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My husband and I have been together for eight years now and married seven in October. I was blessed with a great guy that was the answer to years of prayer, but I can honestly say that marriage really does get better with time when it’s nurtured!
It takes intentionality to build a happy, healthy relationship, especially after kids are in the picture (we should know, we have three under six!), but it’s absolutely possible for anyone who is willing to be diligent in the pursuit of their spouse!
These are some of the habits we prioritize that have helped us build a happy, loving, lasting marriage.
Prioritize date night.
This one is #1 for good reason! It’s so important to remember who you are without kids in the equation – with absolutely no guilt for babysitters! You need help and you need that time. Everybody needs help and it doesn’t make you a lesser parent for gracious accepting help or reaching out when it’s needed.
Keeping time with just the two of you a priority will help you remember who you are without the kids in the picture. This is so crucial because one day, they won’t need you in the same way. If you don’t make the time to grow together through this season of parenting, you’ll end up growing apart instead. Then one day when they’re gone, you might find that you can’t remember what you ever had in common because for the last 18 years, the kids have been what you’ve had in common!
Challenge yourself to create time to spend together that is great quality time to make you feel more emotionally connected. You’ll feel refreshed and recharged at the end of it (promise). If you need some creative ideas, read this!
Pro tip: hug, kiss, hold hands, and look in each other’s eyes. Act like you’re dating. No matter how familiar you are, sometimes that season of newness and excitement in the beginning has a way of showing itself during quality time. I get that parents can’t always get a sitter for date night. I know we can’t! If that sounds like you, this list of fun and romantic date nights at home will save your dating life!
Make time for intimacy.
Being intimate together is so necessary because it makes you feel more emotionally connected! Make it a goal a few times a week to get the kids in bed early to spend some time together.
Try something new to keep it more exciting. 😉
Pro tip: Intimacy begets intimacy and lack of it does the same. The more you do it, the more you do it, and the less you do it, the less you do it. Also bear in mind that intimacy has levels, and I’ll leave you to interpret that however you will.
Have goals both individually and together that you’re actively working on.
Working together toward a common goal will help you bond, often without you even realizing it! Support each other’s individual goals and be in each other’s corner.
You’re each other’s biggest cheerleader. On the same token, you also have the loudest voice of discouragement in your spouse’s life. The words you choose and your support and encouragement or lack of it can make or break them.
Always have eyes only for each other.
Make it a habit not to be checking people out on TV or when you’re walking around together. It’s hurtful and degrading to your partner. They know your heart better than anybody and still signed up to love you no matter what, and I can’t think of a lower blow than to insult their commitment to you by expressing your physical attraction to someone else.
Looks are gone quickly anyway, and like I tell my kids, a kind heart will still be kind when you’re old and wrinkly.
I promise you a loyal heart is far more valuable than appearances. People can change, but the pillars of who they are that are ingrained deep and intertwined into the fabric of their being remain the same unless God intervenes. A good man is going to be a good man in 60 years; decades beyond when his physical appearance has changed.
I would much rather have a kind and loving heart that has my back in my corner (and I’m blessed to).
Kiss and hug often.
And let the kids see you!
Become a noticer of his strengths and not only of his weaknesses.
I love this quote from Matt Chandler. It’s such a reminder to fixate on the things your husband does well (and express them to him) and less on the things that are not his strongest suits.
Nobody wants to be with someone who’s always on their case. Men need a strong woman building them up to help them grow into the full potential of the man they can be.
Both with and without the kids! This goes back to remembering who you are without them in the equation, because it started with you and him, and one day it’ll be that way again.
Doing things together helps you grow together so you don’t grow apart. If you’re spending time together often without the kids now, you’ll remember things you have in common and your relationship will still be strong so it won’t crumble when the kids are gone.
If the kids are all you have in common, one day when they don’t need you in the same way, that can set the stage for your marriage to fall apart, if you let it.
Do and talk about new things often.
This helps to keep things exciting and avoid emotional ruts from mundane “life stuff”.
Try to talk often about exciting things that go beyond when the water bill is due, who acted like wild gazelle frolicking on the great grasslands, or who didn’t eat her broccoli at dinner (again). Look toward th future. Always been playing and always let things break up the mundane. Get take out from a new place or start a garden. Plan a trip you’d like to take or talk about a dream you’ve always had.
Mundane things are necessary but they get so stale and if you’re not careful, can throw you into a rut where you just start to feel like roommates. You’re so much more than that.
Make it a habit to help each other in mundane things.
My husband and I have been a team in everything from births, to funerals, to kid baths, yard work, to figuring how how we’re going to pay our rent and get out of debt, to dishes, to laundry, and everything in between that makes life, life.
We’ve been a team in hospital rooms, bedtime routines, house projects and up and down in the middle.
Being a team in the mundane will help you bond without even realizing it and you will automatically be there for the other without a second thought.
Use life giving words.
You have his ear better than anyone and can encourage him (or discourage him) better than anyone. Choose your words wisely.
Affirm and reaffirm him often.
I guess this one goes along with life giving words, but it feels different to me.
I was listening to something on the radio the other day that I just loved. The speaker said something about how every man has a little boy on the inside of him, and the support of a good wife can help him absolutely blossom, or lack thereof can have the exact opposite effect.
That struck me because of the growth and change I’ve seen in Joey. We got together when we were in high school, so I feel like we’ve grown up together. Hearing those words and thinking about my husband made me think I could have had a small hand in the positive change and growth he’s gone through in the last eight years.
Pray & worship together.
I can’t think of many things that bond you to people quite like praying and worshipping together!
When we invite Jesus in, peace, rest and joy come in boatloads that cannot be found anywhere else.
Praising and praying together weave together the fibers of your spiritual beings and takes you to a whole different dimension of bonded.
Hold each other to certain standards.
There have been times my husband and I have not been operating at our best, especially with our kids or when we’re very tired. There have been times we each have stepped in with the kids when the other was too frustrated, had been dealing with a tantruming kid too long, or was simply too tired. The key here is that it’s always discrete. The kids don’t see that part because in front of them, you’re a united front.
I have reminded him that I prayed for him and held him to the standard I know he can rise to meet, and he’s done the same for me. Build each other up, make each other better, and hold each other accountable when necessary and you’ll both be better people for it.
Back each other in front of the kids.
It’s so important to always present a united front. Whether you actually agree or not, in front of them, you’re one. If you need to disagree, do your disagreeing in private.
Don’t let the kids divide and conquer because they’ll pick up on that when it’s an option and attempt to drive a wedge in between you. It’s human nature. Don’t let them.
Don’t discuss discipline in front of the kids.
Joey and I have one kid that you can give a stern look and she cracks, one that requires more creative discipline that has sent me to bed in tears feeling like an absolute failure as a mom, and one that is yet to be determined but seems like a perfect blend of the first two.
Just a few weeks ago, Sis that needs more creative discipline was acting like a banshee on a day we happened to be about to go to a friend’s birthday party at a play place that night.
We told her we didn’t know if she’d be able to go and went in the bedroom to “discuss it”.
It was actually kind of funny because we knew the threat would be enough to straighten her back up and had no intention of not letting her go, but we wanted to make her sweat a little.
This goes back to disagreeing in private. Some things just need to be between mom and dad because the kids don’t call the shots.
Pro tip: Maybe this is a bit of a tangent or a parenting tip more than a marriage tip, but it feels worthy to mention that if you want your kids to listen to and respect you individually, you can’t be calling on dad to be the big guns (“Wait till your dad gets home”; “Do you want me to call your dad?” etc.).
They have to know that they listen to you and you can bring the thunder with or without the other parent present. If you are always calling on another figure of authority, pretty soon that is going to strip you of yours and relay the message that you can’t handle them. That’s a whole new can of worms.
My husband and I very rarely really argue. I can probably count the times we’ve had a real fight on one hand. But when we do, it’s always respectfully. Absolutely no name calling, low blows, “you always….” phrases, bringing up something hurtful he did five years ago, etc.
You can disagree with love and meet in the middle without emotionally damaging your spouse. Always. And if you’re too mad to do that, walk away until you can.
Patch things up before bed. Apologize from your heart, hug and kiss and make it real. Never go to bed angry or take a fight to a second location. Hash it out with love.
Don’t be afraid to apologize.
Along with fighting fair, apologize and apologize often. Be a big enough person to own your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in your apologies and “reset”.
Sometimes if I’m angry and I need a minute, I have my minute then I go up to Joey and say “reset”. We hug and kiss and we’re good after that.
Have a reset button then move on and don’t talk about it again.
Grow together or you’ll grow apart.
The person you marry will change. Period. It’s part of life. Change is the only thing that is inevitable.
The thing is, when you sign on to do the rest of your life with someone, you have a choice to grow together or grow apart and a large part of that is taking interest in the hobbies and things going on in your spouse’s life.
Support each other, be a team, and do things together so you keep things in common. Show an interest in what he’s doing. Ask him to explain something to you or share your heart with him about something in your life; even if it’s just the kids running the house like wild buffalo today.
You’ll always be growing. Make sure it’s together.
Go to bed together.
I don’t know why this one has seemed to help us feel more like “one”. We always go to bed together or very close to it. Usually he ends up in the shower and I sit up in bed, writing, reading or making pins until he lays down.
I don’t know what it is about it, but it promotes unity.
Kiss, lay down together, and go to sleep in peace; never angry.
Get out of debt.
I have heard it said that the two greatest causes of divorce are intimacy and money. That’s good news, because both of those can be remedied! Debt can be absolutely crushing and an incredible strain when it gets to that point.
If you haven’t heard of it, I absolutely recommend Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps!
We have actually paid off a large chunk of debt and are still actively working on it. This one is so important to be on the same page on!
I have been a stay at home mom since I had our first baby over five years ago. There has always been a part of me that has been unhappy with the fact that I haven’t steadily contributed to our home financially since. Something Joey has always done is called our money “ours”; never “his” because he’s the one that brings home (most of) the bacon. It’s our bacon because it’s our home.
It matters how you label things. When you signed on to be one, that made your things “our things”.
It made your checking account, cars, house, kids, etc. “ours” and it matters to call it as such. Keep your own toothbrush but you get where I’m going here.
It’s a reminder that “your life” is now “our life”. It’s all intertwined, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Always look for ways through, not ways out.
In my opinion, if you even so much as enter into marriage with divorce as an option, that already sets you up for trouble. You need to be looking for ways through the rough spots together, not ways out.
In your life, there are going to be times where your love feels more absent than present and vice versa, but how you feel for a small stretch of time is irrelevant. Love is more than a feeling. It’s a covenant, not a piece of paper. The paper is a custom. The intertwining of your souls is not.
We’re supposed to love our spouse as Jesus loves the church, His bride, and there should be no outs because Jesus is not looking for escape routes when we’re unlovable. He’s always actively pursuing us in spite of the fact that we are not always lovable, and we’re supposed to be imitators of God in everything we do. That’s the goal in a real, Christ-centered, loving marriage and that is the secret to making it last and get sweeter over time.
Know each other’s love languages and dialects become fluent in speaking it.
A few years ago, Joey and I went through and read the 5 Love Languages book by Gary Chapman and we learned so much about ourselves and each other!
It was so much fun to learn about how to love each other in the way we receive it rather than the way we want to express it, and it has been a serious game changer for us! You can read more about the 5 Love Languages and how it impacted us here.
Prioritize family time.
Both family time and one on one time with each child is so crucial to emotional well being and a happy home! Let them hear laughter. Teach them forgiveness. Spend time explaining mundane things to them. Take them to parks and on family walks.
Take them to outlandishly loud play places and let them play until the fall over! Go to zoos, farms, and aquariums and put your phone away to be fully present and soak in the moments of their childhood that will be over before you know it.
Whether it’s good or bad, your children will likely spend the rest of their life chasing the examples set in their home.
Make them good ones.
About the author: Hannah Wilhelm is a wife and mom of three girls. She founded her blog with a dream and a vision to create a community of women who love God and love each other. She wanted to encourage other moms, make them laugh, and give young women tools to weave together the love of God and personal growth to live up to her full potential. When she isn’t busy creating content, she enjoys cooking, painting, yoga, reading, dates with her husband, creating quality experiences with her family, and working on becoming the best version of herself. She and her husband have been married for 6 years and have three girls ages 5, 4, and 17 months. You can read more from Hannah on motherhood, pregnancy, blogging tips, personal growth and development and more on Tinyjoyfultreasures.com.
About the author: Hannah Wilhelm is a wife and mom of three girls. She founded her blog with a dream and a vision to create a community of women who love God and love each other. She wanted to encourage other moms, make them laugh, and give young women tools to weave together the love of God and personal growth to live up to her full potential.
When she isn’t busy creating content, she enjoys cooking, painting, yoga, reading, dates with her husband, creating quality experiences with her family, and working on becoming the best version of herself. She and her husband have been married for 6 years and have three girls ages 5, 4, and 17 months.
You can read more from Hannah on motherhood, pregnancy, blogging tips, personal growth and development and more on Tinyjoyfultreasures.com.