I often get asked for advice about how to keep a marriage healthy. I meet a lot of newly engaged couples, and I’m always delighted when that question is asked. It’s so encouraging when a couple is proactive about building a strong marriage before their wedding day.
Niko and I have only been married for about 5 years (this August), so I’m no expert on the subject. In many ways I still feel like a novice, having to learn the same lesson over and over again. I have, however, made a lot of mistakes and consequently learned a thing here and there. I’m sharing these lessons with you at the risk of feeling vulnerable because I believe in marriage. It’s why I do what I do. When done right, marriage makes us better, kinder people. It’s the foundation of a healthy family, and it’s a glorious picture of the way God loves us.
I realize what is true of my marriage may not be true of yours, but I’ll write this like I’m talking to you. You can take from it what you need.
photos by the lovely Lindsey Nicole Photography
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned about maintaining a healthy marriage:
Lesson #1: Consistency is key. Give a kiss every day. Say “goodbye” each time you leave and “goodnight” before bed. Consistency says “I see you.”
Lesson #2: His/her feelings and insecurities likely run as deep as yours, even when he or she looks and feels completely put together.
Lesson #3: Ego is the enemy and communication is the most underrated tool in your toolbox.
Lesson #4: If you’re arguing with your spouse and you don’t reach a moment of deeper compassion, understanding, and respect for him or her, you’re not doing it right.
Lesson #5: Unmet expectations often say a lot more about you and your flawed heart than it does about him or her.
Lesson #6: A marriage without prayer is a vulnerable marriage.
Lesson #7: At some point, you will be inclined to notice the one thing he or she did wrong, and fail to see the 20 things he or she did right. When that happens, change what you’re looking at.
Lesson #8: If you’re working through a problem, seek the counsel of someone wise and trusted – someone who loves you both. Never air your dirty laundry, and always build up your spouse in public.
Lesson #9: Protect your marriage. Safeguard your heart and mind each day. If you don’t, no one will.
Lesson #10: There will be likely be seasons of little and of plenty. Find a way to be grateful for both.
There’s so much to learn. Growing a healthy marriage is a lifelong task. The minute you have a rhythm, something changes and, suddenly, you have to learn all over again. Still, marriage is a noble venture and worth every second of the sometimes painful, heart-changing, self-sacrificing work it requires. Marriage is a beautiful thing. I’ll continue to celebrate it with art and words because through this work, as couples trust me to honor their personal and unique story, I learn more and more about this incredible gift of love we’ve been given.
Now, I want to hear from you. What’s one lesson you relate to or a different lesson you’ve learned through marriage??