If the Lord says the same, on July 10th, Tonia and I will be married 23 years. I am humbled, grateful and excited. We have had many ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and a lot of amazing days and some “Meh” days. But, over the last two decades, we have a done a few simple things to strengthen our relationship.
The truth is, marriage or any relationship for that matter, is hard work. Yes, it’s hard work, but you can maintain the spark and strengthen your relationship for the long haul. How do we enhance our relationship so it can last through the difficult times?
- Appreciate your partner regularly. The lack of appreciation for your partner will inevitably lead to us taking them for granted. So, say positive things about your partner.
- Connect daily with your partner. Before we leave the house, Tonia and I ask one another what’s in store for the day. This helps us to know how to pray for one another. Not only do we connect before we leave the house, but we also connect during the day through text messages and calls. Then, when we come home, we review our day with one another.
- Nurture transparency. Opening your life to your mate is one way to develop transparency in your relationship. One simple way Tonia and I cultivate openness in our relationship is by sharing online passwords. My mantra is: “Nothing to hide. Nothing to fear.”
- Forgive your partner immediately. Life is too short to remain angry with one another for extended periods of time. The Bible says we should not let the sun go down on our anger or conflict. So, when you experience conflict, take the time to cool down and resolve the dispute before you go to bed.
- Have dinner together. With varying schedules, I know this can be difficult. But, winning back the dinner table is significant in strengthening our relationships. At the dinner table, we share the events of the day and connect emotionally. So, as much as possible, share dinner together several nights a week.
- Ask one another “God sighting” questions. In my humble opinion, there is nothing stronger than asking your partner: “Where do you see God showing up in your life these days?” Or, “What has God been saying to you today?”
- Accept your partner for who God has created them to be. Nothing weakens a relationship more than trying to change your partner. The sooner we realized this, the more joy we had in our relationship. God created them the way they are, and only God can change them to be who he wants them to be. So, let’s stop playing the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
- Develop your code language. Tonia and I have developed our insider code language. Sometimes, we use language from our favorite movies or television shows. Other times, we use language from a funny memory. When there is miscommunication, one of us might refer to the Christmas in Chicago, and we both will laugh out loud. These moments create intimacy and intimacy strengthens the bond in the relationship.
- Ask your partner their opinion and listen. “What do you think about …..?” is a compelling question. It is a matter of invitation and honor. This question lets your partner know you value them and their opinion.
- Be vulnerable. You don’t always have to be strong. Your vulnerability is not a sign of weakness; it is an indicator of strength. Let your partner know your struggles. According to James 5:16, our healing is found in vulnerability.
- Practice honesty. Nothing destroys the foundation of a relationship quicker than lies. Be honest. Tell the truth to one another. Truthfulness and honesty are fruits of the new nature.
- Listen actively. I am so guilty of preparing my answer while Tonia is still talking. I miss so much when I do this. So, I practice actively listening. When Tonia is talking, and she wants an answer or an opinion about something, I attempt to repeat back to her – in her words – what I thought I heard. This helps me to pay attention, and it gives her a chance to clarify her words. Sometimes, our partners don’t want solutions; they only want to be heard.
- Express gratitude for your partner daily. Saying thank you goes a long way.
- Realize you don’t always have to be right. Winning the relationship is infinitely more important than winning the argument.
- Put your partner before yourself. Selfishness is the death of any relationship. Find ways to put your partner first.
- Protect your relationship from emotional affairs. Infidelity – physical or emotional – ruins relationships. When do not resolve conflict, it is easy to vilify our partners and fantasize about being with someone else. So, guard your heart.
- Talk about money. Spend time communicating about money – how you will spend it, save it, and give it away.
- Have sex regularly. Now, this is strictly for married couples. When we don’t satisfy one another sexually, we open the door for Satan to tempt us to have emotional and physical affairs. Sexual intimacy is not strong enough to keep a relationship together, but it does help strengthen the relationship.
- Pray together. I love hearing Tonia pray for me and she loves it when she hears me praying for her. I know this may seem awkward at first, but believe me, praying for one another strengthens the foundation of your relationship.
- Have a date night. If you dated her in the beginning, continue dating her now. Whether it is once a week or every other week, intentionally plan a date night.
Developing a strong marriage/relationship takes work and intentionality. It is like planting a garden. Whatever seeds you plant, is the fruit you will reap at harvest time. So, what are you planting?
What are some other simple ways we can strengthen our relationships?