Just to be clear, I swear I am not old. But this past month, my wife Rebekah and I celebrated the 40th anniversary of our wedding, so there you are. We are happy, grateful, and amazed. Forty years covers a lot of territory. But here we are, and it feels great. We have strengthened and preserved our marriage and you can, too.
But there is no magic “secret” to a happy marriage. Life is difficult, children are wonderful but challenging, nobody is perfect. Like most couples, we almost didn’t make it. But we are stronger now than ever. Two flawed yet hopeful people have managed to make a marriage work. We learned along the way and still need to practice what we learned going forward. If you want to improve your marriage, follow these 6 practices.
1. KindnessKindness makes every aspect of a relationship operate will less friction and more joy.
This is the most important gift any man or woman can give. Consistent and intentional kindness is a kind of lubrication. Kindness makes every aspect of a relationship operate will less friction and more joy.
Sex is not the point here. Faithfulness, like kindness, is a general intention that plays out in every form of intimacy. Intimacy is a deep knowledge and it can be experienced in everything from a shared coffee to a shared life. Faithful in passion, values, time, attention, recreation, priorities, conversation and so much more. Is your spouse the one you bless with attention, or does someone or something else get your best? Do you confide in her or in someone else? Who do you chat with online? In who or what do you invest yourself? I know a man whose mistress is his job. I know another who shares his joys, his fears, his best stories, his hopes, and his dreams with someone who is not his wife. Faithfulness is a practice of the soul.
3. Deep Conversation and Attentive Listening
Over these 40 years, one of our favorite activities has become walking together, eating together (or just grabbing a coffee), and falling into deep conversation. We explore absolutely everything. This is not difficult when you genuinely care to know the other person, ask good questions, practice active listening, and have an open spirit. What’s cool about this is that the more you know someone, the more there is to love.
Secrets corrode and fracture relationships. Trust requires honesty. Forgiveness and healing also thrive on full disclosure. The closest I came to losing my wife was when I walled off too much of who I was. When she didn’t know me, she couldn’t love me. Transparency and vulnerability may look risky, but the entire relationship is at risk when we are not completely honest.
We often carry a skewed understanding of what is valuable in this market economy. Quality of life is not always a fiscal equation and quality of relationships requires the investment of time. Your spouse must be a priority. In relationships, time is an irreplaceable currency. Every day offers the same 24-hour resource. Time is not bankable. When it is gone it is gone. Spend it wisely.
6. A Shared Sense of Purpose
It is easy to fall in love and get married without a clear understanding of what life means and where we are headed. Purpose and values are often clarified during the early years of raising a family. Finding purpose is a journey best taken together. All of the above points can help get us on the same page. We need to be intentional when it comes to listening to one another and constantly articulating our hopes and dreams.
Sound off: What is one best practice that helps your marriage thrive?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are the best ways to build a friendship with someone?”