How to Ensure Your Marriage Will Get Better with Age

I have been really hesitant to write this post, not only because it is a personal subject, but because I don’t want anyone to think I’m claiming to be a marriage expert. I’m not one, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to write this. Finally, I decided that even if this post helped to strengthen just one marriage, it would be worth writing.  Every marriage is different, everyone has their own struggles and challenges, and I don’t claim that this is a comprehensive list.  It is a sincere attempt at dissecting why my marriage is the best thing in my life, and what it is that makes ours and other marriages successful. 
 

Today is our five year anniversary. I can’t believe how fast five years has gone. It’s crazy how in a way five years seems like a big deal, but at the same time it really feels like we’ve been together so much longer than that. Recently we traveled home to attend Bryce’s little sister’s wedding. One morning all the girls went for a walk and my MIL asked us if we wished we could go back to being “newlyweds.” I was shocked at how quickly everyone responded “no way,” including myself. Although I loved being a newlywed and cherish those memories, I could never give up the things I have learned in these five short years. We have grown so much. Overcoming challenges, making decisions together, growing together, changing together, really getting to knowthis amazing man I married, I could never give up what we have learned and shared. Yes, things change. Bodies change, lifestyles change, children come and eventually they will go out on their own, but one thing I will always have is my husband, so here’s to making sure marriage gets better with age. 
Don’t keep score. Marriage is not a game. It’s not a contest either. So why are we inclined to keep a mental tally of who is ahead? If you notice yourself checking a mental scoreboard when you do something to benefit your spouse, chances are your heart is not in the right place and you probably aren’t even noticing all the things he does for you and your family. 
Learn to communicate well. Men and women are so different (duh) and it seems like communication is one of the ways these fundamental differences like to manifest themselves. When we were engaged our ecclesiastical leader strongly recommended that we take a marriage prep class. I’m so glad we did.  When it comes to communicating I always remember one particular story the instructor told. He and his wife were newly married and they were driving somewhere in the car. His wife asked him if he wanted anything to drink. He replied he did not. She responded, inquiring if he was sure he wasn’t thirsty. He assured her he was fine. She said, “there is a 711 right up here on the corner, it would be really easy to stop if you are.” He said again that he didn’t need a drink, but thanks anyway. When they arrived at their destination he was shocked to realize that his wife was upset with him. All she wanted was a drink. The reason I remember this story is because as comical as it is, I catch myself doing this even after five years. As soon as I realize what I am doing I force myself to say, “babe, I want a drink, can we stop?” and amazingly he is always quick to agree. Ah, direct communication. Everyone’s communication issues are different, but miscommunication causes fights and tensions that can otherwise be easily eliminated. Try to figure out what your communication differences are and breach the barriers. 
Forgive immediately. My husband is so good at this. I remember one night saying something so mean to him in a hormonal frenzy and running up the stairs to our room. I am a proud person, and even though I knew even as the encounter happened that I was in the wrong, it was still hard to make myself go downstairs and apologize. I remember getting up my courage and finally going down. No sooner had a tearful “I’m sorry” escaped my lips than my husband had swept me up into his arms and told me it was okay, and how much he loved me. I was ashamed at this moment to realize how often my husband had committed smaller offenses which I then made him suffer for as he laid out extensive explanations for his tiny misdeeds. Or, the times when he had sincerely apologized and I had responded with an indifferent “it’s fine.”  I am trying to teach myself to forgive right away, acknowledging that no one is perfect, and remembering how much I love him despite any weaknesses. Not to mention how I want him to forgive me mine. 
Make the time you have together count. Life is demanding. Sometimes it seems like there isn’t time in the day to get your chores done, let alone go out on a date with your spouse. One thing that has really blessed our relationship is that we have always tried to make the time we do have together worthwhile. For example, if you are going to watch a show, don’t sit on separate couches while you each browse your phones during commercials. Hold hands. Talk about what you’re watching, Talk about anything. Another way we have tried to do this is by establishing an early bedtime for our son.  As soon as my husband gets home he focuses on our son, giving him his full attention, playing, laughing, teaching, and then he puts him to bed so that he gets a good amount of quality time with him each day. It has been such a blessing for us to have a few hours together before we go to sleep when we are kid-free. I realize everyone’s schedules and demands are different. Ours have changed several times since we’ve been married, but the point is to make an effort to spend meaningfultime together. 
Pray and read scriptures together.  I know that not everyone is religious and I’m not saying you have to be to make a marriage work, but I couldn’t leave this out if I am being honest about what strengthens our relationship. We read our scriptures and pray together every night and I can’t begin to explain how it has blessed our marriage. For starters, it is really hard to hold onto a silly grudge or argument as you hold hands and pray together. To take it deeper though, I can’t explain the love I feel as I hear my husband plead with God for me and for our children, for strength to keep our marriage covenants and for solutions to our problems. It is also a time when he gets to see that I recognize the things he does for our family as I tell my Heavenly Father about them and express my gratitude for such a loving husband and family. 
Keep the sexual flame alive. Since this is a personal subject I am not going to go into details, I’ll only say that the physical side of a marriage not only matters, but is critically important. It always makes me sad to hear couples joke about how this dies out over time, after kids, etc. It doesn’t have to (shouldn’t) be that way. I’m not saying things don’t change, I’m simply saying make the physicality of your relationship a priority. 
Don’t ever talk negatively about your spouse to others, especially your parents. If you and your spouse are having an issue or disagreement (and we all face them), it should stay between you. Complaining about your spouse to your mom not only doesn’t solve anything, but is a breach of trust and sews seeds of worry and dislike of your spouse in your parents and friends. Write in a journal, talk to God, talk to your spouse, and sincerely try to deal with the issue on your own. If you still struggle, consider consulting a councilor or ecclesiastical leader. Once you’re past the problem, you will be glad you didn’t tell the whole world about it, and so will your spouse. 
Focus on the positive.  To state it simply, every relationship has good things and bad things. Focusing on the bad things only blurs the good ones out of your line of sight. 
Serve your spouse. All relationships have peaks and valleys. It’s totally normal to have times that are particularly good and times when things are just static. During times when I feel static and not head over heels in love, I ask myself “what have I done for him lately?” “What am I doing to make this relationship fresh and exciting?” “What am I doing to make him love me more?” Try to do something special. Write a love note, clean his car, set up a date, or simply look into his eyes and tell him you love him so much. It’s amazing how when I change the way I treat him, it automatically changes how I feel about our relationship. 
Set goals together. You are a team and it helps to have common goals. Talk about your hopes and dreams and then set about to work hard and realize them. As you work and sacrifice toward the same things it will bring you closer together and neither partner will feel like they are “doing it alone.” 
Live frugally. It would be naïve to act as if money doesn’t often cause marital discord. Monetary issues are one of the top three reasons cited for divorce in the United States. There is a really simple solution to this: live within your means. Be grateful for the things that you have. If you focus on how you can work together and saveto achieve your goals it will bless your marriage and help you focus on what is really important in life. I have loved writing this blog because it constantly reminds me to simplify and live frugally, which in turn has blessed our relationship. 
Shed your selfishness. If I was going to give only one suggestion to anyone who was having marital trouble it would be this last one. Put your spouse first. If you let go of your own wants and needs and seek to meet the wants and needs of your partner you will be amazed at how your love will grow and your happiness will multiply.
Even though I am nowhere near perfect I am willing to work hard every day to make sure that my marriage succeeds, so now you have a list of the things I work on. I hope that this post helps someone else to do the same.
If you have any other thoughts on what makes a marriage work or ideas that have helped you strengthen your relationships I’d love for you to share in the comments, I am always learning from your thoughtful responses. 

If you enjoyed this post, check out these other motivational posts:
From One Dad to Another: A Very Special Guest Poster
Live Like No One Else
Price vs. Value 
Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14209451841454355199 eryka {from abcde}

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Thanks for posting! :)
    XO
    E

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00276208940528297433 Adventures in Dressmaking

    Wow, so many good thoughts! Absolutely, communication is the first and possibly most important thing!! Congrats on 5 years, we’re at 1.5 and already have learned a lot and had a lot of challenges and opportunities. =)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05086108786376872746 Leigh

    I am a longtime follower, never commented, but I just had to say something to this post. LOVED it! Thank you for getting a little more personal with this. As I read I saw so many different things I could be doing better in my three-year marriage…forgiveness, communication, service. Thanks for the great post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00367322678624553598 Tan

    Thank you for this incredible personal and wise advice! You may not be a so-called ‘expert’ but your personal experience and words ring so true.

  • Anonymous

    I have never commented on a blog post before, but this one really spoke to me and actually brought me to tears. My husband and I have been married for almost 5 years too, and the part about forgiveness really hit home. Thank you for this inspiring post.

    Rachel

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03849331654227215620 Bethany

    Beautiful post. I teared up a little bit while reading the forgiveness paragraph. I am the same way, very proud, and my husband is a lot like yours, readily forgiving. This is something I have to work hard on every day.
    All of it is very wise advice, thanks for deciding to post it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05163020614224110008 Allyson Butler

    I love this post! Thank you so much for the advice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14394534780836360328 Jenny Stewart

    So good! Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04511661482541425738 Suzi

    Jessica, thanks for posting these thoughts. Even after 23 years we need to be reminded of these points. You are wise beyond your years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03925804945730946682 B and B

    This post was for me, Jess. Thank you for writing it. You and Bryce are a wonderful example.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09466131106851056510 Courtney

    thank you thank you for this post. i found this on pinterest and am so glad i did! you have a new follower!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09837630324310647062 Diana – FreeStyleMama

    Great tips!!

  • Anonymous

    From someone who has been married 25+ years, you give some really good advice! Thanks for the reminder that strengthening our marriage is a life long process!

  • Anonymous

    My husband and I have almost made the year mark, and I read this because lets face it sometimes it isn’t always an easy task to agree on things or get along. In reading your post I certainly see things I should remind myself to work harder at. I am not the quickest to forgive even the smaller things and that isn’t very fair. I surely suggest that he might want something when in fact I am the one with the desire rather than being direct about it. I am keeping this as a reminder to try harder and be better I simply wanted to say thank you for your thoughts/advice, I am certain they will be great reminders to myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12401273329357273585 {amy k.}

    came across your blog somehow and i’m so glad i did! love this post! i appreciate your personal insight, such great advice! wonderful reminders of ways to strengthen my relationship with my husband. i am so blessed, he is so amazing- but all relationships need work and i never want to let the spark die, these are great ways to make sure that doesn’t happen! thanks so much! you have a new follower!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15561942106693655180 Jessica

    Thank you all so much for your sweet and thoughtful comments. You really have no idea how much they mean to me! Your love and support make the blog worth it. It is so cool to know that there are so many others who struggle with the same issues and work toward the same goals as I do. I love you all!

  • Anonymous

    Most of all be kind to one another and don’t stumble on something behind you.

    For anyone reading this that isn’t married yet, it’s true what they say when someone mentions you marry your spouse’s family. Love everyone as an individual, not as an extension of your spouse.

    For those who divorce, never speak poorly of your ex (or anyone’s ex) for as long as you live. It will only come back to bite you and if they are truly unkind, others will figure it out, you are not responsible for anyone’s behavior but your own. Always take the high road and do it with grace.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15889239727961978218 Britnee Young

    I’m a newly wed (8 months) and while we haven’t had a terrible first year like everyone said happens- we have had a few bumps that made me feel really alone because I didn’t know how to talk about it with my souse and didn’t know who was appropriate to turn to. I knew you aren’t supposed to air dirty laundry, but isn’t there someone you can talk to besides your spouse?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11586992247426024382 Sarah

      Britnee, that is a great question. If you don’t feel like you can talk to your spouse about something, the best thing to do is go to a counselor. They can either help you figure out how to talk to your spouse about it, or just be a listening ear. Unfortunately, talking to anyone else about it usually is more hurtful to your relationship and especially to your spouse.

  • Anonymous

    What a beautiful post.. Thank you for sharing it and reminding me that it is possible to be in a loving, motivated and committed Christ-centered marriage. My husband and I are struggling to keep our 16 year marriage together. It is devastating to fight for it alone and watch it fall apart helplessly. I hold onto hope and pray that the Lord put us in one another’s path for a reason, and He is wiser than I. For now I just focus on being strong and commend you on encouraging others to make their own realtionships the strongest they can be. Thanks for sharing the great advice and God Bless :)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15561942106693655180 Jessica

      I’m so sorry. I honestly can’t imagine how hard that must be to go through. Your faith is inspiring and i’m sure that one way or another you will experience a loving and Christ centered relationship again. Thank you for stopping by and commenting it means so much. Best of luck with everything!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07938541452523466450 Christine

    Very beautiful post Jessica! I truly enjoyed reading it!

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer.. From Dream To Reality!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

  • Anonymous

    I like this post. I have been married just over a year (as of November) and our first year of marriage was not like I thought it would be….there were many wonderful times but we also learned that i had unrealistic expectations about what married life “feels like” emotionally. For some reason i thought we would revert back to our falling in love days where you are giddy all the time and warm hearted 100% of the time, excited, etc….when we hit reality of everyday life…and realized you cant have that feeling forever – it was hard for me to say the least. any advice?
    I love your blog.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15561942106693655180 Jessica

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be giddy and warm hearted 100% of the time! Don’t worry, you are not alone in feeling like this. I think the first step is just realizing that marriage is something you have to work at. For some reason it seems like during the dating period both people are totally focused on the other person, and then once you get married people want the other person to focus on them. All I can really say is don’t give up on it. Every relationship has peaks and valleys but the times when you are on top of the world are worth the struggle to get there. Even the struggles will bring you closer. Try focusing on the positive things about your relationship and work to cultivate more positive things. I am sorry I am rambling! Thank you for stopping by and for commenting! Good luck with everything :)

    • Anonymous

      I so appreciate your wisdom, Jessica! I’ve been married almost 30 years and I have had to learn most of this the hard way. To the sweet newlywed above, my advice would be to be careful of the TV/movie relationship syndrome. Hollywood loves to give us perfect endings and “happily ever afters”. Life is often much different than we see on the screen. Each relationship and person is unique and can be “just right for each other” in their own way. For my husband and I, we are very passionate people – we fight that way, but we love that way too. That may not be right for other people, but for us it has worked for 30 years! Don’t fit yourself, your spouse or your relationship into anyone else’s mold. Find joy in the journey of growing together, dump the stereotypes, and you will find that you will have great moments of deeper joy and love for your spouse than you imagined!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09473710150211188187 Blueyz62

    I have been married for 31+ years and agree with all of this. When I get mad or aggrevated at my spouse I think of how life might be without him and ALL is forgiven. He is a great guy and only deserves the best. The best advice I can give is “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “Oh Well” is always the best way to avoid an argument.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15561942106693655180 Jessica

      Great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us :). Congrats on 31 years, you are an inspiration!

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful post. My husband & I got together when we were teenagers & had our daughter by the time we were both 18. We are 30 now & have only been married for 5 years. We decided to wait because we knew marriage is such a huge commitment. We have been through so much together & have really grown up together. This post made me realize even more that the decision to wait was the right choice. I teared up while reading this & really appreciate you sharing a part of your life with the world. I will read this with my husband & definitely put all of your advice to his use. We may have started our lives together rather quickly but I know that it was more than worth it to learn some things the harder way

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15561942106693655180 Jessica

      Thank you so much for sharing a part of your story! It’s cool to see how every relationship is different and there isn’t just one recipe or road to happiness. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting! All the best to you and yours :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14864680047665179572 Bonny Yokeley

    What a lovely reminder of some important rules we should all follow whether we’ve been married one year or fifty.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, thank you so much for writing this. I needed these reminders and have been praying to God to pinpoint things I can work on to be a better wife and strengthen my partnership with my husband. So glad I stumbled accross this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11730107340237299129 Steph @ somewhatsimple

    Well said! :) I always enjoy coming to your blog! Thanks for linking to my link party! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14411068064315962685 Amber’s Crafts and Stuff

    I just posted this on facebook and tagged my newly married nephew and his wife in it. I hope they take it to heart. I feel like you made some really good points.

  • Anonymous

    To me your expert, when you have gone through it and experienced it. Then that makes you expert. Loved you post. Congratulations!!!!!!!!

  • Jessica

    Love it ! 10 years married and still learned so much from this ! Thanks for posting :))

  • Jessica

    Love it ! 10 years married and still learned so much from this ! Thanks for posting :))

  • Anonymous

    Amen!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17945668045003146811 Brianne

    I just found your blog on Pinterest! I love it. This post is especially wonderful. My husband and I just got married 6 months ago. In these short 6 months, I have found the same things to be what keeps our marriage fruitful and our love strong. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  • Anonymous

    Jessica, you are wise beyond your years! Such a beautiful post. Today I say Thank You. It’s been a couple of rough days; we are great communicators, or so I thought, we have discussed the ‘opportunity’, but have yet to conquer it or accept it as a reality. We have had colder rains & I know we will see a beautiful sunshine day. I have a new outlook on this ‘opportunity’ and with a prayer, I know the sun shall shine! Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    I really appreciated this post :) Thanks so much for your wisdom and bravery in sharing. This will bless my marriage

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am coming up on a year of marriage and this has reminded me what we were told in our “prep class”. It has given me ideas to make this a stronger relationship that will last for MANY years!

  • Anonymous

    My husband and I recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. I admit that I was skeptical when I read that you were giving marriage advice after a whopping 5 years. I was so WRONG. You are definitely wise beyond your years. I certainly did not have this much figured out by the time we’d been married 5 years. I love love love what you have to say. May God bless you, your husband, your son and any more children you may decide to have.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06398021546873479488 Samantha

    Thank you so much for posting this. As a single girl it is important to remember this advise for the beginning of relationships too. Start the good habits early right?!

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful words- Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for that! I will be getting married this summer, and I absolutely love the idea of praying together before bed! I will definitely be making that apart of our marriage. :)I know it’s a great way to grow closer to God and eachother…and doing it every night will be awesome!

  • jridenour0803@gmail.com

    i love this so much and tho i have only been married a short time, I am truly learning each and every one of these aspects and what it means to “be one” with another sinful creature like myself. This isnt something that we will ever be able to master perfectly, but Im willing to take a lifetime with my wonderful husband to keep trying to perfect these qualities and grow old with him the way God intended.
    Thank you so much for writing this article. I dont think we can ever have enough enocouragement from fellow women.

  • Diane Peterson

    Jessica — I AM a Marriage and Family Therapist, and just happened upon your post…. It is excellent!! Good job.

    • prettyprovidence

      Thank you SO much! That means a lot to have your professional opinion! Made my day :)

  • Jen

    Thank you for this. We are not married and have no plans to be (I wouldn’t mind, but he doesn’t really feel the need for a piece of paper “validating” what we already know – and I tend to agree), but these are all things that keep our relationship alive. Well, almost all. We’re not religious, but we do make it a point to spend some quality time together just about every night before bed. I do have an issue with talking to his mom about our problems. I grew up in what could be loosely understated as a broken home, so I’m not good at the relationships and trust thing. She never judges, and by the time I’m done talking I pretty much realize that I’m imagining a lot of the “problems” we’re having. Seems I have a lot of work to do in that area.

    Our relationship is very different in many ways from your average – we didn’t even know each other when we moved in together. It’s been work, but it’s also been surprisingly easy. This list of things you have here, though, will definitely help me. So thank you again.

    • prettyprovidence

      Thank you so much for your comment Jen! Every relationship is so different, so it’s kinda crazy that some basic things work for everybody. I love how you said you spend time focused on eachother before bed, so special and so needed in our non stop fast paced world!

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  • http://www.prettyprovidence.com/ Jessica @ Pretty Providence

    Awesome!! Thanks for the tip!