I am no marriage expert. In fact, I have only been married to one person so my viewpoint on marriage is fairly limited. We have been married 18 and a half years. There are sometimes in marriage where everything I previously knew about marriage became immediately obsolete.
So I want to give a few thoughts on marriage yet throw out that I am humbled by how little I know about what it takes to make a marriage successful.
1. Nightly Walks - I believe that nightly walks have been one of the most important parts of our relationship. We have been doing this for over 18 years. We usually don't walk in the Winter months (until we moved to Houston which has no real Winter). We did not walk every night but usually we walk about 5 nights a week. We just walk around the block for 30-40 minutes and share about our day. We take turns and the person who starts is typically the person that has something more pressing to say. I can't remember very many nights when we walked in silence. We talk the whole time. We sometimes walked in malls during Winter months. But for the most part we walked outside.
2. Romance - I probably fail in so many ways in my attempts to be romantic. I am sure there are men that find it natural but I must admit that I probably say the wrong things at times. I have tried to mix in romantic actions and create romantic moments in our lives. One example is one day I was going to meet my wife at the mall. She was going to school so we would meet at the mall sometimes for lunch. So I went a few hours earlier. I bought 12 roses and I went to 12 stores spread out in the mall. I gave them a rose. I told them that when I walked in with my wife that they should ask her, "Is your name Jennifer? When she said "yes," they should give her a rose. So we walked into the various stores and she received her 12 roses one by one. I can give other examples but I think you get the idea. I think women appreciate it when you do something special that takes time.
3. A Priority - One of my earliest problems was giving my wife the impression she was not a priority in my life. At one point, we actually came to the place where I was not sure we would make it. I was taking my sons to chess club 3-4 nights a week. They were competing at the state and national levels. I coached their teams. In my mind, I was doing a good thing by spending time with my boys. But I went too far with it. And it left my wife feeling like she was second to the time I spent with our sons. Some our going to disagree with this but I think it is best to always make your spouse a priority over your kids. Your kids will be there for 18 years but then they will be gone. I am not saying that you love your kids less. I am simply saying you should always pick time with your spouse first and allow your children to take second place. They will be ok at second place. I take them for walks around the block too although that is only once or twice a week.
Your spouse needs to be a financial priority too. I know what it is like to be a college kid with a young family and to be broke. But you still should make every effort to spend some money on each other. It is easy when you have kids to put all your money into them. You have to resist that temptation.
In the early part of our marriage, I would just give money away to homeless people. I thought it was an issue of doing what God wanted. So I would give money away. I never turned a poor person away even if I had nothing. We were young and married and were only making $17,000 a year and I gave $800-1000 (I might be off here) to a poor family with a handicapped child. It was everything we had. Another time, we did not have any money and I gave my whole paycheck to a charity that was in need without asking my wife. It was right before Valentine's Day and so I kept nothing to buy for my wife. Again, I didn't realize the way I was making my wife feel. I thought I was just serving God. Now I realize I should have just given my wife a $1000 as a gift. If you can afford to do it for a complete stranger, you can afford it for your spouse.
You may be broke. But if you are going to do something nice, do it for your spouse.
4. Arguing - We have argued about some pretty stupid stuff in our lives. This is especially the case earlier in our marriage. We would let our arguments escalate. We would argue for hours. We would let it carry into days. If you are currently arguing for days and still talking about the same topic, maybe it is time to let it go. Someone has to have the maturity to decide it is killing your happiness. Is the issue really that important? Is it really that important to make that one last point? Do you always have to have the last word? That is a crappy way to live life. You are just killing your happiness.
Again, I am no expert. I don't claim to know more than anyone else. I just wanted to throw out a few thoughts on marriage. You go though so much together. If you are going to spend the rest of your life with someone, it is best to build that person up. There is no reason to tear that person down. If you only look at the negative in your spouse, maybe you are the problem.
5. Focus on what you can do - Stop focusing on how your spouse can change. You can't change another person. Don't allow your spouse to fail to unrealistic expectations. Just do your best to be a great husband/wife. It really will cause you to be happier. I am not talking about being a doormat. But if you are always looking for your spouse to be something different, you will never be satisfied. In fact, you are probably unpleasant to be around.
6. Deal with your spouse with grace - Your spouse will make mistakes. In 18+ years of marriage, we have both made mistakes. What is the worse thing your spouse has ever done? Think of it right now. You have it in your head? Get over it. If it happened 2-3 years ago, it is time to let it go. Stop being so unpleasant.
7. Express your love - You should hug your spouse every day and tell your spouse every day that you love them. You should do the same for your children. Don't hold it in. Let them know you care about them.If you're in a marriage, what has helped you get through the tough times? What has made it difficult? If you aren't married, how do lessons from married people help prepare you for your future relationships?