Marriage is my favorite. What’s better than having a sleepover with your best friend every night, doing life with another person, and being led in life and love by a person your heart is permanently woven with?
Now, I get it. Marriage isn’t always sunshine and daisies. In fact, sometimes it’s rainstorms and treacherous terrain. But the beautiful thing about marriage is that God created it in His image for His glory.
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)
The thing about marriage is that men and women are vastly different. A pastor of mine put it this way: Men are like waffles. Everything fits into a box, or a category. Things don’t make sense outside of that box, and things don’t typically cross over into other boxes.
Women on the other hand are like a big plate of spaghetti. The noodles intertwine with one another, and lead down hundreds of different trains of thought, all of which cross paths and become connected to each other.
We think differently and we act differently because God designed woman from man. Not to compete, but to complement one another.
Marriage is not for the faint of heart, but it is definitely one of the most rewarding blessings God has given us as His people. Like any good and perfect gift from above, marriage takes stewardship and steadfastness to truly succeed.
Here are 5 pieces of marriage advice guaranteed to transform your marriage.
1. Intentionality is Everything
You may have heard of Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages.” The ingenious book and quiz takes couples through five different ways in which people FEEL the most loved: Quality time, acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, and gifts.
Every person on earth has the desire to love and be loved. The thing is, that we often give love to others the way we need to be loved, rather than the unique ways they need to receive love.
Take my husband and I for example. I remember when we were dating, we went on a two week trip together. The first week was spent in Charleston with friends for a wedding. Then we headed from the east coast to the west coast for a church planting conference in Newport Beach, California. We spent the week in a beach house with 15 other church staff members and their spouses.
I remember as we boarded the plane to head home to Colorado, Neil looked at me and said, “I can’t wait to get home so we can have a date.” Admittedly, I was confused. I mean, I loved the life out of this man, and would never turn down an opportunity to spend time with him. But we had just been together for two weeks straight. What did he mean “we need a date?”
It turns out, my husband’s love language is quality time. After two weeks together, I thought we had spent plenty of quality time together, but that just wasn’t the case. You see, we had spent TIME together, but 95% of that time was spent with other people or sleeping. There was nothing intentional about it. Nothing to make Neil feel like I loved him and that he had my undivided, and adoring attention.
This realization really put things into perspective for me. Knowing what your spouse needs from you to feel truly loved by you takes intentionality. Intentionality in a marriage will go further than almost anything else. Know each other’s love styles, and be intentional with what you know.
2. Standing Date Nights
Listen, there’s a lot of opinion about this piece of marriage advice. But for my husband and I, this is something that truly works.
Think about this: My husband’s love language is quality time. A standing date night every Thursday ensures that even on our busiest weeks, we create an opportunity to be intentional with each other.
We put away the phones, go out to eat somewhere new, or play putt putt (Neil’s favorite). It can be the same, or it can be different every week, because truly, the date doesn’t matter. It’s the time and heart behind it that does.
I look forward to date night every week, whether or not I need the quality time to feel the most loved that week. It’s an intentional way for Neil and I to enjoy each other’s company, refocus on each other and our needs, and hold ourselves and our marriage accountable.
It also creates a space to have intentional conversation. So much of the week is spent discussing what’s for dinner, or how a lunch meeting went. Standing date night allows us to shift our hearts, talk honestly about what the Lord is doing in them, and dream big, scary God-sized dreams together about the future and what He has for us.
Those kinds of conversations are a MUST in marriage. But they’re not easily had without intentionality. Date your spouse, and put one thing on the calendar that you can actually look forward to every week.
3. Press Pause
THIS is probably my favorite piece of marriage advice I’ve ever received.
Growing up, my parents fought…a LOT. Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing parents, who love my sisters and I incredibly well. But I learned a thing or two from them in how NOT to fight with your spouse.
Fighting is necessary in any relationship. Whenever two people are joined together, there is bound to be something that you don’t agree on. But, there is an art to fighting well in a marriage.
Unlike my parents, who would verbally tear each other apart for hours, and always found a way to enlist the support of my sisters and I on one side or the other, a healthy fight is less about arguing, and more about timing.
Fights are rooted in feelings. We often feel hurt or disrespected by the other person. And when we lead fights with our feelings, things can escalate quickly, seeking a slick jab to those buttons we know so intimately how to press, rather than rationality and Truth.
When we were going through premarital counseling, our pastor taught us the art of “pressing pause” on a fight — not to avoid the conversation, but to reschedule it at a time when emotions aren’t running so high.
How often do fights break out on the way to church on Sunday morning? Or on your way home from date night? What about in the kitchen, three minutes before your in-laws are supposed to arrive?
We’ve learned how to say, “I don’t think this is a good time to talk about this,” and plan a more appropriate time to fight. And you know what? Our fights are wonderful. They aren’t screaming matches that I grew up with, or a mask to avoid something uncomfortable. They’re controlled, and they’re cordial, and they’re from a place of intentionality rather than anguish.
Marriage is bound to bring fights. But, when we take a breath, put the conversation on pause, and schedule a time to revisit the topic, it allows us the time to process our own emotions before spewing them onto the person we love. We can identify why we’re feeling the way we are, what we need from our spouse, and how to speak truth, rather than making emotionally-driven accusations.
Press pause on your next fight, and see how the art of fighting well will truly transform your marriage.
4. Strengthen Your Sex Life
Y’all, sex between a husband and wife is truly a gift from above. Ironically though, while it’s the thing that we most anticipated in leading up to marriage, it’s also the one thing that most women have the least amount of interest or time for.
I once read an article from a gal who said she has sex with her husband every single night. I was intrigued, and in reading it, I gained some beautiful perspective I’m going to pass onto you here.
The author writes about a time she was getting her nails done as a teenager and overheard a group of women discussing how much they dreaded having sex with their husbands. Not because of anything that was wrong in the marriage, but because of things that every woman can relate to: distractions and self-deprecation.
One woman was simply too tired by the end of the day to roll in the hay, while the other was uncomfortable in her own skin after giving birth to several children. Their feelings were valid, but they also taught the author a valuable lesson from the chair at a nail salon.
Women love to be pampered, and quite frankly, we need the TLC and alone time as often as we can get it. Getting our nails done is something that feels good and makes us feel better than when we walked in. Doesn’t sex do the same thing?
Sex with your husband FEELS good. And it feels good to make your husband feel good. If given the option to get a pedicure everyday, I wouldn’t turn it down. So why do we often allow the busyness of life to stand in the way of our own personal pampering? Be intentional with your sex life. In marriage, you’re the only two people on earth who can pamper the other person in that way, so do it often and do it well.
5. Close the Gap for any Unmet Expectations
The one thing more deadly to a marriage than sex or money is unmet expectations. We constantly have a dialogue running through our heads, and a need for different things from our spouse, yet so often we don’t communicate those needs. We assume our spouse should know these things, and open the door for satan to speak lies into our relationships. This in turn, leads to frustration, anger, and unmet expectations
Something that my husband and I started doing just days after we got married was asking how we can love each other better right now. For me, it started from a place of insecurity and feeling like I was failing as a wife.
By asking my husband what he needs from me to feel the most loved on any given day or week, I’m able to squash those insecurities with his expectations. And in turn, I get the opportunity to share my expectations and needs with him.
What we found is that the more often we acquire this small, but significant information about each other, the less often we actually have a response when this question comes up. Still, we ask. Because love languages change. Some weeks are harder than others, God works in hearts differently, and the only way to be sure of what your spouse needs from you, is to lean in and ask.
Marriage is my favorite. And while I know that no marriage is perfect, marriage itself was created in God’s image for His glory. May the the ways we love our spouse reflect God’s love for Christ and His Church. And may we love and honor each other in a way that reflects such.