Today I'm going to share 11 ways for making your marriage thrive... and then add in how I think they can also help me to become a better parent. I would love to hear your tips regarding how you work to make your marriage thrive in the comments below, so definitely share them!
1. Start over each day with a determination to make your marriage great!
Some days are just hard. As a couple I think it is awesome if you can start over with a clean slate each day and recommit yourself to making your marriage fabulous. This requires letting go of grudges and forgiving and forgetting (and not bringing up sore subjects over and over again). I also love to teach the same concept to my kids. If we have a bad day, we talk about how tomorrow we're going to have a do-over and make things better the next day. I have to resist the urge to bring up past events and instead focus on the positive things ahead!
2. Family time is not couple time. Make time just to spend with your spouse.
Spending time with your spouse doesn't mean you have to go out or spend money, but it does mean that you plan specific things to do together that allow you to build on your relationship as a couple. We have been attempting to go on date nights out a few nights a month. Sometimes we go on double dates with other couples, and sometimes we go out alone. We also try and go on a little getaway every year for our anniversary. It is fun to reconnect, have time for uninterrupted conversations, and even talk about our goals/dreams as a couple and family. I think it is important for our kids to see that we take time for one another. I also try and do special dates with our kids each month. I think this teaches our kids that each member of our family is important and deserves special attention.
2a. Schedule your date with your spouse first (and schedule the rest of your time around it).
We are working on being better about this. I think most people would agree that life gets in the way sometimes. I think there are definitely seasons of life when we are busier or more tired as parents, so scheduling a date is hard. If that is the case with you, redefine what a "date" is and make it fit your needs. Quality time as a couple can look different in every family. My favorite thing to do with my husband is to sit at the kitchen table while he makes us a late night treat- carmelitas or peanut butter bars. I am always amazed at how much better of a parenting team we are when we have 1:1 time together to just have fun together (and eat our treats).
3. Sit down with your spouse and ask, "What can I do for you to make you feel loved?" Have your spouse ask you the same question.
This was a suggestion from the workshop that we haven't done yet. It reminds me of the book The Five Love Languages of Children. Everyone has a different love language, so talking with your spouse about this can't help but yield positive results. As parents I think this is a little harder, because our kids won't often spell it out, yet oftentimes their behaviors will tell us how they want to be loved/shown love. I'm challenging myself to do this step this week!
4. Be a role model for your children of the type of partner they have the potential to become.
I want my kids to have amazing marriages and I want them to be successful in their relationships with friends. Their success starts right in my home with how I treat my spouse. They will model themselves after my behavior. When I get angry too quickly, my son tends to get angry at friends quickly. When I am kind and patient, I see those behaviors reflected in his relationships.
5. Offer a sincere compliment, at least 3 times a day.
Man, I need to be better at doing this one. Life is so much happier when we are looking for the positive things that others do. I notice that when I focus on the positive things my spouse does, I am happier, and then my kids are happier too. When I start focusing on the negative with my spouse, things just go downhill and I tend to start being negative with my kids too... which definitely makes me feel like I am failing as a parent!
6. Try something new... together.
We tend to do the same old thing together. We watch shows, make treats, go out to dinner, and if we're lucky, we escape to a movie. On Saturday night we went on an amazing date that my friend created and it was such a fun change from the norm. I actually love routine, but I also think the idea of trying new things together helps keep things fun. I am always teaching my kids about the importance of trying new things, so doing this as a parent/couple definitely makes me feel less hypocritical. We are going to try and do this more often.
7. Do chores together.
I hate doing dishes with a passion. They are never-ending. My husband knows this and so we usually spend time together doing dishes on Sunday nights (when kids are occupied or asleep). We call it "family dish time." I love it. We really have a good time catching up with one another and then we start off the new week with a clean kitchen. Working together as a couple also reminds me how important it is for us to work together with our kids. So many good life skills are taught through work.
8. Be unselfish. You can't be selfish and have a fabulous marriage.
As a parent, you really learn to be unselfish with your kids. They consume a lot of time and energy. Sometimes as a spouse I am selfish of my "alone" time or even silly things (like my treats), because I get tired of sharing with just one more person. As parents, my husband and I both need breaks from time to time. My husband has been amazingly unselfish this year and has watched our kids while I've gone on three different girls trips. I have come home rejuvenated and ready to be a better mom and wife. I love this article about selfishness in marriage. It has some good things to think through and ends with this great quote- “Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.” - Howard W. Hunter. Being unselfish as a spouse is a great way to teach your kids about being unselfish. They are always watching and learning from us.
My husband and I talked about this a lot when we were first married. If everyone tries to give 50% in marriage, but someone fails on that again and again, then you're never at 100%. If each person gives 100% (or even just 80%), then your relationship is always operating on a surplus... especially on a week where one partner is struggling and can only give 30%. There are some weeks when we just go through the motions and are like passing ships in the night with busy schedules. Leaving nice notes in shoes, buying each other special treats, or even just sending a sweet text during the day are simple ways to still be nurturing your relationship during those times that are crazy or tough!
10. Learn to be happy with yourself. The happier you are with yourself, the more you bring to the relationship.
I think everyone has different needs related to how they stay happy and feel centered. For me I need to be exercising, praying, increasing my spirituality, spending time with friends/family, and learning something new. Sometimes I can do these things with my spouse, sometimes I need to do them alone. When I am happy with myself, I am also a happier parent. I compliment my kids, do fun activities with them, I am patient, and I am less selfish. I don't feel this way every day... but when I do, it is awesome!
11. Get help if you need it!
Some couples do need to see a therapist when they are struggling. Often couples wait too long to get help. One thing that our workshop mentioned is that marital problems are sometimes signals that a couple needs to learn new skills to create a happy relationship. These problems don't necessarily mean the couple needs to separate or divorce. Each couple is different and has different challenges. I think it is important to recognize that sometimes we need to ask for help. Help can come from a therapist, another couple you trust, supportive parents, or other resources like marriage classes and books. Recognizing that you need help and being willing to ask for it is a great skill to demonstrate to your kids. Everyone needs help at some point during their life.