Anniversary Series Day 4: How We Work On Our Marriage

It's easy, when you've been married for a few years, to become stagnant. You get stuck in a rut and one day you realize that all you ever talk about is your kids or the budget or what's on the schedule next week. This happens to everyone.

Last year we went on a couples' retreat with church and through these lessons we realized that you have to constantly be working on your marriage. You can't just "let it be." The busyness of life and Satan are going to try and tear your marriage apart. If you don't consciously put in an effort to keep your marriage strong, you will end up growing apart instead of closer together. 
Couples Retreat 2016 - Nashville, TN
Even though we have ways that we try to strengthen our marriage, we still find ourselves in a rut sometimes. This is when we need to step back, sit down, and have a conversation. Figure out what needs to change. Sometimes we stay on top of it, and sometimes we get lazy and fall back into old habits (such as spending too much time on our phones - this is the worst for both of us.)

I've listed a few things that we do to mindfully work on our marriage. My hope is that some of these things can help you and your marriage and also that you will share new ideas with me. 

1. Communicate
By far, the most important one for us is to JUST SAY IT. I'm so much worse than he is about holding things in and not talking about it. I've tried to be better. If he did something that bugged me or hurt my feelings, it's better if I just tell him, than to give him the silent treatment, because more than likely he didn't even realize what he did. Sometimes it's something so trivial and when I finally just let it out I realize how silly I was for being upset about it in the first place. 

What's bothering you could be something that doesn't have to do with your spouse at all. Maybe something happened at work. Maybe it's something a friend said or did. If you open up and talk about it that allows the other person to be there for you and to show support. They may have a different point of view or a way of thinking that you hadn't considered that makes the situation a little lighter. 

2. Build each other up - especially in front of our kids
One couple that comes to mind when I think of two people that build each other up are Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper. Chip is super goofy and sometimes does embarrassing things but you never see Joanna putting him down or telling him he's stupid. She may laugh, but she's always supportive.

When I first watched the show and how their relationship is I thought to myself I want to be more like her. So I started making more of an effort to build him up, whether it be in private, when we're with our friends, or in front of our kids. And he does the same for me. 

He'll say "Girls, doesn't Mommy look so pretty today?" 

I'll tell them "Look how strong Daddy is!" or "Isn't Daddy so much fun?"

I want them to think of him as the strongest, funnest, smartest person in the world, who will always be there for us no matter what, just as I thought of my daddy growing up. 

He wants them to hear how he talks to me and someday find a man who treats them the way they should be treated. In return, I want to be a good example of how a wife and a mother acts so that they will know the proper way to treat their husbands.

3. Show affection
I am not a touchy-feely/cuddly person. I don't really like people in my bubble unless it's on my own terms. So if David comes up from behind me and hugs me while I'm cooking dinner, my first instinct is to push away. 

I've been working on fighting that instinct and being more affectionate because our children need to see the love between us. They need to see us holding hands. They need to see us hugging in the kitchen or me giving him a kiss when he gets home. 

Again, it is an example of how they should someday treat their husbands.

4. Be open-minded and supportive
I think it's safe to say that David is absolutely my number one fan. When I ran the idea by him of starting an event planning business, he was more excited than I was. He told me that he thought I would do a great job and to spend whatever I needed to to get it up and running.

He was even supportive when I told him I'm not sure I want to do it anymore (I'm still not sure what direction I'm going to go with it - stay tuned). He told me "whatever you decide, I'm with you." 

Whether it be a new recipe, activity, idea, job opportunity, education...whatever it may be, let them know you are there for them and you want to hear what they have to say. I'm not saying you always have to agree or say yes. I'm just saying that even if you think it's a terrible idea, at least hear them out and have a discussion about it. If your husband wants to buy a brand new $40,000 truck, you don't have to automatically say "sure honey, I support you." Talk about it, consider all the pros and cons, and make a decision together. 

5. Talk about our needs
This is something that we did on the couples' retreat last year. In our little booklet that we got there was a spot to right down "his needs" and "her needs." It is basically what you need from the other person in your marriage. We wrote them down and then we talked about them. We actually learned some things about each other after 6 years of marriage. It forced us to talk about how we felt, what we wanted, what we appreciated about the other person, and where we saw the future going. We also realized that in order to get what we want/need, we have to be willing to give and sacrifice. 

It's actually a beautiful circle because you are getting what you want while the love that the other person has for you is made evident by the sacrifices and the effort put forth to make you happy (if that makes sense.) By seeing what they are doing for you, you are willing to do the same for them.

It's always good to go back and reevaluate your needs. Talk about how well you think the other is fulfilling your needs. Let them know where they can improve. And remember that time and life events can change your needs. My needs five years ago were totally different than they are now. When you feel that something has changed, write it down and talk about it just as you did before.

6. Spend time away together
As hard as it is to leave the kids behind, we feel that it is important to get that alone time where we can focus on just us for a while. Whenever we go somewhere without them we find ourselves saying "Oh they would love this! I wish they could be here!" 

I remember thinking that Raley would have loved the floating lights at the Disney Store in New York City last year. And the parks in Boston were incredible! They have the coolest playgrounds I have ever seen. But even though there were things they would have enjoyed, it would  have been a completely different trip if they were with us. We needed that time to just be together and relax. 

If you can't take a long trip away, try to find a weekend, or even just a night, to spend just the two of you without having to worry about making it home before bed time. If you're in the Huntsville area, take a weekend trip to Nashville or Chattanooga or Mentone. If you don't want to go that far away, get a room at the Westin or Embassy Suites and have a "staycation." Go somewhere where you don't have to put the kids to bed and you don't have to worry about them waking you up in the morning. (You can even do this if you don't have kids to change things up a bit!) Just be together.
Boston Harbor - 2016
7. Be present
This one can sometimes be hard because we are all so wrapped up in technology and social media that we are on our phones all the time. We have to make a conscious effort to put our phones away and just spend time together, whether it be sitting in the floor playing with our girls, or sitting on the couch together watching a TV show after they've gone to bed. 

How many of us sit on opposite ends of the couch, glued to our phones, not saying a word to each other? Sure, we're in the same room as each other. But we're not really spending time together. This is something that we both know we need to work on, so we are trying to get the girls to bed earlier so we can spend some time together, device free, before we go to bed.

8. Share responsibilities
We don't really have "man chores" and "woman chores." There are some things that he does that he is better at and there are some things that I do because I'm better at it. But really we just try to help each other out. We both sit down and look at the budget. We both bathe the girls and put them to bed. Some nights its a tag team, but we are always in it together. Sometimes after dinner, one of us will get started on baths and the other will clean the table and do the dishes. If he sees I need help with cleaning up toys, vacuuming, folding clothes, etc. he will jump right in and help me. He will not sit on the couch and watch tv while I'm next to him folding a big pile of laundry. (I think I've made it pretty clear by now that I have a pretty amazing husband!)

I think this team work of ours cuts down on feelings of resentment or thoughts like I do everything around here or I wish he'd get off his butt and do something every once in a while

We try to sense when the other needs help and pick up where is needed. We also both try to sense when the other just needs a break and to be understanding in those instances.

9. Take time to study the Bible together/flea temptation
Because our marriage is grounded in faith, we try to take time to study the Bible and pray. There are times when we are better about this than others, but it is our responsibility as Christians and as parents to know His Word so that we can 1. set a good example for our children and 2. raise them up/teach them what is right. 

Also, by doing this, it brings us closer to each other and closer to God, which makes it harder for Satan to work his way in. He will do everything he possibly can to destroy marriages. He hates godly marriage. He wants to introduce that person and those feelings that could possibly lead to infidelity. 

When you meet this person, you won't think I'm going to leave my husband for him. Sin happens little bits at a time. 

Satan wants you to go to coffee with that person "as a friend" because he wants you to look at this person differently. 

He wants you to talk to him more and have that emotional affair because your husband doesn't treat you like he used to. You think I haven't slept with him so it's not an affairBut why do you feel that you have to turn to this person in the first place? 

Is it because you've stopped communicating? Because everything going on in life took away from your precious time spent together. Because you don't compliment each other anymore? Because you don't tell each other what you're feeling, but instead you keep it inside and think he won't understand so you continue to drift further apart? 

It is so. easy. to allow these things to happen in our marriages. Simple little things getting in the middle of our strong bond, pushing us apart and making us weaker. It is when we are weak that Satan strikes.

We can't just sit back and live life beside each other. We have to put in an effort and work at it. Together.

I would really love to hear from you. What ways do you and your spouse work on your marriage? I'd love to hear more ideas!

We leave TOMORROW for our ballpark trip to LA and San Diego so you won't hear from me for a couple weeks! We are so excited!

Thanks for following this Anniversary Series! This is the last post of the week but if you missed any posts, you catch up here:
Day 1: Our Wedding Day
Day 2: 3 Years of Loving You brought to you by my sister-in-law Shannon at Messy Buns and Baby Bums 
Day 3: Then and Now

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