Last summer my husband (Jason) and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary! And now I’ve officially been married half my life! We tied the knot just one month after my 20th birthday…wow! I felt very grown-up back in 1997—totally ready to take on the world with my new hubby! And I guess you could say we’ve taken on the world (at least our little piece of it). We’ve lived in 1 apartment, 7 homes, and 4 states; I’ve lost track of how many job changes, and we’re raising 6 kids (including one set of twins). Basically, we try to average at least one major life event per year. So in the middle of all this unimaginable life we’ve been blessed with—we cling to each other. Today I’m sharing 20 Marriage Tips after 20 Years of Marriage …some are serious, some are light-hearted. And I guess that’s the beautiful and fragile balance of marriage.
Before we jump into the 20 tips…I want to preface them with a few thoughts:
- These tips are shared with a very humble heart. My own parents divorced the same year I got married (and they struggled for 5 years prior). It was one of the most painful events and seasons of my life. I know marriage is not always easy, and for some of you–it might be incredibly difficult and hurtful. If my words are clumsy and add to your pain–I ask forgiveness.
- My tips assume a healthy and non-abusive relationship. If you are being abused–physically, emotionally, or verbally…please get the professional help you deserve.
- I am a wife–so many of these tips speak to that perspective. Not that I don’t have some ideas for the men…
- Above all–pray for your spouse! Pray that you will find him! Thank God for him! Pray for your marriage. Pray that God will help you to love well. Give it all to God–worries and praises about jobs, parenting, conflicts, decisions, passion and desire for each other–all of it.
So without further ado…Here’s the secret sauce to my marriage:
20 Marriage Tips…(in no particular order)
1. Try New Things Together
We’ve gone through a lot of “phases,” or “kicks,” over the course of 20 years. Jason has tried to teach me to ski, play racket-ball, golf, and the board game Risk–to name a few. We usually start with a great deal of enthusiasm. But then something else catches our interest–like say, brewing monkey-picked oolong tea (we spent a lot of money at Teavana for about 6 months). Tea got tossed aside for the less healthy hobby of martini making. I still have a recipe book and some very old chocolate liqueur–but we didn’t stick with martinis for long. Jason took up gardening years ago–and I try to play along (and sort of remember to water things). We’ve done some interesting diets (I usually drop out way before Jason). And couponing– we’ve done some very passionate couponing together! Not to be forgotten–the 3 weeks of serious Wii-Fit competition in the year 2008. He has trained me to run a 5K, and I have brought water and snacks to him during marathon training (literally driving in circles around town following him while my toddlers watched Finding Nemo in the car). We started a blog together. Perhaps most significant– the huge amounts of t.v. binge watching we’ve accomplished (thank you Amazon Prime, Netflix, and HBO)! It all started with Lost…and has developed into a constant quest to find new shows to obsess over together.
So my point is this…do things together. As often as you can. Silly things. Fun things. Helpful things (we did save some money with all the couponing). Healthy things. Lazy things. Little things and big things! Try something new–get on a kick together!
2. Don’t Undermine Each Other in Front of the Kids
I’m probably more guilty of this than my husband. Sometimes I will slightly cringe about something he says to our kids (or how he says it)…And before I know it–I’m jumping in and defending why someone ate popcorn in their room. Why can’t I just butt out and keep my mouth shut? I’ve gotten better about this–but I’ve got some space for growth here!
All parenting related conflicts should be resolved in private! Remember you are a team–don’t let the kids smell weakness.
Plus, it’s disrespectful to be undermining your spouse–and I wouldn’t want him doing it to me. Which leads to #3.
3. Let Your Husband Parent (and Clean) HIS Way
Your parenting and cleaning styles are probably pretty awesome. But let your hubby have his own style. It might not be just like yours, and that is O.K. Nobody wants to be treated like a child–if he is completely missing the mark, gently suggest a better way to load the dishwasher (and think long and hard before doling out that kind of advice). Otherwise, let it go! (Cue–Elsa singing in my brain!).
Also related…no nagging. No one wants to be married to their mother.
4. Speak Well of Each Other’s Family…(and if you don’t have anything nice to say…zip it)
You know the old saying…”I can say whatever I want about my______. But you can’t.” This applies to your in-laws. Pretty much forever. (sorry). There’s probably no quicker way to get into a heated and ugly argument or ruin a date night.
5. Have Sex
I don’t want to get all TMI on you…but this is important! Say yes way more than you say no! Initiate!
Also–don’t freak out if you go through “lulls.” It doesn’t mean you will never be passionate again OR that you are having some kind of major marriage crisis. They just happen sometimes. We (both husbands and wives) go through stuff…hormones, body image, pregnancy, health issues, and stress. Be honest about your feelings–be patient, be kind, be affectionate.
(I’ve thoroughly embarrassed my children now).
6. Common Courtesy
This is the person you love most in the world–talk to each other that way! Don’t treat the cashier at the grocery store nicer than you treat your spouse! It makes me so sad when I hear married couples being grumpy and nasty with each other. Some people may think–“Well they love me; we are family. I shouldn’t have to be so sensitive…” Let me just say–I don’t think familiarity is ever an excuse for rudeness. Use your manners! Say please and thank you! Greet your spouse with kindness–not complaints about dirty dishes, naughty kids, or the trash someone forgot to take out…
7. Be Appreciative
We all want to feel appreciated. We want to feel seen.
Say thank you for the little things: when he makes the coffee, mows the grass, takes out the trash, empties the dishwasher, pays the bills, puts gas in your car, etc…Even if it’s stuff that he has to do or always does.
Say thank you for the big things: working hard at his job, hosting your family for the holidays, buying you special gifts, etc…
8. Keep it to Yourself
If you have a fight, disagreement, or just general complaint about your hubby…Probably best to keep that to yourself. Your mom doesn’t need to know all the tea–or your girlfriends. They will just be mad and think you married a total lug.
Perhaps more importantly, would you want him telling all his family and buddies the same story? How do you want him portraying you to the world?
(And again–remember…I am not talking about an abusive relationship here. Please reach out to people you love and trust if you are dealing with a major crisis or abuse. I am simply referring to run-of-the-mill “jerkiness.”)
Also–if you find yourself surrounded by friends that like to rip on their husbands…probably need to start running with a different crowd. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be real and transparent with your friends. I’m talking about focusing on the negative, being mean-spirited, and bashing your loved one–don’t do it.
9. Get Pretty
Now I use “pretty,” loosely here! But what I mean is this: Most days, I try to get myself looking like I tried a little for my hubby. So I may spend 10 hours on Saturday in my jammie pants–but gosh darn it–at some point I will decide to get ready! Saturday suddenly turns into date night…I throw on some skinny jeans, do a “fancy,” messy bun (a few bobby pins and hair wisps around the face work miracles–instant “mom glam”), brush my teeth, and do my make-up (foundation, mascara, lipstick, blush, eyeliner), and spray some perfume. And voila–“pretty!” Time to pour the wine!
When my husband travels, I really try to greet him with some level of pretty when he gets home. You might think this all sounds a bit ridiculous…I mean we’ve been married for 20 years. But I guess the point is– I want him to know I still care…I still care what he thinks. And I still want him to want me. I am crazy about him, and I want him to know that he’s worth getting pretty for…
Additionally, when I pull myself together–I’m saying, “I LOVE ME!” I’m worth it. Make-up, hair styles, cute clothes… make me feel happy, more confident, more sexy…more me! Nothing can stop me and my red lipstick! You are worth it too!
Final thought–I’ve been married for 20 years…rest assured, my husband has seen me in MANY not-so-pretty moments.
10. Prioritize Each Other– Everyday
For us this means making time everyday to connect and spend time together. After we get our kids situated for the night we always do something together–I’m really not exaggerating here. It might look like grabbing some snacks and beers and running to our basement to watch a show on television (whatever we are currently bingeing). If it’s not too cold (and lots of nights in the summer)–we bring cheese and wine outside, complete with candles, our portable Bose speaker, and Spotify! It could be a Monday night–we don’t care!
We might run out of the house and do some grocery shopping together–(funny what you consider a date after having 6 kids)! Now that we have teenagers, we take full advantage of leaving them in charge after we’ve put our little people to bed– and then we slip out to enjoy Taco Tuesday or one of the local late night bar and grills (plus that’s our big chance to eat meat…our teens are all vegan/vegetarians).
Sometimes we have work to do. We sit together and do it. Or it might look like me finishing up the dishes while he finishes up some work on his computer at our kitchen island.
We always end the day together. It is a rare night that this doesn’t happen. So in a sense, every night is date night at our house. Spend time together–daily!!
11. Don’t Let Disagreements Linger
If you have an issue–resolve it as soon as possible. Say what is bothering you–your spouse is not a mind reader. Often you will find that they did not perceive a situation the same way you did–try to understand the other person’s perspective.
And for the record, the silent treatment is worthless (I tried it once)–and will only leave you stewing. Don’t do that to yourself–it’s silly and immature.
12. Forgive Quickly
If your husband sincerely apologizes–forgive him! It’s not easy to admit wrong-doing! Saying, “Sorry,” is HARD and humbling! This is not the time to rehash why you were so mad or worse–turn away. Give him a hug. Forgive. Forget. I know–that can be hard work too…
Think about the times you apologize…Do you want to feel like you’re begging for forgiveness? No. You just want it to be over and move on–treat him the way you want to be treated. And in the middle of arguments or disagreements–get in the habit of bringing Jesus to mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you forgive–even when in that moment, all you want is to stay mad. Our marriages are supposed to symbolize Christ’s love for us…Remember that He forgives and forgets immediately. Always, forever, no exceptions.
13. Apologize Quickly
Again…I know this is not always easy! Sometimes apologizing is the last thing I want to do. Because often–when we need to apologize…the other person needs to apologize too. Rarely do disagreements lay completely at the feet of one guilty party. He may have started it. He may have said something totally hurtful. But you probably didn’t react entirely saintly. Take ownership of your part and acknowledge how you’ve hurt your spouse.
I can’t tell you how many times over 20 years I’ve had to pray–in the middle of a dramatic melt-down (it takes a lot to make me mad–but once I get there…I’m a little crazy). And I ask God to help me to do the thing I don’t want to do, which is calm down and apologize. I also ask for our hearts to be softened towards each other (and for my husband to see his wrong-doing too…). And I ask God to forgive me.
It’s almost like I can actually feel the Holy Spirit nudging me to do something completely against my nature…And when I do submit and follow God’s push to apologize, I always feel better. The darkness is lifted and our relationship is restored. But Sweet Friends, it is a decision…A marriage is built and destroyed by countless little decisions.
14. Words Matter
A wise woman once told me, “Words are like toothpaste–you can’t put them back!” So watch your words–there are some you just need to keep off-limits. For us, divorce is an off-limit word. And name calling…Good grief, name calling is hurtful, counterproductive, and mean. It automatically escalates arguments and brings emotions to ridiculous levels. Don’t do it!
15. Ask for Help
I hate to admit it…but sometimes I will find myself getting resentful or angry because I need a little help–and no one (particularly my hubby) seems to notice it! (I can really wallow in my own perceived martyrdom!)
Well–as multi-talented my husband is…turns out he’s not a mind reader! So if you start feeling stress and self-pity joining forces in your mind–put an end to the pity-party, and ask for help!
16. Be a Team
Marriage should never be a competition. Don’t start trying to figure out who is working harder, sacrificing more, having more fun–or anything else you can dream up to keep score over! (And in reality it’s usually ever so subtle…often disguised as resentment).
A quick way to become resentful is to focus on all the work you do for your family, while forgetting about all the things your spouse does. If you find yourself here–go back to tip #7 (Be Appreciative). Start looking for all the great things your husband does and focus on all the reasons you love him.
Also–be thankful for the strengths and weaknesses you each bring to your relationship. You compliment each other–you are an amazing and unique team! And if you are parenting, please know that it is an adventure filled with many ups and downs–crazy twists and turns. Just because your husband isn’t awesome with your newborn–doesn’t mean he won’t be a wonderful dad! He may handle teenage turmoil with a sense of calm you simply don’t have. You each have a very important role to play in your marriage and your family. Worry about your part, instead of always trying to figure out his!
If there’s something you’re doing that bothers your spouse–try to make the changes. I know it’s hard–especially if it’s a habit or you see the problem as unimportant. But making little changes are all ways of saying–“I love you. You value this and I value you–so I will try and do this for you.”
Here’s some examples…
My husband really likes the laundry room clean. I don’t really care about it–no one sees the laundry room. It’s the least of my worries. But for some reason a messy laundry room gets him…I try to keep it organized and tidy (which right now looks like a huge fail). But when I spend some time cleaning it up–he is over-the-moon.
I am 5’2″…I pull the driver’s seat in the car WAY up! Unfortunately, when it’s time for my husband to drive the car, he finds the seat pulled up and then has to Houdini himself into the car–total pet peeve of his! After YEARS of being reminded of this annoyance in his life–I have made some progress in creating a habit to put the car seat back for him.
On a more serious note–my husband really likes to be involved in decisions concerning our teenagers. However, they have a very convenient way of bypassing Dad, and I’m always the one fielding their requests. Often I was just making all the decisions on my own (my answer tended to be yes). It really started bothering him to be left out of the loop–which was a little hard for me to understand, because as Mom–I’m always in the loop (frankly–I’d like some time out of the loop). I’ve really had to work on honoring his request to be included in the decisions.
18. Don’t Be Overly Sensitive
Oh this was such a struggle for me when I was younger! If I even thought Jason looked at me cross-eyed, I’d start crying and need to completely analyze our marriage. Everything was an issue. If he started vacuuming–I took as a personal insult…Obviously he didn’t think I was doing a good enough job taking care of the house. But here’s the thing–I learned he wasn’t being passive aggressive…he was just helping out.
For all his lovable qualities–he can get a bit short (especially when hungry). I used to have my feelings hurt all.the.time. And didn’t I just love to tell him! Finally, I started giving him some grace and began ignoring occasional bouts of grumpiness. Time has done much to smooth out some of our rougher edges–He’s much sweeter, and I’m much less neurotic. The 40-year-old version of us is way more easy-breezy!
19. Let God Do His Job
We have not always been on the same page spiritually–and truly this was one of the hardest things for me in the course of our 20 years together.
God taught me so much during that season: I am not the Holy Spirit. Let God do what only God can do. Focus on getting the planks out of your own eye, and do the next right thing. Trust God.
I’m thankful we are on the same page again–slightly awkward Protestants. (Is there really any hope for Cradle Catholics turned Protestants to not feel slightly awkward in church?)…but we’ve come a long way!
No one can make me laugh like Jason. He makes me laugh at myself too…Life is better, funnier, and brighter with him.
Laughter can get you through some pretty dark days (some days it’s either laugh or cry)!
Grow Old With Me…the Best is Yet to Be
That’s it–that’s essentially how we do this wild, beautiful, unimaginable life together. Here’s to the next 20 years!
If you have some nuggets of marriage wisdom–please feel free to share! I’d love to hear them–and I know they will bless others!