Ah, it’s a new year and time for refocusing, refreshing and renewing every area of your life. If you are ,married, this is a great time to pull your spouse aside and dream and pray together about what God might have in store for you as individuals and as a couple this year. The quality of your marriage will affect every area of your life, as well as your other relationships. For some, it becomes so easy to let the attention that your spouse needs slide as the years go by, and slowly a drift is created that is hard to mend.

As your marriage launches into the new year, here are 7 tips to help you stay on track and in love!

#1. Stop Trying To Control Each Other.

I know this is easier said than done, but spouses who try to change and control each other are never happy and many end up divorced. As a person grows emotionally it becomes clear that the only person you can control is yourself, yet we use pressure and manipulation to try to make each other do what we want them to do. Sometimes it works, but it always creates a level of resentment in the one under pressure. Instead of trying to control, have a conversation where you express your wants and needs in a non-manipulative way and then release the outcome and choose to love regardless.

#2. Eliminate the word “Divorce” from your marriage vocabulary.

Stresses mount, personalities clash, and circumstances get tough…this is life. But when mounting pressure lands on a marriage, the word “divorce” is thrown around (in a controlling/manipulative way) far too often. When you think of marriage as a covenant and not a contract, you choose to eliminate the use of the word divorce. In study after study, and conversation after conversation, when those who have ben married more than 40 years were asked for advice, the phrase “Don’t use the “D” word” comes up legion.By eliminating using the word ‘divorce’ you are saving your energy for where it is most needed, working through a solution, not throwing away a gift. So this year, if you feel that word forming on your lips, choose instead to write out all the positive attributes about your spouse and why you will stay engaged in a healthy way.

#3. Replace The Seven Deadly Habits of Marriage.

In their book Eight Lessons for a Happier Marriage, authors William and Coleen Glasser MD,MA, write note the seven deadly habits as:

  • criticizing
  • blaming
  • complaining
  • nagging
  • threatening
  • punishing
  • bribing

As you look at the list, those are all debilitating control tactics. I like what the Glasser’s give as trade-ins. Instead of seven deadly habits, they recommend practicing seven caring habits:

  • supporting
  • encouraging
  • listening
  • accepting
  • trusting
  • respecting
  • negotiating your differences

#4 Invest In Yourself.

Self care is critical to a healthy marriage. A marriage where one person is always sacrificing and never receiving is not healthy, it’s co-dependent. In taking care of yourself, you need to think in terms of:

  • emotional health
  • spiritual health
  • physical health

Are you in touch with how you are feeling? Do you know more than 10 feeling words? Did a traumatic experience in life stunt your emotional growth? Most people might come up with a physical health plan and even a spiritual growth plan, but never consider how they can invest in growing into an emotionally healthy adult who doesn’t need to control, manipulate or have the world focus on them. This does not comes easy, it takes investing in growth classes, books and an integration of physical and spiritual health. Caring for your physical body through exercise, rest, and play is also crucial to a healthy marriage. You are also a spiritual being and need to grow in the areas or prayer, meditation, study and service to others. If you are investing and growing in these three areas you will be self differentiated enough to have a dynamic marriage.

#5 Remember Your Spouse Is Royalty

Have you ever thought about your spouse as royalty? The truth is, all God’s children are royalty and should be treated as such. It is easy to take advantage of each other in marriage, but if you were married to a royal prince or princess, I am sure you would approach them with honor and respect. I think for most marriages, honor and respect are the two most important ingredients you can have. It is possible to respect someone without loving them, but it is impossible to love someone without respecting them. What are some ways to honor and respect your spouse this year?

  • speak positively of your spouse in front of others
  • never criticize you spouse in public
  • own up when you make a mistake
  • don’t throw your spouse under the bus
  • guard your heart and mind when online
  • don’t flirt with people of the opposite sex
  • help out before you are asked
  • listen when they are talking (eyes engaged, throw down the remote)
  • celebrate your spouses’ achievements together
  • tell them you are proud of them, love them, desire them
  • practice taking your eyes off of you and start serving your spouse in love

#6 Remember to Touch More

You are never too old to touch no matter what your teenagers say! Research shows that consistently touching is great for a marriage as it releases oxytocin and creates a stronger relational bond. So hold hands, rub her shoulders, give each other a massage, give a butt pat or even a high five. Hold each other and kiss for more than 5 seconds. Go on a walk together, snuggle on the couch and watch a romantic movie like ‘Braveheart’ 🙂 Take an inventory of how often and how you touch and make a commitment to increase it!

#7 Schedule Time Together

Time is our greatest commodity today and a lack of time is a marriage crusher. Even though you might have a little voice inside of you saying, “you shouldn’t have to schedule time to be with your spouse, it should just happen”, reality dictates other. Time is precious and life, work, and family responsibilities often take away all the available time before you even know it’s gone! The remedy is to create a date that you will establish as inviolable for you and your spouse to be together. The amount of time you can take will vary in different seasons of your life, but it is important that you both think about maximizing and scheduling time to be together. This is your opportunity to talk about the dreams and passions you have, the struggles you are going through, and to touch. If life has kept you both very busy, use your date time to ask questions that will reveal the heart of the other person. Doing service projects together, going on mission together, simply walking through the city together, do whatever you can this year to have consistent time with each other that is beyond the household duties.

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