A few years ago, my trusty old Toyota Rav4 broke down on the side of the road. I was on my way to a business event, only to be stranded on the side of the Maine highway.
Shortly after, we decided it was time for a new vehicle for me: a Kia Sorento, with heated seats! It was used, but it was new to me, and I was so excited! I treated it with great love and care. I kept it really clean on the inside, washed it frequently, and had rules about food and drink being consumed on the inside.
For about 6 months, this worked really well. My new car still looked new! I was so proud of myself. I was determined not to let it look like my Rav4 had looked at the end.
But gradually, over time, things started to change. Having a 4 year old certainly didn’t help the car’s cleanliness. Small amounts of trash started accumulating, and soon my new car didn’t look so new.
Before I knew it, my car looked nothing like it had the day I bought it. When I got inside, it didn’t give me the same warm and fuzzy feelings I had initially. The thought of cleaning it was daunting, because so much mess had piled up. I had plenty of reasons for this: too busy, other priorities, transporting children, etc.
Sometimes, the same thing happens with marriage. When you’re newly married, you pay attention to caring for your spouse, putting in plenty of time and effort to meet their needs. But over time, it’s easy for the relationship to start getting overlooked.
Life gets busy, and marriage can take a backseat to kids, career, household tasks, and entertainment.
Then one day, you look around in your marriage, and you barely recognize it. You see a mess, and you’re not even sure where to begin because it’s so overwhelming.
My husband and I are at the age where we have seen some of our dear friends, who got married around the same time as we did, getting divorced. Whenever this happens, it breaks my heart. Some of these marriages have broken up due to affairs or financial issues.
But others have likely been due to a slow, gradual process of growing apart. Usually the affair or financial issue is just the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” When the marriage hasn’t been maintained on a regular basis, all it takes is one major challenge to destroy it.
As moms, it’s acceptable – even normal – for our cars to be a mess. But it’s not so fun if your marriage is a mess.
If you’re feeling like you don’t even recognize your marriage anymore, and you miss the newlywed days, this post is for you. Or, if you feel like your marriage is doing alright, but you’re always looking for ways to improve, then this is for you, too!
DO YOU WANT TO AVOID DIVORCE AND HAVE A BETTER MARRIAGE?
In doing research for the marriage retreat that my husband & I lead, along with paying attention to the married couples I know who have a thriving marriage, there is one thing that I have found to be true: the couples who work on their marriages on a consistent basis are the ones who seem to be enjoying marriage the most.
I’ve also found this to be true in my own marriage – the more we have worked on things, the better our relationship has become. But when we ignore issues, push them under the rug, or simply allow ourselves to drift apart – that’s when we start to have more problems.
[bctt tweet= “The most important thing you must do for a better marriage is INVEST in it.”]
4 Things to Invest for a Better Marriage
When I talk to most couples, especially those with young children, I often hear a common theme. It revolves around the lack of quality time together as a couple.
In 2014, my husband and I really struggled in this area. We were in the process of attempting to sell our house, so he had moved his business out of the house and was renting space in a different town.
That meant that he would go to his part-time job at the church, then he would drive to his business and work into the evening. On his days off from church, he would still have to drive to the business and work there, again, often until late at night.
Meanwhile, I was working my business part-time, parenting, and attempting to pack and keep the house “showing-worthy” (which was basically impossible). When we finally moved into our new home, there was still a transition time until he was able to move his business here and get settled.
Once we were settled into our home, and his business was back home, we really had to take a close look at our time. That year had put a strain on our marriage, not just because of building a house, but because we had not invested as much time as we should have.
Since then, we’ve been more intentional about investing time with one another. This year, we got even more specific about how we are spending our time as a couple, and we made a plan for how we wanted that to look.
You do not have to invest huge amounts of time for a better marriage, but you do have to be intentional.
Investing a few minutes a day of conversation and connection can make a difference.
Just like with a car, if you spend a few minutes each week cleaning it out, it stays looking much nicer. But when you go weeks or months without investing any time, it becomes quite a task to clean it up.
Questions to ask:
- Are we investing time in our marriage?
- How much time do we spend together without being on our phones?
- Do we have a regular date night?
Discuss with your spouse one way that you can spend time together intentionally during the next 2 weeks.
While Scott and I certainly do not have this marriage thing all figured out, we HAVE made it a point, over the past 13.5 years, to invest money into our marriage.
From date nights (which now involve paying a babysitter) to weekends away, books and online programs, and going to a marriage retreat almost every year – these things have all cost us money, but they have provided invaluable rewards.
“If you care about your marriage, spend money on it, spend time on it. Take those weekends away. Get that date night in the calendar… these are the things that will cause there to be visible progress in a relationship.”
– Pastor Levi Lusko, “Grate Expectations” sermon
By making this investment, we’ve learned from other couples. We’ve had incredible conversations when there’s been no distractions around us. We’ve laughed and we’ve cried together. We have gained new insights that we would have otherwise missed out on.
If you want to make your marriage better, you also need to be willing to invest some money into it.
This could mean saving up for a weekend away. If your spouse’s love language is gifts, you may need to budget for that. You could save up and invest in a marriage retreat or spend a small amount on a program to strengthen your communication.
Questions to ask:
- Do we have a budget for our marriage?
- Are we willing to invest financially into resources that will help improve our marriage?
- How often do we spend money on our relationship vs. our children or other priorities?
Determine one thing you will do this year that will cost money but will be an investment into your marriage.
Before couples get married, they often spend time doing pre-marital counseling. This usually involves reading a book and/or going through some activities or workbooks that will help the couple be prepared for marriage.
Then the couple gets married, but do they continue learning? Do they continue to pursue ways to improve their marriage or understand their spouse better?
I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning. I don’t think any of us ever “arrive” and have it all figured out. In fact, as much as I write here on my blog about marriage, I realize that I have that much more to learn in this journey.
Part of investing in your marriage means investing your intellect.
You need to be willing to learn new ideas, understand how your spouse’s mind works, explore new approaches to conflict resolution. By keeping an open mind to these things, you’ll never have the idea that you’ve got it all figured out.
One of my favorite ways to continue learning about marriage is podcasts. I love listening to other couples and/or experts. Another way to invest is by reading books, articles, or blog posts (bonus points for you!) about marriage. Finally, you can also invest in learning by attending a marriage conference or event.
Questions to ask:
- Am I am open to learning more about marriage and relationships?
- What steps am I taking to improve my understanding of my spouse?
- What is my favorite way to learn (audio, reading, in person events)?
Choose one of these methods and commit to learning during the coming year.
Finally, the most important thing you need to invest in your marriage is your heart. In every healthy relationship, there’s this thing called vulnerability. The definition of vulnerable is “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.”
Revealing your heart to your spouse is incredibly powerful. When you reveal your heart – your deepest dreams, longings, hurts, fears – to your spouse, you are vulnerable. You are opening yourself up to being hurt.
[bctt tweet= “In order to have a better marriage, investing your heart is of utmost importance.”]
This is the toughest one for me, as I suspect it is for many others. Somehow I find it easier to share a personal story with a stranger or someone on the other side of the screen than with my own husband.
Why is vulnerability hardest with your spouse?
Vulnerability is harder with your spouse, most likely, because this is the closest relationship you have. And the closer the relationship, the deeper the potential hurt.
For example, if someone I don’t know at all comments negatively on my blog post, it would be much less painful than if my husband gave me negative feedback.
Yet, the times that I risk it – the times that I bring up the hard issues, the fears, or the deepest dreams – are the times that we have the best conversations. Those are the times that I can specifically remember, and they bring about positive change in our relationship.
Opening my heart up to my husband provides opportunity for the greatest growth in our marriage.
Questions to ask:
- How often do I really open up to my spouse?
- What is one thing I could share with him that would scare me a little bit?
- When do I feel most comfortable sharing my deepest thoughts, desires, or dreams?
Choose something you’d like to share with your spouse, and find a time when you would feel most comfortable to do so. Do this within the next 2 weeks.
INVESTING IN YOUR MARRIAGE IS NOT EASY, BUT IT’S WORTH IT
This process can be messy, stinky, and at times overwhelming. But if you stick it out, the investments you make each day, each month, each year, WILL be worth it.
“I no longer believe love works like a fairy tale but like farming. Most of it is just getting up early and tilling the soil and then praying for rain. But if we do the work, we just might wake up one day to find an endless field of crops rolling into the horizon.”
–Donald Miller, Scary Close
Choosing to invest your time, money, intellect, and heart into your marriage has the potential to have incredible impact and create a better marriage for you and your spouse.
What if you try the suggestions above, or you’ve already been doing this, and you’re still feeling stuck?
If you are coming from a place of complete mess (like my car), you may need more intervention than just what I’ve mentioned above. You may need to take it a step further and invest in professional counseling.
As much as I believe each of us has the ability to impact our marriages, I also know there are times that we must get outside help. There is no shame in doing this. If this is you, please do not hesitate to find a professional to help you through this time.
Are you ready to invest in your marriage, but you’re not sure where to start?
Join the Better Attitude Marriage Challenge to start improving your marriage: