to each other every single time we could, we would always want to hold hands, and I would want to talk to her all day long. And 16 years later… we have to work at it every single day to keep that passion alive. Success and happiness are hard work in every area of life – marriage is not an exception!
I don’t think we are the oddity – I think it is something you have to work at. People look at happy successful couples and think they just lucked out or they found just the right person. Let me tell you, you have to make it the right person, and it’s a lot of stinkin’ work to make this marriage thing successful, happy, whatever you want to call it. It is so worth it and I believe something God would want us to do, but it’s not all that easy after the honeymoon.
Here are some tips I have picked up along the way from various sources, some of them just from life experiences, trial and error. I believe in all of them. I have not mastered all of them, some I am not even very good, at but I believe they are all important.
No matter where you relationship is right now – start doing these. There’s no quick-fix. It’s consistent purposeful behavior. Happy couples act differently than unhappy couples. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
You aren’t going to be perfect – when you aren’t, ask for forgiveness and improve – keep the love alive…
1. When You Wake Up – Decide That You Are Going to Love Your Spouse Today
This is by far the biggest key for me. I need to wake up every single morning and make a conscious decision to intentionally love my wife. Some days it is easier than others. Some days I still have a bad mood hangover from the day before and I need to wake up and decide – today, I am going to love my spouse. I must be purposeful in my love towards my wife!
2. Say “I Love You” and “Have a Good Day” Every Morning Before You Leave
Nothing cheers me more than for my wife to tell me she loves me, and really mean it. But, this can almost seem like a rote thing if not done properly. If she tells me she loves me or have a good day and she sounds like a robot or I can tell it’s just something she says without thinking about it – it doesn’t mean as much. Start your spouse’s day off right with an “I love you” and a “Have a good day!” This will help them as they head out to carpool lines, traffic, errands, work, meetings, etc.
3. Learn to Like the Same Stuff
The fire will burn a little lower after you get through the “honeymoon phase.” You won’t want to just have sex all the time like you did when you first got married, so you are going to have to find something else to do. I think it is good to have separate interests, but I think the truly happy couples are the ones that learn to like the same stuff. Work at it – be willing to give up some of your interests – compromise. Watch her shows, play the games she likes to, take the vacations she wants to take.
4. Take a Little Stroll – Hold Hands
I would assume at least for one half of any couple (most likely, the husbands), physical touch is probably one of the predominant “love languages.” Hold hands when you walk. I see far too many couples that walk together, but you would think they were distant cousins rather than husband and wife, because of their body language while walking. Walk together, side by side, and hold each other’s hand – just like you would when you were dating. Physical touch is important. Successful couples seem to be couples that you would catch holding hands.
5. Always Be Willing to Forgive and Trust
No matter what the circumstance – make your default response one of forgiveness and trust – until/unless you have reason not to trust. Successful, happy couples trust one another rather than being suspicious. Assume that your spouse has the best of intentions and would always be faithful to you. Trust is key to successful happy couples and when trust is violated, forgiveness is important.
6. Check-In During the Day, Even on Busy Days
I don’t think any couple, no matter how busy they get, can go a full day without thinking about their mate, even if they weren’t getting along before they separated for the day to engage in their normal daily activities. If you think about your spouse – check-in with them. Successful happy couples check-in with each other. That doesn’t mean that you should bug them all day long, but call and see how they are doing, see how their day has gone. For my wife and I, text messaging has saved our marriage. Neither one of us are big phone talkers. I like a quick little text every once in a while that just shows that my wife is thinking of me. I’ll send one sometimes that just says, “I miss you today” when I am at work or “I love you!” It doesn’t hurt to send one saying something more like, “I can’t wait to get home so I can kiss you.” Just remember to be careful what you text – you might accidentally send it to someone else unintentionally or your kids might read your text messages. 😉
7. Focus On the Positive – Not the Annoyances
After a couple years of marriage, you have probably figured out what your spouse does that annoys you. So, you should focus on that, right? Absolutely not! Spend time focused on what your spouse does right. Focus on the positive. You can always find negative or you could choose to always find positive. Think positively about your spouse!
8. When You See Each Other for the First Time in the Evening – Hug
Make it a priority, first-thing when you see your spouse in the evening to hug! Hugs are good. Hugs show concern – you can feel support and love in a hug. Not the hug, pat on the back kind of a hug either – really embrace your spouse.
9. 15 Second Kiss Every Day – Make Out
15 seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but think about it – how long do most of your kisses last? Maybe half a second? Set your timer – force yourself to kiss for 15 seconds. Get in the habit of kissing for 15 seconds at a time at least once per day. Two things are going to happen – 15 seconds is going to go by too quickly and there is a decent chance you’re going to want more than a kiss by the time you are done. Happy successful couples make out!
10. Outdo Your Spouse
Could you imagine a relationship where each participant is trying to outdo the other? Oh man, that would be pretty awesome. Happy, successful couples outdo one another – in a positive way. Out-serve your spouse. Out-love your spouse. Out-encourage your spouse. Out-cherish your spouse… you get the picture.
11. Show Affection in Public and Be Proud of Your Spouse
Happy couples are comfortable showing affection in public. I’m not talking about making out while standing in line at the grocery store. Touching each other, hugging, a kiss on the cheek, holding hands, etc. Not showing off just showing love and being proud of your love.
12. Date Each Other
Be creative. Treat each other with the care you did when you were dating. Make some special time just for the two of you. Maybe have an understanding where you each plan a date every month and you actually plan it for what you would like to do instead of the whole, “Oh, I don’t know, what do you want to do, what do you want to see…” Plan something you would enjoy and then have your spouse do the same thing the next month. Check out this other article about dating your spouse and this one for some date ideas.
13. Listen More Than You Talk
A successful couple is one composed of listeners. Listen to each other and when I say listen, I mean, turn off the TV (or at least mute it), put down the book, and focus on your partner. One solid key to successful loving relationships is listening to your spouse. Listen and learn what is going on in your spouse’s heart and head.
14. Go to Bed at the Same Time
OK, 16 years into this, differing schedules, two older kids – not much reason to get to bed at the same time most nights. Do it anyway. Go to bed together, spend time talking, decompressing from the day. The bedroom, at night, once the kids are in their beds seems to be our only sanctuary where we can just be husband and wife again. Most of the day we are playing the part of mom and dad. Go to bed at the same time.
15. Have Sex – Often
Unhappy couples probably aren’t having sex. When my wife and I don’t seem to be clicking or one of us is in a bad mood – sex pretty much cures it. It pretty much cures everything – including headaches. Have sex often – it is very healthy for a relationship. If you look at your relationship with your spouse you will probably see that when you aren’t at your best, relationally together – you probably aren’t intimate with one another either. Happy successful couples are having frequent sex.
16. Decide Each Day to Put Your Spouse’s Needs First
A happy and successful couple puts each others needs ahead of their own. As a husband, I need to be focused on how my wife deserves and wants to be treated. Not just “how I would like to be treated” (The Golden Rule), but how would she like to be treated, because those are probably fairly different one from the other. I need to put my wife’s needs in front of my own. I go to work every day, because I love my wife and want to provide for her. I stop and get some milk at the store, so she doesn’t have to. If my wife needs some quality time with me, I decide to spend time with her instead of laying on the couch and watching TV.
17. Study Your Bible and Pray Together
Open up in prayer together with God, out loud, every day. Both of you take turns praying. Pray for your marriage. Pray for your kids. Pray for your family, your church, your… PRAY! In this effort you will encourage each other, teach each other, and learn more about what is really important to your spouse. Also, study the Bible together. I have learned more about my wife and her heart through Bible study (especially small group studies) than probably any other way. I highly recommend doing a Bible study with your wife, maybe with other couples as well – that works for us. Successful couples love the Lord, together.
18. Talk Positively About Your Spouse
Can you imagine being in a relationship where your spouse does nothing but put you down or talk poorly to others about you? That won’t make for a happy successful relationship. Build your spouse up every opportunity you can. The more you focus on the positive, the more you will see it. People need to know why you value your wife. We are to talk highly of our spouses, to build them up, to present them as pure and undefiled to all. You should never talk negatively about your spouse to anyone.
19. Sleep Naked
Sometimes I tell my wife, “I just want you to be happy… and naked.” Happy and successful couples sleep naked together from time to time, when able to. It’s difficult not to remain close to your spouse when you are together in a bed, naked. It’s the way God made Adam and Eve – go back to the Biblical garden example. 🙂 I can’t imagine being upset with my wife for, too long, while she is naked.
20. Say, “I Love You” and Goodnight” Every Night Before You Go to Sleep
No matter how you feel at the end of the day, tell your spouse that you love them and tell them goodnight – say it! Even if you haven’t had the best of days, tell your spouse that you love them, every single night. And tell them good night! This hopefully helps your attitude, but it also shows your spouse that you are in this relationship, no matter what. Maybe you got upset with one another a couple hours before bedtime and there was tension. Tell your spouse that you love them! It lets them know that some little spat is nothing in the grand scheme of things – you are still in this. Imagine going to bed at night not knowing if your spouse loved you.
This list is just starting to scratch the surface. Being happy and successful in marriage isn’t going to “just happen!” Be willing to work at it. It’s so worth it! Please leave a comment below with some other important behaviors that you have found which help build a happy successful marriage!