strengthening your marriage

5 Counterintuitive Choices That Can Strengthen Your Marriage

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“You need to argue more with your wife.” I couldn’t believe that this was what my therapist was suggesting. Wasn’t I paying him to help me stop arguing with my wife? After all, the increased intensity of our disagreements was what landed me in therapy in the first place.

But it turns out that sometimes, we don’t know what’s best for our marriages. Sometimes, strengthening your marriage isn’t exactly intuitive. If it were, we’d all have great marriages, wouldn’t we? Here are 5 counterintuitive choices that can strengthen your marriage.

1. Argue.

Like I said, the encouragement to argue was not what I expected when it came out of my counselor’s mouth. But what he meant is that sometimes we avoid conflict for the sake of keeping the peace, and in doing so, we avoid dealing with very real issues. If your wife is doing something that is creating a rift between you, you need to address it. It may be the way she talks to you, choices she’s making around money, or how she’s approaching intimacy.

There are certainly times you should let things go because the relationship is more important. But sometimes, you need to engage in conflict because the relationship is so important. If you’re going to have a healthy relationship, you need to be able to tell the difference.

2. Get some space.

Time together with your wife is critical. But so is time apart. The biblical vision for marriage has at its center the idea that “a man should leave his parents and be joined to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.” So yes, there is a way in which you become “one,” but that oneness is not at the expense of your individual identity. Sometimes, what we really need is time to remember that being “one flesh” doesn’t mean being the same.

You have interests that differ from hers. That’s the way it ought to be. You and she both need the freedom to pursue things you are interested in without feeling guilty about it. Of course, there’s always sacrifice here because of kids and jobs and obligations, but one way of serving each other is to ensure that you and your wife both have the space to pursue things you are interested in.

No marriage can thrive if you expect your wife to be everything to you and vice versa.

3. Go out with the guys.

No marriage can thrive if you expect your wife to be everything to you and vice versa. Your wife can and should be your best friend in the sense that she knows and supports you in ways others don’t. However, no matter how much you love being with her, you need an extended support system. You need men in your life who can walk with you, encourage you, and root for you and your marriage when times are hard.

Scheduling time to connect with some solid men is essential if you’re going to be the best husband you can be. This doesn’t have to be weekly. I have friends I connect with regularly via text, whom I see in person about four times a year. Everyone is different. But one way or another, strengthening your marriage looks like strengthening your friendships as well.

4. Tell her no.

Sometimes your wife needs to tell you no because you want her to make a decision that she’s uncomfortable with. The same is true for you. Sometimes, the best thing for your marriage might be for you to stand up and say “no.” Boundaries are essential in any relationship because boundaries exist to tell you where one person stops and another begins.

For you to have a healthy marriage you must both be individuals. It’s only when you have clearly differentiated from each other that you can truly sacrifice for each other. Strengthening your marriage looks like doing what you can to ensure your wife has full freedom to make choices and so do you. Only then can you willingly choose to sacrifice for the other.

5. Embrace silence.

We’re often afraid of silence. We live in a noisy culture in which we are constantly bombarded with sounds of various kinds. In our marriages, it can be tempting to think there needs to be constant “noise.” Whether we’re discussing how the day went, what our plans are for the week, or how we’re going to deal with the kids, there is always something to talk about.

But sometimes, we need to just be present with our wives. No agenda. No problem to solve. Just the act of being with your wife when there is no purpose beyond connection is invaluable in strengthening your marriage. As nineteenth-century Scottish author George MacDonald said, “Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly.” Practice being present with your wife without an agenda. Practice being silent together.

Sound off: What other counterintuitive choices can strengthen your marriage?

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What choices could we make to prioritize strengthening our marriage?”