Twenty years ago I married my best friend! He has kept me laughing (as he promised when he proposed) and we have had many adventures together! We have experienced great joys and grief so intense that I thought my heart would break! Life hasn’t turned out quite how we expected, but through it all we have felt God blessing and guiding our lives. Feeling thankful and blessed!
Here are 20 Tips from 20 Years of Marriage:
1. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100.
That means you are always giving 100% to your marriage and your spouse is too. At different points in your marriage this is going to look differently than other times. Sometimes one partner has more to give than the other, and it is still 100%.
2. Put God First in Your Life and Your Spouse Second
This was the advice my dad gave to us when we got married. I have found this to be true. If you put God first, He will help you remember to put your spouse second. You can even ask His help with this in prayer. God wants your marriage to work and be a happy one. Put God first.
3. Continual Courtship
Just because you said “I do,” doesn’t mean you stop dating your spouse. In fact, it should be the signal that you should keep dating to keep your marriage alive. I found this to be particularly important once children started coming along. We both needed a break, and it was nice to take it together. Schedule a regular date night and stick to it–it is cheaper than a divorce.
Keep your marriage alive!
4. A Little Games Go a Long Way
I remember when we first got married we were on a shoestring budget and had to get creative with our dating. One time we went to Walmart, purchased a Yahtzee game for $5.86, and went home and played Yahtzee for our date. It was cheap, it was fun, and we got a game that we could use over and over. We have learned card games, board games, and have had to learn to have fun with each other and be good sports whether we are winning or losing.
Secondary tip: Don’t be too ruthless with your spouse, you have to sleep next to them at night.
5. Sleep with Separate Blankets
For the first many years of our marriage Justin and I shared a blanket in our bed. The only problem was he sleeps hot and I sleep cold. One of the best things I can suggest for others in this situation is to sleep with separate blankets. It has worked really well and we now are both quite happy with our bedding. Mine is thick and his is thin.
6. Share a Checking Account
Before Justin and I got married we went to a marriage prep class together. We learned some great things in that class, and one interesting one was to share the same checking account. This teaches a couple the concept that it isn’t “his” money and “her” money separately. It is your money and you need to work together to budget and save and be accountable to each other. This has been great advice for us. We have had a joint checking account from day one and had to work together to make it work. And it has worked.
7. Stay out of Debt
This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to any couple–especially if you are starting off. You don’t need the newest and flashiest couch, television, decor or bedding. You can use secondhand furniture, giveaways from aunt Mabel, and shop at garage sales and you will still live. Stay out of debt.
If you can’t afford it, don’t get it. Live by this! It will make all the difference in the world if you do. Work together with your spouse to quickly pay off any debts you have as you start marriage and never spend more than you make!!!
I remember balancing our checkbook to see if I could afford to buy milk when we were newlyweds. I cut coupons. We worked hard and we made it work with what we had.
I highly suggest Dave Ramsey’s program for anyone who wants to achieve this dream of getting out of debt. It is possible!
8. Pay your Tithing
One of the keys to staying financially on top of things is putting God first in your finances. Always pay God his 10% first and then watch how He blesses you to use the other 90% in amazing ways. When we had been married for 4 years we had two children and we lived in Southern California on one income. Yes, Southern California. Do you know how expensive it is to live there? Yikes!
We barely made it through month to month, but we saw so many blessings and miracles from paying our tithing. God seemed to always open a door when we needed something. For example, I vividly remember needing clothes for our growing boys and finding a garage sale where a lady was selling barely used boy clothes for 25 cents to a dollar each. I couldn’t grab clothes quickly enough!
I remember buying a refrigerator for $25 out of the classified ads, a mattress for $30 for a guest bedroom, or I remember learning to reupholster a chair with a friend to save money. When you put God first in your finances, learn to look for and find miracles daily.
9. Pray Together Daily
This advice was given to us by the man that married us. He encouraged us to kneel down together every night and take turns praying. Justin takes the odd days (because he says he is odd) and I take the even days. It works out and it has been a blessing to pray together through the challenges of life and the moments of gratitude.
10. Teach & Work Together with Your Children
If your marriage is blessed with children, take weekly opportunities to teach your children together. This can mean teaching principles like the importance of being h0nest, kind, loving, following Jesus, and working hard. We have done this weekly and it has strengthened our marriage and our family.
We have also worked together to clean and tidy the home side by side and with our children. This has also taught our children that mom and dad work together. It is important to lead by example.
11. Tag Team
I remember being so exhausted with a crying baby some nights that I would start crying too. I don’t know if it was just the constant lack of sleep or the hormones that were raging after giving birth, but there were nights when I couldn’t give any more. Sometimes Justin would hear me crying and tag team me so that I could get some sleep. Other times I had to go tap him on the shoulder and beg for some sleep.
We also tag teamed a lot with our boys with autism that didn’t sleep well for about a decade of our marriage. It also came in handy when one or the other of us was having a hard day and completely out of patience. It was good for the other spouse to step in and say, “Go take a break. I’ve got this.” So, tag team when your spouse needs a break. It might just save them!
12. Be Faithful
In today’s society with it’s constant barrage of touched up photos, pornography, and the declining importance of marriage, it is crucial to be faithful to your spouse only! You are going to see and meet people that are interesting and funny and enticing along the way, but keep the old adage in mind, “Go into marriage with your eyes wide open, and blinders on thereafter.”
Pray for help with this. God wants you to be faithful to your spouse, and you can be. Grow old together and learn to love your spouse without hair, with wrinkles and with love handles.
Someday we will all get resurrected bodies and will be totally HOT for eternity. So, keep that perspective in mind. Love them just as they are and be faithful.
13. Be Patient
Marriage requires patience, and you may as well start praying that you can be patient with your spouse. You live with them day in and day out you get to see the best and worst of them. Be patient with their quirks, their struggles, and their failings. You are both imperfect people doing your best.
Keep those communication lines open and patiently discuss struggles and challenges together.
14. Say, “I’m Sorry” Often
You will fight. Hopefully not often, but when you do be sure to sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes you both need time to cool off. I remember hearing from a grandmother figure once that you should never go to be angry. I don’t know that I agree with this because there have been times when we have gone to bed angry, but by the next day the embers of anger had cooled a little and we were able to say “Sorry” and kiss and make up.
I have learned it is important to say “Sorry” whether I was at fault or not. Saying “Sorry” often can save a marriage.
15. Share Common Interests
Find things that you enjoy doing together and do them. Justin and I love exploring National Parks and being out in nature together. We love hiking and exploring and having fun in the wide outdoors. So, we schedule time together and as a family doing these types of things. It makes us both happy and we enjoy ourselves.
16. Be a Supportive Spouse with Talent Development
For several years I worked helping direct a large choir. I was developing my organizing and directing skills and Justin was a very supportive spouse and encouraged me to keep going (even though it required some sacrifice on his part–he was home with the children).
At another point in our marriage, Justin was involved with Scouting and the constant merit badge clinics and scout camps and weekly meetings. It was my turn to be the supportive spouse as he taught young boys to learn survival skills, camping skills, and leadership skills.
There will be times in your marriage when you will need to be the supportive spouse and there will be times when you will be the supported spouse as you develop your own talents. Be supportive and encouraging. It is important to encourage your spouse to keep learning and growing and exploring what they can do with the talents God has given them.
17. Do Things with Them Because They Love It
Justin loves college football. He loves watching it and going to games. I will be the first to admit that watching football is not my favorite pastime, but I go and I sit next to him and cheer the team because I love my husband and I want to spend time with him. Now, that doesn’t mean I watch every game he watches, but I try to spend time with him when he is watching a game now and then.
I love music and plays, and they are not my husband’s favorite thing. But every once in a while we got to a play or a musical production together because he loves me.
In marriage it is all about a little give and take and compromise.
18. Help Each Other Around The House
My parents grew up in an era where there were men’s chores around the house and women’s chores around the house.
Justin and I have tried to be more progressive in our roles in the home. He helped change diapers and do dishes and I helped take the trash out and fix things when they were broken. We helped each other around the house no matter the chore. Sometimes we divided and conquered different chores and sometimes we worked together.
The important thing here is communication about what is expected so that you can each fulfill each other’s expectations for the day or around the home or in the activities you do.
19. Show Love and Affection
I have love the statement, “One of the greatest things a man can do for his children is love their mother.”
Did you know that there are 5 Love Language and it is probably pretty important to know which one your spouse needs. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/2018/06/the-five-love-languages-defined/
- Physical touch is one of the 5 Love Languages. So, give hugs, kisses and show affection to each other–even and perhaps especially in front of your children. I know they may say “Ew, gross,” but deep down I bet they are glad to know that their parents love each other.
- Another way to show love and affection is by serving each other and doing kind things for your spouse.
- A third way to show love is by giving gifts.
- The fourth way is by spending quality time with your spouse.
- And the fifth way is by saying words of affirmation.
20. Say “I Love You” Often
Last but not least, say “I love you” often. Your spouse needs to know you love them–both by saying it an and by showing it in actions.
So there you have it. Twenty tips from 20 years. I could probably think of 10 more tips if I tried. What are some things you have done to keep your marriage strong?