A few years ago, I told my husband I felt that someday we would be called to work with couples. I presented it as a heads-up, almost as a warning: prepare yourself. Since then, I’ve wondered what that call might look like. Is it the book I compiled, The Heart of Marriage? Is it the essential oils information I’ve shared with couples for intimacy? Will we contribute to a marriage workshop someday? Should I write more about the topic here at (in)courage?
Thanks to Pinterest, social media, and the fact that our private lives are more public than they’ve ever been, many couples focus more on preparing for their wedding than their future. But tending a marriage requires work and intention.
We fell in love almost by accident. I didn’t plan to meet my future husband during the last month of my senior year of high school when I thought my college plans and future were set. But we haven’t been together half of our lives by chance. Recently, we examined our nearly thirty-four years of marriage, what has worked and what hasn’t, and I’d like to share some things we’ve learned along the way.
I pray they help to fireproof your marriage in the good seasons and extinguish the flames when things feel out of control.
- Don’t bad mouth your husband in front of your children or anyone else. Over the years my husband occasionally comes home from work and simply says, “Thank you.” Those are days when he’s listened to co-workers complain about their spouses, and he’s extra grateful for our commitment not to go there.
- Invest in friendships and group activities that support your marriage and avoid those that don’t. If a friend, either married or single, discourages you in the area of your marriage, it’s time to rethink how much time you spend with that friend. I’ve heard of couples who’ve left their church small group because of negative talk and attitudes about marriage from the other couples.
- Thank your husband for what he does to support you and your family; respect and affirm him. We all like to be appreciated and know that what we do doesn’t go unnoticed. I tell my kids to thank my husband too. An attitude of gratitude creates a positive environment.
- Date your husband (get away when you can). Unless there’s a conflict, Sunday evenings are our date nights; we take additional ones whenever we can. Date nights can keep you connected as a couple, which is especially good if you have busy schedules and/or kids. Trips away as a couple are great too, although we only seem to manage them every few years. For budget-friendly possibilities, it’s worth it it to check Airbnb or VRBO.
- Keep a couples’ journal. Write love notes back and forth to each other in a journal. This is especially good if either of you has trouble openly expressing your feelings. DaySpring has nice options here and here.
- Let your kids know your husband comes first and that you are a team. It’s important for your children to see that your relationship with your husband is a priority. You were together before they arrived and you should be together when they’re grown with families of their own. Your kids need your time but your husband does too.
- Set phone reminders. If you have a smartphone or smartwatch, set alarms that remind you to pray for or text your husband when you’re apart.
- Forgive as we are forgiven. When feelings get hurt or offenses occur — and they will — be willing to forgive, whether or not you get a sincere apology. This can be hard, but God modeled it for us when He willingly sacrificed His son and forgave us everything. In this light, how can we justify withholding forgiveness?
And be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 (CSB)
What is something you and your husband do to fireproof your marriage?
Tending a marriage requires work and intention. -@DawnMHSH: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
These are ALL great reminders. I especially agree with “Don’t badmouth your spouse in front of others or your kids.” Disagreements remain between the two parties involved! My husband and I like to explore new things together like taking cooking classes together. We also just enjoy doing everyday things together like going to the Farmer’s Market and then stopping for a cup of coffee and conversation. We’ve even learned how to negotiate the Grocery Store together without an argument LOL. Dates don’t always have to be big expensive ordeals. Dating your husband is key to keeping your marriage fresh, I believe. Thanks for sharing your wisdom here…so helpful! I think your Marriage Class should be “Put as Much Planning Into Your Marriage as Your Wedding.”
Dawn Camp says
Bev, I like that class title! Your comment made me think of something I heard once as a tip for married couples: have something inside, something outside, and a board game that you like to do do/play together. Grocery store dates with a coffee stop are great!
Michele Morin says
We will celebrate 29 years together this weekend (along with Mother’s Day and a college graduation . . . rain check, honey!) and I’m sitting here Amen-ing every word you’ve written here.
And I have one of those Day Spring couples journals that needs to get dusted off today . . .
Dawn Camp says
Michele, congratulations on the anniversary and the graduation—two BIG accomplishments! I’m so excited this post gave you the idea to use the couples journal. YAY!
I am single. I’m looking forward to the day that God sends me a man after His heart to share with, be respectful toward me & my son and follow these marriage commands. After celebrating church on Sundays, I have a deep heartache to share this time with a spouse. I’ve struggled with this for many years. I’d be a very good wife. Have a blessed day!
Dawn Camp says
Kamilah, I’m stopping right now to pray that the Lord sends you the man you seek and that in the meantime, your son has good role models from the neighbors, teachers, and church members around you. Blessings to you both!
Dawn, your insight here is timeless. I too have a passion to see marriages thrive in a day and age where commitment is fleeting. Being intentonal is a daily choice and priority we place upon our marriages. Your reminder of setting a timer to bring to mind an opportunity to pray for your spouse throughout the day is something I’d like to adopt. When our days are full we can still take the time to stop and lift up our spouses. Married for 28 years and thanking God for His provision and renewing our commitment for the journey.
Dawn Camp says
Nora, congratulations on 28 years! Yes, we have to intentionally guard this relationship and pray for it.
I love these ways to fireproof your marriage but I’d also encourage women to protect themselves from emotional affairs with other men. I did not know how susceptible women are to that, but it’s a slippery slope and you don’t ever think you’d fall for it but its easy to put your self in that position. I won’t go out to lunch one on one with a man, even my boss. Married women should not be spending one on one time with male who is not a blood relative. Plain and simple. With more and more women in the workforce, we need to be more intentional about protecting ourselves from this. I fell into this trap when I was younger thinking “well, I know it’s innocent” or “Well if people want to think something is up, not my problem” what I did not consider was what the man I was friends with though of our relationship and was it as innocent to him or even appropriate? I spent a lot of time taking breaks at work with this person and sharing my thoughts and feelings. It was not an affair by the worlds standards, but it’s a friendship I deeply regret.
Dawn Camp says
Christy, your words are so wise and I hope they help someone here who reads them. Thank you for sharing.
Diane Thiel says
Keeping God first and rejoicing in my husband doing the same. Loving God first binds our hearts in His as a completion of His promice to charish our love for one another. Thank you for the word intention. Gods blessings on those marriages and the ones He has in store in the future.
Dawn Camp says
Diane, I love what you said here: “Loving God first binds our hearts in His.” So true!
Jen C says
Dawn, great tips!
You are so right, a marriage definitely takes tending to. I often see those who plan a big wedding for months then within a few years are divorced. I don’t know what the secrets are but like yourself, I met my husband in High School and we have been married 26 years! I think sticking together and learning to love one another in every moment is what helps. ( you may not like that at a moment , lol ) I think as we grow older and become Empty Nesters, it’s easier to find time, but we still have to be sure we are making that quality time and don’t stop dating then, either ! Great idea for the Marriage Class!
Like Bev, we go to Farmer’s Markets, coffee shops, lunch dates and yes, even Costco and Grocery store trips can be dates . Unfortunately unlike Bev, I often speak loudly as I’m trying to get his attention at the store m which he calls “ yelling” , that I am working on, but he’s often hard of hearing, lol …
Great jobs, ladies and keep it up!
Bev, been thinking of you and the upcoming Mother’s Day , hugs and prayers from Texas
Dawn Camp says
Jen, thanks for these words! I love what you said about learning to love one another even when you don’t like each other in the moment. I’ve said to my husband before, “I know you love me but I don’t think you like me much now.” We all have our moments! I’ve been thinking on the impending empty nest a lot and I feel like I’ll write on that here at (in) soon.
I agree 100% with everything you have said, unfortunately after 20 years I continue to struggle with anger and disrespect for my husband.
Today, with the help of God, I will pick myself back up and work at being the kind and sweet wife my poor husband deserves by taking him out for a little dinner.
I needed this encouragement.
Thank you and God bless
Dawn Camp says
Maggie, you just made my day. I hope you have a wonderful dinner and it sparks a newfound sweetness in your relationship. God bless!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you so much for this reminder. Also when we as Married couples have to remember when we have row. Not to forget to say sorry and make up before the day is out. Plus never talk about it again unless it something you both need counseling for go get the help please. Stop think of what brought you both together and why you loved either enough to get married in the first place. As Satan the Old Devil is out there today breaking up to many good lovely marriages. Then sitting back having the last laugh. We Christian don’t want to give him that ever. Another reason I believe it is important to make up before the end of the day as married couple say sorry and forgive either. Is you don’t know if you will see the end of the day. Like my Uncle he went for a lie down 19 years ago never woke up again. My Aunt said she never got to say to him she Love him. So that spoke to me. About how important it always tell your Husband or wife you love them. Spend time with them when you can. Make up say sorry and forgive after a row both couples get counseling if needed. Before the day out. As when one of either gone it too late. As I see the saddness 19 years still on my Aunts face and her wish why did I not tell him some time that day I love him. Don’t wait until it too late. Dawn xxx
Dawn Camp says
Dawn, thank you for sharing your aunt’s story. It is powerful. You are so right: if you forgive, don’t continue to bring up the fault.
Jeanne Takenaka says
Dawn, yes and amen to this post. There’s so much I could comment on. I will focus on the words you shared about making sure we hang out with friends who value marriage as much as we do. It’s true. I have friends who ended up divorced for various reasons. A couple of them are hard to hang out with because they say things that make me feel guilty for being in a marriage that has lasted over 23 years. It’s uncomfortable to hang around someone who makes me feel bad for being in a happy marriage.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I were encouraged to pray together before bed each night. We’ve been faithful to do this almost nightly since that challenge went out. This has been a great discipline for our relatonship.
Dawn Camp says
Jeanne, thanks for sharing your story. We do better praying as a family than as a couple; it’s something we need to work on.
Lara Sadowski says
Dawn, what a great post! I’m printing it out and putting in my prayer journal. I need to really watch my mouth when I get frustrated with my Sweetie, so your post is a great reminder. We’ve been married 8 years (I got married when I was 42) and just became empty nesters. We love to take a pontoon boat out on the lake near our home and just spend time together enjoying Gods creation. Most importantly, I make it a practice to tell him how much I love and appreciate him several times a day … and be intimate as often as possible!
Thanks for your words, Dawn!!
Joy in Jesus,
Dawn Camp says
Lara, I’m honored you’re including this post in your prayer journal. Since you and your husband got married when you were a little older (I’m not calling you old—I’m older than you!) habits were formed in the years before you were together. I can easily see where that could lead to frustrations. It can be hard to think before we speak, but it’s wise!
Beth Williams says
I never ever bad mouth my hubby to anyone else! My job as his wife is build him up. Let him know the many ways I appreciate him. Our date days are few & far between. We have odd schedules. He works weekends & I work some during the week. We’ve been fireproof for 15 years. We dated 10 weeks before we married. Some of our dates were grocery stores. He needed items so I’d say let’s go. Now I don’t care where we go or what we do. I just want time with him. I take time to pray for him & send little email notes his way. He’s been there for me during my aged parents dementia & illnesses. I continually thank him for allowing me to not work for a while & care for dad. Now it’s my turn to help him with his parents.
Bonnie Gray says
Hi Dawn!! I didn’t know you met your husband the last month of your senior year!! wow! talk about God’s timing! 🙂 I love all your tips – esp. the date nights – so important to be a couple when there are so many tasks and “team” type work in being parents. I’m SO looking forawrd to seeing you again – can you believe it? We saw each other that first (in)courage retreat now, writing with each other for !0 years this summer!! So blessed I could be part of your book on marriage! Thank you again for being part of your labor of love! Can’t wait to see you in just a little bit at the (in)courage retreat and enjoy your company this week’s journey, friend! 🙂 love, Bonnie