I had the privilege of interviewing the “American Sniper’s” wife, Taya Kyle, for Mother’s Day last year at Parkview. Taya shared a great illustration that has stuck with me for encouraging people to take care of their marriages because it was such a great analogy.
Taya correlated that if we had only one pair of shoes for our entire lives, how we would take such great and special care of them. Yet many of us do the opposite: we tend take our spouse for granted, often talk to them in ugly or belittling tones, and expect them to put up the worst sides of our self. We talk to them like we’d never talk to our coworkers or friends. Wow, would we want to live with ourselves?
Somewhere along the way, did you quit enjoying being together, having fun together, and laughing together? We need to learn to give our marriages the special attention, care, and treatment they need to make our marriages not only last a lifetime but to thrive.
So, how do we do that? After 33 years of marriage, here are a few tips I have either learned from someone else, learned the hard way, or from a counselor. Every marriage is different because the people are unique as well as the circumstances, so use what you can and throw out the rest. :D
1. Remember, you can’t change other people! Even your spouse. They can only change themselves and it must come from a desire within. You CAN change yourself, how you request things, and how you treat others. And if you do, you catch more flies with honey. Just saying.
2. Never stop dating. Many of you have heard me say this before because I drilled it into my daughters’ heads. But you need this time to keep enjoying each other and to stay connected. Life has a way of making us drift apart even though we are living in the same house.
3. Assume good intent. Okay, I wasn’t good at this one. I had to learn this. Women and men are so different and what my husband would sometimes doing naturally, I would misread as him trying to make me mad or get to me. It took me awhile to relearn the thoughts that would battle in my mind. I have since asked for clarification “Are you mad at me for something?” (remember, ask this with a nice un-accusatory tone). Often it is a no. Sometimes when we are upset about something else, we unintentionally take it out on our spouse. I once was so upset about a book I was reading, it was being demonstrated through my actions and attitude to Tim! Thankfully, once I figured that out, I got rid the book without even finishing it.
4. Get to Christian counseling. I can’t say this enough. It often takes a third party to help you both see and understand each other’s viewpoints, help you find a solution, and help you move forward as a couple. We have had to go to several different counselors at different times to get the true help we needed. But thank you, God, we did! Also, many of us either have learned some bad habits or distructive communication techniques or even have suffered from sexual abuse, so it is imperative we learn how to change.
5. Have “no phone/internet” times. Honestly, this is so difficult because of social media, our phones are how we connect with our grandkids, play our music, and even watch shows. But if you and your spouse are sitting outside or together and most the time you both are on your phones or laptops, you need to discuss what can be done about it. As a white elephant gift at Christmas, I opened a “mobile phone jail” which as I thought about was a GREAT idea! I believe if they aren’t in front of us, we are forced to think about things to talk about and have interaction. Tim and I have discussed other things we could do together besides just watching shows. We love it but there isn’t a whole lot of interaction.
6. Use kind requesting tones instead of accusatory tones. “Hey, babe, would you please help me out by hanging up your bath towel after your showers? It would be a huge help because then it wouldn’t get as mildewed and stinky, giving me more laundry sooner. I’d really appreciate it.” Then if they do, be sure to say, “thank you” – this is often perceived by men not only as appreciation but as a sign of respect to them. And nagging does nothing to help your marriage: Proverbs 21:19 says “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”
7. Focus on your spouse’s strengths, not weaknesses! It is so easy to get into a negative critical mindset if we allow our minds to stay there. It is amazing how your attitude can change if you stop and think of what they have done lately, what they might be going through at work or away from you. Then focus on the good things about your man.
Philippians 4:8“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)
8. To go along with the prior suggestion, praise your mate regularly and even in front of other people. Les and Leslie Parrott tell us, “Couples who praise each other regularly are happier, more secure, and more unified in their relationship. They feed the positive energy in their marriages. But couples who don’t spend the time or energy on praise aren’t as happy, and their marriages are less likely to succeed.” I learned the following practice from my sister-in-law several years ago. We use dry erase markers and put a document under the 5x7 frame. The document says, “I love you because…” Each of us takes turns writing various aspects, characteristics, or activities we notice in the other person that we love or is appreciated. Or just use a cute chalkboard but put it where you both will see it regularly. It is here for you to download for free.
9. No matter what, show your man respect. Instead of telling you how this can make or break your marriage, listen to my podcast with my daughter Lauren as we discuss this here. But God definitely knew the best marital advice for wives is to respect their husbands and for husbands to love their wives in Ephesians 5:33.
Marriage takes a lot of work. I know the movies make it seem like it will be like a fairy tale and if your marriage takes work, then you must be married to the wrong person. Not so. If that were the case, Tim and I would no longer be married.
But God had a plan and we’ve allowed Him to work in our marriage, making it Godlier. Thank heavens He did! We are more in love and having more fun in our marriage than ever before. What a blessing to have all that history to share as well as our children and precious grandchildren. So hang in there!
Praying for Your Marriages,