The first six years of my marriage were something other than living in heaven. After a rocky start, things leveled off a bit—but all in the name of passivity. It’s only by the grace of God that we will soon be celebrating our 30th anniversary.
As we learned experientially, marriage is not a one-time “I do,” and then you live happily ever after. It takes work, commitment, and a lot of grace and mercy.
The enemy is after our marriages, and for that reason alone, we must be vigilant in the care of our marital relationships. Being intentional is imperative.
It isn’t enough to say, “I do.” Proverbs 24:3 tells us that “by wisdom is a house built, and through understanding it is established.” Marriages don’t automatically become strong as time goes by; it takes wisdom and understanding.
My husband and I have learned a lot over the years—most of it the hard way. But thankfully, we did learn, and I’m happy to say that our marriage is stronger today than it’s ever been.
The following are eight ways we’ve created a strong marriage.
With my husband’s job and my running our five kids to their various activities, it’s hard to make a one-on-one connection with him. Sometimes it’s hard even to have a private conversation when we do connect. But we know that we must. If there’s no connection, there’s no relationship.
We stay connected even during the workday by sending each other encouraging text messages and emails, and he calls me whenever he can. Even though one or more of the children are usually at home, we’ve learned that the best way to get some private reconnection time after work is to take an evening walk together.
The world is a harsh place, full of critics and naysayers. One of the best things spouses can do is to give each other frequent affirmation. Affirmation is simply emotional support or encouragement. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage one another daily. You can just imagine how strong a marriage can become if both spouses affirm each other every day.
While my husband and I don’t hit the mark every day, we do make affirming one another’s value, strengths, and ministry a priority.
Don’t wait for the other to begin. Initiate daily affirmations yourself, and continue doing it regardless of how long it takes your spouse to reciprocate.
“There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). A strong marriage includes both, but by far, it needs more laughter than tears.
I have no idea how it even started, but when I was upset or angry, all my husband needed to do was to repeat this line, and I would start laughing: “If it ain’t Velveeta, I don’t eata.” It may seem, well, cheesy, and I suppose it is, but throughout our 30 years of marriage, it has never failed to make me laugh, even when I’m mad.
Laughter truly is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). It makes for a pretty strong marriage too!
When we first get married, it all seems pretty vanilla-ice-cream sweet until our humanness is added into the mix. Then the marriage takes on a whole new flavor that isn’t always easy to swallow. And my husband and I learned that a simple “sorry” isn’t enough.
Confession is powerful. It takes ownership and responsibility for mistakes, flaws, and sins. Confession doesn’t just say “I’m sorry” but apologizes specifically for how we’ve hurt the other. Confession is humbling, but it also brings intimacy because genuine forgiveness is the usual result.
It’s easy to fall in love, but staying in love is the goal. Showing your spouse affection over the course of 30 years or more requires deliberate choices and actions. Don’t just save affection for date nights; integrate it into your everyday lives.
Little gestures make big differences. While sexual intimacy and romance are important, don’t neglect the smaller acts of affection. My husband and I hold hands, snuggle on the couch, give foot and back rubs, and even say “I love you” in sign language while watching a movie. Every act strengthens our marriage!
Paying genuine attention to your spouse is one of the most loving things you can do—and it’s one of the best ways to strengthen your marriage. Paying close attention says, “I value you. You’re important to me and worth listening to.” In a day of constant phone and media usage, this is huge.
While dating, you likely gave your spouse your undivided attention. Me too. And then came the bills, babies, and budgets. And this is where many marriages begin to deteriorate. As time goes by, we need to give our mate more attention, not less. Show you care by staying aware.
No marriage will be strong if honor is absent. When we honor someone, we show them high respect and great esteem. Does our spouse always deserve honor? Of course not. But honor respects the person as a child of God regardless of the circumstances.
I once heard a woman say of her husband, “He’s such an idiot.” I was appalled. Not only was she a
Christian—she was a pastor’s wife! I determined that day never to speak of my husband in a disrespectful way again. It was then that I began to purposefully honor my husband.
My husband and I have known each other since we were in grade school. When I was in the fourth grade, he passed me a note and asked me to be his girlfriend—in Sunday School class of all places. Our marriage was the result of our friendship, but it isn’t that way for everyone.
Becoming friends with your spouse at any stage of your marriage will make it stronger. Truly get to know your spouse as a friend. Friendship accentuates marriage like a diamond necklace underscores a beautiful gown.
A strong marriage brings growth and countless blessings to our lives. May we always invest in our marriages and show our spouses the love of Jesus every opportunity we get, which is pretty much all the time.
Tammy Darling is a frequent contributor to Signs of the Times®. She’s also the author of 1,400 published articles and two books, And She Danced and While We Wait: Devotions for the Adopting Parent. She writes from her home in rural Pennsylvania.