Do you have relationship goals for your marriage? Check out these seven tips for meeting your couple goals. Self-care means we invest time in our most important relationships.
In Search of Marital Bliss
“You mowing the lawn once a week for forty-five minutes does NOT equal me spending four hours doing laundry.” My voice rose in pitch as my frustration increased.
“But I change the oil in the vehicles every few months, too,” he said.
“You LIKE tinkering with the cars!” I almost shouted. “I have no love for laundry, or dishes, or vacuuming, or dusting, or scrubbing toilets.”
His frustration mounted as well. It seemed perfectly logical to him that if he spent part of the day on Sunday mowing the lawn and fixing the vehicles, it equaled me preparing supper every day of the week as well as doing all the housework and laundry.
I wanted to give up. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t communicate effectively with my husband. And now we found ourselves in the midst of another endless argument.
No one ever warned me that when two strong-willed, opinionated people marry, learning to negotiate effectively will take time. A lot of time. Caring for ourselves means we take the time to invest in our most important relationship.Self-care means we invest time in our most important relationships. #selfcare #SelfCareSunday #goals Click To Tweet
1. Choose Each Other
I recently finished a beautiful book by Ashlee Eiland where she talks about her horrible first year of marriage in one of the chapters. She and her husband argued a lot and at times she wondered if they’d made a mistake. But at the end of every argument, they both came to the same conclusion—they had chosen each other.
Her husband would say the words out loud to her. “’Ashlee, I just want you to know that—no matter what—I choose you.’” Each time, Eiland says,
“Something about hearing his words, hearing him choose me on purpose, softened my heart, and my rage melted away.”Human(Kind)
Choose each other on a daily basis in myriad ways. Choosing each other provides the antidote to rejection in a world full of rejecting circumstances, people, and attitudes. If your couple goals include a closer relationship, choose each other daily.
2. Learn Each Other’s Love Languages
We all give and receive love differently. Sometimes, we have to learn a foreign language in order to express our love for our spouse in their native tongue.
Have you ever purchased the perfect gift for someone else, watched them open it with anticipation, and felt hurt when they gave your gift a cursory glance and a quick, ‘thanks’? Most likely, gift-giving ranks high on your list of primary love languages.
Not knowing your spouse’s love language can lead to hurt for both parties. They won’t feel loved, and you might feel rejected or diminished.
Part of choosing each other includes becoming an expert on how our spouse feels most loved. Once we have that information (you can click here for a free test), we can choose to love our spouse in his or her primary love languages.
By loving each other in our native tongue, we help each other achieve our relationship goals.
3. Fill Each Other’s Love Bank
We all have a bank where we can’t deposit money—only love. In his classic book on marriage relationships, His Needs, Her Needs, Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr, posits that we need to take the time to fill each other’s emotional needs—he calls it the Love Bank—on a regular basis. By doing this, when we make withdrawals (through unkind words or actions), we won’t overdraw our Love Bank account.
“Whenever you associate someone with bad feelings, withdrawals are made from your Love Bank. And if that person makes more withdrawals than deposits, his or her balance in your Love Bank can fall below zero. When that happens the Love Bank turns into the Hate Bank. You will dislike those with moderate negative balances, but if a balance falls below the hate threshold, you will hate the person.”Love Busters p. 304
When we choose each other and learn each other’s love languages, we can make sure to create a steady deposit into each other’s Love Banks. Dr. Harley’s other excellent book on couple relationships, Love Busters: Protect Your Marriage by Replacing Love-Busting Patterns with Love-Building Habits provides a great companion book to His Needs, Her Needs.
One of your couple goals could include reading and discussing these books together.
4. Love and Respect Each Other
Ever read that part of the Bible that none of us wants to talk about (no, not Song of Solomon)? You know, where Paul, an unmarried man, tells women to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5:21-33). For a long time, this passage bothered me, because it sounds misogynistic and for centuries men have used Paul’s words to oppress women.
Two books have helped me see this passage in a better light. The first, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs showed me a fascinating facet of men I had no idea existed. They need to feel respected.
Eggerichs’ book builds on the concepts of Love Languages and the Love Bank. Men and women have a different basic needs hierarchy. Feeling respected tops most men’s hierarchy of needs, and feeling loved tops a woman’s hierarchy of needs.
We naturally give what tops our list. Men have no problem respecting their wives, and demonstrating that respect in multiple ways. But women want to feel loved. Women have no problem loving their husbands in multiple ways, but men want to feel respected.
Once we understand the basic difference between what men and women need, we can choose to meet that need.
The second, A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman by Holly Beers showed me the historical context of Paul’s letter.
Beers’ book, a novel with historical sidebars, painted a rather dreary portrait of a woman’s life in the First Century. Men routinely slapped, pushed, and hit their wives (usually because she in some way failed to honor him). They had the power to keep or dispose of children—amongst the lower classes, girls had little worth and fathers could expose them (abandon them in public places to either die or taken by slavers).
Women grew up knowing they would need to ‘service’ their husbands, and marriage provided security from slavery and prostitution. Men routinely visited prostitutes.
In this context, Paul’s directive for men to ‘love their wives as their own bodies” takes on new significance.
These two books have helped me understand the basic differences in the hierarchy of needs between men and women, as well as the context for Paul’s advice. Relationship goals will go nowhere if we don’t strive to understand the context of our advice book (the Bible) and each other’s needs.
5. Pray as Soon as You Find Yourself in an Argument
I’ve learned one thing in 31 years of marriage which has made all the difference in our conflicts. As soon as an argument starts brewing (yes, even healthy relationships have arguments), I silently pray for the Holy Spirit to filter my words and help me not say anything hurtful. Sometimes I pray multiple times during the argument.
I’ve read where some people actually stop the argument and pray together, but I never feel like praying with a person who has made me extremely angry. Praying silently for the presence of the Holy Spirit seems more authentic. It also cuts down on the amount of time it takes to resolve conflicts and prevents me from saying things that wound.
If one of your relationship goals involves handling conflict more productively, make a habit of praying just as soon as you find yourself in an argument.
6. Pray Regularly for (and With) Your Spouse
If you want to have a better relationship with your spouse, you might want to consider regularly praying with and for your spouse. I have prayed for my husband for years, and I have prayed for our relationship more intensely at times.
We have also discovered the power of praying with each other each morning. Prayer opens a pathway to intimacy unlike any other. Together, we pray for our children, grandchild, parents, work situations, and each other.
7. Have Fun Together
The nurse came into Pedro’s hospital room and put her hands on her hips, “You two need to quiet down,” she admonished. “We can hear you clear down at the nurse’s station.” She left with a huff, and Pedro and I dissolved into hopeless puddles of laughter—but this time we tried to muffle it.
You’d think she would have expressed joy that we had employed the best medicine. But no, our cackles and outbursts of side-splitting laughter had only annoyed her. Rat Race had sparked our hilarity during a time of great uncertainty—Pedro had a huge tumor in his neck and the doctors would perform a biopsy the following day.
We could have moped around the hospital room in solemnity, but instead, we sought reasons to have fun and laugh together.
We’ve never managed to go on regular dates with each other as marriage experts advise—often because we didn’t have money for a babysitter, much less money to spend on movies or dinners out. But that never stopped us from having fun together.
We have inside jokes, favorite funny television programs, and fun activities that help us have fun together. When our girls still lived at home, we went camping together or exploring dirt roads. We mountain bike and hike together and Pedro even goes birding with me on occasion.
All of these activities strengthen our bond and give us shared memories. Although Dr. Harvey suggests that loving acts build up a person’s Love Bank, I would add having fun together as a prime way to make deposits into each other’s Love Banks.
If you want to have a better relationship with your spouse, make time to have fun with your spouse. You don’t have to go on formal dates, but you do want to take time to enjoy life together—whether in a hospital room or the great outdoors.
Triage Your Relationship Goals
These seven tips for improving your relationship with your spouse work best if you triage your needs. Don’t try to do all seven at once. Pick one area, and start there. If you argue a lot (like we did when we first got married), start by reading up on Love Languages.
Maybe you’ve already identified each other’s primary Love Languages, but you struggle with having loving feelings towards your spouse. Read Dr. Harley’s books, and set relationship goals based on what you learn.
Perhaps that pesky verse about submitting really chaps your hide, or someone has told you that you need to submit to your husband to be a good Christian. Study up on the context of Paul’s words and check out Dr. Eggerichs’ book on love and respect.
Maybe life seems too full of burdens and circumstances have drained your emotional energy. Set a relationship goal of having fun together. It doesn’t have to cost money, but you do need to experience fun times together to remind you why you chose each other.
And every single day, pray for each other and choose each other. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work.Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work. 7 tips to help you have a better relationship with your spouse. #relationships #goals #marriage Click To Tweet
Inspire Me Monday
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Wow, Anita, these are terrific! Our marriage took a definite upswing after reading and going to a seminar on love languages. That dovetails so well with understanding the difference in our hierarchy of needs. We’ve been at this for 46 years next month, and there’s still plenty to learn about making marriage better. Perhaps the two most important things I’ve learned is that marriage is dynamic, not stagnant, and marriage without all types of communication can be tortuous. Thank you for sharing such a potent group of encouragements and tips!
Sound like great reads Anita! I agree with your following quote,
“And every single day, pray for each other and choose each other. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work.”
I enjoy reading things about marriage goals and this definitely did not disappoint, Anita!! You’ve reminded me that I’ve slacked off a little at purposing to fill my husband’s love tank. With us being home together the majority of the time, we spend more time together than your average husband and wife. It can bring on added things to work through but we’ve definitely learned through lots of trials that laughing together is very therapeutic!! I love laughing with my love!!
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Anita, this post brought a smile to my face as I have often said to my husband, “I would do it all over again no matter what!” No matter what life has brought us, I would do it all over again – every hardship, every tear, every laugh. It was all worth it to have the husband, the marriage, and the life the Lord has given us. So “Amen!” to #1!
I so enjoyed reading between the lines about your own thriving marriage, and it’s also our goal to keep love on the front burner as our nest empties and we find ourselves as “just the two of us” more often these days.
Michele Morin recently posted…Just Because You Feel Lost Doesn’t Mean You Are
Great tips. Love tip one. Choose one another. It reminds me of how when I am not happy with hubby I try and remember why I fell in love with him and wanted to spend my life with him. It reminds me that I did gladly choose him and his good points (which I am not seeing at the moment, but that are still there). Marriages take work. Making time for fun is so important. And no, it doesn’t take money. But those good times bond the two of you.
These are great tips. So often, when marriage is going great, we forget that it takes effort and intention to keep it healthy and thriving.
Barbara Harper recently posted…When Not To Be Minimalist
Love this thought that caring for ourselves includes caring for our marriage. So true!
My husband and I did #7 today, “Have fun together.” 🙂 Every year we go to Alabama’s high school basketball state tournament for a couple of days and watch hours and hours of basketball together. Granted, he enjoys the basketball part more than I do, but I bring reading material for the boring games and eat a lot of snacks. 🙂 It’s a yearly tradition we started years ago and it’s so “us.”
Love these tips, too. It’s so funny – it seems hardly ever that couples love languages are the same!
Jerralea recently posted…Effective: It works!
Oh, Anita. That argument you describe at the beginning of your post could have been my hubby and me when we were first married. Convicted!
All of your tips are so good and so wise. We must remember to give grace and forgiveness, just as we are forgiven and benefit from receiving grace. I did eventually learn this, but I could have saved myself (and Bill) heartache if I had learned it sooner! 🙂
Laurie recently posted…Tying Knots and Making Mistakes: Lessons From Running
This is one area I feel confident in!!!