Our relationship has been pelted by many storms. Our vow to remain faithful “in sickness and in health” became a sobering reality when my health suddenly declined and I became all but crippled for a number of months. Many other physical and emotional issues have threatened our sense of stability and intimacy. These experiences forced us to find ways to stay strong and connected in our marriage. As the storms cleared, we saw how God uses the little moments to keep us anchored when we weather the hard times.
A good marriage is not something you automatically start out with on your wedding day. It is something that is carefully and intentionally crafted over time. Change how you handle the little moments each day and you can change your marriage! Your past doesn’t have to predict your future.
A great marriage is the result of a thousand great little moments. Here are a few little things we have found helpful in staying connected through the stormy seasons.
We Pray Together. As the saying goes, “the couple that prays together, stays together”. This is especially true when dealing with stress, a crisis, or difficult times. We try to make it a point to pray together every night. Bringing our concerns, needs, and fears before God reminds us that we’re in this together. Going to church together, participating in a small group, or sharing what we’re learning are other ways to create spiritual intimacy.
We Play Together. I often joke that my husband needs a playmate as much as he needs a helpmate. He loves adventure and anything that involves the outdoors. For many years I often dragged my feet whenever he wanted to play tennis, go for a bike ride, kayak, ski…anything that involved sweat and dirt. Reluctant and athletically challenged, I would try to encourage him to take his activity elsewhere or do it on his own. It took a couple years to get it through my thick wife skull that it wasn’t about the activity but about sharing the activity together. The whole “shoulder to shoulder” idea in marriage has a powerful impact on intimacy, especially for men. When we play together, whether it’s hiking outside or watching football inside, we’re creating memories and sharing the bond of friendship.
We Touch Often. Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s one of the most vital parts of creating intimacy. Affection helps you feel emotionally connected with your spouse.
30 Second Hugs. We implemented the idea of “30 second hugs” when we uncovered that “after 20 seconds of a full embrace, your body begins secreting the hormone oxytocin”, the same hormone released during sex, childbirth, and breastfeeding to create a sense of intimacy and bonding. We decided to try it and I was stunned at the positive results! When I am feeling moody, irritable, or just plain sad, my husband will say “do you need a 30 second hug?” After 30 seconds (which is like an eternity in hug time), I notice that I physically and emotionally feel better!
Snuggling in Bed. Shortly after our wedding we were like a couple of kids at a sleep over. We giggled, tickled, had pillow fights, and just enjoyed togetherness under the sheets. Taking time to snuggle and cuddle in bed can have amazing results, all of which increase intimacy and those fuzzy feelings.
Showering Together. I mean, who doesn’t like showers? ‘Nuf said.
Kissing & Holding Hands. I love seeing elderly couples holding hands at the grocery store. While it doesn’t have to be public, holding your spouse’s hand and kissing them daily keeps you physically connected even when you don’t have time for other things.
We Sleep Together. I realize not everyone does this. Sharing a bed brings its own set of complications: active sleeper, light sleeper, fetal position sleeper, snoring, stealing the sheets, lights on or off, early bird vs night owl – all things which affect a relationship. And when I have trouble sleeping, I get grouchy. But sleeping apart can make us lonely. During the 6 months my health was in jeopardy, we were forced to sleep in different rooms. While a solid night’s sleep was imperative for our health and sanity, we hated being apart and noticed it had an effect on our relationship. While I’m not an advocate of it, I don’t think sleeping separately is necessarily wrong…couples have slept in separate quarters for centuries. But is it best for the relationship? Probably not. Experts say that sleeping separately should be the exception but not the rule. Going to bed together actually encourages intimacy, talking about life, snuggling, etc. Some studies have shown that couples who do not go to bed together are more likely to struggle with conflict. Sleeping together forces you to resolve conflict instead of withdrawing to separate rooms. Even though we don’t always get a great night’s sleep, we are blessed to be able to share a bed and fall asleep together!
We Keep in Touch. Staying in touch throughout the day helps you know what is happening in your spouse’s world. Texting makes this easy. Sending a simple, “How’s your day going?” helps you know how to support and pray for one another. When my husband travels for work, we try to call each other for 5 minutes just to say goodnight. Another way we keep in touch is by debriefing at the end of the day. Our favorite way to do this is on evening walks. We get a chance to share about our days without all the distractions of home. Sometimes it happens in the kitchen while I cook dinner. My cousin, who also practices this, tells her children it’s “Daddy and Mommy time” after dinner, encouraging them to play on their own so she can have some uninterrupted time to debrief the day with her husband. The point is, find a way to hear about each other’s day and stay connected to what is going on in your spouse’s world.
We Date. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you stop dating! My spouse is always changing and growing. We come into contact with many situations and experiences each day that may change the way we think or feel. This requires us to continue to get to know each other on a regular basis! Our busy lives don’t always provide the opportunity for a date night each week, but we try to change it up once in awhile. We consider a “date” as doing something outside of our normal routine. It could include dinner, a movie, a new experience, cooking together, or enjoying a romantic evening at home. What you do doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you do it together!
We Surprise Each Other. Surprising each other with romance or little acts of service can go a long way toward feeling loved and appreciated in marriage. It turns what would otherwise be monotonous daily tasks into romantic gestures. When I ask my husband to stop at the store on his way home and he arrives with flowers, that’s a good surprise! Or when I take out the trash or volunteer to mow the lawn, I take a chore off his plate and free up his time. Sometimes I come home exhausted from work to find my once dirty kitchen clean and spotless. I leave notes in his lunch. He dances with me in the kitchen. He draws a smiley face in the snow on the window of my car. These take little effort but make a big difference. Serving one another when it’s least expected makes you feel appreciated, noticed, and loved.
We Laugh Often. Another obvious one but it makes all the difference. A couple weeks ago we sat across from my cousin and her husband talking late into the night. What struck me the most was how much of the conversation was filled with laughter as we watched the two of them cracking jokes, flirting, and grinning at one another. The love and fun they shared was obviously evident in the way they interacted. And they had been married for over a decade. Life can be stressful and serious but we don’t have to take things so seriously. Laughing can decrease stress, relieve tension, and release positive chemicals in your brain. Telling jokes, watching comedy, sharing a funny story, or just being silly are all ways to encourage lightheartedness in the relationship. Learning to live in the moment and choosing humor over frustration can turn negative situations into positive ones.
I hope these ideas have been helpful and will spark creativity in your own marriage! The key to a good marriage is learning to use the little moments as opportunities to fully love your spouse. And the best part about marriage is knowing you do not have to face this world alone because you have a forever partner, confidant, and friend.