Richard and I recently did a live webcast and one of the great questions we were asked was this: “What are you doing differently in this marriage to nurture your relationship?”
Weekly Bible reading and devotional.
This is one of the sweetest times of the week for me. We have started reading in Genesis and we have gone through a few really good devotionals together so far. I highly recommend: John & Stasi Eldredge’s Love & War Devotional for Couples and Gary Thomas’ Devotions for a Sacred Marriage.
We text quite a bit throughout the day when he’s at work or if we’re apart. I tell him what I'm up to, he tells me what project he's working on.
We try to do a date at least once during the week and once during the weekend.
We go to bed together every night, even if it’s before we’re both tired. There’s just something about those few moments before falling asleep, talking about our day or whatever is on our mind, that reconnects us.
Have a hobby together.
About a year ago, we stumbled upon a hobby together of pickin’ (going to garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores and antique stores) and repurposing or restoring old doors, windows, and smalls. It’s not only been a lot of fun, but this has created a bond between us that is ours alone.
Support each other in our respective hobbies.
Richard referees basketball and football. I’m not a huge sports fan but I go to his games (and have been known to defend my man with an unruly crowd from time to time, but that's neither here nor there). I, on the other hand, speak at retreats and women’s events. He sometimes drives me and prays for me in the parking lot before walking me in, or he even sometimes speaks with me. Neither of these are what the other would necessarily do with our free time if the other weren’t in our lives, but taking an interest in what interests each other shows we care and are committed.
We take turns.
Everything from choosing things like where we eat, what we do with a day off together, what we watch on TV, we switch off. No one gets their way all the time.
There are lots of little “you're cute”‘s and “you're sweet”‘s, et cetera, going back and forth between us each day.
We show gratitude.
We both say thank you a lot. I thank him for working hard, for providing for us and our kids. He thanks me for taking care of our home and the shopping and the laundry. In my first marriage, I focused on the bad that was happening and the good that was not happening. By the the grace of God, I now see things differently and my focus is on the good that is going on between us and for me, and I acknowledge it to my husband.
We worship together.
We recently changed churches in large part so that we could find a church home together. We go to church together every week and we have encouraged each other to get involved in serving. That weekly time reconnects us to God together and is absolutely precious to me.
We serve each other.
I ask him if he wants anything from the kitchen, I do his laundry, I make his lunch each evening. He provides for me, he cooks almost every dinner, he opens my car door every single time. We surprise each other with little gifts. We take care of each other.
We argue differently.
First of all, we don’t say everything that comes into our heads. What a difference a couple of decades make. I used to think that if I thought it, it meant I could and should say it. Umm, no. Maturity has quieted me, thankfully.
Secondly, we do what author John Gottman calls in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work “repair attempts”. The funny thing is is that we didn’t know we were doing this until I read about it, but it’s when one of the partners does something to disrupt the discussion before it gets too heated, anything from sticking out your tongue to bring levity or saying something like, ‘hey, we’re in this together’, or the way I remind myself internally to keep moving closer to him when my self-protective walls go up.
We laugh a lot.
Life is hard and heavy and I'm a melancholy worrier, but Richard is laid-back and helps me chill but not taking everything so darn serious.
I could truly keep going. This marriage is nothing like my first marriage, and I don’t say that as a slam to my ex-husband. I am not the same woman. I am a completely different wife, and from what Richard has told me, he is a completely different husband. We're not sure why, but we're grateful.
But there isn't some magic formula. We're putting in the work. I recently heard someone say that she considers her husband to be her #1 neighbor, as in “love your neighbor”. I try to look at it as how can I make this man's life better and easier and more peaceful? And then I do those things.
People can change. You are not destined to replicate all of your past relational mistakes in your future relationships. God wants to bring healing and wisdom and restoration to your mind, heart and relational world, if you ask with a willing and humble heart.
If this post resonated with you, my new collection of essays, Second Time Around: Some Thoughts on Remarriage, will help you move forward in your marriage journey. And coaching will help you know if you're ready to date or remarry.