She was born in Everett, Washington. He in Denver, Colorado. Despite different circumstances, God led them to the same university in a small Idaho town. He saw her across the restaurant and asked to buy her dessert. An hour of conversation and laughter passed and he was lucky enough to get her number. The time soon came when they knelt across an altar in the Salt Lake City temple to promise themselves to each other and to God for eternity.
They thought this was the finish line. After preparing themselves, working so hard to be worthy, they were finally married and sealed. All the hard work finally behind them: wedding dress, cake, homemade announcements, the stresses of putting a wedding together.
But the truth is, it was just the beginning.
This is my story.
After only two years of marriage I’ve put more effort into strengthening my marriage than any other task previously. Hollywood makes us believe that once we’ve reached our “Happily Ever After” no more effort is required. But we cannot afford to coast aimlessly. Here are 8 ways to strengthen your eternal marriage.
1. Be Vulnerable
Most always we show our good side to make ourselves look the best possible. We tend to build up metaphorical walls of defenses in response to pain, heartache, and fear. These defenses can be beneficial in dating and daily life to avoid pain and embarrassment, but they have no place in a strong marriage. Being vulnerable builds trust and a deeper love for each other. So, admit something you’re not so proud of. Be open to criticism. These things are hard at first, but worth the effort.
2. Put your spouse first
Serve your spouse while expecting nothing in return. Forget your own needs and wants and focus your energy on your spouse. This service builds love, respect, and encourages reciprocation, making both parties happier than if they had each focused on themselves. A marriage isn’t a 50/50 partnership, rather each spouse gives 100% of themselves. When you’re both spending your time serving each other instead of tending to your own needs, each person’s needs are met.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25 (emphasis added)
“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” Doctrine and Covenants 42:22
3. Date him/her
Don’t just go out on dates, but actively date him or her. Like when you used to ask “what are you doing Friday night?” with that blushing, bashful smile. The purpose of dating then was to woo her, to get her to fall in love with you. Don’t forget that. Flirt, joke, cuddle, hold the door, and keep things exciting. Don’t let the cob webs of time fade your love you so publicly proclaimed years earlier.
4. Compliment your spouse
While you were dating did you tell her she had the most beautiful smile or that he had the most handsome eyes? Don’t let that go. Make her feel gorgeous. Make him feel strong. Think of unique compliments that will surprise your partner.
5. Learn about each other
I thought I knew everything about my wife after spending nearly every day with her before we got married. Years later I still learn more about the woman I fell in love with. You think you know everything about your companion? Do you know her new, favorite Netflix show? Do you know his favorite athlete or actor? (because it changes every year) Care about each other enough to continue learning about your companion.
6. Center your marriage on Jesus Christ
“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” -The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Families that pray together stay together. This is a cliché because it works. I have early memories of my father and mother praying to Heavenly Father for each of their eight children individually.
Temple worship strengthens marriages because it is The House of the Lord. It is where you were married and made all those sacred promises that unite husband and wife for eternity.
7. Don’t get stuck in a routine
Do you find yourself in a rut doing the same things? Switch it up. Be spontaneous by looking at the stars and talking when you normally sit down and watch a show. Go camping instead of seeing a movie. Surprise each other. Don’t burn yourself out by doing the same activities, eating the same meals, traveling to the same places, and feeling the same way.
8. Give your spouse some space
Let your husband or wife explore their interests, hobbies, and passions. Don’t distance yourself OR be attached at the hip. This is a fine line. I appreciate having time to exercise and go fishing. My wife appreciates time to be with family, reading, and writing. Being apart gives you time to miss each other and explore your separate interests.
Marriages require constant nurturing like a garden. If we do not take it as seriously as a garden how can we expect any fruit?