My husband was 25 and I had just turned 22 when we got married. Looking back now, 13 years later, I realize we were just babies. We have basically been growing up together over the course of our marriage and man, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned from advice and from experience. Most of these habits for a healthy marriage come from lots of trial and error in our own marriage. I’m not saying we’re great at all of these things, but they are all habits that we have noticed make a huge difference in the health and happiness of our relationship. Hopefully they’ll make a big difference for you too!
Habits for a Healthy Marriage
1. Keep God at the center of your marriage
This is always going to be my number one. It’s my answer to everything in my life and marriage is no exception. If it weren’t for both of us depending heavily on God throughout the course of our marriage, our relationship would look a lot different now. More importantly, if we hadn’t pursued God together, we might not even still be together today.
Every decision we make as a couple and individually is impacted by our relationship with God. Does that mean we always make the right decisions? Nope. Unfortunately, it does not. If only — right? What it means is that when you both have your focus fixed on God then even the bad decisions can be worked through. Together we rely on God and His love, forgiveness, patience, and peace runs through our marriage.
If you’re wondering how to keep God at the center of your marriage, check out this great article, Is God at the Center of Your Marriage?
2. Live beneath your means
Money arguments are the 2nd leading cause of divorce in America, second only to adultery. Even if you and your spouse don’t argue about money, it can be a major source of stress and stress does not equal happy. One of the best things you can do for your marriage is not overextend yourselves financially.
3. Constantly express gratitude
I’ll be the first married woman to tell you that I do not always feel grateful in my marriage. That’s right, I said it. Sometimes I let the stupidest things derail my gratitude. Like how my husband absolutely refuses to hang his wet bath towel up in a sensible way after his shower. Every-single-time I have to spread it out from its bunched up state so it can have a chance to dry the frustration boils up inside me. Just like how annoying it is to Chad that I leave 3 different water bottles all over the house and claim that I’m currently drinking from all of them when they’ve been there for days.
Those little things are inevitable between two people who live together and it’s easy, because they are such consistent habits, to find yourself frustrated with your spouse. But even when you don’t feel grateful, express gratitude. Not only will it defuse frustration, it will remind you to stop focusing on the little negatives and start focusing on the positives. Think about how gratitude coming from your spouse (or anyone for that matter) makes you feel. Give that feeling to your spouse as often as possible. Don’t take for granted that they know you are grateful.
4. Listen to each other
This is huge, especially these days. We have more of a platform to speak out these days than every before. I’m writing to you all on a blog that will be available to anyone in the world. We have multiple social media platforms were we can say anything we want the world to know. The problem is, the more opportunity we have to speak out, the less we seem to be heard. In my communication with people I just get this feeling that few people are ever really listening and everyone is starving to be heard.
Don’t let that be how your relationship operates. If you can’t listen and hear your spouse and they can’t listen and hear you, your relationship will become so strained and frustrating. Long-term, that just won’t work.
5. Demonstrate respect for each other
Saying you respect your spouse and showing it are two totally different things. A few examples of showing respect would be not belittling the way they think or feel just because you don’t understand or agree, not being sarcastic when they are trying to have a serious conversation, and always asking for their input before making a big decision. Things like this can start off feeling small and unimportant, but the more you go out of your way to be respectful to your spouse, the happier your marriage will be.
We all want to feel like we matter to our spouse. When you take your spouse seriously, even when you don’t agree with them, you show that you respect them as a person. You show them that their opinion, their feelings, their perspective all matter to you because you love them, not just because it all lines up with how you think and feel.
6. Keep dating
Dating is not just for couples who are trying to get to know each other. It’s so easy to stop dating in marriage because…life. But relationships should always have some fun, exciting, and adventurous, similar to the way they are in the beginning. If they aren’t then you’ll start looking for fun and excitement outside of our marriage. I don’t necessarily mean with another person, although that could be the case. I just mean, growing away from your spouse. Don’t let that happen to your marriage. Date your spouse and keep it interesting. Dinner every Friday night will get super boring too. Get creative! My husband and I recently went roller skating. Besides almost being taken out by several speed skating 12 year olds, it was a blast. We haven’t laughed that hard in a while!
If you’re looking for ideas, check this out: 22 Date Ideas to Keep Marriage Fun
7. Don’t talk negatively about your husband
Ladies, this one’s for you. Well, these are all for you since my blog is for women. But I’m pointing my finger right at you (and me) on this one. We just talk so much more with our friends about our relationships than men do (generally speaking). Girls love to get together and vent. I did it with past relationships. Your girlfriends seem like the safest place to let it all out and they always have their own complaints to share. But let me tell you what this does.
You love your husband. Your friends do not. They might like him, but they do not love him. If (God forbid) something serious happens in your relationship and for whatever reason you are thinking about getting out, your girlfriends are going to be there armed with all the negative things you’ve ever shared about your husband. Some of them may be ready to completely justify the dissolution of your marriage. This is a pretty extreme example, but for the sake of time I went straight to worst case scenario.
You and your husband are a team. It’s you and him against the world. Don’t arm the world with more than it already has to try to tear you apart. Those little frustrations don’t really add up to much to you because you love your spouse (hopefully unconditionally). But they mean a lot to other people who do not love your spouse. I’m not saying you should only share good things and lead people to believe that your relationship is perfect. I’m saying, think before you speak.
8. Celebrate your individuality
Marriage is a sacred union. Genesis 2:18-24 suggests that man is incomplete without his wife. I firmly believe that only a deep relationship, united in a Godly marriage, can fulfill the kind of companionship that God intends for us to have. Still, we have a God-given individuality.
So what do we do with that once we “become one.” We highlight it and we celebrate it. People “lose themselves” in relationships all the time. Then they come out of that fog years later feeling resentment, discontentment, and regret because they suppressed everything God gave them individually.
Maintaining your individuality can mean something like not changing the things you enjoy so that they line up with what your spouse enjoys. It can be as simple as having different taste in music or enjoying different hobbies. You and your spouse don’t have to (and shouldn’t) look like carbon copies of one another. If you do, one of you is lying. Give your spouse room to be who they are and be who you are and be happy being yourselves together.
9. Take care of yourself
This is simple. Don’t let yourself go. No, your marriage should not be superficial. You shouldn’t feel pressured to look a certain way to be loved. This is about more than just a basic level, attraction type of thing. This is about health. If you are going to spend your life with someone and expect them to spend their life with you, shouldn’t you consider your health? Mental, psychical, and emotional health will have a huge impact on your relationship long-term. How you take care of yourself (or don’t) now will determine how the later years of your life are spent. Do you want your spouse to have to take care of you later because you didn’t take care of yourself now?
Sure, some health issues are unavoidable and not your fault. But as far as you can control it, isn’t it an act of love for your spouse to take care of yourself? I think so. Maybe you can make exercise and healthy eating something you try to do together.
10. Learn to agree to disagree
Depending on your personalities, you and your spouse might end up spending a lot of time arguing. Not fighting, but arguing. Some people are just a little more hard headed than others (myself definitely not included…..). Seriously though, I had to learn this fast with Chad because we were both pretty adamant about being right. That’s not a good thing and put the two of us together and it’s just annoying. We have learned, for the most part, to agree to disagree. Although we still end up saying, “Oh yeah? Why don’t you google that!?” at least once a day. What can I say? No one is perfect.
But sometimes things can be a lot more serious and being able to respect the point of view of your spouse and move on without having to agree is one of the most important habits for a healthy marriage in my opinion. Sometimes it’s not a matter of right and wrong but just a matter of perspective or preference.
11. Embrace the ebb and flow
Relationships are just like life, because you’re living life together so you live out that flow of life. There are high points, low points, times of growth, and so on. Always knowing that things will get better when they aren’t great and that things could be bad when they are good is important to get through and thrive in the seasons you go through together. This is actually where these tips come in super handy. If, no matter the season, you’re intentionally working on your marriage, the ebb and flow will not scare you off. It’s natural to have ups and downs. Just be proactive in your marriage and you’ll ride the waves together with some ease.
12. Put your spouse first
Besides God, no one should come before your spouse in your life. That means your relationship is more important than anything else that might demand your time. Always make time for each other, always consider each other in every decision, always be looking for ways to make each other’s lives better.
13. Always ask how his day went
Maybe this is a personal preference, but I think it’s really important to ask each other how your day went. Seems really small and silly, but it’s just a way to point out that you care. Ask and then really listen. Again, it’s that act of hearing that makes all the difference.
14. Be quick to forgive
This is crucial for a marriage because you cannot spend the rest of your life together if you aren’t constantly forgiving each other. Forgiveness in your marriage should be your default. I know it’s easier said than done, trust me, we were not always good at this. But you simply have to get to this point in your relationship. Otherwise, it won’t last. When something happens, immediately decide that it’s forgiven.
That does not mean you can’t feel hurt or sad or even angry. What it means is that you immediately recognize that your marriage is so important to you that you want to work through whatever happened and move forward. It’s important that your spouse knows when he has hurt you and vice versa. You don’t need to ignore that. You just aren’t using it to get back at him or holding it against him. You’re using it to grow and move forward together.
Note: Hopefully this is obvious, but this is not a free pass to do whatever you want to each other just because your default is forgiveness. There are limits, which is probably another blog post for another day.
Marriage isn’t something that you can put on autopilot and expect it to take care of itself. We have to be intentional in our marriages, just like any other relationship. No couple will be great at all these habits for a healthy marriage. Still, if you talk about them with your spouse and you both agree they are important things to focus on and work on together, it will definitely contribute to forever happiness in your marriage.