The new year is here! And like a lot of people, I’m looking forward and making goals of things I want to see happen. I think a lot of us believe that 2014 is our year – and what would stop it from being so? What makes a year our year? For me, 2014 will be my year, not if everything will go the way I want it to, but if I experience a lot of personal growth for myself and growth in my relationships with the people around me.
There is one relationship that is quite important to me, and – you guessed it – it’s with my husband. We’re going on our third year of marriage for 2014, and I’d like to see a lot of growth in my relationship with him. Seeing as he’s my other half.
I’ve compiled a list of 14 things that I can use to strengthen my marriage. I’m not intending to do all 14, that’s an awful lot, but since it goes with the year I thought, “what the hay?”
Likewise, I certainly encourage you to pick some of these and make them your goals, but you certainly don’t have to do all 14 either.
1. Spend time with older couples. Unless you are the oldest couple you know. But there is so much you can learn from other married couples and what they’ve been through. And they’ll learn stuff from you.
2. Write letters to each other. We have a journal we hide for each other with little notes in it. Adam doesn’t consider himself a letter writer, but anything he puts in there means a lot to me. In the age of texting and instant communication, the labor of handwriting is more appreciated than ever.
3. Visit your old haunts. Where did you first meet? Go there. Where was your first date? Go there. Where did you get engaged? Go there. The act of visiting and remembering, especially on those anniversaries, will stir up those overwhelming feelings you once had that may now be replaced with familiarity and steadfastness. Which are NOT bad, but it’s good to throw in the act of remembering and re-living to rekindle the butterflies. We shouldn’t live for the excitement feelings give us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t seek to keep them going.
4. Visit a new place together. Somewhere you’ve never been. Maybe you just hop in the car and drive somewhere new for a day. Maybe you make a whole week of it. Whatever you choose to do, do it just the two of you, and make some new memories.
5. Teach each other one of your skills. I’ve started teaching Adam how to play piano, since it’s a skill he’s wanted, and it’s a skill I want to keep strong. It’s good to be both the student and the teacher, as you learn about the other person’s strengths and knowledge and capacity to listen to you in a whole new way. Soon he’s going to teach me how to weld. That will be…an experience.
6. Pray and study the Bible TOGETHER. Spending time with God as a couple is just as valuable as doing it alone. I mean, you are ONE now, right?
7. Get a couples photo shoot done. It may seem like a silly thing, but having a professional photographer capture your relationship in a moment in time will do a lot. You’re capturing all the changes in your body (whether you like them or not), your worries, your goals, and your feelings for each other. Being able to compare the growth of you as a couple from year to year is really rather magical. I’ve noticed since being married that I have less pictures of the two of us and more pictures of…my dog…my nephew…other people. And when I say couples photo shoot, I mean couples. No kids, no pets, no friends. If you can’t afford a professional, just grab a friend who enjoys a camera and buy them dinner in exchange for following the two of you around town.
8. Continue to date each other.This is one we’ve all heard. But I find myself counting dates with my husband as a night where we’re alone and in the same location. And that doesn’t count, because even though you may not have a lot of money to spend on dates, the effort you put into a night with your spouse means more than the money you spend. So once a week or once a month, do something fun and different – just the two of you.
9. Go to counseling, even if you don’t think you “need” it. Because, the truth is that you always do need it. And it doesn’t have to be a licensed marriage counselor if you’re just wanting to prune your marriage. It can be someone you both respect and trust with whom you meet once a month for coffee.
10. Be active together. Maybe you’re not on the same page fitness-wise. Adam and I really aren’t, but he’s able to serve as my personal trainer while he’s still able to get a workout in himself. And you don’t have to work out; even a walk around your neighborhood every now and then will work.
11. Set aside time every week where you share your heart. Emily Loerke of Today’s Letters does a weekly activity with her husband where they go for a walk and ask each other the same five questions. I think this is a great thing to do, so I’ve included the link here.
12. Commit to putting away all distractions when you’re together. TV can wait. Your smart phone apps can wait. Even texts from others can usually wait. You can be together quite often but never actually do anything together and never grow together.
13. Take on a ministry together. It can be once a month where you volunteer somewhere together. Or it can become your life – like what we did. Don’t commit to something you don’t think God is calling both of you to, as that will later cause more problems in your marriage. However, the act of serving others and carrying out the Great Commission together will grow your marriage in leaps and bounds.
14. Commit to only speaking positively about your spouse when around others. This one may be hard, especially for a full year. You may want to unload on other people the frustrations you feel about your husband leaving the toilet seat up, but resist. Your attitude about your spouse will affect how others view him, and when you choose to speak positively about him, you’ll find your attitude changing, too.