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7 Surefire Ways To Take Your Marriage From 'Good' To 'Great'

"Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Kindness is the cause. 'Til death do us part is the length."—Fawn Weaver

Marriage

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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