Are you ready for my marriage challenge today?
It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for a marriage post and link-up party! I’ll write a post about how to have a good marriage, and then you all can link up one of your own marriage posts below!
In the sitcom Seinfeld, the character George Costanza was the perennial loser. He couldn’t keep a relationship. He was on a nowhere career path. His own parents didn’t really like him.
One day he had an epiphany. Everything he instinctually did was bad for him. He had horrible instincts! So instead he would simply start doing the opposite. Whenever he had to make a decision, he would ask himself, “what would I normally do?” And then he would do the exact opposite.
On his first day of trying this, he got a new girlfriend and landed a great job.
When Keith and I were speaking at a Weekend to Remember marriages conference in New Brunswick last week, I reminded the audience of that story. Sometimes what is comfortable and natural is not always the right thing. Sometimes the right thing actually feels awkward, because we’re not used to it. But we still need to decide to embark on a new path.
Many of us are immersed in unhealthy patterns in all kinds of areas of our lives. We spend too much time on the internet. We yell too much at our kids. We get up too late and are always in a hurry. We have no organization in our lives and always feel a little discombobulated. We’re doing what comes naturally and feels comfortable, but it’s actually hurting us.
And we can be like that in our marriages, too. We stop talking about matters of the heart and only talk logistics: who is going to the grocery store, who is driving to karate lessons, who is going to help mom this weekend. We criticize when we should keep our mouth shut; we retreat to our own hobbies instead of spending time together. We never make love.
It’s hard to change everything at once, but I’d like to offer you this simple marriage challenge: think of one small good marriage habit you could try to institute to make your relationship better.
Taking me up on this marriage challenge doesn’t mean you have to do something huge. Sometimes it’s those small changes–those new good habits–that lead to other changes, just like a pebble dropped in a river makes waves.
Let’s take just one example. Let’s say that everyday you decide that you are going to look for two things to praise your husband for. That’s relatively innocuous and doesn’t take a lot of time. But if you’ve been resenting your husband, or thinking about how much he fails to measure up, it can be revolutionary. So you begin to study what he does to find what you appreciate. Maybe it’s something small, like commenting on how much you appreciate him keeping up with the car’s maintenance so you don’t have to deal with it, or how wonderful he is on the barbecue. Maybe you tell him he smells nice after a shower, or that you appreciate how he got into a tickling match with your 5-year-old today.
Just look for things that you admire, and let him know!
When he hears you start to praise him, instead of feeling a simmering, under the surface criticism, he starts to relax around you and starts to feel more positive, too. It can change the whole dynamic of your marriage, but it’s a relatively little thing.
Here, then, is a list of some “good marriage habits”–some marriage challenges–that you can enact for the next 21 days. Do that, and you’ll have the new habit engrained, and you’ll be doing it naturally. Don’t pick them all; it’s hard to learn a new habit. But see if any of these speak to you, and then pray about it, and ask God to help you choose 1-3 new marriage habits from this list to develop so that they become second nature.
1. Praise your husband for two things everyday
2. Every night, before you go to sleep, put your hand on your husband and pray for him (either silently or out loud), that God will bless him and give him strength.
3. When he comes home from work (or when you come home from work), stop whatever you’re doing and greet him first. Tell him you’re glad to see him.
4. Before you see him at the end of the day, brush your hair, put on some lipstick, and tidy yourself up a bit so that you think, “I want to look great for my husband!”
5. Stop reading romance novels or watching chick flicks that make you feel dissatisfied with your marriage
6. Go for a walk with him after dinner every night, or find something else you can do with him everyday.
7. Ask him what little things you could do to make the home more inviting for him. Pick one and do it (without feeling resentment if he’s not returning the favour!)
8. Make a gratitude journal where you list five things you’re grateful for about your marriage and family everyday.
9. Get up early enough that you can grab breakfast together or connect in the mornings.
10. Decide to increase the frequency of the times you make love–let’s say to 2-3 times a week (or more if you can!).
11. Text him during the day to flirt or just tell him what you’re praying for him.
12. Go to bed at a reasonable hour–TOGETHER! Adults need bedtimes, too.
Here’s the thing about that list: none of these new habits is overly onerous. They’re all little changes. But as you add one new marriage habit to your life, it can change the dynamic of your relationship. And when you do it for long enough, it becomes a positive habit. Then you can add something else little, all of which can have a cumulative effect.
When we want to change our marriages, or our lives, we often focus on all the different things we’re going to have to do. We think about the huge problems we have to overcome. Don’t. You can’t tackle huge problems all at once. But you can break them down into small marriage habits that are manageable and easy to learn. And the more we add of these small things, the more our thought processes towards our marriages change.