How to have a long-lasting marriage rooted in love

Following are those five key practices that, especially during trying times, can help you keep your marriage going strong:

1. Frequent expressions of love. Actions do speak louder than words. Saying “I love you” is important, but showing love is vital. Pay attention to your spouse. Observe what they like and don’t like. What can you do to communicate love? When my husband makes a treat he knows I’ll like or surprises me with a gift, I feel loved. He feels my love whenever I spend time with him. Don’t be afraid to discuss what you feel communicates love and what doesn’t.

2. Nurture your friendship. In a marriage, it’s important to like each other. Strong friendships include mutual respect, good communication, and trust. Friends strengthen and support each other. Never demean or manipulate your spouse. Safeguard the privacy of your relationship by refusing to gossip about their faults and odd habits. Focus on your spouse’s positive attributes and look for opportunities to give sincere compliments.

3. Go to bed angry. The worst time to discuss a serious topic or disagreement is when you are tired. Sometimes it’s best just to get some sleep. Agree to discuss the matter when both of you are rested and rational. Avoid yelling at or building up a case against your spouse. Take a moment to consider their point of view and their feelings. Problems are often solved when husband and wife lay their grievances aside for a moment and step into the other person’s shoes. Express your feelings in a non-confrontational way. Use “I” statements such as “I feel hurt when you make light of my concerns.”

4. Spend time apart. While my husband was unemployed, he took classes to earn his bachelor’s degree, and I attended a local community college. I also worked on writing projects and spent time with friends. In addition to looking for a job, he ran errands and fixed our cars. Encourage your spouse to pursue his or her own interests and hobbies, and spend time pursuing yours.

5. Remember you were lovers first. The honeymoon doesn’t need to be over. Have fun together doing things you both enjoy. When our first child was two weeks old, she spent a few hours with her grandparents while my husband and I went on a date. This is a time set aside to focus on each other. It matters less what you do and more that you build your relationship as a couple. Choose activities that allow you to interact and share positive experiences. Keep at minimum activities that draw your focus away from each other, such as watching movies or dining with other people. Husbands, open your wife’s door. Wives, let him.

The glue that sticks a marriage together and makes everything easier is 100 percent devotion to each other. There are those who believe marriage is a 50/50 proposition. These folks won’t be married long and they’ll always feel cheated. Give your all, and don’t let less important things distract you from nurturing and strengthening your marriage. This week, determine which of the five practices outlined above you need to work on the most in your marriage. If you haven’t been going on dates with your spouse, for example, focus on the idea that you were lovers before you were spouses and pick the day and time that you will spend alone with each other each week.

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