Love Your Spouse, wait isn't this a design blog? I know, I know, this has nothing to do with design. Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage!! I'm being 100% honest when I say I am more in love with my husband today than I was 15 years ago. In honor of my anniversary I wanted to share 15 strategies I have learned over the years to stay in love with your spouse.
Is it possible to stay in love after getting married?
6 years ago I thought I needed a divorce. Getting divorced isn't something I believe in. I didn't want a divorce. I wanted to stay married. I loved my husband but I was no longer in love with him. He had made choices that I couldn't find a way to forgive. He didn't want a divorce either. He also didn't want to give up some unhealthy habits he had formed over the years. He loved me, but he thought maybe he "deserved" someone better.We fought daily. There were no boundaries and anyone who would listen was given way too much information about our marriage all in the name of proving the other was more at fault. So many wonderful people tried giving us each well-meaning advice but without them knowing the full story the advice given was less than helpful. In fact it was often used to be thrown in each other's faces to prove how "right" we were.Two years after the birth of my youngest daughter my husband met a man that had the "dream marriage" according to what he wanted our marriage to look like. After explaining our relationship to this new friend, he told my husband:
"If you want what I have then you need to go to counseling."
My husband made an appointment with a counselor the next business day.I refused to go.I didn't want to hear that it was my fault.I didn't want to change.I didn't want to hear that he was right and I was wrong.I didn't want to be "fixed."I needed to see how committed he was to the whole counseling thing before I would ever go.Finally after three months of my spouse going on his own I agreed to join him in marriage counseling.
Going to Marriage Counseling was by far the BEST thing we have done for our marriage.
Let me first say that not all counselors are the same. In order to be successful you have to find the right counselor for you! We got lucky and the first counselor we went to together was perfect for us. Her style was very subtle and more nurturing and patient. If you find a counselor that you're not clicking with, don't be afraid to let them know that you don't think it's working and ask them if they know a counselor who is better suited to your personality.Marriage counseling isn't a magic "easy" button that gives you fast results. It's more like a one to two year plan that requires a lot of emotional sweat and tears. You have to put in the work in order to get the results.After going to counseling for about 18 months I fell back in love with my spouse and our relationship is stronger now that it's ever been, flaws and all (and believe me there are flaws). Here are 15 strategies we learned that I want to share with you on how you can stay in love with your spouse for years to come!
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number One: Love Yourself
I know this advice is super cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason! Seriously! You have to love yourself before you can truly love someone else. If you don't know how to love yourself with all of your imperfections and flaws, how can you love your spouse who is also imperfect and flawed? Something to think about it.I want you to picture a bottled water. In fact go get a bottled water and do this with me if you want. Now imagine your bottled water has holes in them. Those holes represent your flaws and weaknesses. They represent your mistakes. They represent everything you don't love about yourself. Picture a second water bottle. It represents your spouse (or mom, or significant other). Picture this water bottle as being full of selflessness and love. Now I want you to picture what happens when you take the water bottle that is full of water (aka love) and pour it into the water bottle full of holes.What happens?Hopefully you pictured all of the water being poured in leaking out and draining the second bottle with it.How does this relate to loving yourself? Every time we expect our spouse to "make us feel loved" without first taking the time to love ourselves we fail. Our spouse can be the most thoughtful, compassionate, understanding person in the world and you can still feel unloved.Take a minute and think of all the things you don't love about yourself. Now think of all the things you don't love about your spouse . . . see any similarities?
Take the time to work on loving yourself and valuing who you are and what you bring to the relationship - it's a game changer for marriages when both spouses love themselves and each other!
Disclaimer - learning to love yourself does not mean becoming selfish and demanding that your spouse picks up the slack while you find yourself. It means doing the work together and having them help you to love yourself.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Two: Own your Actions
There is nothing in the world that I hate more than blaming other people. I grew up surrounded by relationship martyrs. Guess what, none of them are super happy today. Do you know what I mean by relationship martyrs? They are the type of people who complain ALL.THE.TIME. about how horrible people are to them. How mean their spouse is, how rude their kids are, etc.Do you know what they never say?
They never say . . .
"I allowed him to talk back to me because I never gave him a consequence."
"I chose to not speak up when I didn't like what he was doing."
"I have been overly critical lately so my spouse is starting to push back."
"I am choosing to be mad about this and I am refusing to forgive them because I want them to feel my anger."
Instead it is ALWAYS someone else who is making them unhappy and miserable.If you want to truly your spouse, you have to own you own actions. It is not love to blame your spouse for every negative feeling you have. It is not love to blame your spouse for your addictions. It is not love to blame your spouse for not being able to read your mind. It is not love to refuse to first check yourself and see how you are contributing to the problem.I am often reminded of this scripture found in the King James version of the Bible:
Luke 6:42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
Check the beam in your own eye before you focus on the mote in your spouse's.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Three: Don't own your spouse's actions.
Do you know what else relationship martyr's do? They blame themselves for everything their spouse does that is hurtful. If your spouse is addicted to porn it is not your fault. If your spouse is an alcoholic that is not your fault. Does your spouse love to gamble or cheats on you? That is not your fault. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT if your spouse chooses to hit you or insult you or belittle you.Let me say it again: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.Your spouse wants you to think it is. Spouses don't want to look in the mirror. It goes against their inner narrative that they are the problem.My poor husband has tried to blame me for his woes and every single time he has failed to make that blaming stick - because I refuse to own his crap. I have enough of my own flaws I need to work on, I don't need to add his to my plate.Strategy #3 is by far the hardest strategy to live by. It is easy to believe we aren't good enough. It is easy to believe that we aren't sexual enough. It is easy to believe we aren't good housekeepers. It is hard to say - "nope, try again. That's all you buddy." Oh but when you master this, it is so freeing!I love my spouse because I can accept his flaws and know that his flaws are just that . . . HIS!Misery loves company. Combat that by refusing to be that company. It's a life changer, I promise.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Four: Admit you were wrong . . . It won't kill you. I promise!
Do you really want to stay in love with your spouse? Do you want your spouse to stay in love with you? You need to get real good at saying, "I was wrong, I'm sorry."My husband loves to say:"You can be right or you can be married."Pride and shame are really the only reason you wouldn't admit you were wrong and neither of those belong in a marriage.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Five: The grass is greenest where you water it.
At our lowest point in our marriage, my spouse honestly believed that there was someone out in the world who was better for him. He deserved the best and in his mind I wasn't the best. Joke's on him, I am pretty awesome, just saying.Thousands of dollars and hours in counseling he realized that it is all about what you are focusing on. Loving your spouse means you have to make a choice to love your spouse.How do you get the greenest grass on the block? You water it, you fertilize it, you mow it, you nurture it.How do you stay in love with your spouse after you get married? You take the time to nurture the relationship. You have to keep dating each other. You must focus every day on what you love about your spouse and not on what you wish you had different.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Six: Forgive Often
If you really want to stay in love with your spouse, forgiveness is a must. We are all human. We all have moments of selfishness. Everyone of us at some point in our life is going to screw up. Learn to forgive and let it go.My brother passed away in an accident over 20 years ago when he was 3. One minute he was alive and fine and in a blink of an eye he was gone. I was 7. From that day on I knew that at any moment someone I love can be gone. I always think, what if they died and I had to refuse to forgive them for this? I have found that the quicker I can forgive the happier I am in my relationship.
THAT BEING SAID, FORGIVENESS DOES NOT EQUAL ACCEPTANCE OR TRUST
I mistakenly believed that by forgiving my spouse for hurtful behavior that I was saying what he did was o.k. Through going to marriage counseling I was able to learn that forgiveness just means, I don't hate you for what you did. Now I can say, I forgive for you what you did, but what you did was wrong and I will not tolerate being treated that way. I can say, "I forgive you, but I don't trust you."
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Seven: Speak Up & Clarify Expectations
Spouses are not our parents or our children. Spouses are our teammates. Our partners. Our helpers. At least that's how couples who stay in love with their spouses treat each other. When I think about the relationship I want to have with my spouse I like to think about successful sports teams.My kids play on competitive basketball teams. Each week I sit in the bleachers and watch how when one kid gets on the court without knowing his role in the play, he fails. I watch how when one kid gets on the court and takes over, the other teammates stop trying as hard. I also see how when everyone is clear on their role and each know what is expected of them, they succeed.The same is true in relationships. Learn how to assert yourself and clarify your expectations. If my husband wants to go play basketball with his friends and asks my opinion, I will give it even if I know he won't like hearing my opinion. If I don't like something my spouse says, I speak up and express that. I know exactly what my spouse expects of me and he knows what I expect of him.I know so many people who are miserable in their marriage because they don't speak up. They expect their spouses to just read their minds. They don't think their spouse cares so they stop talking. Staying silent is a killer to relationships.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Eight: Communication is Vital
The words we speak matter. What matters more is how we say the words we speak. At the end of this post I am sharing a free guide. In that guide it includes a communication wheel and styles. Study it. Learn how to use "I statements." Don't roll your eyes at that. Using I statements is how you own your actions and thoughts."I feel . . . ""I think . . . ""When I hear . . . "Avoid saying you as much as possible. Think back to high school and college essays. Saying "you" was an automatic deduction every time. Same goes for communication.The majority of the time spent in marriage counseling is spent on learning this critical skill.
How you communicate in your relationship will determine how much love you feel towards
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Nine: Talk Less, Listen More
Loving your spouse means you have to listen to your spouse. Really listen. Don't just listen to what they are saying, listen to what they aren't saying. Dig a little deeper. Reflect back what you heard them say, not just what they actually said, but how you heard it in your head.
Here's the trick to being a good listener: Check your emotions at the door, it's not about you!
When we were going through counseling, my husband would say some pretty ugly things. I would feel myself cringing and our love dying a little more with each ugly word coming out of his mouth. Then our counselor told me to imagine putting my emotions on a shelf and focus solely on trying to understand what he was thinking and feeling. It wasn't about me. I didn't have to agree with what he said, I just had to understand where he was at. That was a game changer for me. I could finally start to listen and help him see how ugly his words were.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Ten: Comparison leads to Misery
I know I kind of touched on this earlier with the grass being greener, but it needs to be touched on some more. You can not want the greener grass over the hill yet still fall into the comparison trap. When out to lunch with friends we all fall victim to oversharing and comparing our marriages to our friends. here's the deal though . . . they are only sharing their perspective.
We all know that there are 3 sides to a story. Your version, My version and the Truth!
If you want to stay in love with your spouse, be grateful for the relationship you have and refuse to compare your spouse to someone else.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Eleven: Your Thoughts Matter, choose them wisely.
Thoughts lead to feelings which leads to action.
One afternoon my husband was outside grilling up dinner and watching the kids swim. I was inside finishing up the sides and washing the dishes. As I was washing the dishes I found myself suddenly becoming very angry. I am not an angry person, in fact it takes a lot to really get me angry. Imagine my surprise though when all of a sudden I was really angry at my spouse, even though he was serving me. I'm a pretty intuitive person so I started to trace back to what I was thinking and sure enough I was thinking about all of the things that irritated me about my spouse. I created anger from just my thoughts.When you find yourself out of love with your spouse - check your thoughts about them. Are you thinking about everything they do wrong? Everything you don't like?I challenge you to focus on every good thing they do, everything you love about them (even if it's only that they go to work and leave you alone for a few hours a day) and eventually over time you will be even more in love with your spouse.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Twelve: Stop Criticizing, Start Thanking
The first book our counselor had us read when we were in marriage counseling was called: Without Offense: The art of giving criticism. This book is written for the LDS couple but there is a wealth of wisdom for all couples.Picture for a minute a house full of people saying, "thanks for . . . "Now picture for a minute a house full of people saying, "Why did you do it like that? You need to do it my way." or "Thanks for doing the dishes but you did them wrong."Which house do you want to live in?I shared a picture a while ago on my personal Instagram of my bedroom after my husband cleaned it. We, like many others, have several throw pillows on our bed. My husband to this day has no clue how to put the throw pillows on the bed the right way. Every time I see those throw pillows on the bed, all askew and not pretty, I think to myself, "I can focus on what he did wrong, or I can be grateful he made the bed so I don't have to."
Learning to bite your tongue is a surefire way to stay in love your spouse!
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Thirteen: Honesty is Always the Best Policy
Lying only accomplishes one thing - destruction of trust. The truth always comes out eventually so you can hurt your spouse a little by being upfront about a mistake you made, or a lot by hiding the truth and having them find out eventually. Staying in love with your spouse means showing them respect and just being honest. The minute you start lying and making a habit of lying, the closer you are to destroying your relationship. A strong relationship requires trust which is achieved through being honest and open with each other, always.
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Fourteen: Check Your Priorities Often
Life is busy. The older we get and the older our kids get it is easy to forget to focus on your marriage. I know so many people who focus all of their energy on work or their children only to end up in a divorce because they forgot to nurture their marriage. Go out on dates. Take a vacation without the kids. Ask each other how their day was and really listen. Your kids want to know that your marriage is more important than them. One day the job and the kids will be gone, what will your marriage look like then?
Love Your Spouse Strategy Number Fifteen: How Committed are you Really?
One of my favorite movies of all time is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. If you haven't seen it go watch it. Seriously. In the movie Kate Hudson does everything in her power to get Mathew McConaughey to dump her. McConaughey's character has to stay with Kate Hudson's character in order to get a client he desperately wants so he refuses to dump her. No matter how embarrassing, how frustrating or how insensitive she is, he refuses to dump her.As I was re-watching this movie a few weeks back I couldn't help but think, am I that committed to my spouse? Are you only committed as long as they are doing what you want? Does your commitment end when the going gets tough? Are you in it for the long haul no matter what? Are you only staying to avoid paying alimony or child support? Are you biding your time until your kids are out of the house?I hope these strategies help you to always stay in love with your spouse! I'd love to know if this has helped you in any way, please comment below with your favorite strategy to stay in love with your spouse! My husband and I taught a class on marriage at our church a few months back. In that class I gave everyone a free mini workbook and I wanted to offer this book to you today!