💍 MARRIAGE: is it easy to have a thriving marriage?
The wedding day was beautiful. The honeymoon so special. But now you're wondering if that's the end of the beauty of marriage. These 8 tips I will share in this post have the ability to set you up for long term connection, joy and love within your marriage.
Marriage is the best gift I’ve ever been given. My husband Caleb is the love of my life & I adore him. He’s the best friend I always wanted, the person I want to share everything with, the person I admire the most in this
world. But as with every good thing in life, it takes care, attention, effort, learning, commitment, etc to have it thrive.
You might be thinking, “well Stefanie & Caleb, it seems easy for you” but you couldn’t be further from the truth. We both put a TON of time & effort into our marriage. We give 💯 & God is the glue that holds our marriage together.
Doing intentional things helps our marriage thrive. In this post we will share tangible things that we’ve learned/ are learning & incorporating over the last 8.5 year of marriage that has helped our marriage thrive. Whether you’re married now, or you ever want to be married, I hope these pointers can encourage your relationship.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” - Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is a great gift. Marriage is a blessing & deserves the time & attention it take to make it thrive.
Tip # 1 Incorporate BOUNDARIES
Boundaries have set our marriage free. We want to keep the good IN & the bad OUT of our lives.
Each marriage needs a great deal of attention to figure out what works best for the team. A good way to make this practical is write out (if your spouse is up for it maybe over a coffee date) the categories that are most important in your lives. Figure out together what you need more of in that category & what has been holding your marriage back. Even time spent doing good but distracting from the best isn’t helping your marriage.
Another way to figure out what is holding you back is writing out how you spent your full day/week hour by hour. This helps you see where time is going. I’ll give some examples below of questions we’ve asked & boundaries we’ve made because of it:
When are you feeling anxious, jealous, sad, lonely etc? Paying close attention to your feelings & what you were thinking/doing helps you figure out what you might need a boundary on. For example: Caleb noticed that after watching a certain show we were both more contentious with each other. We decided to not watch the show anymore. Although we enjoyed the show it wasn’t worth it. Another example: Caleb & I used to love staying up late. But we always felt a sense of sadness in the morning for either waking up later than we wanted or being tired the next day. We now go to bed early & wake up at 6:30 while still getting 8 hours of sleep.
These are some of the categories we’ve put strong boundaries on: God/Faith, Marriage, Family, Work, Friends, Health, Entertainment, Money.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.”- 1 Corinthians 10:23
Healthy Boundaries help us keep the BEST in our lives, & block ourselves from the REST! Boundaries are meant to free you to live your best selves & marriage. Healthy boundaries both while you’re single & married set you up to thrive in your life/marriage. Have you set healthy boundaries for your marriage/yourself? Would love to hear about that!
Tip #2 Want A Thriving Marriage? Use tools to grow.
There are so many great resources to help your marriage thrive. Here our some of our favorite resources that we have found in our marriage that might help you have a thriving marriage too!
1) Meet with relationship Counselors: Caleb and I are relationship counselors who love to help others have thriving relationships. With my Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy + Caleb's Master's in education with years of experience helping clients + creating relationship courses we've seen so much susses in the lives of our clients. 2)“The Love Dare: Day by Day” devotional: Every single night before bed, we read this together. It has 365 devotionals (one for each day of the year) so that you can read & discuss each topic. We have gone through this book six & a half times. It always brings a new idea or truth that is so valuable to our marriage each day. 3)Thirty-One Prayers for my Husband (Wife): We love the resources that @husbandrevolution & @unveiledwife have through their marriage ministry. The prayer book of internal prayers to pray for each other is my favorite. All their books we’ve read are incredibly insightful, challenging & help us to see each other with more love & compassion. 4)LASTING app: One of our biggest finds recently has been the @getlasting app. It is created by the @gottmaninstitute & provides research & practical tools to equip you in your marriage. We go through their different plans each day & discuss to learn more about each other. 5)MARRIAGE RETREATS: We enjoy going each year to the @humelake marriage retreats. They are so powerful, & have been so impactful in our marriage. We highly recommend finding a good marriage retreat getaway to build up your marriage. What are some resources that have worked for you to grow in being better at relationships? ❤We love learning & growing together with you!
Tip #3 Invest in each other’s interest & have shared fun! Making time for fun & caring about each other’s interests is a top priority for Caleb & I. Learning about something your partner loves & trying to find the joy in it is such a blessing. Shared experiences & fun days/conversations connect you. Building up good memories help grow overall sense of joy in your marriage.
Caleb loves sports. I knew very little about some of the sports he loves, but asking him questions about his past with the sport, moments of joy for him; helps me understand him & the sports better. From hours spent together shooting baskets, to him teaching me how to kick a soccer ball (I’m still horrible at this) it’s been so fun for me to learn from him. He’s been patient, so sweet & we’ve shared so many laughs playing together. I can now watch/listen to sports stuff with much more enjoyment because of the way he’s included me. Reading & learning about God & relationships, Hiking, creative projects, the Steelers, photography are some of my favorite things. These weren’t something that Caleb enjoyed in the past. But after learning my heart behind a lot of this & taking time to hear about it, he now loves these things & we spend hours enjoying special moments involving them. He’s found a new passion for creating & doing our business together: something he never thought he would like or do. I also don’t have fun until I get my tasks done or know when they will be done. We’ve learned this so we try to get the work done first so we can both fully enjoy our adventure days. Disneyland was a place I never went. My family doesn’t like things that involve crowds so I didn’t think I would love it. Caleb took me for the first time after he proposed to me 7 years ago. Now we try to go at least once a year because it’s one of our favorite days together & we live close. I’m so glad we make it a priority to learn from each other & share moments together. We’re truly best friends & I can’t wait to learn more from Caleb & share more amazing moments together. What’s something you could learn more about from your loved one? What’s a fun experience you can share?
Tip #4 Speak words of life over your spouse!
I believe we have the ability to speak LIFE or DEATH over people’s lives by the words we say to them & about them. When I speak words of life over Caleb I see him stand up straighter. I see light go into to his eyes. When Caleb speaks words of life over me it’s as if I can fly.
I’ve seen things spoken into existence. Both things out of fear & love. Speaking words in love instead of fear & pain changes your life/marriage. Never saying anything negative behind your spouses back is so empowering. “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” -James 3:5 Let’s set flames of love with kind words & not flames of hatred & defeat by words of pain.
My challenge for you today is to write a note & share it with your husband/wife or if you’re not married with a friend/family member. Speak words of life over them. Champion the people in your life! 🏆Even if things have been difficult lately, pick out even something small & praise it. Speak life & good things into existence. Who are you going to encourage today?
Tip #5 Don’t let your past ruin your future!
The past can often cloud what we think our future will look like. Toxic patterns from the past can influence our important relationships. So... Do EVERYTHING you can to get healing from the past!
One thing for us was my (Caleb) defensiveness & Stefanie feeling unlovable, these issues were products of our individual pasts, but hurt our relationship. I could get defensive over things that she brings up to me. Often shutting her down before she could even get started. Stefanie presented her concerns to me; I would react to what she said, & would trigger her feelings of being unlovable. I remember countless times where we would begin this toxic cycle in our conversations that would cause more pain than the initial problem that was brought up. It would perpetuate feelings of loneliness, resentment, & patterns of hurt.
How do we fix it? We seek to get help & healing from our pains from the past. We also take the time (without any other agenda) to truly understand & love the other in our moment of pain. This opens up our hearts to the needs of each other, allowing us to get to a place of healing quicker.
I’m not getting as defensive anymore. Stefanie is having an easier time bringing things up & not getting hurt by the way I am responding. We are able to move towards forgiveness & the building of trust.
We know that our past does not need to dictate our future. The bad patterns don’t have to always plague our marriage. The past wants to keep a cloud over us, but when we are intentional to figure out the layers of our hearts with God, a counselor, prayer, other resources & loving each other; we both are getting continued healing. One result of this: grace & forgiveness in the present!
Although it’s not easy to get healing from the past it is always 💯 worth it! We make it a priority to keep seeking more healing so we can thrive in our future. Again, you can reach out to us to book a counseling session with one or both of us here: https://www.stefanieandcaleb.com/relationship-coaching
Does it feel like your past can dictate your future? Love hearing from you!
Tip #6 Respond to emotional calls!
One of the most essential parts of a marriage is the need to feel emotionally connected to your partner. This is done by responding to your partners emotional calls. These are the many signals that your partner gives you throughout the day that show their need to be loved, cared for, & understood. How you respond to your partners emotional calls can make or break your marriage.
Research shows that couples who respond positively to the emotional calls of their partner are much more likely to have a thriving & healthy marriage than those who don’t. I know that when I respond to Stefanie’s calls, she is much happier, & it helps our marriage to thrive.
Emotional calls can be verbal, or nonverbal. They are the little things your partner does to show you that they have some sort of need, or they are feeling a certain way about something. If we dismiss these calls, we are telling our partner that their needs are not important to us.
When Stefanie gets upset about something, or if something small seems to be bothering her more than usual, I take that as a cue to check in with her emotionally. One of the best things that I have learned to do is not only check in with her in the moment, but to also ask her again at a later time to see how she is feeling about the issue.
A big trap in marriage is to get lazy when it comes to your partners emotional calls. As you get to know each other better, you might make assumptions about their calls based on past experiences. This isn’t a good practice because as they are calling out to you, your assumption about their calls might be completely off. This causes you to miss out on your partners emotional needs. I can tell you from experience, it sucks when I let Stefanie down in this way.
Our best advice is to practice this as much as you can, be present & not aloof. Take care of the needs as they arise, & check back in to see how your partner is doing later on. These are great tools that have helped us, & we know they can help you as well!
Do you respond to your partners emotional calls?
Tip #7 Start conversations gently!
Did you know research from Dr. John Gottman found that 96% of the time when conversations begin poorly they end poorly? So that leaves only 4% of conversations that can end well that begin poorly.
When I heard this research I was shook. It made so much sense to something I did so often as a wife. I like to think of myself as a honest, direct person; so I often brought/bring tough conversations to Caleb. Some times these conversations didn’t go well. I always thought it was Caleb’s fault. I blamed his defensiveness. But when I heard the stats I realized that most of the issue was with how I was bringing up the conversation 😲 . I now try to be much more intentional to begin conversations with much more grace. I have the power to make Caleb feel loved, safe, comfortable right from the start. Gottman calls this “Soft Startup.” When we are aware of our tone of voice, volume, & the words we use, & come across gentle & kind there’s a much better chance that the conversation will end better. Scientifically the way we start conversations determines the outcome of those conversations. Using the framework “I feel X when Y happens. I need Z” but speaking this kindly & without criticism is key. I remember saying to Caleb “You always… or you never…” 🙈Using words like always, never make your person feel like they won’t ever be able to change & that you don’t trust them. I’m trying to take words out like those in our conversations. How can we start conversations gently? One way is to take some time before we speak. For me, I pray & try to distinguish my emotions with God before I bring them to Caleb now. I also pray for the grace to see Caleb through the lens of love & forgivness. Research shows that communication is 93% nonverbal (body langauge & tone of voice). So knowing this, I need to be aware of how my tone of voice is sounding, & how I’m positioning myself. Find so much more good info & ways to put it into practice from the LASTING app. We also have a great course if you want to reach out to us to set up a time to talk: https://www.stefanieandcaleb.com/relationship-coaching Tip #8 See the best in others!
Do you believe that people are doing the best they can?
Brené Brown changed my life. She said, “Do you believe that people are doing the best they can? If you don’t believe it, picture someone in your life that you don’t believe they are doing the best they can.” Someone popped into my mind. I started getting angry just thinking about them.
“What if God came down to you & said “He/she is doing the very best they can right now.””-Brown. My heart broke. I felt so horrible for thinking badly about this person. I grew in love & compassion & no angry feelings ever present themselves now.
Brown asked someone this, they said, “I’m going to continue to help them, but now with a loving non-judgmental heart, because helping while judging/hating isn’t really helping.” Others said, “If God told me they were doing the best they can, I would stop being angry & start grieving. I would love them but need boundaries to protect myself & my family.”
Research shows that the most compassionate people are also the ones with the most boundaries. It is because they don’t subject themselves to the abuse of other people! It’s very hard to be kind to people that are hurting us. Ask yourself: “What boundaries need to be in place for me to be in my integrity?”
We all need God’s grace & we are not God. Only God knows if each person is doing the best they can. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”-Rom. 3:23 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” -Mat. 7:1-2
When we surrender the judgement seat, we get to see our spouse/family/friend/neighbor etc through the lens of love: our lives then become better. We get to love people where they are at, & put up the appropriate boundaries to protect ourselves.
Want Thriving Relationships & a great marriage? See the best in others & experience the happiness that comes with that! Do you believe that people are doing the best they can?
I hope these tips will bless your marriage as you put them into practice. But please don't feel like you have to do this alone. Having accountability is huge in people who experience success. God bless you and your relationship abundantly!