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Marriage is hard work. If anyone tells you differently, don’t listen to them. Marriage takes time, commitment, sweat, and even tears. And just like any other organic thing, if it’s just left sitting without the proper care, it will stagnate. So how do you refresh your marriage?
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Sixteen years ago, when I was counting down the days to our much anticipated summer wedding date, I could never have imagined needing to breathe new life into my marriage. I was certain that this love that I felt would last forever, and that these feelings in my heart were stronger than any adversity we would face as a couple. I had all the beautiful feelings of new love.
Not six months later, I was wondering what the secret was to making it fifty years as a happy couple. There was so much I just didn’t know about marriage, and I was overwhelmed. All I really knew was that I wanted to honor God and love my husband, but how to walk that out really escaped me.
So I began asking people: What is the secret to a happy marriage? Almost everyone gave me the same few answers: prayer, hard work, and don’t ever quit. While these answers were great (and true!), they weren’t what my overwhelmed young heart was seeking. I wanted some specific “how to’s” that I could walk out, immediately.
Then I hit my knees and prayed. I started to pay close attention to the interaction between husbands and wives, and took copious notes. And I read the Bible. In all of that, I found some treasures that I began to apply. And in that application, I began to refresh my marriage. With time, these things have changed how they look, but the fundamental priniciples have remained the same.
Pray for your husband
The first thing I found when talking to wives who were one half of a beautiful marriage was that they prayed for their men. Easy enough, right? Honestly, it is, but I know I forget to do it as diligently as I should, and I’m guessing you might, too.
Pray for God to bless him. Pray for God to draw his heart closer to Jesus. Ask God to encourage him. Pray for God to give him godly friends. Ask for him to be filled with an increased knowledge of God’s will and a desire to walk it out. Intercede for him regarding challenges at work, situations at home, and anything else that may be on his heart.
Pray diligently, pray without ceasing, and pray with intention…daily. Invest time in praying for your husband every single day.
This one thing alone will refresh your marriage! Prayer creates a bond and will help you tune into your spouse, because the Holy Spirit will nudge your heart. Praying for your man will also knit your heart to his in a deeper way, making you more connected than ever. Only God knows exactly how much of a difference my prayers have made in my husband’s life, but I can attest to the changes they’ve made in my life.
Praying for someone makes it very hard to hold a grudge or stay frustrated with them. Praying for your husband will keep your heart tender towards him, and it also helps make sure you don’t get a chance to take him for granted. Praying for him also keeps the focus on God’s role in your marriage, creating a safeguard against bitterness, frustration, and other things that can tear at a marriage over time.
Be thankful for your husband
Sit down with a notebook and jot down every single reason you can find to be thankful for your husband. Here are a few ideas:
- My husband loves me
- He works hard at his job to help meet our needs
- I love when he gives me a kiss each morning
- I’m thankful for my best friend, that is also my husband
- He puts his dirty dishes in the sink
- He smiles when our kids call his name
- He makes great coffee
These are just a few ideas. Your husband may or may not do these things, but it’s a starting place that will hopefully help you get started. Look for all the little things that you see as normal that made you smile back when you first fell in love. Look for the things he does do, instead of seeing all he doesn’t do. Write them down.
What do you do if you are struggling in your marriage and don’t know how to be thankful for the man you are married to? That’s harder. But you can still do it. Gratitude is ultimately a choice. Even when the warm fuzzies have faded and the glow of young love has long since been extinguished, you can choose to find things to be grateful for. Start small if you need to, but be dedicated to being thankful for him.
Keep this list going. Start with 5-10 things and try to add to it each and every day. Be intentional about doing this, but keep it to yourself for now. Let this begin to work on your heart until you find yourself naturally responding toward your husband with gratitude. This heart attitude can refresh your marriage each and every day.
Tell your husband
Now that you’ve been praying for him daily and finding things to be thankful for each day, start to seek out moments to naturally express this to him. When he does something kind, tell him how thankful you are. As he is leaving for work, tell him how thankful you are. When he has a special moment with one of the kids, tell him how thankful you are. You get my point, right? Speak up, friend!
So many times we take things for granted. And so many times people in our lives feel as though they are being taken for granted. That’s not what you want for your man, is it?
You want your husband to feel loved, wanted, respected. You want him to want to come home to you at the end of a long day, and to be excited for a weekend with his family. The only ways I know to do that are prayer and gratitude, consistently…and they work.
If he shares a struggle, stop right then and pray with him for it. Later, in your quiet time, you can pray some more. You can continually lift him up before the Father, because that is one way that we as wives can be his helpmeet. Later, ask him how it’s going. Tell him you’ve been praying for him, and ask him about it. Then stop and listen to everything he is saying (and try really hard not to jump in with advice or an opinion). Taking the time to express thanks and to let him know that his life matters to you will refresh your marriage.
Never complain about your husband
By this point in life, most of us, if not all, have had those awkward moments where we’re having coffee with a friend and they start complaining about another mutual friend. We might shift uncomfortably in our chair, attempt to change the subject, and otherwise feel really bad about what’s happening. After all, that’s not what friends do.
But, what about when that same type of conversation happens about your husband? Do you have that same type of awkward feeling and sense that this shouldn’t be happening?
Let’s be honest, most of us have at one point or another vented about him. Those socks left in the middle of the floor for someone to trip on, or that toilet seat left up, or (insert other annoying habit here) really start to cause frustration when you live with it day after day. Or what about the bigger things, like the time he forgot your anniversary or didn’t notice that you’d gotten all dressed up for a date and he ended up working late? Those times hurt.
Have you ever called your mom (or sister or aunt or friend) and just shared how frustrated you are with your husband? Sure, they commiserate with you and that makes you feel a bit better. But was it the right thing to do? I’m going to tell you: it’s not. Those conversations will do the exact opposite of what you hope. This can impact how they view your man, and it’s unlikely they’ll forgive as quickly or as wholly as you will.
Plus, you’re talking to the wrong person. The first person you should talk to as a wife when something disappoints, hurts, or frustrates you is God. Take some time to pray about it. The second person you should talk to is your husband. Approach him gently, humbly, and with love and share with him what’s on your heart.
I will add that having one older, more experienced woman in your life is not a bad thing. I have a mentor who has taught me so much, and I am incredibly thankful for her presence in my life. She is the only person I will go to with an issue, outside of God and my husband, because I can trust her to respond first with prayer, then with Scripture, and then with wisdom that comes from experience. However, she is never my first stop, and I try hard to resolve things with my husband after prayer whenever possible.
I do want to add that sometimes issues are really big. They are hard and overwhelming and you need outside counsel. Please, do not see this as a deterrent to getting it. But again, go to a counselor or pastor or mentor for help, not a friend or family member to unload your emotions.
Praise your husband to other people
This kind of goes hand in hand with what we were just discussing. When is the last time you said something sweet about your man to your friends or family? Or to your man himself? Words have the power of life and death so use them wisely and well. Intentionally say nice things about him.
The Bible says that the words that come out of our mouth are actually revealing what is in our hearts. We want what we say to show that our hearts are for our husbands, ladies. We truly do. It sends a message to others, and to him, and is a good reminder for yourself, too. This is so simple, but often overlooked.
Respect your husband
This last thing I want to share with you may well be the thing that your husband notices the most. It’s also the most challenging, in my personal experience. Respect him.
Recently I read something that shook me to my core. Matt Jacobson and wife Lisa of Club 31 Women wrote two awesome books together that I highly recommend. Matt wrote the book 100 Ways to Love Your Wife: A Lifelong Journey of Learning to Love and Lisa authored 100 Ways to Love Your Husband: The Lifelong Journey of Learning to Love Each Other. Some of their ideas might be obvious to you, and some you might be surprised by. But one quote has stood out to me beyond all the others and changed my mindset radically.
The woman who doesn’t respect her husband is in the process of destroying her marriage. ~Lisa Jacobson
One of the most critical things you can do for your husband to refresh your marriage is to respect him. Women long to be cherished and adored and often equate love with those feelings. Men are a different breed and they equate being loved with being respected.
What does this look like? It can be as simple as not arguing with him, especially in front of others. It can be as hard as taking his advice when you think he’s wrong. Pray about it, maybe even talk to your man about it. But definitely do it.
Refresh your marriage – It’s worth the effort
I can still vividly recall a phone conversation with my mentor back when we had been married almost ten years. We were talking about marriage and its ups and downs. I shared with her that I felt like God wanted to refresh our marriage, that it needed new life. God had laid it on my heart to pray for my man daily, to start being intentionally thankful for him, and to never say anything negative about him to other people.
I can still hear her chuckle as she told me that I was off to a good start, but she wanted me to take it all a step further. She challenged me to pray for him and with him — out loud, where he could hear me. And then she challenged me to make sure I prayed with him and for him before he left the house for work each day. She challenged me to not just think nice things about him, but to say them as well. And then, the hard one came.
She asked me to tell her exactly how I showed my husband respect. I told her that I prayed for him, I made him meals that he liked, I took care of our children and our home, and things along those lines. She patiently repeated the question, “Yes, Lisa, but how do you show him you RESPECT him?” I told her that was how.
“Then this is going to be fun,” she said. “I want you to ask his opinion as often as you can, and seek out his advice even when you don’t think you need it. Whatever he suggests, as long as it isn’t sin, do it. With a smile. And I want you to do this consistently for six weeks.” It started out simply enough, because he didn’t really have much to say.
And then my heart broke, because I realized that the reason he didn’t offer much was because he was used to me rejecting his suggestions to do things my own way or just not asking for them because I was so self sufficient. Or, just as bad, not really listening when he did take the time to talk. So I had to coax. “No really, hon, what do you think?” Slowly, over time, he began to speak out.
It was precious to my heart to see the shift in our relationship dynamic. Well, it was precious at first. Then came the day that he suggested I do something that I really didn’t want to do and I had to do it anyhow, because that was what I had committed to do in my heart. That was when the real change happened, and it was in my heart, not his.
That was the moment when I realized what it looked like to respect my husband. Praying for him, being thankful for him, and lifting him up with my words were all wonderful changes, and necessary ones. They are changes that will refresh your marriage if you institute them. But don’t leave off that final step. Your husband needs your respect, and giving it to him will refresh your marriage beautifully.
Please note that physical intimacy is also crucial. We’ll talk more about that in the future, but it can’t be neglected. It is definitely a part of God’s plan for marriage. If you’ve taken any of these steps, I’d love to read your comments about their impact on your marriage. What are some other ways you have brought refreshment to your marriage?
If you’re ready to read more about investing in your marriage, these are some excellent books to start with:
- “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas
- “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerichs
- “The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie O’Martian
- “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller