My wife and I just celebrated 13 years of marriage.
While we clearly don’t know everything there is about marriage, I’m convinced that we’ve learned at least one important thing about marriage for every year we’ve been married. We’re also certain that many of you are much more qualified to write this post. However, since it’s my blog, I guess I have the opportunity to share my thoughts.
13 Tips for a Successful Marriage
1. Avoid debt.
Anytime you invite debt into your home, you invite an extra layer of stress. Debt is a mistake magnifier. Look, I’m not a perfect husband and have made some dumb money mistakes costing us hundreds of dollars. Each time, my wife has forgiven me. I think it’s partly because we don’t live near any financial cliffs where a misstep will cause the whole foundation to crumble.
Avoiding debt is also a dream launcher. We’ve been able to pursue some amazing opportunities because we weren’t petrified about the financial implications.
2. Experiences are more important than stuff.
This could just be a personal preference, but we’ve always made an effort to ‘do things’ instead of ‘collect things’. As such, we’ve been able to take some very memorable family trips and experience so many fantastic things. One day our memories will fade away just like all our things will fade away, but our experiences have brought us closer together in ways that I’m sure stuff couldn’t.
3. Embrace changes instead of fighting them.
We’ve moved more times that the average couple celebrating 13 years of marriage. Soon we’ll have lived in 4 different states and two different countries in the last 13 years.
Each time we’ve moved, we’ve done our best to embrace changes.
As an example, when we moved to PNG and couldn’t have turkey for Christmas, we bought shrimp and went to the beach. This year, we decided to try and go sledding every time it snowed. Why fight something you can’t change? Why complain about something when you could use that energy to find the beauty in your current situation?
4. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Someone recently said that, when it comes to texting, you lose so much context that it’s hard to determine the tone of a text. Are they saying this good thing, or are they saying that bad thing? The encouragement was to always give the benefit of the doubt and assume the text had a positive message.
I think this applies well to marriage. If you find yourself wondering why your spouse did something, give them the benefit of the doubt as long as the benefit of the doubt is a legitimate option.
5. Have realistic expectations of your spouse.
I don’t expect my wife to be perfect (even though she’s closer than most). I married a woman who is in need of the grace of God. I’m such a man as well. Don’t expect your spouse to be something impossible – perfect. Don’t expect them to always know what your feeling. Don’t expect them to have the perfect response to every situation. Don’t expect them to do everything in the best way possible.
Happiness if often proportionately related to the level of expectation and the actual experience of an event.
6. Never criticize each other in public.
You’ll be tempted to talk about all your spouse’s weaknesses when the guys are together or the girls are together. Don’t. Honor your wife. Honor your husband. Commit to only saying things that lift them up and not tear them down.
7. Don’t keep your spouse closer than God.
This is something I’ve been struggling with over the last few years. While I deeply love my wife and I plan to continue to do so, I do want to be sure that I don’t love my wife more than I love God. I’m very dependent on my wife to complete me in ways that I know only God can fully satisfy and complete me. Your spouse is a partner in your faith journey, but must never become your full source of hope, joy, and happiness.
8. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
In our home, we’ve done our best (with lots of failures) to keep our primary covenant to God. We’ve been blessed each and every time we’ve decided to do what God wants over and above our own wants. We’ve also found that the times we did what we want, there was less joy and satisfaction.
9. Avoid parasites.
A parasite is anything that you start doing that has the potential to increasingly consume more of your time, attention, and effort. There is no universal list since your personality dictates what parasites can impact your marriage. It could be television, iPhone, pornography, friendships, Faceboook, Twitter, or more. Flee from anything – no matter how small – that starts to demand more.
10. Don’t put a TV in the bedroom.
Hey, what can I say. Someone gave us this advice, and we’ve been blessed by it. I turn into a vegetable anytime there is a TV in a room. That’s the biggest reason why we don’t have cable TV in our home – ME. Interestingly, technology has challenged this old fashioned rule as the iPhone and Kindle sit on my nightstand. I actually just finished up a 30 day challenge where I didn’t watch anything in bed on my device. The point is this – where there is a distraction, we’ll opt for it. When there’s no distraction, you’re more likely to connect with each other on many different levels.
11. Pray every night before going to bed.
My wife encouraged us to do this when we first got married. (Yes, I’m a blessed man.) Each night before going to bed, we hand everything over to God. He ultimately is in control, and so we find our peace and rest in him.
12. Accept emotional storms as a normal part of a healthy marriage.
It’s normal to feel distant from each other from time to time. We’ve definitely had times when we’ve felt like we’re not connecting. Our relationship is mature enough now that we talk openly about it when we both recognize it, but that doesn’t fix it. Sometimes we just confess to each other that we don’t know why we’re feeling the distance, but we know that the phase will pass.
Marriage is not always ice cream and pie. You do have to eat your veggies sometimes.
13. Treat life as an adventure.
We’ve had some amazing experiences as husband and wife, and even now as a family. Don’t let people convince you that you need to put life on hold because you have kids. Don’t let people convince you to always take the predictable path. Life is a tremendous blessing from God. So I think we embrace it and walk into unknown places knowing that in it we’ll be surprised once again that God is there and that God is faithful.
Do you have any successful marriage tips to share?