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In November my husband and I celebrated six years of marriage! Considering that 20% of marriages end within 5 years, we’re are apparently doing pretty well so far, especially considering that many statistics have been stacked against us, from the age gap (8 years), to how young I was when we married (20), to being low income, to having multiple children including twins, to several big moves, and a major car accident. But despite stresses and difficulties, we have a pretty good marriage, and it’s because we’ve taken steps to protect it. My husband and I believe in protecting our marriage throughout all the difficult storms and trials of life, and I know that the following characteristics have helped us get through them all.
The Top 10 Ways to Protect your Marriage
If there is one thing you should be in a marriage, it is stubborn. You should be stubborn enough that you will not allow your marriage to fail. Be stubbornly committed to your spouse and your vows, commitments, and covenants. Be stubborn enough that you won’t just walk away when the first disagreement, fight, trial, or disappointment arises. Be stubborn enough that you recommit yourself and try harder when the marriage gets weak, and the flames start to diminish. Be stubborn that having an “okay” marriage is not good enough for you or your spouse. So, yes. Go ahead and be stubborn about staying married and finding ways to be a better spouse.
I know that some people are wired with shorter fuses, or actually enjoy arguing and fighting. But, I don’t think the majority of people are like this. In a marriage, I really think it is important to fight smarter instead of harder. Nagging, whining, complaining, throwing hissy fits, and acting like a tantruming child, is not exactly the mature, adult, way to interact with your adult marriage partner, who you supposedly respect and love. It’s not cute when your 3 year old does it and it certainly ain’t cute when you do it either. My marriage advice when it comes to arguing is to never name call. Name calling does absolutely nothing good, or productive to the argument at hand, but puts up more barriers and walls. So don’t tell your husband he is acting just like his father, or tell your wife she is just like her mother. And don’t call them stupid, lazy, a moron, incompetent, or any other degrading label.
Instead, learn how your spouse handles confrontation. Learn how they fight best so that you can argue better. In our marriage, this means I can’t keep pestering my husband for an answer. I have to give him space. I have to give him time to let the emotions subside. And sometimes this means we don’t really talk for a day or two. It sucks and kills me inside because I am a talker and would rather just talk the death out of something, and figure it out right then and now. But, his need for non-confrontation is good for me in the long-run too, because I, too, then have more time to think things over, and, you know, actually consider his point of view.
So, give your spouse (just enough) space. Take your time over big decisions. Learn to disagree, to move on, and certainly to compromise! But, be respectful of your spouse.
Apologize and Forgive Freely
No one wants to admit they are wrong! And no one wants to be the first person to do so. But, if you want to protect your marriage, you need to apologize freely. You need to swallow your pride, your “I’m always right” attitude, and say you are sorry, first. And don’t apologize half-heartily with “but” attached to the end of that statement. I have found it is most powerful to simply say “I’m sorry” and absolutely nothing else. No rehashing of your point of view, or theirs, or how it all made you feel. Just say you are sorry, and make up, and move on. And if you are the spouse receiving the apology, do not ask “For what? For which thing exactly?” It’s argumentative and defensive. If you are aware of a recent fight, just assume he is sorry for all of it, and accept the apology and move on. (If you honestly have no idea what on earth he is apologizing for, go ahead and ask though!)
Which is why forgiving freely is also so important to protecting your marriage! You have to allow for people to make mistakes, to disappoint you, to hurt your feelings, to be dumb, because you will also do those things! We are all imperfect and we all make bad choices sometimes. But, please forgive your spouse for her faults, imperfections, and less than awesome moments. Yes, it sucks that they hurt you. But, you also hurt them sometimes (I’m not talking about physically hurting, or seriously verbally abusing your spouse, just the normal dumb things we say or do).
But, a big part of forgiving is forgetting! You are not allowed to bring up “that one time” your spouse did this or that. It’s not productive, and keeps you stuck in the past. Have hope to the future, despite how small that hope may be at times, and forget about what they did before, and help them meet their new commitments to not do those things again.
Respect each other
Here is some truth about men and women. Women just want to be loved. And men just want to be respected. If men feel respected, they will show more love to their wives. Obviously, women want respect and appreciation as well, just as men want to feel loved. But, perhaps they are really the same things, just expressed in different ways.
I have a hard time respecting my husband, far too often. Without even really thinking, I frequently shut down any new idea he presents to me, even simple ones like where he thinks we should go for dinner. And bigger ones I can too hurriedly brush them aside as too expensive or too impractical, or too whatever. My husband hates this with a passion, and will shut down talking all together (which isn’t ideal either – I hate that with a passion!). So, a great way to respect your husband or wife’s new idea is to shut your mouth and just listen. And say, “Well, we’ll have to look into it more” or “Interesting. And how do you think we can make it happen?” and then actually look into those things, instead of just plan your counter offer.
But, respect also comes down to doing the things you will say you will do, even the simple things, like remembering to run that errand, or make that phone call by noon. When we respect each other, it shows that we value each other. And that is always needed in a healthy marriage.
Compliment and Appreciate
Compliments and appreciation go right along with respect. Expressing appreciation for your spouse is such a boost to their self-esteem! Days are long. Times get tough. So be sure to give your spouse genuine statements of appreciation like, “I appreciate how hard you work at your job. It’s a great blessing to our family. You are a great example to all of us of perseverance” or like “I appreciate how great of a mother/father you are. Our kids are such great kids because of the love and discipline you give to them each and every day.”
But, even simple phrases of appreciation, thanking your spouse for their contribution to your marriage, home, and family can be very well received. Everyone wants to be thanked for what they do, whether it’s dinner or making the bed. Your spouse certainly needs to know their efforts are noticed and appreciated.
**If your husband’s love language is Words of Affirmation, use these 15 awesome ways to give words of affirmation to him.
Sincere compliments that go beyond looks (which, of course, are fantastic to give and receive as you should be physically attracted to your spouse), can be very powerful. Compliments like “I love how much you love me” or “I love how you are focusing on improving (X) in your life – I can see what a great difference it is making your (Y)” are just some of the great ways you can be specific about what positive traits you see in your spouse. And don’t be afraid to compliment them on how special they make you feel. And tell your spouse how proud you are of them! Husbands, in particular, love hearing that word.
Be a Team Player
Marriage is not a competition. This means we shouldn’t be keeping score on who earns more money, who does the dishes more often, or who changed the last stinky diaper. It can be so easy to let these little, daily, mundane chores and obligations of life blind us to the good things about our marriage and our spouse.
Whatever your situation is, figure out what you each expect from each other in terms of providing and taking care of your family and your home and everything. And then remember that though your jobs and tasks are different from your spouse, that you are both working toward the same goals – a clean home, happy children, food on the table, money in the bank, and satisfaction in life.
So, don’t complain about your tasks and obligations, but (try to) think of them as the way you bless your spouse, the way you support her, and that you are serving them by taking care of certain needs. Really, you are serving yourself as well, as your goals are ultimately the same, because you are a unified team…. right?
Make Goals and Plans Together
One of the greatest things about having a spouse, is that you are now forever with your best friend. As besties, you should be making complimentary goals individually, but more importantly together. My husband and I love making goals – we are totally those obnoxious New Years Resolutions people. But, we make new goals all year long.
Some of the goals are challenges like going without desserts, candies, or sweet (though not all sugar – that’s not happening) for months at a time, or going without eating out for months. Other goals are spiritual goals, like praying together first thing in the morning, or reading scriptures together or a different religiously edifying book. Or we may make a goal of regularly attending the temple, or paying so much every month in tithing or offerings. Other goals are for our marriage, like date nights every week or twice a month.
Recently we’ve been making a lot of financial goals together. Now that we finally seem to be getting our feet on more solid financial ground, thanks to my blogging income, we have much more to discuss about how to best use or save this money. For the first time we’re actually creating and sticking to a budget. And with this budget we have grand plans (assuming I continue to make good money each month) to not only start paying for my husband’s doctorate tuition starting this fall (instead of taking out more student loans for him – thank the Good Lord!), but also to aggressively start paying off my student loan debt, hoping to eliminate most of mine by the time my husband is done earning his Ph.D.
For the first time we really have a grand vision for our future, together. We have real goals and ambitions for the next 5 years of our lives, and where we want to be, and how we are going to make it all work. It’s also exciting to start really looking into more “adult” things like life insurance, retirement, financial planning, investments, and more. That’s why it’s nice that Protective Life has a Learning Center on this site to help us learn more about these important things.
With mutual goals, we are held accountable to each other. We support each other, and work together toward common, good, goals that will bless our family and ultimately, our marriage.
Value Physical Touch
Yes, I do mean sex when I say that. But, I also mean so much more than sex. To protect your marriage, it really does help to keep that physical spark alive and well. Plus, physical touch and intimacy help you connect on this deeper, metaphysical level. Simple things like a great, big, long hug when someone comes home, are fantastic for connecting to each other, for setting a good tone for the rest of your evening, and for good emotions! Then there are other little things like kisses on the cheeks and on the lips just because, but certainly before goodbyes, as well as rubs on the backs, holding hands, or tickling each other. There is also just something so wonderful about snuggling in bed together, relaxing in each others’ arms. And these are all amazing things beside sex! My husband has asked I don’t go into details at all about that though, so I will simply say sex is an important part of a marriage.
Give Gifts and Receive Graciously
I know I lucked out in this department with my husband, who loves to give great gifts (love language for him!), and not just for special occasions. He loves to bring me flowers because they are beautiful like me. He will buy me chocolates when he knows it’s “that time of the month.” He let’s me sleep in, makes me breakfast in bed on the weekends, and love picking out new clothes for me (in part because he knows shopping is last on my list). He is awesome at gifting! However, I don’t really care about receiving gifts. It is not one of my love languages. But, I have learned, that to protect his feelings, to just graciously accept the gifts he gives me, despite how much they may have cost (as all I too often see is the $$ and not the love), what they taste like, or if I like it or not. He shows his love in this way, and I do my darndest to respect and honor that expression of love.
I don’t believe in lying, least of all to the man I married. To protect your marriage you must be honest and open! This means, you need to tell your spouse if you accidentally, or not so accidentally, viewed pornographic, or porn-like materials. It also means that you don’t lie to your spouse when they ask if you remembered to do that one thing they asked you to do for them that morning and you didn’t. It means you don’t lie about your needs spiritually, emotionally, or physically in your relationship, and that you let your spouse know what they are.
These ten qualities are the top ways I know for protecting your marriage. But, tell me, what are your top ten ways to protect your marriage?
P.S. If you having a hard time in your marriage, but can’t really afford counseling, check out this fantastic 10-week program from The Dating Divas called Reclaim Your Marriage. Check out their FREE Webinar first for a sampling of what you can look forward to in the full class and start repairing and improving your marriage! It’s totally worth it.