In marriage, long-term happiness is never the result of luck. It is always because we do certain things right. Even though you may be convinced that your spouse has most of the problems, you cannot change your spouse. You can only change you.
There are four habits that can protect and promote the emotional health in your marriage. When you practice these four habits, you can revive lost passion and take your marriage to the next level.
Habit 1: Protect the Priority of the Marriage
Marriage is the most important thing in our lives with the exception of our personal relationship with God. Every couple should have a weekly date night like you did before you got married. And just to clarify, date night is not when you get chicken and watch American Idol. Give effort and court each other. Plan a great meal, talk about real issues, and plan a fun night of sex. Be intentional and keep the skills of dating alive in your marriage.
You’ve probably heard people say, “We are out of love. It must be over. The passion is gone.” Well I totally understand that. You have to decide to do the right thing before you feel like it. You fell in love because you dated each other. You fell out of love because you got lazy. This happens to all of us. Pursue each other and it will keep your marriage the main priority in your life.
Habit 2: Be Positive Through Touch, Praise, and Romance
Men and women both need physical affection. When you don’t feel like being affectionate is when you need affection the most. Hold hands, put your arm around each other, and cuddle on the couch. It is essential. The more nonsexually affectionate a man is, the more sexually responsive a woman becomes. I’ll never understand it, but that’s that way God wired most women.
We also need to regularly praise and encourage each other. Praise and honor is especially important for men. Maybe your husband isn’t at home as much as you would like or isn’t focused on the marriage or family. You can recapture his heart through encouragement and praise. The more praise you give him, the more he will want to be with you.
We also connect emotionally through romance. Men and women see romance differently through their own needs. For men, romance often involves food, sex, and fun. It’s usually a short road. For women, romance is all about pursuit during her day and detailed communication when you’re together. It’s usually a long road. Romance happens when you learn to be romantic in your spouse’s language.
“When you don't feel like being affectionate is when you need affection the most. Hold hands, put your arm around each other, and cuddle on the couch. It is essential.”
Habit 3: Resolve and Remove Negative Emotions
Removing negative emotions begins by spending time with God every day. If I do not pray and spend time with the Lord, I am going to have anxiety (Philippians 4:6–7), and it changes the way that I relate to everybody, especially my spouse.
The second way that we deal with negative emotions is by daily giving our spouse the freedom to complain. Your spouse will never trust you unless they know they can complain without paying a price. Have a daily attitude that says, “I am here to please you. Will you please tell me if I am not succeeding?”
For years my fear was if I ever get humble with Karen she would shame me or reject me. The day that I got humble with Karen is the day I became the head of my home. When I allowed Karen to approach me and correct me, I finally got the response from her I had been waiting for.
Habit 4: Create an Atmosphere of Partnership and Sharing
The fourth habit of healthy couples is partnership. No one dominates in a healthy marriage. An atmosphere of sharing says, “I will never make a significant decision without you.” Sharing means you no longer do things by yourself. You do not buy things alone. You do not make decisions about your job or about important areas of your life without your spouse.
Over the years, the best decisions we have ever made have been when Karen and I make decisions together. In my opinion, if your spouse does not agree with a major decision in your life, then God has not called you to do it. The decision might even be right, but it may not be the right time. Healthy relationships are marriages where we walk together.
As you were reading these four habits, you’ve probably realized an area where some improvement is needed. Well, join the club. None of us have arrived in marriage. Take the first step. Go to your spouse and humbly take responsibility for your part in the relationship. Focus on yourself and trust God to change your spouse.
Jimmy Evans, along with his wife, Karen, is the founder of MarriageToday, and they are bringing the XO Marriage Conference to Gateway on February 12–13. For more information, visit xomarriageconference.com.