Perfect for married couples that are unhappy and needing help, couples needing encouragement, and singles who need to know what to expect when the happy day occurs. This list will equip you with some tricks and tips that you can apply in relationships toward your own "Happily Ever After"... Here is to a love that lasts!
A. ALWAYS clear up an offense before bed.
Make the commitment that you will stay up until sun up if it means resolving issues before you go to sleep. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Eph 4:26
B. BE careful what you say…
Your words to your spouse carry great subconscious and conscious weight. Whatever you find yourself saying or insinuating will come back to you. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
C. CHOOSE to love your spouse.
God created that man or woman for you, and if you are ever going to be evenly yoked you must realize that LOVING them is the first step, just the way they are. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
In all your getting, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
D. DETERMINE to better yourself personally, and grow in your understanding of God’s Word and understanding of the purpose and plans God has for your life.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11
E. EXPECT to be together forever!
Accept the fact that you are married and going to be with your spouse FOREVER, no going back. Every couple has struggles. Every couple will go through things, because in life we go through things regardless of marital status. Sickness, health, death, birth, stress, joy, sorrow, love, hate… you as a single person will go through all of this, if you have found a mate, YOU ARE BLESSED! “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18
F. FORGIVE yourself for being harsh, and forgive your spouse for responding harshly.
“You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.” The best way to win your spouse to your cause is to treat your spouse fairly, and to be patient in your pursuit of your livelong dream or vision. “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:4
G. GET DREAMING half the time husband and wife teams are at odds with each other because they have nothing left to work toward.
The kids are grown and their work is on autopilot… now what? It is time for you and your spouse to get on the same page about your dreams, and see what you two can do together! A store, a bed and breakfast, a travel agency? Go in business together, you’ll do GREAT! “I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19
H. HELP each other, God wasn’t kidding when He created woman to be man’s helper.
God made women for men, and He did it with a divine purpose a Master plan! Set your mind to help your husband, and husbands recognize that wives are there to HELP you get your job done. This means in PARTNERSHIP. Partners can help, employees are dictated to. Treat each other as “helpers” NOT employees. “Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him." Genesis 2:18
I. IGNORE people around you who tell you it can’t be done and that happily married “isn’t” possible.
These people are negative dream stealers and are NOT going to ensure your marital happiness. Sometimes being alone (apart from in-laws, sisters, brothers, friends) is the BEST way a couple can cope with their problems. Dig deep in the Word, go to a Word filled church and begin finding mentors who have been married longer and in the faith greater than you have been. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
J. JUST DO IT!
Nike wasn't kidding when they put into the minds of every potential aspiring athlete the axiom to Just Do it! They went at their ad campaign as vigorously as their own motto suggests. To this day, Nike is known best by their logo and their famous mantra.
As married individuals, we too must JUST DO IT! We must DECIDE that being on the same team with our spouse is more important to us than having a plethora of friends. You must decide today, that if you are going to operate successful relationships in your life, it will involve the understanding that you do not have to be right all the time. Let your spouse participate in your relationship by offering suggestions, ideas, dreams and visions of their own... discuss your dreams with them, and commit to getting them done! "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Eph 5:21
K. KICK complacency to the CURB!
Complacency has NO place in the Kingdom of God, and it has NO place in relationships either. People who stop growing personally become like paperweights. Other than keeping things from "blowing away", they are of no use. Waking daily in routine, going to work daily in routine, coming home daily in routine, eating, sleeping, TV watching... etc. Is NOT growing.
Groundhog Day is the name of a movie, and should not be the epitomized lifestyle. Give your life a chance! Do something new TODAY! Visit a new store, walk a new path, read a new book. We are all creatures of habit, and it is time to create a NEW habit... a positive habit of daily exploration and embracing. There is no better way to kill a marriage off and kill it off quick, than to watch a spouse do nothing but sit idly by. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" Col 3:23
L. LOVE Christ FIRST.
Surprisingly enough, most "Christians" do not do this. They think that they understand "love", they "love" their spouses, they "love" their jobs, they "love" their cars, and they "love" their kids. However without the true agape love of Christ in their lives, they CANNOT LOVE AT ALL. Infatuate yes, like yes, desire and lust after yes-yes-yes... but LOVE NO. The Bible says that "GOD IS LOVE", which means that when you put GOD first place in your life... AND ONLY THEN... will you ever know love and then be able to give love to others.
You see receiving Christ is receiving an overflowing reservoir of love, just like a bubbling well pours over the edge of the wall, so Christ's love pours out our hearts and into the lives of others. We can ONLY love our spouses unconditionally, if we have a personal relationship with Christ and can draw from that well." We love Him, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
M. MAN UP.
As a wife, there is nothing more attractive than a husband who knows his place in God's Kingdom and chooses to walk in his authority. In today's society, there tends to be apathy upon men, a desire to trade in their covenant promised dominion for the security of women who will mother them (as God has designed them) and make all their decisions for them.
If you are a husband who deeply desires to have your wife join you in your dreams or visions, you must lead her in your vision and stand firm. Explain to her that things are going to change- but for the better. Then begin making tough calls and standing by them. Your wife will respond favorably as long as all the changes and corrections to your behavior are done based on the Word of God and in love. "Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor, every face turned deathly pale?" Jeremiah 30:6
N. NO NEGATIVITY.
In his amazing book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie devotes an entire chapter to the "Three C's" and admonishes us in relationships to NEVER Criticize, Condemn, or Complain. Can you imagine living this way? Jesus did! Think of the woman caught in the act of adultery... what did Jesus say? "Let you who is without sin cast the first stone."
Jesus also reminds us that having a critical spirit is like a man or woman who witnesses situations with a log in their eye, whatever issue you have in your life will be magnified and projected onto those who you are in relationship with. If you live life by the three c's in your own self-image, always criticizing yourself, you will be instinctively critical of others. For example, if you are cluttered in your drawers or purse... chances are you see your spouse as a slob. Your personal view will always rub off onto others. Practice living a life FREE of negativity, for yourself AND your spouse. Better to not say anything at all, than to say something negative. "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" Proverbs 23:7
O. Offer your assistance.
How many times has your spouse carried in the groceries while you sat on the couch? I think it would be pretty unrealistic to say "never". However it is time to take chivalry back, and begin being gentlemen and ladies again. Husbands, your wife according to the Bible "is the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7) and WILL do all the work if you let her, but you must not let her.
Offer to help, offer your assistance. Let her choose between help or no help. Don't just assume "she's got this". Ladies, your husband needs your help. He needs you to support him and encourage him and he needs you to nourish his soul and his spirit. Begin offering your assistance to him in everything that you can. This can be as simple as offering your spouse a glass of water, when it is yourself that needs one. "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34
P. Put the Children #3.
Here is the order in which we choose to live by: God # 1, Spouse #2, Children #3, Job #4, Business (or extra income earning potential) #5. Every couple with children must recognize that kids are going to grow and leave the home. As you put God first place in your life your spouse should be #2. What does this mean? This means decisions about the children are always deferred to and spoken about by the parents first, it also means mommy and daddy make time to go on date nights together (just the two of them), and that the kids KNOW that daddy and mommy love each other the MOST.
If you ask our kids today "Who does daddy love BEST?" they will all say "MOMMY!" Children need to recognize that there is a God-given pecking order and NO it is not Daddy, Mommy, and Eldest child. It is God > Daddy & Mommy > Kiddos. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Mark 10:7-9
Q. QUIT running home to your mommy and daddy for support.
I never suggested that the ABC's would be easy to stomach. As a matter of fact I might loose some readers on this statement plain and simple. It is time for American couples to quit running to their parents for money or moral support against each other, and begin living on their own!
Sometimes family can help, like in transition periods. We have relocated at least three times, and in each case we stayed with family as we found a new home. However, we always worked and offered to pay our way. Never staying with them beyond just a few months. The time it took for us to find and locate a place of our own. As a new couple, if we asked for money... we always felt HORRIBLE, and quickly traded "asking parents" for "asking GOD". As a wife I disciplined myself to talk to my husband only when we had issues and not my mother. As a husband, Jeff decided to get multiple jobs versus borrowing.
We are not saints in this department as we have owed family money in the past but this is not the optimal situation, and as hindsight is 20/20 it was ALWAYS a mistake.
It is better to not borrow, it is better to work. It is better to not pour out your problems on your parents. They will begin forming negative opinions of their son or daughter in-laws. Parents will always favor their own child. If you would like to have a happy marriage, choose to speak only highly of your spouse when dealing with your parents and make a vow between the two of you that YES, YOU CAN do it- you CAN live on YOUR OWN. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife" Genesis 2:24
R. Rally the Troops
Got kids? Will travel! One of the very best things that a parent (husband/wife team) can do for their marriage is to always speak positively to the children about their mother or father and SHOW this positively through action. NEVER forget to advocate for your home team! Daddy is doing HIS BEST and mommy is too! Take your children on road trips with you, sales calls (mom and kiddos can play in the car, honest), or maybe even to lunch meetings. Why not bring the family and have them sit in another section of the restaurant or go next door? If you cannot be in a "family business" together, try treating your family as your #1 business, and you will be on the same page in NO time.
S. Set the DATE
Every couple needs to continuously DATE each other. The reality is that the children are going to grow up and move out, and if you don't continue pursuing each other, when the kids are gone you will be strangers. Dating mommy and daddy alone can be hard, (and expensive) but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Try trading sitting services with a neighbor to keep the cost down. If you have a child who is quiet and sits and colors during dinner know that THIS IS NOT A DATE. You need to be free to give googly eyes, talk about those bedtime moments, and most importantly RELAX. Also, it is important to realize that KIDS NEED TIME away from parents too! Kids need to learn how to be equitable around other adults and even the teenage babysitters can be a fun break from the norm for most tots and kids. So when's the next date night? Movie night, dinner, or pizza? ENJOY! (Once a week is preferred but once a month REQUIRED!)
T. Take the FIRST step
In my book, Wholehearted, I write in it some tips for helping resolve arguments in marriage and in order to encourage spouses to take the first step in resolving arguments:
Five Key Phrases to Calm-Down any Fight and Regain a Confident Relationship
1. “Can you please forgive me?”
Try using this instead of “I’m Sorry.” When you ask for someone’s forgiveness, immediately you are assuming responsibility for the offense, and it will cause the other person to have to say “Yes,” or “No.” Giving you more to talk about while you are working through your issue of contention.
2. “I understand how you feel, that would make me feel the same way too.”
Earnestly try and empathize with those that could be upset with you. Consider the “Big-Picture” of their issue. Why they are losing their patience with you? What has happened in the past that might be instigating their lack of confidence in you, is it still an issue? It might just be that they are tired, hungry, angry, or even lonely.
3. “I am sorry I disrespected you,” or “Can you please forgive me for showing you disrespect?”
Any time you mention respect to a man, you are speaking his language. Women respond to emotions like men respond to respect. As a woman, when you choose to apologize for disrespecting your husband, you are communicating to him effectively that your lack of confidence is not from his ability to perform or provide. In turn, women like be shown respect as well, you can show your wife you respect her by choosing to meet her needs, emotionally.
4. Wives, you may want to try this “Could you please help me understand where you are coming from? Is there a key issue, or bottom line that you would like me to understand?”
Even though this sounds more professional than marital, understand that when your husband is upset with you, or something you have done, he immediately will shut down and go into a work mode. He may come off icy at best, and will portray a professional demanding attitude. After all, this is how he deals with conflicts daily. Don’t be surprised if he begins to talk to you as a secretary or employee. If that happens, just try and stay as emotionally solid as possible, and play the role back to him. Because you have maintained equilibrium in the heat of an argument, your husband will learn to respect you, and feel respected at the same time.
5. Husbands, you may want to try this “Is there anything I can help you with? I understand that you are under a lot of stress right now with ‘xyz’, (try and be specific it will be more endearing and show that you have been listening) I would like to give you all of my attention until we can get this situation resolved… please show me again where and how I can help.”
If the situation has gotten beyond the ability to talk, do not be afraid to go up to your wife and give her hug, and let her cry. Most often the response when people get offended is to run away and shut off their tender mercies, but never underestimate the power of an authentic embrace. Sometimes that is all women need!
U. Understand where your spouse is coming from
How old was your spouse when their dad died? How long ago was their divorce? How many partners where they with before they married you? How young where they when you first met? Sometimes it is too easy to have tunnel vision and forget that our spouses have had DIFFERENT life experiences than us. Even though as individuals we try really hard to overcome, these issues and the baggage from the past can creep up on us and get in the way of us having happier times. Know that this has NOTHING and EVERYTHING to do with you. It has NOTHING to do with you in regards to the fact that your spouse has had negative things out of your control happen to them. It has EVERYTHING to do with you in regards to the fact that your negative behavior is drawing out their issues. While it is always important for one to come face to face with the past, try to be a loving spouse and not be the cause of these painful flashbacks. The Lord will bring these issues to the surface in His OWN time... you really don't need to be the one to provoke them. Understand your spouses issues, and leave "the fixing of them" up to God alone!
V. Visualize the future
Seeing past the ends of our noses can be hard enough let alone seeing the ends of our lives! But do your best to imagine it if you can! Taking the time to pause and visualize as a couple where you are going is long-term critical (especially if you have chosen to see divorce as a non-option). Can you see sitting on the front porch of your house in your nineties rocking in a rocking chair and drinking a mint-iced tea with your spouse? Can you see those Great-great-grandkids running around on your property? There you and your spouse are sitting, rocking, and breathing in rhythm together. This is WHY you got married, to have someone to grow old with! I always envision holding hands as we rock in time together, looking out onto a crystal like lake with weeping willows all around us. Jeff and I leaning our old gray heads back on one of those really tall narrow ladder rockers. All our work is done for the moment, and together we sit basking in the Glory of old age in the Lord. Every couple desires to hear at the end of their marriage, "Well done good and faithful servant", it isn't too late for you. Forgive, and begin to visualize a forever TOGETHER.
W. Waiting is BEST
Waiting is waiting for a reason... to display character. A pregnant mother has 9 months in order to display to her family and the world her character and what kind of mother she is going to be. A potential father has 9 months to show to his wife how he will act as a new father. There is a period before you are hired, there is a period of waiting before you graduate, there is a period of waiting designed to abstain from sex before you wed... all in display of character. A future wife can tell how her husband will treat her and her children all by watching if he is able to restrain and self-discipline himself in regards to premarital sex. If he has no restraint for God's Laws against fornication- than what will he display as a husband? If your future wife cannot wait to spend your monies, how will she be as a wife? Waiting is character building, and displaying. Is your future spouse worth waiting for? The same goes for married folks, are you willing to wait for promotion? Or have you made promotion a priority? I once heard a fellow say, "You can tell the size of a man best- by the size of the thing that makes that man mad."
X. X-RAY your circumstances
There is a scripture that says, "A curse causeless shall not come" (Proverbs 26:2) in other words, negative things that happen in relationships (most always) are a result of something initially said or done that consequently ended up causing a negative reaction. What was it that was done initially to cause the rift in your relationship? If you can't think of anything, ASK your spouse. If it is EVERYTHING, well then take a deep breath and ask your spouse if they can forgive you and what it is that you can do to make it up to them. What is their love language, gifts? Words of affirmation? Acts of service? Quality time? Physical touch? Knowing how to speak love to your spouse upon x-raying the cause of your out-of-sync-ness, and then "making the loss up to them" through genuine acts of repentance, will get you and your spouse back on track in a heartbeat! (Resource is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman)
Y. YELL from the rooftops!
EVERYTHING you do toward and for your spouse should SCREAM how much you love them! Think about it, if you and your spouse both made the best decisions that you KNOW would bless your spouse above yourself, where would your relationship be? For example, let's say you want a black car... she wants a white car. What do you do? Well, when you both are loving on each other with exuberance from the roof tops- you SHOULD be at a stalemate in the dealership, until one of you says "Baby, I will love you regardless of color of car, if white would make you happy then I am happy!" If the two of you are so lovely that you can't decide what to do, them by all means flip a coin or something! But LOVE each other in your expenditures, love each other in your decisions, love each other in your travels! Where does your spouse want to go? What does your spouse love to do? Arrange date days around each other’s interests and every date will be an exciting one! No one said there was anything wrong with going to the ballet one night, and a boxing match the other. You are two different people who are capable of loving each other just the way you are... just make sure you do it and LOVE with your WHOLE heart!
Z. Zealously LOVE God
Lastly, I think it is very important to mention that we are to love God FIRST. Every marriage is "fixable" Christ has proven that with God all things are possible. However, no marriage is fixable without FIRST loving God. Anytime you need to withdraw love from God's spiritual account, He is there. Anytime you need to count on God for support, He is there. Anytime you need to put the breaks on in your relationship and seek advice, He is there. God is THE BEST marriage counselor around! He and His Word will ALWAYS be there for you and your entire family and all of your relationships! If there is a problem that you can't seem to shake: adultery, pornography, lust, lasciviousness, alcoholism, debt, drugs, miscarriage, abuse, neglect... all of these things and then some can be turned toward Christ for FULL and complete healing. What is required? YOU. You turning your life over to the King of Kings and surrendering your will to the Lord who wrote all the rules, and not being afraid of loss. There is ONLY ever gain for those who surrender to Christ. Begin to put His Word deep inside your heart, and watch what a man or woman in service to the Master can do. Those around you will either see your light and RUN for the hills (for fear of changing themselves) OR they will be drawn unto you and fall at the feet of the Master themselves. (Even those who run from righteousness will eventually turn to the Lord with time, be patient) Zealous love and pure faith comes with a price, giving God ALL control. This is THE BEST WAY to ensure that you and your spouse will get onto the same page... PERIOD.
Jessica Heilman is the Founder of Wholehearted Ministries and is also mom to The Cookie Boys. Jessica has been a student of Psychology, Philosophy and Theology for nearly 25 years. Jessica founded WHM in 2008 while in Bible College. Jessica and her husband Jeff have been married 21 years. Jeff and Jessica live in the Silicon Valley with their seven children and their dog Kennedy. This article was originally published via Wholehearted Ministries Mar 16,2012