I know, I know. When it comes to marriage, if a couple is able to say that they've been together for more than a decade and they are reasonably cool with one another, that is almost like a minor miracle. Still, as someone who is a huge fan of the union and actually know some husbands and wives who are head over heels into one another, even 20-plus years in, I think just being "alright" in a marriage is kind of a low bar. After all, life is short and also pretty precious, so if you're going to commit to being with someone for the rest of your days, shouldn't the both of you do all that you can to make sure your marriage is more than just "good"—that it is pretty darn great?
If you're reading this and you're at total peace with your marriage and the spouse that you've chosen, salute. Yet if you're wondering about what you can do to take things up a few notches, here are seven things that can help your relationship to thrive—and then some!
1. Surprise Your Partner More Often
I don't care if a couple has been together for a couple of years or 30 of 'em, it's rare when either spouse doesn't appreciate a nice surprise every now and then. Tickets to a favorite event that shows up in their email inbox. A text that consists of nothing more than a hotel room number and a time to show up. Favorite flowers or meal that comes to the office, right out of the blue. A good marriage? That is one where both partners are thoughtful on each other's birthday and never forgets one another's anniversary. A great marriage consists of two people who are constantly trying to one-up their own selves when it comes to making their partner feel loved, appreciated and desired while oftentimes catching them totally off guard when it comes to their efforts. A wise person once said, "The best things happen unexpectedly." When's the last time that you surprised your partner? When's the last time that they've surprised you?
2. Regularly Pray/Meditate Together
The reason why I've written articles for the site like, "7 Signs You're Spiritually Compatible With Someone" and "7 Spiritual Principles About Sex That Married Couples Should Never Forget" is because I wholeheartedly believe that our spirits are involved in marriage just as much as any other part of us. And since marriage is about joining one mind, body and spirit with another's, it's so important for husbands and wives to make the time to pray and/or meditate together (preferably both).
From a scientific standpoint alone, prayer reduces stress; gives you more of a positive outlook; strengthens your faith; softens your heart (so that it's easier to forgive); keeps you humble (more on that in just a sec), and even increases longevity. As far as meditation goes, it can help to control anxiety; reduce depression-related symptoms; make you more mindful; heighten self-awareness; lengthen your attention span, and make you a kinder individual overall. With all of the benefits that prayer and meditation provide, why wouldn't you want to have these experiences with your partner?
By the way, both of these things can directly benefit your sex life too. A couple of years ago, we published an article on the site entitled, "Ashley Graham & Her Husband Say Prayer Is The Ultimate Form Of Foreplay". That same year, I also wrote about orgasmic meditation (check out "What Exactly Is 'Orgasmic Meditation'?"). Since "saying grace" and breathing deeply can take your sex life to another level too, hey, that's just one more solid reason to pray and meditate with your partner more often, don't cha think?
3. Operate from a Place of Humility
If there is one thing that I would shout from the rooftops of every single person (who desires to be married; not everyone does) is if you are too full of yourself to 1) admit when you're wrong and/or 2) be corrected by your partner and/or 3) offer up and apology that comes without any excuses and justifications, you have absolutely no business getting married. I can't tell you how many couples I've worked with who, while it is clear that they love one another, they are still 10 minutes away from hitting the wall (getting a divorce) and it's basically due to one thing—a lack of humility. A humble individual doesn't have to be right all of the time. A humble person doesn't constantly need to take the credit. A humble person tends to not get triggered or become provoked easily. A humble person can own their ish. A humble person loves to help others. A humble person strives for peace above all else. We're living in a world that seems to constantly encourage ego maniacal behavior. Still, if you want to keep your marriage thriving, strive for humility. You might be amazed by how far it gets you.
4. Love with All Five of Your Senses
Sight. Touch. Hearing. Taste. Smell. These are our five senses. Now my question is how often do you try and love your spouse with all five of them? I'll provide some examples. Do you constantly go to bed NOT looking a hot mess (sight)? Are you intentional about showing affection like greeting them with a kiss at the door when they come home from work or hugging them from behind when they are cooking or working on a project (touch)? When's the last time you've expressed what you like, love or find sexy as hell about them (hearing)? Can you recall when you've ordered or made them their favorite meal or prepared some aphrodisiac cocktails for the two of you to enjoy together (taste)? Do you know their favorite scent? How often do you wear it (smell)?
I know that the five love languages continue to be popular when it comes to expressing love (check out "Are You Ready To Apply Your Love Language To Your Sex Life?" and "15 Date Ideas Based On Your Love Language"). Personally, I also think it's important to come up with ways to show your love to your partner via their five senses too. It's an underestimated way to make sure that they feel loved in every way. Quite literally so.
5. Present Things in Question Form
Wanna know what will put someone on the defensive? It's when you come at them with accusations or definitive conclusions instead of questions when you're trying to gain some clarity. That said, another point that I think doesn't get brought up enough in marriage is it's a constant lesson in how to communicate effectively, how to listen wholeheartedly and also, how to literally treat someone else in the way that you'd want to be treated. I don't care how long you have known someone or lived with them, because it's a part of human nature to constantly evolve, you don't know everything about them (it's pretty arrogant and presumptuous to think otherwise).
That's why, whether it's a discussion or a flat-out disagreement, you are showing that you are open to learning, to hearing their perspective and to gaining a deeper insight into who they are by coming at your spouse in question form rather than all-out statements. If you don't believe me, ask them to communicate with you in the same way and watch how much smoother the conversation goes.
6. Have “Purpose Update” Meetings
Another tip for singles who desire marriage is, please be clear about what your purpose is. Then, once you start seeing someone, make sure that they are clear about what their purpose in this life is as well. The reason why I say this is because, in order for you to be in a long-term relationship where you truly feel fulfilled, you both need to be able to respect one another's calling in life and even be able to help, if/when needed. This is one example of how two individuals are able to actually complement each other.
I actually know a couple who's been married for several years now. Unfortunately, they've really been struggling because the wife's focus has been more on the husband just doing whatever needs to be done in order to provide. Meanwhile, the husband has become resentful because, ever since he was in college, he had specific dreams. So, what happened? He loved her and put his dreams on hold. Now he's miserable and because she never considered his dreams as being important, their union is in some serious trouble.
This is why I often recommend to married couples that they hold, what I call, "purpose update meetings". Some do it once a month, some do it once a season (four times a year) and some do it biannually or annually.
The logic behind the suggestion is to sit down with your partner, so that you can share how you feel about your purpose—along with what your short-term goals are concerning them—as they do the same. Why? It's simple. It can never be underestimated, just how important purpose is because it literally means "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.". You can be in love, have great sex and feel pretty good about your relationship. It's still headed for some really big valleys if one or both of you are not thriving in your purpose.
Mutually communicating when it comes to this is critical. It really is.
7. Let Grudges Go
There's a married couple I know who are toxic and then some. There are about a dozen reasons why I say that; however, I'm going to close with something that can easily go on the top three—they both basically live to hold grudges. By definition, a grudge is defined as being a feeling of ill will or resentment. Personally, I define them as being manipulative power plays. Then there's what an author by the name of Criss Jami once said about them. He said, "Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on."
The silent treatment. Being passive aggressive. Not letting things go until someone sees an issue the same way that you do. All of these are forms of control and no one wants to be in a controlling relationship. Needing some time and space to process things? That's human and healthy. Allowing unresolved issues to go on into infinity is really…unsound. A married couple who's intentional about resolving matters as soon as possible—even if it means seeing a therapist, counselor or coach—is a couple who doesn't take time for granted, doesn't like to be disconnected from their partner and is more about forward movement than being in a problematic hamster wheel. And a husband and wife who remain in this kind of space? Whether it's immediately or eventually, they are well on their way from going from "good" to "great" when it comes to their relationship. Salute.
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