Happy New Year. There is something about flipping that calendar page (or opening a new one!) that brings renewed hope and optimism for all that a fresh start can bring.
While you are busy making resolutions to go to the gym or follow through with that new diet, I suggest that you also add a resolution to strengthen your marriage at the top of the list for this new year.
We all know by now that marriage is hard work, and in order to create a successful marriage that is the best reflection of ourselves and our partners, we have to put in the time and the effort to make our marriage as successful as everything else in our lives.
I know it can be hard to add one more thing to an already very long list of things to do, but your marriage deserves to be at the top of that to-do list.
Even if you and your partner resolve to focus on one key ingredient of a successful marriage per month, by the end of this new year, you will have spent the time cultivating a stronger relationship with your partner.
I tried to organize these elements of a successful marriage below in terms of ease and fun, so check them out and apply them to your relationship and bring more hope and love into your marriage this year.
1. Date often
This is a key element of a good marriage, and yet, often, it is the one thing we push to the side when life gets busy.
Dating your spouse takes time, money, and babysitters. As careers and parenting or caring for aging parents take priority, dating our spouse often gets moved to next week or next month and then not at all.
Call on the grandparents, the godparents, the neighbors, or the teenagers down the street to come over and play with the kids while you take your spouse out for coffee or dinner.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Even going for a walk in the park for an hour is a great way to spend time checking in with your spouse. Put this time on your calendar each week and be committed to it. I promise you and your partner will look forward to it! Plus, it leads directly to key #2.
2. Make a lot of love – A lot!
Physical intimacy is really central to a successful marriage. For so many of us, physical touch is our love language, and spending time connecting with our spouse makes us feel loved and wanted.
That’s really the key to what a successful marriage is all about.
When everything else in the world is crazy and stressful, the time you spend making love is an escape from the world with your partner.
You might not feel like you have the time to make love a lot, but I promise that if you make a plan with your spouse to make love even two, three or more times a week and really stick to it for a week or so, you will find your connection to be even stronger and you will discover ways to sneak in a lot more lovemaking every week!
3. Pray together
This is one of those keys that takes so little time from jampacked days but gives you space to breathe together.
Before bed each night or right after you tuck the little ones into bed and say prayers with them, pray with your partner.
Take a few minutes to offer thanks and grace to God and to each other. These quiet moments when you invite God into your marriage helps to strengthen your emotional connection to God and your partner.
If you’re like me, you are relatively quick to offer grace to the people we work with each day or to our children when they make mistakes.
Too often, we hold grudges or harbor anger with our spouse rather than offering them that same grace that flows so easily in many other areas of our lives.
Our spouses often take the brunt of our frustrations and our setbacks, and we forget that we have to also seek the good in them.
My wife didn’t mean to leave the dirty dishes in the sink overnight; she simply fell asleep after putting our daughter to bed. Instead of grumbling about the dishes, I need to offer her grace and just load the dishwasher and maybe bring her a cup of coffee too.
‘Being quick to grace and not to frustration’ goes a long way to setting our marriages up for success.
5. Forgive each other
This can be one of the hardest keys to embrace, especially if you typically hold a grudge. This key goes hand-in-hand with praying together and offering grace.
Forgiveness is an extension of both of those keys. Take a deep breath and forgive your husband for not remembering to stop and grab milk. Forgive your wife for shrinking your shirt.
But if you can forgive your partner, you can move forward together without anger or frustration, and that past pain can begin to heal.
Start small if you can and work up to those big situations. Forgiveness is a powerful tool in marriage and one that will help you to have a more successful marriage this year.
6. Have patience for each other
Parenting books talk about how children often behave the worst for their own parents because they are most comfortable and safe at home. I think the same holds true for successful marriages.
We often show our worst sides to our spouses because we are comfortable and safe with them. That can often look like frustration and a severe lack of patience.
We get frustrated when they take forever in the shower or when they aren’t home at the exact time they said. Remember, this is the person you love most in the world. Grant them the same patience you grant to your toddler at the very least.
7. Respect each other (in private and in public)
One of the highest compliments you can give to another person is to have them hear that you have been singing their praises to others when they aren’t even there.
If you said you would be home by 5, be home by 5 (as often as you can). If you are running late, respect your partner enough to call.
In private, respect your spouse by speaking to them as if they matter to you. Sing their praises in front of your children. Listen to them when they tell you about their day. It is such a simple gesture, and it matters.
8. Encourage each other
It is important to know your partner’s hopes and dreams. This new year is a great time to talk about your goals.
When your spouse shares their goals and resolutions with you for this year, encourage them to accomplish them. Make their goals as important as your own.
Be their biggest cheerleader, and do your best to help them and give them the space they need to meet their goals for the year. This also works for the goals you set together.
How can you push and support each other to be the best version of yourselves that you can be? Make your individual and couple goals a priority and celebrate your progress throughout the year.
9. Be careful who you vent to
Marriage can be downright frustrating at times. There are times when my wife and I can’t even be in the same room without purposefully trying to start a fight.
We are tired. We are frustrated. It can easy to escape to the office, the bedroom, the bathroom, and text or call your best friend to vent about how ridiculous your spouse is today.
There are times when that is needed, for sure. I’m not telling you to not hop into the conversation when all of your girlfriends are commiserating over a cocktail about their husbands.
I am telling you to remember that this is your partner and that the way you paint them when you vent is how your social world sees them.
Sharing stories of the ridiculous outfit your husband put on your daughter for the school that week (sorry, honey!) is one thing. Sharing stories of your latest serious fight is another thing.
How will your friends or neighbors view your spouse after that fight blows over, depending on what you say? Keep that in mind the next time you vent about your spouse.
10. Communicate effectively
Some couples use their date night time to check in each week. Some couples text or message all day long to stay in touch. Some couples discuss the happenings of the day in bed at night.
Figure out the best space to share your daily wins and frustrations and then use that space to do it.
Communicating effectively can be a difficult undertaking, but once you recognize how you and your spouse communicate and find common ground for that, communication becomes so much easier.
Maybe you need to write everything down in an email or text, so you remember how you feel and what you want to say. Maybe you have to listen to your spouse and then take five minutes to process before you respond.
Everyone communicates differently. The key is to figure out how you communicate and how your spouse communicates and figure out how to make those two methods work together.
Use this new year as the year to try new methods and new ways to share your days, your wins, and your losses with your spouse.
Maybe set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier so you can make coffee for them before they leave for work or have a cup together. Maybe swing by the store or market and grab flowers or their favorite ice cream because it is Tuesday.
Maybe send them a simple “I love you” or “You’re beautiful” text in the middle of the day. These little intentions add up to a relationship that has value and a spouse that feels valued.
12. Trust each other
Relationships are built on trust. It sounds like a cliche, but it is true. Do you trust that your spouse wants the best for you and your relationship? I hope that is an easy question to answer.
Trust that everything they do or don’t do is not meant to hurt you but that they are doing the best they can.
Trust that behind every decision they make is their love for you and your family.
Trust that they mean well, even if the outcome isn’t always what was expected.
It is not always easy to give your complete and total trust to anyone, but one of your goals for a successful marriage this year is to work on building that trust.
Cell phones can be so useful for work and for communication, but they can hurt your relationship.
I know that once my daughter is in bed, I hop on my phone to check emails, reply to messages, check Twitter, and Instagram. Next thing I know, an hour has gone by. My wife might be sitting right next to me, but we aren’t talking to each other.
Set a goal to spend one night a week phone and computer free. Start a new Netflix series together. Play a board game. Sit by the fire and talk to each other. Look at each other, not your screens.
I’m not saying that any of these keys are simple or easy, but what relationship is either of those things all the time?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Keishorne Scott is a Man of God, husband, great father, relationship coach, bestselling author and renowned speaker. Keishorne built his brand from scratch. At 25, he became a best-selling author of the inspirational book L.I.F.E, soaring to the New York Time’s bestseller list in 2012. At 27, he started his first company, Keishorne Scott, LLC, a relationship coaching and speaking business offering speaking engagements, workshops, conferences, seminars and reading the material.