Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Five Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as  I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome a dear blogging kindred spirit, Tess of Little House in Chicago!

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My husband and I give presentations to engaged couples through the One in Christ program. Our goal is to help them build strong marriages that will last through whatever life throws at them.

When Stephanie asked me to guest post, I decided to share some of the advice we give engaged couples, in hopes that it can help your marriage too! I would also LOVE to hear your best marriage tips so please feel free to share them in the comments.

1. Remember the two biggest causes of fights

During our presentations, my husband asks the couples, "Can anyone guess what two things cause the most fights in marriages?"

Hands shoot into the air and people start guessing: "Money?" "In-laws?" "Sex?"

"Those are all good guesses and definitely can cause fights," he tells them. "But actually, on a day-to-day level, we've found that what causes most of our fights is being hungry or tired."

That always gets a lot of laughs, but once you start paying attention, you'll be amazed how true it is! For us at least, I'd guess 90% of our fights start because one of us is grumpy from being hungry or tired.

Once you start noticing that and taking it into account, you can avoid fights a lot more easily. We knew one couple who shared a commute to work, and actually made a pact that if one of them was overly grumpy from being hungry or tired, they wouldn't talk until they got home and ate dinner! We also tell couples that it's ok to ignore the traditional advice to "Never go to bed angry," since sometimes the problem is just that you're tired, and the fight will be easily resolved once you get a good night's sleep.

2. Learn your spouse's love language


You've heard of the five love languages, right? They include words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, giving of gifts, and acts of service. There is a quiz you can take to figure out your love language, but I think most people know themselves well enough to figure out off the bat which one applies to them.

I would encourage you to branch out of just those five categories and figure out what things unique to your spouse make him or her feel loved. For example, my husband is naturally much more tidy and organized than I am. He used to always tell me that he felt stressed when the house was a mess, but it didn't really hit home for me until one day he said, "I think a clean house is my love language." That made a big impact on me, and ever since then, I've made much more of an effort to clean up my messes.

3. Consider regular "state of the union" talks


I got this idea from a book about parenting, but it's great advice for anyone who's married! Consider scheduling meetings every month or every few months to sit down together and talk through any issues or concerns about your marriage, plus set some goals for yourselves, both personally and as a couple. We jokingly call these our "state of the union" conversations (can you tell we used to live in Washington, DC?).

The couple who wrote that book, Richard and Linda Eyre, recommend doing a five-facet review, discussing how you each are doing from a physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and emotional perspective. We aren't always that organized about it; the goal is really just to set aside a sort of "safe space" to share with each other anything that's on your minds and hearts.

4. Seek out frequent opportunities to pray, worship, and grow in grace together


Sometimes marriage can be really hard, and can take more effort than you are able to give. That's when it's time to stop relying on your own efforts and give it over to God. God can give you the grace to heal divisions between you and your spouse. With God's help, your marriage can be a reflection of and witness to the love between Christ and the Church.

On top of that, studies show the greatest predictor of marital success is that the couple goes to church together every week—so if you want your marriage to last, make it a goal to worship and pray together as much as you can!

5. Build a community of like-minded couples and families

One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to be friends with other couples who have strong, happy marriages. You can be good examples to each other, but more than that, you can just have fun together and enjoy how great it is to be married! My husband and I have enjoyed taking road trips and vacations with other couples. We find it to be a great way to strengthen our own relationship and build friendships with couples who inspire us to be better people.

These other couples don't have to be your age, either —my husband and I love to get advice from an older couple we know who have been married for thirty years (!!) and are still so in love with each other. They tell us, "We want you to have what we have, and be as happy as we are after thirty years together." Their example inspires us every day. Nothing can compare to being part of a community of people who share your commitment to making their marriages better and stronger as the years pass.

That's the best advice I've got for making your marriage stronger. But I've only been married for two years, so I know there is a LOT more I have to learn! What's the best marriage advice you've ever heard?

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Tess is a Catholic, wife, mother, and part-time work-from-home editor living on the South Side of Chicago. She (not so) secretly would like to be Ma Ingalls someday and writes at her personal blog, Little House in Chicago, about her family's life as they strive to do things the "Little House Way" in their one-bedroom urban homestead. 

3 comments:

  1. Amen on no chats when hungry or tired. I'm following that advice from now on. Thanks, Tess. :)

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  2. Oh yes, hungry is bad. And pregnant and hungry is really bad. We also ignore the don't go to bed angry advice. Sometimes good sleep and a fresh perspective in the morning is what we need. However, we always say I love you before bed even if we are still angry.

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  3. I absorbed all of this. So helpful as a newlywed!!

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