Still Standing: 10 Healthy Habits for a Happy Marriage

Habits For A Health Marriage - City Moms Blog Network

I got a good one. No, scratch that. A great one. The best of the best. I can hashtag #myhusbandisbetterthanyourhusband and actually own it in my gut. I am truly blessed. And as this month marks 10 years that I have been married to the best, I’ve been reflecting on the road we have traveled that has placed us where we are today: feeling grateful.

The fact that we are still standing, are still married, and still really, really like each other has nothing to do with how great I think my man is or what he thinks of me. No, our marital status stands alone on the grace of God; we can both attest to this. On top of that, marriage is work. Hard work. Anyone who thinks they can dive into these waters without some serious training and constant effort is sorely mistaken.

We have been through some rough waters in our short 10-year story. We didn’t have “rocky” patches. We had mountainous months and ravines of grief. We suffered the “seven-year itch” and added three kids to the mix. And though in the world of marriage we are still newbies, we’ve figured out a few tricks of the trade that propel us to press on.

10 Healthy Habits from 10 Years of Marriage

Date regularly.

No, I don’t mean other people. I mean each other. When my husband and I were first married, an older and much wiser couple from church encouraged us to get out together alone at least once a week. This was a piece of cake as newlyweds. We’d take long runs together in the early evening, drive out to the beach on Friday nights, take day trips on Saturdays—it was bliss. But by the time our first baby came along, we realized our dating life needed to change drastically. We no longer had the freedom to hit the ground running at 8:00 P.M.; we were running a bed-and-bath routine at that hour.

Our life post-baby contrasted significantly with our pre-baby existence, yet we committed to continue our dating routine on a regular basis. The first week we brought our son home from the hospital, a dear friend offered to take care of him so we could go out. Reluctant as I was to leave him, my husband insisted. That small gesture set the tone for our dating relationship for the rest of our marriage.

I watched my own parents date their way through marriage. Every Friday night a babysitter watched my brother and me so Mom and Dad could go out. And now, years later, our three kids can count on a Friday night babysitter so my husband and I can get out together alone. These dates continue to solidify our relationship, providing time for us to talk about what’s important without little ears around.

Surprise one another.

Small acts of surprise keep our relationship exciting. I have my husband and his ingenuity to thank for this. Be it a weekend getaway or flowers for no reason, unexpected treats let your spouse know he or she is on your mind. Not long ago, my spouse arrived home from work with a present in hand. I was still dressing for our date. He had stopped at my favorite boutique on his way home to buy a necklace for me to wear out that night. Now, every time I wear that necklace I think about his small yet grand gesture, and it makes me feel as if we’re newlyweds all over again.

Practice praise.

I said it before: marriage is hard work. Our spouses deserve a “thank you” from time to time and lots of praise because they are working HARD. Not only that, but they are working hard to love people who are hard to love. We women are a hormonal brood.

Melissa Kruger, a popular author, recently wrote, “It’s a hopeful endeavor to look for signs of God’s redeeming work in each other.” What a concept! Your spouse is not so bad after all. In fact, there are a lot of things your spouse is doing really well right now. What are they? Tell him. Praise him. Anything from “Thanks for making the bed this morning” to “You’ve been loving our family really well lately. I appreciate you.”

Last week I told my husband after church how handsome he looked. He reached over to kiss me gently, and as he returned the compliment I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had complimented his handsomeness. Shame on me, because I got a good one.

Be kind.

This is so basic, yet so easy to forget when one is in the trenches of marriage. You’ve had a long day parenting children, running carpool, battling the store with your littles, and you come home to a messy house and a sink full of dishes. Your husband walks in the door chipper as a bird and exclaims, “Honey, I’m home!” Now in the days of black and white TV and Donna Reed and June Cleaver, a wife would reapply lipstick, adjust her dress, and scurry to greet her husband at the door with a kiss. These days, I look up at my husband as he enters the kitchen, frown, and tell him how awful my day has been and how I’m dying for a glass of wine and a foot rub. And you know what? My sweet spouse will actually give me a foot rub later on. Doesn’t he deserve my kindness? Not because he’s Superman and he’s been out saving the world, but because he’s my husband and I love him. And when I said “I do,” I think somewhere in those powerful, life-changing vows it was assumed that we would be kind to one another.

Hold short accounts.

Holding short accounts will help you be nice. This is difficult for me, because sometimes I like to give the silent treatment for a long time after an argument to justify my anger. It’s just plain immature and wrong. Through the years we’ve learned to talk things out right away, even when it’s hard. Failure to hold short accounts breeds bitterness, and nobody wants to go to bed with a bitter spouse.

We’re still young in marriage but feeling a bit older, and hopefully a bit wiser. And as I continue to reflect on the road we’ve traveled thus far, one thing is clear: I got the better end of the deal.

Go to bed together.

Another wise old couple offered us a word of advice when were were engaged: “Always go to bed at the same time.” It seemed so odd to me then. What if one of us was up late working on something and the other wanted to go to bed? What happens if one of us wants to watch a late night show and the other is pooped?

Despite my initial surprise at this suggestion, we have unexpectedly stuck by this principle as much as possible. Do we go to bed at the exact same time every night? No. I’m a night owl, so I’m typically reading late into the night while my husband snores next to me. But, we do get in bed at the same time. Does it seem a little 1950s? Maybe. But it works.

Now, we’re not perfect. We have veered from this principle a few times under extreme circumstances (like when the hubs was in seminary and needed to study for finals, or when we don’t get home until 10:00 P.M. but I want to stay up and watch the latest episode of The Bachelorette). But when we are able to cuddle up after a long day of work and child-rearing, we’re perfectly together.

Go to bed together.

Yes, you heard me. You’re married, so sex should be a part of your regular routine. I’m sure by now you’ve realized why the wise old couple encouraged us to get in bed at the same time together every night.

Also, as our kids grow older, we’ve realized the importance of scheduling sex. Yes, long gone are the days and nights when we had endless energy that yielded a frisky and spontaneous sex life. Three kids later, ain’t nobody got time for that. So, we learned from the best—this time not a wise, old couple from church, but Adam and Christina from Parenthood. (Remember that show?!) In one of our favorite episodes Adam asks Christina if she wants to go to “Funky Town” after the kids go to bed. When she replies exhaustedly that she’s too tired, he suggests they schedule it for the next night. Borrowing from Adam, it is not uncommon for a message to pop up from the hubs on my iCal: “Thursday night: Funky Town?”

Turn off the TV.

This is common sense, folks. No screens means more time for (gasp!) interaction with your spouse. Now, we’re not above watching shows. One of our favorite things to do together is grab a glass of wine and watch reruns of The Office or Arrested Development, but early on we committed to keep our bedroom, well, exactly what it is meant to be: a room for a bed. We’ve kept our TV in the living room so that when we retire to our bedroom, all we’ve got is our bed and some good conversation. Unless, of course, Funky Town is on our calendar that night.

Get by with a little help from your friends.

We would not be where we are today without help, guidance, and lots of wisdom from others who have gone before us in this marriage journey or solid friends who stick by us. If you’re going through a rough patch, do not be afraid to ask for help or seek counsel. We cling to married folks who have been in the game a lot longer than us and try to imitate whatever they do that’s right. So far, this seems to work.

We are also brutally honest with our friends about what is really going on with us. Two of our dearest friends once flew to the middle of nowhere in Indiana to act as our advocates for an intense weekend of marriage counseling. Not your typical idea of a vacation with friends, but to this day some of our richest memories stem from that time: the four of us staying up into the wee hours of morning hashing through life’s difficulties—praying together, crying together, and laughing until we thought we had hernias.

Marry up.

By now it’s clear we have a lot of older and wiser friends. Find some. They are essential to marriage growth and vital to marriage health. One of these older, wiser friends of mine told me before I was even married, “Both you and your husband should always think that you got the better end of the deal.”

This has been a gold nugget for us. Even when we are struggling, I am still grateful for my spouse. I remind myself of all the amazing qualities he possesses that make him the husband and father he is to our family. I acknowledge my own faults and areas where I need to grow and give thanks that no matter what, my husband loves me in spite of myself.

And because my husband reminds himself of the same, we can both acknowledge daily, “Man, I married up.” This means feeling grateful daily instead of discouraged, no matter what the rest of our daily life looks like.

We’re not perfect, but we’re perfectly paired. Ten years feels like a lifetime, and yet at the same time it doesn’t. We’re still young in marriage but feeling a bit older, and hopefully a bit wiser. And as I continue to reflect on the road we’ve traveled thus far, one thing is clear: I got the better end of the deal.

Contributing Sister Site and Author

About {Lisa}

Though Lisa grew up in San Antonio, she has spent the latter part of her life in different states and countries serving on Young Life staff and in ministry with her husband, Bryce, only to make her way back when her husband landed a job here two years ago. Life has taken many twists and turns for the Wallers, but they are thankful to be back in Texas and love exploring San Antonio, especially the city’s up-and-coming restaurant scene. Lisa is mom to Liam (7), Ryan (5), and Emma (2). She loves adventuring and exploring the city with her family, running, writing (obvi), and cooking (or acting as sous chef for the hubs while he cooks). She loves the Lord, and though a ragamuffin at best, is trying to raise her kids to love the heck out of Jesus.