To give you the absolute best tips on how to build a healthy, happy, strong (and spicy) marriage, I decided to ask a fellow expert – my husband.
Once my tip list was complete, he gave me a list of his own.
Comparing them was fantastic (and nearly identical) – and I made sure to break down the list so that you got the “extras” from each of us and extras if you are navigating with a blended family.
Getting divorced and blending families gave me a unique point of view that – odd as it sounds – made me an expert on having a healthy marriage, which is a topic I am asked about regularly.
A large part of expertise comes from the struggle, and I’ve experienced that in prior relationships AND in this one.
Hitting rock bottom and being ready to walk away in this relationship and then fighting for it, was what really made us prioritize “us.”
Whether you’re in a new relationship, a seasoned relationship, one that’s struggling, or you’re divorced and ready to begin again, these tips are a great way to add value, connection, and intimacy to your relationship.
1. Find What Connects You
Find your commonalities and capitalize on them, and support each other in your differences.
Keep doing what you love and support your partner’s ambitions.
Celebrate where they crossover and don’t take on their identity.
Connection AND autonomy are both parts of a relationship that are vital. I love the things we both enjoy!
How fun and easy they are. I equally love those things we don’t share in common.
I will probably never learn the rules of basketball, although I love to watch Dane play, and I do know exactly how the game has “played out,” which makes for great post-game conversations.
The same goes for Dane with my business or running.
2. Have Conversations, Not Confrontations
Use conversation to work through your communication.
Learn about what makes each other tick. Have respect when you talk with each other.
Conversations and not confrontations are important in resolving issues that will come up.
“Boundaries” is a word I use a lot with relationships – not just in marriage.
Depending on your love language, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert and your conversation style – the “rules of engagement” will be different.
We’ve used lists, set timers, walked away, and set a date to come back to it. Whatever it takes to get resolution with respect. We also agree to disagree.
3. Determine What Ways You Can Connect
Make sure these ways make you both happy and are sustainable. Notes? Texts? And do them regularly.
Also make time to talk in more depth.
From the first week of our relationship – before we had even met – texting and conversations were very important.
We text all day when we can and have phone calls if we can.
We also love spending early mornings alone – even for a few minutes (see #7 for the flip side of this). We also chat while we get ready for bed and take showers.
Generally, these communications are for shorter conversations.
They also highlight what we need to discuss that will take longer, or where bigger decisions need to be made. These shorter connections are important to touch base and increase our connection with each other.
4. Set Aside Time and Write Down Your Perspective
Write things down and use numbers to come to a healthy agreement on how you do your finances.
There is no one right way.
Money. One of the biggest sources of conflict in a relationship. What is interesting about money is that the conversation is tough, doesn’t usually take a lot of time, and the resolution makes the stress almost immediately disappear.
Although this can be tackled in many ways, my favorite (after over 30-years and several attempts) is to each have a personal account and one joint account at the same bank.
Each personal account is “attached” to the joint account so we can both deposit money, and look at the account.
It’s also the account that all household bills get paid from.
Personal finances outside of the household are not each other’s business and separate accounts allow for financial autonomy.
5. Be Your Partner’s Best Friend
This sounds so easy and assuredly it can be.
Having said that, it’s so easy to get caught up with dishes, kids, work, finances, chauffeuring, and LIFE and show our partners the worst side of ourselves.
Having a best friend sometimes means stopping what you’re doing to focus in, setting aside time, actively listening without distractions.
Consider the things other best friends do for you – what you really love, and BE that person for your spouse.
6. Make Regular Date Nights
One of the best ways you can make your relationship a priority.
Set rules so that it’s fun and engaging in a positive way.
This is one of my favorites!
Date night has been a priority for me from pre-children.
It means your spouse is a priority, it encourages you to get dressed up (even if that means hiking clothes), it fosters creativity in the relationship (switch whose turn it is to plan and a spending limit), and it’s something to look forward to.
We’ve done fancy restaurants getting dressed to the nine’s and dropping a large sum, to hikes and picnics spending very little.
I do have guidelines that helped have the best date nights:
- This is not the time to discuss your relationship and its flaws, it’s a time to strengthen it. Leave complaints for another time and focus on building a better, stronger relationship
- Only discuss the kids if necessary. Date night might be the only time you’re completely out of earshot, so at the beginning of the date we ask each other if there’s anything kid related we need to discuss and we don’t spend a lot of time in the discussion.
7. Go to Bed Together
This can be a challenge if one of you is a night own and one prefers mornings.
It’s also difficult if one of you works a swing or graveyard shift – which is how this became a priority for us.
Dane has always left early for work – as early as 2:30 am which meant bedtime was 6:30 pm.
Connecting at night before falling to sleep was something we recognized was a priority – the shorter conversations whispered into the night, the connecting and cuddling, the kissing and giggling, and praying together.
When he got up that early, I laid down for about 30-minutes and then got back up with the kids.
Thankfully, his schedule changed and we both wake up at 5 am. Now we go to bed together and wake up together.
The bedtime and morning routines have become a huge way we connect, although we did have to figure out a workaround for a few years.
8. Do Activities, Chores, Menu Planning and Shopping, Holiday Lists, and Gifts Together
The financial aspects of this are part of doing finances together – deciding on a budget for food, holidays, gifts, and necessary shopping items.
The remaining items not only give a sense of solidarity but also help keep track of the household in general.
The pulse of activity and things that need to get done. We menu plan weekly and do the shopping together (if not online) and we both jump in with chores, activities, holiday and gift lists, and shopping for them.
9. Learn to Forgive – We Are All Fallible
When things get tough – and they will – my biggest tip is to remember forgiveness and grace.
We are most definitely all fallible. This isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes setting aside the source of contention to see more clearly.
At our toughest moments, when we were the absolute worst version of ourselves to each other, I recall vividly looking at my husband and realizing I really liked him.
When I set aside the dysfunction we were creating, I couldn’t deny this was the person who was my biggest cheerleader, supporter, fan, best friend, lover, and the bottom line was – I knew what a good person he was.
I didn’t want to toss all of the great parts of our relationship because we couldn’t get past the worst part. So we didn’t.
We made the choice to forgive, forget, move forward, and use the struggle to make ourselves stronger.
It isn’t easy. It’s worth it.
Jenn’s Extra Tips
Have sex. Speak up about what works for you from the time of day to the positions that feel the best.
Sex is the dessert of a relationship. Eat dessert.
Having a healthy, strong, involved, and active sex life is important in a relationship. This is the only person I share this part of myself with, and communication in this area is vital to me.
Eat dessert often, communicate and enjoy it. Talk honestly about sex-expectations, and healthy fantasies.
Dane’s Extra Tips
Set goals together – physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Goals: financial can be anything like saving for a couch, car, trip, massages, working out, reading the bible, going to church, talking to each other about feelings, what they need or want from each other, what are the expectations.
Make time for each other to do something you both like, he likes, she likes – together.
Do things together in everyday life and make it fun like shopping, cleaning house, yard work.
Be spontaneous with one another with dates, gifts, compliments.
“Sacrifice” time, money, own wants, and needs.
Be grateful for your partner – realize a spouse is a gift from God.
Bonus Tips – Blending Families!
If you have kids and you’re not with the other parent, these two tips can make a world of difference in your new relationship.
We completely agreed on these two tips.
We’ve also given this advice many, many times over.
Marriages from blending families have a higher divorce rate than first marriages, and there’s a reason why. It’s HARD.
Involve Your Kids in a Healthy Way to Your Dating
This way they feel valued and seen.
After all, they’re part of this if you move forward.
This doesn’t mean getting together with the kids from the beginning.
It can mean letting them know about the other person as you get to know them, their kids, their lifestyle (Dane plays basketball for example, and it was a priority in their family), possibly social media platforms as time goes on.
This can take months, and in this process, it’s hard for the kids – they have reservations, and concerns that you should address and discuss with the person you’re dating.
You can also involve them in the first family meeting.
Where, when, what they’d like to do, etc… Our kids wanted to do dinner at my house.
They wanted to hang out the way we would on a normal, regular basis and get to know each other.
We went for a walk and a few hours in they walked to the park, and I cooked something that was a family favorite (chicken tortilla soup).
On our first date, our kids knew we were meeting, knew a little about each other, wanted to be involved in the person we were dating – which should be expected since it very directly impacts their life long-term.
You both need to know the kids as they are part of what dating you will be like.
Stay in Your Lane When Parenting Kids
And learn to communicate your parenting direction.
We did not discipline each other’s kids.
We did have a discussion alone when issues arose, so we knew what the other person was doing.
We also agreed to disagree.
Many times what Dane was doing wasn’t what or how I would have done it and vice versa.
We discussed this and then supported the other person even if they didn’t do it the way the other wanted. W
hen both of our kids were involved, the two of us talked with the kids together after we had come up with a plan we agreed on.
The term step-parent (or step-child) has a bad rep.
I considered myself in more of a “teacher” role than a parent role and that went a long way in reducing my stress, having more clear expectations of my role, and in the way the kids responded to me.
Wrapping It Up
My husband is the guy I love, respect, and care about more than anyone in the world.
He’s the one I want to get the best of me because he definitely sees the worst in me.
As A Side Note: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
If you’re in a relationship and you stopped doing things to take care of yourself like shaving your legs, putting on makeup, or dressing up for one another — start doing it again.
Take care of yourself and put yourself first because when you’re single, one of the first things you’re going to do is sign yourself up for Brazilian Butt waxing (I’ve seen it happen more than once) — just in case you meet some guy and because you’ll eventually want to be intimate.
This goes for men too. Manscape, brush your teeth, put on a nice shirt.
Treat your partner like the relationship is new, and it will feel that way.
Support and respect each other because this relationship is what you want to stand the test of time.
When you keep each other as a top priority you build a healthy, happy strong (and spicy) marriage.