Stress can amplify any sort of problem in life. It was the week before we were to pick up our son in Haiti to bring him home. I was not only sick with the flu, but my back was flaring up. On top of joint problems due to my autoimmune disease, I have severe arthritis and stenosis in my lower back. Basically, I have the spine of an 85-year-old woman.
The unfortunate part of that week was that my husband did something to his shoulder. Even though our kids at home were 6, 8, and 10 at the time and capable of managing to take care of themselves somewhat, I still called in reinforcements. We were down for the count. My mom and dad came over to help with dinner and entertain the kids while my husband and I rested in bed. The next day, our oldest son came to take them to dinner to help out.
The stress of the recent weeks manifesting itself through our bodies was evident. As we lay there in bed one afternoon, I had asked my husband to text my mom in the other room to get her attention. Yelling out was too painful for me. He tried, but pain prevented him from rolling over to reach his phone. I started laughing, but then winced because laughing hurt too much. He was then the one laughing at me.
The Tipping Point
It was all too much. Here we were, about to travel to Haiti. The place where potholes are born and multiply. The place where an active toddler was waiting for us to bring him home. Imagining sitting up was unpleasant, however, the idea of traveling down the roads in Haiti was downright agonizing. So we joked about how on earth we were to manage all this if we couldn’t even reach our phone or move without excruciating pain. With medication and doctor appointments, we hoped to recover quickly. Options were few and time was not on our side for quick healing.
We did what any other person might do in this situation. We laughed until we cried. Or maybe we were already crying, but laughter helped. My husband kept coming up with these one-liners that kept the tears flowing down my cheeks. He kept delivering the jokes as I was a captive audience. Since neither of us could move, we kept ourselves entertained with hours of laughter and made the best of it.
We’ve been married now for nearly 20 years. We’ve been together for 23. It’s surreal to think I have been with my husband for half my life. It’s been a long road of getting to know each other, adapting to each other, and supporting one another.
Many things have helped us strengthen our marriage over the years. A few things stand out that might be universal supports for your marriage as well.
3 Tips to Strengthen Your Marriage
1. Date your Spouse
It’s important to go on regular dates with just your spouse. This has taken on many forms over the years, and we’re not always as consistent as I’d like to be, but we make it work. When the kids were babies, oftentimes, we had a date night in our family room after the kids went to bed. A later dinner, rented movie, and popcorn was a perfect way to spend our evening. As we could afford a sitter, we would plan monthly nights out.
Once a year, my parents are generous and take the kids for our anniversary weekend. Most years, we were able to have a mini stay-cation and do things we wouldn’t normally do. One year, we went to a play and a nice dinner. Another year, we had our patio poured and ordered take out. Sometimes, we’d travel out of town, but finances have prevented too many of those kinds of weekends. It has forced us to get creative with our dates.
One thing I would recommend is not to talk about the kids on your dates. It’s important to remember why you two fell in love in the first place and to connect as a couple.
2. Speak Kind Words
No matter what, speak kindly to your spouse and especially about your spouse when you speak to others. When speaking about your husband or wife to others, you should keep it positive. I wasn’t always good at this. I would get irritated just like the next person and sometimes gripe about my husband or his behavior. I learned that if we were to have a healthy relationship, it would be wise to air my frustrations with him, not everyone else.
When others hear me build him up, it reinforces the positives in our marriage. I affirm our relationship when supportive and encouraging words are spoken. We both noticed a huge difference in how we related to each other and how the other person felt when we made a conscious choice to change our words.
My husband has the gift of humor and knows how to make me laugh. I would dare say it’s been a saving grace at times, especially when I take things too seriously. If you’re at a hard place where you don’t know how you could go on a date with your spouse, let alone laugh together, take it slow.
Find something fun to do that would put you in situations where laughter is more conducive. Trying a new activity together can make for some interesting experiences that can cultivate laughter.
I’m thankful for my husband’s humorous side and the laughter that erupts when he is around. Laughter releases some of those good hormones that calm you down and relieve stress. The mutual bonding over laughter is sure to bring you closer.
These are just three little things you can start doing today that could bring you and your spouse closer and make your marriage stronger. It takes intentionality and a commitment to make each other a priority.
What have you done to strengthen your marriage? I’d love to hear what works for you!
This is part of a five-part series on marriage which was inspired by my article published over at Joyful Life Magazine. Please see the previous posts.
- Joyful Life Magazine Feature “The Fire of Redemption: A Story of Marriage Refined by Forgiveness”
- What to do When Your Marriage is Strained
- How to Strengthen Your Marriage
- The 4 Cycles of Marriage
- Fighting Fair
This brief essay is a supplement to our Facebook video series in the Facebook group Being Brave dot Faith which discusses the same topics more in-depth. You can watch the videos by joining the group HERE.