30 Ways to Love Your Spouse

In 2013, in honor of our 30th anniversary, Joe and I offered 30 marriage tips that shaped our relationship through the years. So here they are, in no particular order, except #1 will always be first.

  1. Love the Lord – We give the ultimate credit for our thirty years of marriage to God. Choosing to live our lives devoted to Christ and his word takes us out of the earthly realm of “being a good spouse” to honoring God, the creator of marriage. From him, we’ve received wisdom, grace, patience and endurance to survive and thrive together.
  2. Buy a New White Dress – A few years ago after watching a zillion episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, I decided to recreate the fun of shopping for a wedding gown by purchasing a new white dress for our anniversary. Most men love it when their wives dress up and having a new white dress each year has been a fun way to commemorate the day I walked down the aisle.
  3. Make Sure Your Children Respect Their Mother – I learned it was important for me to teach our children to respect Mary. I expected them to obey her, talk respectfully to her and help her around the house. She appreciated knowing I would defend her and our children knew that if they disrespected her they would have to deal with me.
  4. Pray Together – We’ve faced many challenges as a couple and God has been faithful to give us the wisdom we’ve needed to walk through those situations. We wish we had learned earlier in our marriage the importance of our talking to God TOGETHER, but we are growing more comfortable sharing in this way.
  5. Play Together – We’ve begun talking about activities each of us enjoys; things that make us laugh or relax. Bike riding, traveling, and going to the movies are simple examples. We are committing ourselves to doing those things regularly to build our friendship and romantic bond. Kids get in the way of this commitment and so does the potential financial expense. But children need to see their parents enjoying life and enjoying each other.
  6. Respect Your In-Laws – The people who raised your spouse did such an amazing job that you decided to marry their son or daughter. We have found this to be a great reason to support each other’s desire to honor our parents. Taking part in family gatherings, welcoming their advice and caring for them in their old age are actions we don’t regret, especially now that they are no longer with us. Children deserve to have a healthy relationship with their grandparents and that usually begins with a willingness on everyone’s part to foster kindness, hospitality and love.
  7. Develop Your Spiritual Gifts –The local church has been the ideal place for both of us to discover and develop our individual calling and unique purpose within God’s kingdom. We’ve encouraged each other through the years to pursue new avenues for spiritual growth and opportunities to serve and bless others.
  8. Don’t Nag – In most marriages, one spouse moves faster than the other in following through with household tasks and family responsibilities. While the temptation to nag the slower spouse is hard to resist, we’ve found it’s better to 1) develop realistic expectations based upon our individual personalities and strengths and 2) agree upon timelines so both of us can feel supported and peaceful. This requires planning and discussion. It doesn’t just happen automatically.
  9. Follow Through– We have learned that in marriage making promises and not following through wears on a relationship and erodes the trust between us. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you make a promise, keep it. This applies to seemingly small things like doing something around the house and big things like planning for the future.
  10. Support each other’s hobbies and interests – We are learning it’s okay that we have interests apart from one another. Mary likes to shop, write and fellowship with other women. Joe likes to watch sports, read and work out. Giving each other freedom to pursue personal pleasures without being resentful enables each of us to maintain our emotional, mental, and physical health. In the end, we are better companions to each other because we value our individuality.
  11. Forgive All of us are human and imperfect and offenses in marriage are inevitable. We know we have two choices when we offend each other: forgive or harbor bitterness.  Acknowledging the ways we’ve offended each other, extending forgiveness and working together through the process of healing has been a maturing work through the years.  We’re grateful for Christ’s example of forgiveness and want that to be the standard for our relationship.
  12. Realize there’s value in counseling. The state of Virginia requires car owners to have their cars inspected annually for their safety and the safety of others. We all understand why it’s necessary to have a third party examine our vehicles and recommend things that need to be fixed. In the same way, we recently realized it would have been beneficial to have someone annually help us assess the condition of our relationship by asking tough questions and encouraging each of us to change where needed. Seeking annual marriage counseling from a counselor, a pastor or trusted older couple can protect a marriage from breaking down and help restore a fractured relationship.
  13. Become One Talking and having sex don’t automatically make a couple unified, but in order for a strong bond to form between a husband and a wife, meaningful conversation and regular intimacy are non-negotiable. No one else in the world knows us like we know each other, and this beautiful, exclusive attachment produces security and an increasing desire to be faithful. Growing in our ability to listen well and fostering a spirit of romance keep love alive and our hearts united.
  14. Journal Together – Six years ago we started writing entries in a journal. We call this our “couple’s journal” and we use it to affirm and love each other. No complaining or negativity is allowed to be written. It’s fun to open the journal and find a surprise entry at random times. And reading what we wrote years ago is a great way to reflect and rejoice over our journey together.
  15. Take Care of Yourself Part I Being active in church, taking care of the children, and working a 40-hour work week require a lot of energy. As we’ve reached this stage of our lives, we realize that in order to live our best and care for each other, we need to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get our rest. Although living a healthy lifestyle is a challenge for us, and we are still growing in this area, we know that God and our children deserve our healthiest selves.
  16. Take Care of Yourself, Part II It’s easy in marriage to take unconditional love for granted by paying less attention to how we look. Yet being physically attractive to one another is vital in marriage and helps prevent wandering eyes and hearts. We compliment each other regularly, talk about the clothes we prefer to see the other wear and encourage ample investments in this sort of self-care. It may seem vain, but Song of Solomon provides beautiful imagery of how lovers notice and care about one another’s physical characteristics. The confidence and peace that comes with being desired and admired by the one you love is a unique and comforting pleasure in marriage that should be valued and cultivated.
  17. Be Hospitable –Life keeps us all busy and often the result is that we neglect reaching out to others and being hospitable. We found that opening our home through the years has been a great way to teach our children the importance of relationships and serving others. Having friends visit, even if they brought all their kids and we did potluck, was valuable social time, and the opportunity to fellowship and bless others enriches our relationship too. From the prep work to the clean up, we spend time together toward a common goal which further unites us as a couple.
  18. Develop and Carry Out a Financial Plan – Running a family is like running a business because nearly everything in a household has a financial component. Poor decisions have long-term negative consequences and failing to agree can create serious rifts and bitterness. We try to work together closely to define our financial goals and agree on strategies for spending and saving. General money management should be delegated to the spouse who has stronger skills and inclination to pay the bills, file documents, and save receipts. BUT since both spouses SPEND and NEED money, goal-setting and review should be done together… weekly or monthly. As we look ahead to retirement, we wish we had understood these principles more fully at a younger age. But it’s never too late to recover from mistakes or ignorance. Counsel and accountability from a financial planner has also been a tremendous help.
  19. Affirm and Encourage Each Other – Life is full of challenges. Whether it’s difficult tasks at work or trials with the kids, we all feel the stress that comes with making tough decisions or failure to handle situations well. What keeps us going is knowing we have a cheerleader waiting at home with unconditional love. Saying I love you” is affirming. Sharing the encouraging words provides a balm for the day’s wounds. Never underestimate the power of expressing your love for and belief in your spouse’s ability to face the giants of life with courage.
  20. Make Your Home a Haven – In addition to having a pleasant, encouraging person by our side as we face the storms of life, we need a pleasant place in which to recover from the daily grind. A clean, orderly home provides comfort and security for the entire family, but it requires teamwork, routines and training children to do chores. Women tend to focus on décor and furnishings while men tend to focus on having a workshop or “cave” in which to retreat. We are learning to honor each other by honoring these preferences so both of us can feel like home is a sanctuary.
  21. eWhisper – Having the chance to be openly affectionate can be difficult with a house full of children no matter how old they are. One fun way we’ve found to whisper sweet nothings is by sending flirty text messages to each other from across the living room.
  22. Remember that Opposites Attract – The things that drive you crazy about your spouse are probably tied to the things you love about him or her. The spouse who’s “aggressive, meticulous and harsh” has a personality that’s focused and ambitious. Without their forethought and determination, the household would be run like a playground. But the spouse who’s “slow, disorganized and weak” has a personality that is easy-going, gentle and fun. Without their relaxed nature, the family would be run like a prison camp. Rather than resent how different you are, rejoice in how well you balance each other out.
  23. Love Her Sacrificially – Husbands, before we are married, our thinking and energy are focused on us, our goals, what we like to do and where we want to go. But once we are married we need to shift our focus and consider our wife’s needs. Nothing says,“ I love you,” like laying down your desires to bless your wife.  Whether it is praying for and with her, expressing love to her in a way that is meaningful to her, or doing things she likes to do (yes, like talking and shopping), a real man lays his life down for his wife
  24. Let him Lead Wives, every leader needs a follower. If we want our husbands to lead at home then we have to be willing to follow them as they make decisions. This will look very different from one family to the next because no two men lead in the same way. Rather than make comparisons, berate or manipulate your husband, grow in your willingness to encourage and support his leadership style. Forgive him for his mistakes and throw out the leadership mold you have created in your mind. Help your man discover his personal strengths and praise him for the many ways his leadership blesses your household.
  25. Surprise Each Other – Break up the monotony of daily life by surprising your spouse in some way. Overnight trip to secret destinations, flowers, notes of encouragement, Superhero stickers strategically placed, favorite meals and other simple gifts are some of the ways we’ve had fun expressing our love and building our friendship. It’s definitely not the monetary value of something that makes a surprise special. It’s the thoughtfulness of considering what will mean most to your spouse that matters most.
  26. Make Sure Your Children Respect Their Father Because moms are usually primary caregivers to kids and because men are often portrayed on TV as inept it’s easy to team up against dad because he’s too strict, because of his mistakes or because he is absent due to work or other reasons. But children need to show respect to their dad the same they show respect to mom (see tip #3). For us this meant giving Joe space to breathe after work, verbally acknowledging how hard he worked to provide for us, and trying hard not to undermine his care giving or disciplinary measures. All men appreciate a home where they are truly respected.
  27. Deal with your baggage Each of us brings baggage into our marriages. What do we mean by “baggage?” We are referring to negative attitudes, bad habits and sins, emotional scars developed early in life or even an inappropriate dependence upon our parents. These things can keep us from connecting with each other and impact our ability to be an effective team. Lovingly help each other identify lingering hurts and habits and ask God for healing and grace to grow up. We owe it to each other to deal with our baggage so that we may become truly one.
  28. Realize marriage is Work. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is work. The effort to sustain a lifelong relationship with one person may take us by surprise, but I Corinthians 13 – so often read at weddings – equips us for all that love requires. That includes humility, kindness, forgiveness self-denial and perseverance. These qualities don’t come easy, but working at love is what enables us to fall in love again and again.
  29. Make your own list Sharing the ways we’ve learned to love each other has been a fun bonding experience for us. If you’ve been married any length of time you can create your own list of tips on how you’ve managed to stay together. Taking time to reflect on the strengths of your relationship is a great way to count your blessings and it will reignite your appreciation for the one you pledged your life to. Be sure to share your wisdom with others. We all need to support each other on this journey called marriage.
  30. Remember Tip#1 We believe that a strong marriage is tied to Christ’s simple yet profound instruction to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Putting God first in our individual lives molds our character and makes us attractive to our closest neighbor: the one lying next to us in bed each night. Loving your spouse as you love yourself – by protecting, nurturing and satisfying – is not always easy but it is always worth it. We’re grateful for the way God’s love has fueled and formed our love for each other these 30 years.