Every now and then, I happen across a couple who has it figured out. Somehow, it seems, they navigated the hurdles and pitfalls of marriage and now are coasting down easy street.
Marriage looks easy for these fortunate few. They encounter problems. Everyone does. But there’s noticeable joy in their relationship. They enjoy being around one another. It’s genuine. They say things like, “I love him more today than the day I married him.”
And they mean it.
How does this happen? Is Cupid on speed dial? Is there a marriage monk somewhere deep in the Himalayas? If it were this easy, I assure you Cupid would be everyone’s best friend and the Himalayas would contain, at any one time, half of the world’s population.
Healthy relationships don’t just happen. They’re built with healthy habits. Here are 7 habits of healthy marriages.
1. They pursue emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy.
Intimacy is the goal of any relationship. But intimacy is hard, really hard. It is far easier to just exist in the same space with your spouse than to open yourself up to the vulnerability and authenticity that intimacy requires.
Healthy marriages aren’t content with existing. They do the hard work of opening themselves up and taking down walls.
This is uncomfortable. This is scary. Yes and yes. But intimacy is the only path to true love, and that road is paved with vulnerability and authenticity, grace and forgiveness.
2. They don’t try to change or fix each other.
Your spouse has flaws. That’s no surprise.
This, however, might come as a surprise: Your spouse’s flaws are almost always a projection of yours.
If you need a minute to collect the pieces of your brain, go right ahead. I’ll be here.
Assuming this is true, and I believe it is, you are the one who needs changing, not your spouse. You won’t see finger-pointing in healthy marriages. When conflicts and tension arise, individuals in a healthy marriage ask themselves, “What does this say about me? What do I need to change?”
You can’t enjoy a relationship while trying to change or fix it. You might dislike hearing this. But deep down you know it’s true.
3. They practice empathy.
Empathy puts the shoe on the other foot. Rather than convincing your partner you’re right, empathy sees the other side. It walks a mile in the shoes of the other.
Several years ago, on the heels (I’m killing the shoe references) of a difficult season in my marriage, I sat down with a mentor, seeking advice. I’ll never forget his response. He told me to sacrifice myself for my wife like Christ sacrificed himself for the church. He referenced Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:25.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
I’ll be honest, at the time his advice sounded like a cop-out. Then, I started to apply it. I never looked at my wife the same. If you want to transform your marriage, love your spouse like Christ loved the church. I’m convinced divorce would not exist if mutual submission were the core practice of every marriage.
4. They don’t keep score.
Early in my marriage, I kept score. Every time I folded the clothes or fixed something around the house, I marked a mental tally. Then, when I wanted to golf or spend a weekend watching football, I unveiled the scoreboard.
The problem? Marriage isn’t a game. You’re not competing against your spouse. There are no winners and losers.
You will not find a scoreboard in a healthy marriage. – (tweet this)
5. They never stop dating.
There’s not a healthy marriage on earth who doesn’t make dating a consistent practice, whether they’ve been together one year or fifty. I put my parents’ retirement on it.
Any time you’re around another human for a long period of time, complacency is a temptation. Without intentionality, complacency will take the wheel of your relationship. Before you know it, years pass without any meaningful time invested in the relationship. This is problematic because relationships are organic.
Healthy marriages fight this problem by continuing to date one another. They set aside intentional time to invest in one another. This time might come once a week or twice a month. But regardless the frequency, it’s always consistent and protected.
If you’re not dating your spouse, you should start. It will change the culture of your marriage.
6. They pray together often.
I ran across a statistic several years that said only 1% of couples who pray together regularly end up divorced. I don’t know all the details. But I know this:
When Tiffani and I pray together regularly, our marriage is healthier. I feel closer to her. The peace and joy in our relationship noticeably increase.
But praying together regularly is a difficult endeavor. Go ahead and try it.
There’s a spiritual reason for this. There are evil forces that want to tear your marriage apart. I call them Satan.
7. They surround their marriage with other healthy marriages.
Healthy marriages have boundaries. Among those is the commitment to positive voices and people who will strengthen their marriage. Sometimes close friends and family are the most toxic voices. When this is the case, tough decisions will follow.
But healthy marriages would rather have a hard conversation than allow a negative voice to impact their relationship.
I want to hear from you. What are some habits of healthy marriages I didn’t mention? Leave a comment below!
Grace and peace, friends.
A version of this post originally appeared on Bayside Blog on April 13, 2018. Used by permission.
Frank is a freelance writer and speaker living in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife and three kids. His goal is to challenge status quo Christianity and push everyone (Christian or not) to see God with fresh eyes.
His content has been featured on sites like Relevant, ChurchLeaders, Catalyst, Thought Catalog, Mogul, and FaithIt. Be sure to check out his work on the Bayside Church blog at: blog.baysideonline.com.