Picture a large house that has been neglected for years and is run down. Its roof has holes in it. The windows have all been broken. Storms and heavy winds have damaged the exterior. The paint has peeled, and the porch is crumbling. Weeds have taken over the once-groomed yard of this home and it stands in hopeless dilapidation.
A troubled and suffering marriage is similar to the above home in disrepair. At first, the marriage was a beautiful and thriving union of two people in love. However, after years of arguments, hurtful words, disregard for each other’s feelings and the overall hardships of life, a once-loving marriage can begin to break down.
Just as the rundown home can be restored, a marriage on the rocks can be strengthened. With some focused attention and commitment, a marriage that seems destined for demolition can be strengthened and redeemed.
We’ve put together a list of 12 ways that you can strengthen your marriage. While most of these tips are incredibly simple, putting them into practice can improve your marriage in a matter of days.
1. Begin and End Each Day With a Kiss
In the morning, before anyone rushes out the door or looks over email, begin the day with a simple kiss. It doesn’t have to be a full-on, make-out session ― although it can be. Grab your spouse and plant a wet one right on his or her kisser. This one action can set the tone for the way you and your partner relate to each other for the rest of the day.
At the end of your day, as you lie in bed next to each other, make sure you kiss goodnight. Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Robert Navarra recommends kissing your spouse for a full six seconds each night. He says, “Try a kiss that lasts for six seconds. This is a nice way to be mindful of and present to your partner. It is a way to communicate caring, attention and can help you feel more connected to your partner.”
2. Commit to Showing Respect
One of the struggles in a marriage that most often leads to divorce is a general lack of respect. Disrespect can show itself in a variety of ways. Some disrespectful behaviors include downplaying your spouse’s point of view, name-calling, nagging, correcting your partner in public and pushing him or her into uncomfortable situations.
Nicola Beer, the author of “Seven Secrets to Save Your Marriage,” says, “Disagreements are normal and healthy in a marriage. Vicious personal attacks at your spouse’s character or personality are not. You can disagree without belittling or hurting someone. This is the difference between standing up for yourself and being defensive and attacking.”
Commit to treating your spouse with respect. This may mean that you don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind during a disagreement. You will not explode if you don’t express every emotion and thought you have to your spouse.
A good way to make respecting your spouse a habit is to replace your former negative or disrespectful gestures with respectful ones. Here’s an example: You’re in a conflict with your partner. He or she says something that particularly ruffles you. Ordinarily, you would defensively come back with a quick retort and mention a related shortcoming about your spouse. Instead, you take a breath, hold back your fighting words and show that you were listening by replying with, “I can see how what I did might cause you to feel that way.” Immediately, you have validated your spouse’s feelings ― even if you don’t agree with them ― and contributed toward a peaceful conversation.
Beer says, “When rebuilding respect, it is important to know that respect is not the absence of negative behavior, but also the presence of positive behaviors.” You can show your spouse respect by speaking kindly to him or her, asking about work, anticipating your partner’s needs, requesting input on major decisions and the like.
3. Apologize Quickly
When you know you’ve screwed up, tell your spouse that you’re sorry at your earliest opportunity. If you said something rude as the two of you were leaving for work, don’t wait until the end of the day to apologize. Call as soon as you can and ask for forgiveness. Often, your spouse will overlook your behavior if you own it right away and say you’re sorry with sincerity.
4. Forgive Easily
It is guaranteed ― your spouse will let you down. When it happens, and he or she comes to you with an apology, it is in the best interest of your marriage for you to offer your forgiveness and grace.
It’s difficult to let go of certain hurts. It’s common to hold onto a measure of bitterness as a way to keep the upper hand in marriage. But that attitude will never lead you into deeper intimacy and a stronger, more loving relationship. Forgive your spouse when he or she is sorry.
5. Don’t Yell
Dan Pearce wrote an article titled, “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage,” on his website called Single Dad Laughing. In his list, he addressed yelling in marriage. Pearce wrote, “I’m not talking about the angry kind of yelling. I’m talking about the lazy kind of yelling. The kind of yelling you do when you don’t want to get up from your television show, or you don’t want to go all the way upstairs to ask her if she’s seen your keys. It doesn’t take that much effort to find her. Yelling (by nature) sounds demanding and authoritative.”
Make an effort to speak peacefully to your spouse. Get up from the couch if your partner is down the hall, and you want to ask about dinner plans. Decide not to shout up the stairs when you can walk up easily and deliver a message. Yelling in a marriage isn’t nice. It’s not respectful, and it will not create harmony in your home.
6. Say ‘Thank You’ Often
Did your spouse make coffee this morning for the two of you? If so, express your gratitude. If your partner cooks your breakfast every single morning, never assume that a “thank you” once a quarter is enough. Was the trash emptied and removed from the house by your partner? If so, there’s something you need to say.
Say “thank you” every time. It will cost you nothing. However, each time your spouse hears those words, he or she feels valued, appreciated and honored. This small act of gratitude will strengthen your marriage. Ask yourself if there’s something your spouse has done that deserves gratitude. Then, express your thanks before bed.
7. Date Your Spouse
Keep dating your spouse. Work is hectic, life is busy, bills are due, and you’re beat. But your marriage needs tending. Commit to regular date nights with your spouse.
Erin Smalley, the author of “Ten Things a Husband Needs from His Wife,” says, “It seems that many couples, including Greg and me, get into the rut of being too tired. We buy into the lie that our time will come later ― we can do everything together once the kids graduate and head off to college. Unfortunately, I have seen this untruth destroy marriages. My marriage ― and your marriage ― needs regular attention, much like my minivan needs regular oil changes and tire rotations.”
Your marriage needs regular maintenance. You can maintain your marriage by putting in the time and energy for date nights a couple of times each month. These dates don’t have to be expensive or fancy. They will allow you to reconnect and enjoy each other.
Gary Smalley, the author of “The DNA of Relationships,” says, “Remember, always act like you’re trying to get a second date. Sometimes in marriage, we forget that we need to pursue and ‘woo’ our spouse. So, dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate ― hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night by cutting off any real arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.”
8. Keep Trying to Look Good
Your spouse thinks you’re good-looking. That’s one of the reasons he or she picked you. But that’s not the end of the road. You want your partner’s heart to skip a beat once in a while at the sight of your glistening brown eyes or your toned physique. Keep exercising to stay in good shape. Alternatively, start exercising to get back some of that muscle tone. Buy some sexy outfits for the daytime and the nighttime. Fix yourself up a bit when you know you’re about to see your spouse. Keeping yourself looking good for your partner is another way to honor him or her and strengthen your marriage.
9. Have More Sex
If it’s been more than a few days since you and your spouse have enjoyed each other sexually, it’s time to make your move. Having sex isn’t solely about orgasms and physical intimacy. It’s more about strengthening the marital union on every level.
Married author Michael Lawrence wrote, “Sexual intimacy is all about union. Physically, of course, that’s obvious. But there’s so much more. In sexual intimacy, we also know a union that is emotional as our hearts are knit together even as our bodies are. We know a union that is intellectual as we come to understand and know one another in intimate detail. We know a union that is even spiritual, for as every married couple figures out, the best sex isn’t when I make sure I get what I want, but when I forget about myself and give myself for the blessing and delight of my spouse.”
Make sexual intimacy a top priority in your marriage. The connection a married couple encounters during regular sexual experiences strengthens a marriage in a way nothing else can. You must pay attention to the sexual health of your marriage. Don’t neglect this beautiful part of the marital union.
10. Tell Your Spouse What He or She Is Doing Right
There are plenty of times in marriage when you need to approach your spouse about something that he or she is doing wrong. But keep that to a minimum. In the first few years of our marriage, I recall a marriage counselor telling my husband and I that if something irritates us about the other, that won’t matter in 10 years, then don’t even mention it. For instance, if my husband forgets to put a new liner into the trash can when he takes out the trash, I don’t necessarily have to mention it later. It is nothing that will matter in 10 years. When I do have a more significant complaint, that will matter down the road, and my spouse is more likely to listen to it because he’s not getting pelted right and left with all the little things that bug me.
Pearce, recalling the mistakes he made in his marriage, wrote about what he would do differently in this regard. “I wouldn’t say a damned thing about anything that I thought could use improvement. I’ve learned since my marriage ended that there is more than one right way to do most things and that the imperfections of others are too beautiful to try and change.”
Instead of catching your spouse’s mistakes and pointing them out, tell your spouse every time you notice he or she did well in life. Was she up with a sick toddler all night? Let her know she’s rocking motherhood. Did he get a raise at work, tell him how impressed you are at his work ethic. Be your spouse’s biggest fan and supporter. Affirming your spouse often and regularly will strengthen and improve your marriage.
11. Bake Cookies and Buy Flowers
Remember to do little things to show love and appreciation to your spouse. If she likes daisies, bring her a fresh bouquet for her desk on Monday morning. If he loves your sweet potato pie, bake him one for no good reason. Sneak off with her car while she’s sleeping in and have it washed. Take every opportunity to remind your spouse, in all the little ways, that you’re still in love.
12. Speak Highly About Your Spouse
When your partner isn’t around, talk well of him or her. Share your spouse’s strengths with your friends. Don’t ever badmouth your partner behind his or her back. That’s unloving, and it isn’t the way that friends treat each other. At every opportunity, speak highly of your spouse. This practice strengthens your marriage by improving your attitude and heart toward your partner.
Strengthen Your Marriage
As every married person knows, it isn’t always easy being in a relationship with your spouse. Like the rundown house I mentioned earlier, when the floorboards of your marriage are creaking, and the roof starts to sag, it’s time to begin renovations. Implement these marriage strengthening tips. With the regular practice of these 12 actions, you will see your once stagnant, neglected marriage become stronger and more fulfilling. Here’s to a beautiful, lasting union for you and your spouse.
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Beer, N. (2017). How to restore respect in a relationship – overcome marriage problems. Retrieved from: http://www.savemymarriageprogram.com/2017/04/29/marriage-problems-signs/
Lawrence, M. (2006). Sex is about union. Retrieved from: https://www.focusonthefamily. com/marriage/preparing-for-marriage/why-wait-for-sex/sex-is-about-union
Navarra, R. (2009). The six-second kiss – it’s about time. Retrieved from: https://gottmantherapist.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/the-six-second-kiss-its-about-time/
Pearce, D. (2012). 16 ways I blew my marriage. Retrieved from: http://www.danoah.com /2012/10/16-ways-i-blew-my-marriage.html
Smalley, E. (2015). Make date night with your spouse a weekly habit. Retrieved from: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/dating-your-spouse/make-date-night-with-your-spouse-a-weekly-habit
Smalley, G. (2014). The heart and soul of date night. Retrieved from: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/2014/10/22/15/18/the-heart-and-soul-of-date-night