This is the most important thing you can do to get your marriage off to a good start. Premarital counseling will help you conquer areas of possible conflict early on. We recommend working with your pastor or mentor. You can also work through a book, such as “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” (find info on this book and others on our Resources Page) If you are already married it’s not too late. Go through one of these books as soon as possible. It’s never too late to get your marriage on the right path.
We put forgiveness at the top of the list, for a very good reason. You are married to a human being. Surprise! There will be mistakes made. Your spouse will not meet every need, you will not agree on everything, you will stumble and fall along the way. Learn the fine art of forgiveness. Good marriages embrace forgiveness and use it regularly.
Your Marriage must be a priority. It comes before friends, family, in-laws, work, outside obligations and yes…..Children. Those things can be very important but your marriage should always come first. (After God that is) Set up regular times to go on dates. Set aside regular times to talk about your day/week. Set aside time for intimacy. Set aside time to just have fun together and don’t forget to say “I Love You'” regularly. If you and your spouse have been neglecting your marriage, go back to #2 and Forgive. Then go to the calendar and write in some marriage time.
Learn and practice good communication skills. Every area of your marriage is effected by good or bad communication. Learn your spouse’s “Love Language”. Take personality tests to understand your differences in communication. Work hard at this! Communication is one of the hardest and most rewarding skills in your marriage. When communication fails, return to #2 Forgive! and then try again.
#5 Get A Hold of Your Finances
Did you know that finances are the #1 reason for conflict in marriage? Financial stress is a marriage killer. Noted financial expert Larry Burkett states that “almost 80% of couples who divorced by age 30 indicated that financial problems were a primary cause of their divorce”. It pays to get your finances in order. (No pun intended) There is more to money than getting on a budget. You must also understand how you and your spouse value and relate to money. One may value money as security while the other may use money as a way to make them feel happy. Conflict comes when your don’t understand one another. Money values develop while children are being raised. Acknowledging these differences will establish common ground for better understanding. When you or your spouse messes up financially, return to #2 Forgive! Then come up with a plan to recover.
#6 Set Goals
Couples who dream together stay together. I know that sounds cliche but it is so true. Having hope in the future and working towards a goal together brings couples closer. Whether it is a large financial goal, just a goal for that backyard oasis, or even a shared hobby; reaching a goal together will add a sense of team work to your marriage. Set a regular time (ie. once a year or every 6 months) to spend the weekend writing down your future goals. Be sure to write down the steps needed to achieve those goals. Include a time line and an estimated completion date. Goals may need to be adjusted as unforeseen circumstances come into play. Just reevaluate and keep moving forward.
Intimacy is very different for Men and Women. Women want to feel Secure, Safe and Loved. Their stress level will be considerably lower if their husbands meet those needs. Men on the other hand, want to be Praised, Adored and Fulfilled. A man’s confidence will be much higher, when their wives meet their needs. This is a tough area for many couples but a very important one to the health of your marriage. Have regular discussions with your spouse about your needs and theirs.
#8 Find Marriage Mentors
Dave Ramsey says “If you want to be thin. Hang out with thin people and do what they are doing. If you want to be rich. Hang around rich people and find out what they are doing.” The same is true for healthy marriages. If you want a healthy marriage, find couples who have been happily married for years and find out what they are doing right. Hang out with an older couple and ask them to be your mentors. They can answer questions and help you to find your way through the storms ahead. (did you also know that hanging out with someone going through a divorce increases your chance of getting a divorce?)
#9 Don’t Compare the Outside of Someone Else’s Marriage to the Inside of Yours
Just as I write the statement above, the downside to comparing yourself to another couple is that you don’t know what it’s really like behind closed doors. Never compare your spouse to someone else’s spouse. Never tell your spouse, “why can’t you be more like so and so”. I made this mistake once. I saw this couple from church, that on the outside looked like the perfect couple. He always put his arm around her in church. They were involved with the choir and had beautiful children. Even their family photo in the church directory was incredibly perfect. I found myself wishing my life was like theirs. Imagine my surprise when they got a divorce. No marriage is perfect. Behind closed doors we all have problems. Back to #2 You guessed it. Forgive!
#10 Don’t Give Up!
When we have talked to couples who have been married for a number of years they all say the same thing when asked what their secret is. They didn’t give up. Or divorce wasn’t an option. We are amazed to find that many of these couples who are married for so long had very hard times. There were times they wanted to leave. There were times they did not feel in love. But for one reason or another they didn’t leave. They stuck it out. And guess what? These couples are happily married. They came back to the feelings of love. They came back to being best friends and they learned how to work it out. When divorce is not an option, you will be one of those couples who has been happily married for 50 years.
Bonus: Involve God in Your Marriage
This one is actually the very most important key to Saying I Do FOREVER. There are times in our marriage that we couldn’t hang on with our own strength. Our faith in God and knowing that he had an ultimate plan was the only thing that kept us together. God will give you the strength when you think you can’t go on. God will meet your needs when your spouse cannot or will not. God will soften your spouse’s heart, even if it takes years of praying to make it happen. God is the creator of Marriage. Who better to have on your side during this journey we call marriage.