Whatever lofty heights a marriage may have reached, one has never simply and safely “made it.” We could argue that if the truth were otherwise, honeymoons would never end and divorce lawyers would be more idle than the lonely Maytag Repairman. Alas, honeymoons do end, and divorce lawyers, tragically, are busier than a bunch of fleas in a dog pound. So, yes, marriages need work. All marriages need work.
The exciting thing is that, in very un-alpinistic fashion, there are no peaks when it comes to wedlock. Everest has no equivalent in the context of marriage because there is no apex to marital progress. Yes, we can have a marriage more exciting than courtship or engagement ever were, no matter how long we’ve been married.
If we want our marriages to be something better than they are, though, then we need to do something better than we’re doing. It makes me think of that old saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” Or, the classic definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (a saying generally attributed to Albert Einstein, though some claim it was from Mark Twain, and others claim it’s from an old Chinese proverb—so we may as well just give it to Abraham Lincoln, amiright?).
Ultimately, if we want something different, we need to do something different. But, the great thing is that our efforts need not be as dramatic as the change we seek. Truly, “by small and simple things are great things brought pass.” So, here’s an idea, broken down to five small and simple steps:
Step 1: Decide to make a few small and simple changes. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Is there any journey that doesn’t begin with decision? Decide to change.
Step 2: Pick a few things that you’ll start doing for your marriage, things you’ll do regularly for the next 30 days. Some things might be daily, some weekly, but pick things that you’re confident you’ll actually do. There’s no magic mixture, here. The point is that you’ll be doing things you aren’t doing now. Just like if you’re at the gym for the first time in your life, don’t be so worried about figuring out that one guy’s workout routine—you know, the guy putting on a free gun show over by the mirror; just get on the treadmill, do some pushups, grab a jump rope. Whatever you decide to do, it’s going to be more than you’ve been doing, and you’re going to be better off than you were.Here are some ideas:
- Every day, look into your spouse’s eyes, find the perfection deep within her (or him) and tell her (or him) she’s beautiful (or handsome)
- Kiss your spouse every morning before you leave for the day, even if she (or he) is asleep
- Bring roses and chocolate every week for a month
- Go on a date night every week
- Handwrite love notes and fold them just like you did in junior high and high school, then leave them somewhere you know she (or he) will find them, such as under the pillow, etc.
- Do silly things (One time I came home and excitedly announced to Shannon that I bought her a brand new Honda Odyssey. She didn’t believe me, but I kept insisting that I had in fact bought her a brand new Odyssey. Eventually, I walked her to the garage where I had parked the Hot Wheels Honda Odyssey toy car that I bought for $2.00 at Walmart on the way home. We both got a good laugh about it, especially now that she’s forgiven me for that one time a decade ago when I came home with a $50,000 truck I’d bought myself—”SURPRISE!”)
- Watch your wedding video or look through your wedding pictures together (the longer it’s been since the last time you did this, the higher the priority you should give it)
- Think of something your spouse dreads doing, and make it your own responsibility (I got this idea from my cousin, and it’s been huge: I told Shannon that whenever I’m home, it’s my job to change diapers. Yeah, diapers are gross; but it takes no more than a few minutes of my time every evening, and it really wins points with Shannon.)
- Come up with other ideas, things that will be meaningful to you and your spouse
Step 4: Be observant. Watch and feel the changes happen. After 30 days, if you don’t feel like there’s been enough progress, then think of more changes you can make, and keep doing the things you started doing the first round. The changes will come. If you do things differently, you’re going to get different results. If you focus on putting good things into your marriage, good things will come out of your marriage.
Step 5: Rinse and repeat. They say some things get better with age; well, so can and should a marriage. But, just like with our bodies, the progress stops, and can often be lost, as soon as our efforts stop. So, keep it up and never give up, that your love may be “as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
No matter what other responsibilities we might have, there is nothing more deserving of our time and attention than our marriage. And the results will be infinitely worth our efforts.
(If you missed Part I, click here.)