6 Practical Ways You Can Fight For Your Marriage (Every Day!)
Our desire for this blog is ultimately to be a place of encouragement, inspiration, hope, and community. One of the areas that we hope to spread encouragement is marriage. Marriages as a whole are really hurting in America, and probably all over the world. Some like to get caught up in the “why,” but we’re going to try to focus more on the “how.” How do we fight for our own marriages? How do we encourage the marriages around us? How do we raise our kids to value their spouse and their marriage above everything else this side of heaven? Today we’re going to focus on some of the things we have found to be helpful for fighting for our marriage. Will doing these things guarantee a perfect marriage? Nope, because a marriage is between two imperfect people. But if you actively work on doing these things I’m confident you will have a closer, stronger marriage. Even if you already have a strong, happy marriage, we encourage you to continue to actively fight for your marriage today, to help prevent a crisis later. We are by no means professional marriage counselors, but in our 7.5 years of marriage we’ve picked up a few tools through personal experience and marriage classes.
Believe the best about your spouse
In times of conflict or stress, it’s really easy to lose track of who your spouse really is. When we’re feeling frustrated or angry, our focus tends to only be on the negative, and even more than that the negative often gets exaggerated in our minds. It’s tempting to give in to those thoughts, but if you can stop yourself for a moment and remind yourself of who your spouse really is and some of their good qualities, it can really help diffuse the situation so it’s more productive and helpful. Getting stuck in the negativity trap can be so detrimental. It’s also easy to assume our spouse meant harm to us when they do something that hurts or upsets you, but before you automatically jump to that conclusion, again remind yourself of who your spouse is and choose to believe the best about them. Communicate with your guard down and your heart open and get to the meaning behind what happened. I’ve found you’ll almost always find that your initial assumption was wrong. And if it wasn’t and they did mean [emotional] harm, then it’s time for some conflict resolution, probably under the guidance of a marriage counselor.
Speak life into your spouse
Speaking life into people that matter to you is so so important. Your children need to hear that they’re valued, loved, that you’re proud of them, that they matter, they’re smart, etc. Your spouse needs to hear that from you, too. When work is extra difficult and stressful, letting them know that you’re proud of them and they’re doing amazing can speak volumes. If money is tight, hearing the words “thank you for all that you do to provide for our family” can encourage them. Maybe it sounds cheesy but try it. It’s amazing what a difference it can make in your life when you know that someone is on your team, cheering for you every step of the way. Even if you’ve been married for decades, let your spouse know that you still find them incredibly sexy. Not only will you make them feel valued and seen, but it will also help you with #1: believing the best of your spouse. If you’re regularly speaking what you appreciate about them, it’s easier to remember those things when you’re frustrated.
Love them their way
I’m sure you’ve heard of "The 5 Love Languages” book by Gary Chapman. It’s been pretty revolutionary in the world of relationships. If you haven’t heard of it, the basic premise of it is that there are 5 basic love languages for all people, and everyone has their own love language makeup; specific love languages speak love more strongly to you than others. The 5 love languages are Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Acts of Service. For me, I have two main love languages: quality time and physical touch. I feel most loved when Aaron spends focused time with me and we hold hands, cuddle on the couch, etc. Aaron’s main love language is acts of service, he feels the most loved when I sacrifice my time and energy to do things to help him, like cleaning up the house before he comes home every day. No love language is wrong to have as your most important, we’re all wired differently with them. Everyone does have a need and appreciation for all of them, but there is typically one or two that will stand out as the strongest for you. It is so beneficial to relationships to figure out which love language means the most to your spouse, and focus on showing them love in those ways that speak to them most. I think so often couples get frustrated because they’re loving their spouse the way they give and receive love best, but their spouse is feeling neglected because they’re not being given love how they receive it best. If you're a gifts person, you could be bringing your wife flowers every day, but for her, doing the laundry at the end of a long day would speak your love much louder. It can be difficult to do because as humans we do what we’re best at and most comfortable with, but the message can get lost in translation. Learn to speak their language, and your bond will grow ever deeper. Challenge yourself to figure out their love language, and find ways to speak it to them every day. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but keep at it and before long it will become much more natural.
Lay down self
Our society seems to be very much all about self; one only has to look at social media for 2 seconds to see how evident that is. We are really good at focusing on ourselves and our wants, needs, and happiness. But marriage isn’t about ourselves. It’s about us. I think it’s easy to think that our spouse is responsible for making us happy, and if they’re not making us happy then things aren’t working and the marriage should be over. But our happiness is not their responsibility, nor is their happiness our responsibility. Our spouse shouldn’t try to make us unhappy, but it’s entirely unfair to expect them to be the controller of our happiness. We are responsible for our own happiness, and we’re all going to go through seasons of life when we’re just not as happy as others, but we cannot expect or demand our spouse to fix that for us or to blame them for it. Marriage is very much about laying down our self for our spouse. Just as the Bible says, “there is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). The obvious interpretation of that verse is that literally giving your life for others is the ultimate expression of love, as Jesus did for us on the cross. But I also believe that there’s another application for that verse, and it’s a figurative laying down of your life for your friends. Most of us won’t ever be in a situation where we can literally give up our life for someone, but we will all be in a situation where we can put down our wants to do something for a friend (or in this case, our spouse). Think of your closest friends; if their car broke down on the side of the road, wouldn’t you be there in a heartbeat to pick them up? We’re faced with many situations every day where we can show sacrificial love.
For us, I stay home with our kids and homeschool the two oldest. A couple of days a week we also have a couple of extra kids that I watch. With 3-6 kids in the house and zero adult interaction, I can end up a bit frazzled by the end of some days. On those days, when Aaron comes home after working for 10+ hours that day, exhausted, he’ll often lay down his want and need of sitting down for a minute to take our 3 kids outside to play while I have a few moments of peace. Alternately, when I know that Aaron has had an extra long, hard day at work, I’ll take the kids outside and let him have a little catnap downstairs to refuel. It’s natural to want to meet our own needs first, but when we are purposeful about putting them first amazing things can happen. As the giver, you feel good about doing something selflessly for your spouse; as the receiver, you feel cared for and seen.
Don’t bash your spouse to others
Ladies, I’ve been to enough MOPS groups to know that women can especially struggle in this area. I also know that men have been known to talk down about their wives to their guy friends, so we’re all in danger of falling into this trap. It is so so important to not partake in it though. Hold your spouse in high esteem, especially when talking to others. It is so demeaning to be spoken poorly about to others, and it does nothing to help your relationship. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29). There may be times when you need to talk to a close friend about a difficult situation going on in your marriage, but that’s very different from bashing them. That can be especially beneficial when you can trust that your friend will be honest with you about your role in the issue.
We realize this is a typical and often annoying church answer, but it really is so important. Pray for your marriage daily, hourly if need be. God hears every cry of our hearts, and He wants your marriage to thrive. After all, He’s the creator of marriage, and He’s the healer of marriage as well. Sometimes I think it’s easy to get stuck in the prayer trap of praying for God to change your spouse, but I challenge you to try praying for God to change you; pray for you to become a better spouse and pray for your heart to be changed and your eyes to see your spouse the way God does. Prayer can move mountains and bring a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), even in the most trying of times.
Those are just 6 ways that you can actively fight for your marriage today. We pray that these 6 tips strengthen and bless your marriage as they have ours.
Please note, if you are in an abusive marriage, we strongly urge you to get yourself somewhere safe and seek professional help. You can find a plethora of resources here.