You don’t have to be married long to realize that marriage can sometimes be a little bit tough.
Ok, who am I kidding? Marriage can be downright painful at times. 😬 We’re literally deciding to “do life” with another imperfect person (’cause you’re definitely imperfect, ya know), and hoping for a pretty great outcome. Marriage challenges us to look at our own weaknesses and the places that we just don’t seem too loving and decide to change them. It’s the marathon method of growing in your own sanctification.
But I don’t say all that to dissuade you from marrying or staying married. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m a huge fan of marriage. Marriage can be a lot of fun and it can serve as a series of lessons about God, his grace, and how to be more Christ-like. Not only that but in my humble opinion, marriage is the best way to travel this journey of life with another person.
So, to help you enjoy that journey a bit more, here are five ways to do marriage well and to build your oneness bond with each other.
#1: Play together
I know when I hear the words “play date,” I usually think of children, but adults can actually enjoy play time as well. When was the last time that you and your spouse went on a date (or hung out around the house) and just laughed together or got a little silly together?
Play is defined simply as “engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” And one sure way to know that you’re playing is that you find yourselves laughing together and enjoying the moment. By the way, couples who laugh together feel happier about their marriage. Laughter really is good and healthy for your relationship.
As we become adults, our busy lives often keep us from slowing down to smell the roses. Instead, we move from one activity to the next (including social media) and rarely take time to actually engage in fun activities. Some experts even say that more and more people are getting diagnosed with ADHD because we live in a world that demands so much of our attention that we have lost our ability to focus on the things we need to. Don’t let that be the case with your spouse! Take time to set responsibility aside to enjoy time together. (And, in case you’re wondering – yes. Sex can totally count as play.)
#2: Pray together
Actually, you can do all kinds of spiritual activities together that can build your marriage; attending church together, reading scripture together, listening to a religious podcast and talking to one another about what God is doing in your life.
By the way, religious practices and behaviors are actually a safeguard for your marriage. I’m sure you’ve heard the stats that Christian couples divorce just as often as non-Christians. Well, actually, those studies have simply asked people about religious preference. They have not asked about religious practice. When this research has been expanded to include religious practices, couples who engage in spiritual practices together are actually less likely to divorce. And that’s not because the couple feels like they have to stay together. It’s because they feel happier in their marriage and they feel MORE committed to each other.
You know the old Shakespeare quote, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Apparently, there’s more to it than just taking the name “Christian” to feel more intimate in marriage. It requires some action. But, the cool thing about taking that action is that you’ll feel closer to God and closer to one another.
By the way, if you’re looking to grow your spiritual intimacy as well as your physical and relational intimacy, you should definitely check out my free guide, Enhancing The Dance.
#3: Work together
I don’t mean at your full-time or part-time job and I certainly don’t mean that you should own a business together (though financially speaking – not a bad idea. #taxwriteoff). When I suggest that you work together, I mean working together as a team on the chores that need to be done in the house.
When couples are surveyed about who does the most housework, generally speaking, both partners say that they are the ones to do most of the work. It’s a statistical impossibility that both partners in the relationship do the majority of the work. See, problems don’t necessarily come because one does more than the other. The problem comes when one feels like the distribution of chores and duties is uneven. Sit down and talk with one another about how you see the distribution. Let your spouse know the chore that you hate the most and find out what your spouse’s most disliked chore is. Try to even things up a bit by taking turns with those most hated tasks.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes, it’s okay to leave some chores undone if you need to take a little break (see #1).
#4. Bring up the past
What?! Am I going there?
Not like you may think. When we take time to look back on positive memories, it can help us feel more positive about one another. There are probably several things that you can be thankful for in your marriage. Maybe you had some bad habits that have gone away since you got married. You might remember one of your first dates or something funny that happened between the two of you. Just maybe you can think back to something special about your wedding or just the fact that two of you have grown closer over the years.
Our brains actually have memory centers that connect to our emotions. This is why you can hear a song that takes you back to a special moment. Places and smells can do the same thing. Basically, any of your five senses can be used to remind you of something pleasurable or painful. To use this to the advantage of your relationship, take a moment to think back to something positive in your time together. Focus on a happy moment between the two of you and you’ll naturally feel a little more loving toward your spouse. Bonus points if you take one of those original memories with one another and find a way to incorporate it into your marriage all over again.
#5. Start a new hobby together.
This is a great way to build on your relationship because it causes you to break away from your normal routine, prioritize one another by finding time together, and build some positive memories. All three of these things help you to feel closer in the moment, and give you something to draw on later in your relationship (see #4).
There are plenty of options here even if money is tight. You might try doing a google search for “activities for couples” or look at events in your own city. It could also help to talk to one another about things you’d like to try but haven’t found the time to do. It may be gardening, a cooking class, dance lessons, finding trails to explore together, photography, or even game nights between the two of you.
Bonus: Build some community.
Community can be a real game-changer when it comes to growing your marriage. Couples who have a supportive community around them are far less likely to divorce and far more likely to have a sense of happiness in their marriage. I really believe there are a couple of reasons that community helps so much.
First of all, it’s just nice to know that you’re not alone in a difficult season. We can get really overwhelmed when we feel like everyone but us seems to have it together. Community can be a good reminder that we all have difficult seasons and that we all get to make the choice to keep growing in maturity and growing closer to one another.
Secondly, we’re just stronger together. In my community group, couples encourage one another, share tips for things that have worked for them, and share some of their own aches so that nobody feels alone. It’s a great way to get solid advice and help from other Christians. You can check out our group here.
So there you have it. Six ways to build on your relationship to feel closer to one another. Which one will you try first?
Wishing you hope and happiness!