My wife and I have been married for 12 years.  We both think we have a really good marriage.  We love each other and have 2 wonderful kids.  We have our share of difficulties, but we’ve learned some secrets along the way – secrets that have kept our marriage thriving and our family moving in the right direction.  If you want to have a strong marriage, then follow these secrets and grow your way to a better marriage.

Secret #1 – Build A Solid Foundation

My wife and I started with 2 solid foundations.  Our first commitment is to Jesus Christ, and this commitment shapes everything that we do and say.  This commitment supersedes our commitment to each other.  This is our most important foundation.

Our second foundation is one of friendship. We not only love each other, we really like each other!  Before we started dating, we were friends.  We started hanging out together as friends several months before we entered into a dating relationship.  We did fun things together and enjoyed a lot of the same activities.  This gave us a strong “liking” for each other before all those pesky emotions got in the way (kidding hon!).  Seriously though, this foundation of friendship is key for any marriage.  You need to like each other as well as love each other.

What foundations do you have in your marriage?  If your foundations feel shaky, what are some things you could do to begin to rebuild them?

Secret #2 – Learn to Communicate

Every relationship needs great communicators.  Your marriage will thrive as you learn to communicate with each other. My wife and I talk about what’s going on in each of our lives.  I’m in the middle of a second job change in the last 5 years.  It’s stressful, and we don’t know where I will land. We trust that God will open the right door at the right time. But, we talk about it and check in with each other in all kinds of situations.

We pray for each other and with each other.  We talk about things, and we pray for each other, but praying together is also a healthy way to communicate.

Spend a few minutes every day communicating without distractions.  After the kids go to bed, talk to each other about your day (men, please say more than, “fine” or “good”), your dreams, or your goals.

Happy Family

Secret #3 – Laugh Often

Even as I’m writing this, my wife is dancing in front of my computer.  Seriously.  We love to have fun and laugh together.  Neither one of us take ourselves too seriously.  We laugh with our kids and when we’re alone.  We enjoy life and see the humor in a lot of situations.

Some people (as well as couples) take themselves way too seriously.  We have our serious moments but also love to laugh.  My wife is better at this than I am.  I grew up in a very serious family, and although I can be a jokester, I tend to take things too seriously at times.  My wife has helped me loosen up even more.

Spend time laughing and having fun.  If you’ve lost this in your marriage, what are some ways that you could begin to enjoy life together again?

Secret #4 – Pursue Each Other

Date early.  Date often.  Isn’t that how the saying goes?  One of the reasons that so many marriages fail is that once couples get married, they stop pursuing each other.  We try to schedule dates at least a couple of times a month.  I know couples that have a date night every week.

Do what works for you, but I would suggest no less than one date a month.  Take turns planning the date and getting babysitters.  Husbands, don’t let your wife plan everything.  Take the initiative like you did when you first started dating.  Visit places you went to when you were dating and talk about your first dates.  Visit new places together and experience new things together.  This will build that foundation of friendship and move your marriage into greater health.

Begin to schedule some dates.  Put them on the calendar and regard that time as precious and off-limits for anything else.  Stay off your cell phones while on the date, too!

Secret #5 – Never Use the “D” Word

We never talk about divorce.  Ever.  It’s not a part of our vocabulary.  When we got married and made our covenant, we meant every word of it.  Sickness and health.  Richer or poorer (and we’ve definitely known poorer).  Til death do us part.  That’s the only way she’s getting rid of me (and vice-versa).  There’s no plan B.  Giving up is not an option.

We work hard at our marriage.  I’ve counseled other couples on marriage and have been involved in facilitating a number of pre-marital counseling sessions.  I typically tell the couple that it takes two people to make a marriage work, but it only takes one for the marriage to fail.  Each person in the relationship has to take responsibility for making it work.  But when one person doesn’t do what it takes, the marriage begins to fall apart.

Even still, if for some reason my wife quit working on us, I would still work to keep us together.  I’m not opposed to counseling.  We’ve been to a counselor when we were at an impasse on a difficult decision regarding a career change a few years back.  And we’d go again if we needed it.

Take the “d” word out of your vocabulary.  Most of the time it’s used out of insecurity and to manipulate.  Move from manipulation to communication and start building bridges back to your spouse.  What is one way that you can build a bridge and begin to move towards a more healthy marriage?

Follow these secrets and you’re sure to see improvements in your marriage.  If you’re not married, use these to establish a great start to your relationship.

What are some of your secrets to a great marriage?  Leave them in the comments.

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