Every marriage erodes without work.
Think about it. When you first met your future husband or wife, you were hyper alert.
Your heart beat faster. Your brain analyzed everything. You thought about your looks, your words, your actions, and how it all might appear to them.
You worked hard to pursue and woo. But then, you married them. Mission accomplished.
In time, the honeymoon ended, and you got comfortable.
You no longer daydream about them all day. You became more careless with your words and actions—and sometimes they hurt.
Life got busy, and you set your relationship on auto-pilot. Inch-by-inch, word-by-word, day-by-day, your marriage eroded.
The bad news is that all marriages have dry seasons; the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Most of us just need to go back to what we did when we first fell in love.
Here are some simple things you can do starting today to strengthen your marriage.
1. Encourage Them
The Bible commands us to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess 5:11). It’s not just a suggestion. We need it.
Everyone struggles with self-doubt and insecurity. Whether they admit it or not, your spouse needs encouragement.
So write an encouraging note. Send an encouraging text. Pick something they are good at and let them know how great you think they are.
Men, tell your wife she is beautiful. Women, tell your husband that he is handsome. Let them know that you notice how smart you think they are, how hard they work, how good they are with the kids, etc. The more specific, the better.
Words are powerful. As Proverbs says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov 25:11).
A little encouragement can change your life.
2. Surprise Them
When was the last time you surprised your spouse?
Let them know you love them and were thinking about them by doing something for them that they aren’t expecting.
Get them flowers, a gift, or a favorite treat just because. Do something extra around the house for them. Plan a secret date. Make a reservation. Buy tickets. Book a room at a hotel and get away for a night.
If your budget is tight, you don’t have to break the bank. The point is to do something unexpected to show your love for them.
And don’t do it with the expectation of anything in return. Do it just to make them happy. That’s reward enough.
3. Thank Them
This kinda goes along with point #1. But think about all the thankless things they have done over the years.
What do they do every day that you don’t thank them enough for? Pick something and thank them for it.
This is more than a quick, “Thanks.” Look them in the eyes and say something sincere like, “Honey, I just wanted to let you know that I see how hard you work for our family. It means the world to me. I don’t say thank you enough. But thank you for everything you do. We couldn’t do this without you.”
Sometimes a sincerer thank you is reward enough for the thankless stuff we do.
Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Phil 1:3). If that’s the example of how thankful we should be to other Christians, how much more should we be thankful for our husband/wife?
4. Delight Them
What could you do today that would make them smile?
Hard times can suck the joy out of marriage.
I know it’s difficult to smile when the bills pile up, the dishes are dirty, you have a fight, or you get a bad report from the doctor. But James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas 1:2).
The strongest marriages still find a way to have joy.
We can find joy in the worst of times because our hope is in Christ, not the present circumstances. All is well, because, in the end, all will be well.
So lighten up. Make it your mission to keep joy in your marriage. Have fun. Laugh. Smile. Crack a joke. Flirt. Goof around. It’s good for both of you.
Proverbs says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”(Prov 17:22).
So rejoice in the wife/husband of your youth (Prov 5:18).
5. Pray for them
If you call yourself a Christian and aren’t praying for your marriage, you aren’t taking it seriously.
The Bible urges us to “pray for one another” (Jas 5:16), “pray without ceasing” (1 These 5:17), let our “requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6), “always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1), and more.
So stop right now, and pray for your husband/wife. Pray that God would bless them. Pray specifically for what’s happening in their life. And thank God for them. Pray that God would help you grow in love for one another.
And let them know that you are praying for them. It shouldn’t be some secret. Shoot them a text during the day to tell them you are praying.
One of the best things you can do is ask, “How can I pray for you today?” Then pray for them. Even better, pray with them.
God answers prayer. It’s a powerful way to strengthen your marriage.
6. Serve Them
Your marriage isn’t about you.
Your marriage is about God first, your spouse second, your kids—if you have them—third, and yourself last.
You barely made the list.
You need to approach your marriage like Jesus says. He said, “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt 20:16), and, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12).
If it’s all about you, and you try to “win” all the time, you’ll lose.
Mutual service is the bedrock for great marriages. The husband serves his wife, and the wife serves her husband. That’s true love.
And don’t you dare point the finger and say, “I’ll serve them when they finally serve me for once!” That’s missing the point.
You want to be exalted, but you need to be humble. Lead by putting them first.
So find a way to serve them today. Do the dishes. Take out the trash. Put gas in their car. Rub their feet. Watch a show they want to watch.
What can you do today to serve them first?
7. Listen to Them
How often do you really listen to your husband/wife? I’m not talking about the quick phone calls or conversations while running our the door.
I mean, when was the last time you sat on the couch with them, and did nothing but listen after you ask a question about their honest feelings, greatest desires, biggest frustration, or wildest dreams?
When you were dating, you probably listened to them all the time. But what about now?
I’m terrible at this. When my wife tells me a problem, I rush to put on my hero cape and try to swoop in to fix it.
She often has to stop me and say, “Brandon, I don’t need you to fix it. I just need you to listen.”
It makes no sense to me. But men and women are different. The more I listen, the stronger our marriage has grown.
The Bible says, “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (Jas 1:19). But we often do it backward. We are quick to speak, quick to become angry, and slow to listen.
Your marriages may improve too if you shut your mouth and open your ears.
The Bible says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov 18:3).
(BONUS TIP) Put Down Your Phone
Phones are one of the greatest threat to marriages today. It’s funny how a device created for talking is killing communication.
Just look around a restaurant and see how many couples have their faces in their phones. Occasionally, they’ll look up and say something or point to something on their phone. But they quickly retreat to the glow of the screen.
Sometimes my wife will be mid-conversation with me, and I’ll pull out my phone to check something.
How rude is that? I don’t even realize I’m doing it.
If your phone is a problem for you, consider charging it in another room when you should be with your family. Maybe you both should agree to put them away for awhile every night so you can hang out together.
Find what works for you. Don’t let your love for a screen strangle your love for each other.
What if you paid as much attention to them as you do to your phone?