As girls we sometimes assume that our guy should just know what we are thinking and what they should do to keep us happy.

Relationships can be tough! I mean sometimes it feels like you don’t even speak the same language! However, most of the time that is simply not the case. Here are a few time tested, proactive practices Rob and I have learned over the last 30 + years of marriage that I believe will keep your relationship fiery fresh!

1. Acceptance

In the first 2 years of marriage this was a huge struggle for us. Everywhere we went – to dinner with friends, to church... I was having a ball – just being myself. But then on the way home Rob had a whole list of things he wanted to share with me about how I wasn’t acting the way I should. That was even before I started cussing! J Mostly he felt like I was being too vulnerable, sharing all our ‘stuff’ with people. I really felt like he was trying to shape me into some ‘ideal’ he had in his head, but I certainly wasn’t feeling accepted for who I am! I finally told him one day, “There are a whole lot of people who seem to like me just the way I am... and if you don’t stop this, you’re going to make me into someone YOU don’t even like.” The good news is, as he began to accept me for who I was, it created an environment for my heart to be open to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

2. Vulnerability - Openness

One of my favorite things about mine and Rob’s marriage is our friendship. Of course we share the same vocation, kids, family and friends, but we are VERY different when it comes to what activities we like to do. Robs idea of a great day off is to insert as many adrenalin laced activities in as possible: work out with weights, ride his bicycle, play golf, ride his motorcycle, have sex…I’m just saying... Whereas my idea is to take a leisurely walk with the dog, then sit on the back porch drinking coffee and have a long quiet time, read books, browse shopping websites, & take a nap. Our differences could kill vulnerability. Yet, we do share some common interests. I actually enjoy being his biker babe on a short ride to the movies or Starbucks – girls, I need a goal to ride. We both like hiking, and I do like sex… A LOT! But what I love the most about our relationship is the intimacy and connection we share about everything. Rob, for the most part, has always been an excellent & tender partner when it comes to listening and seeking to understand me in all the different stages of life... which creates intimacy & openness between us, especially for me as a woman. It is so crucial to build that foundation in the beginning so that when life gets hard you have a solid foundation to land on. Do everything you can to leave space in your week to bear your heart & soul with one another.

3. Respect & Love

Ephesians 5:22, 25 - Wives submit to / honor your husbands, as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Men want & need respect. 

Women want & need love.

I can tell you for sure that one of the biggest fears women have is that at some point her man is going to stop loving her; whether it’s because of how much she is juggling AND also wanting to be a blessing to him... but isn’t sure she has what it takes; OR because she compares herself to the perfect images our culture portrays of what she should look like. But when a husband consistently communicates to his bride how much he loves her, it brings safety and reassurance to their bond! Men, on the other hand, are looking for honor. He needs to know that his woman respects him. One of the quickest ways to ensure marital bliss is to brag on your husband: to him, to your kids, and to everyone else you know. I promise it will get back to him and make him feel like a million bucks. We can all find something imperfect about our spouses; may I boldly invite you to celebrate and verbalize your LOVE & RESPECT to one another.

4. Validation. 

Last year for about 6 months, Rob was dealing with an inner ear dysfunction that caused vertigo... I was so use to him being strong, active and invincible... but it was really tough. He had to rest a lot more... slow down his activities, decrease his salt intake, stop eating fun foods! He just wasn’t himself... One day, after he had researched a whole bunch of stuff... he decided to pour out his entire heart to me. We were standing in the bathroom and sadly I just wasn’t as tuned in as I normally am. Actually in my heart I was, but I was trying to get out the door for an appointment. Instead of validating him right then and there... and asking him for another time to hear his whole heart, he could tell I was agitated and I kind of dismissed him. Ugh! It really hurt his feelings. Needless to say, I had to do a whole lot of makeup work to get him to understand that I always want to know how he feels when he’s going through something... and then really take the time to validate his feelings!

The point is ladies, it’s not always easy for men to open up – so when they do – let’s make sure we stop - focus - and validate them!

5. Prioritize.

Keep your relationship a priority.

I know it’s not rocket science but I am always shocked when I start asking questions to couples who are struggling, about how much time they really spend together connecting heart-to-heart - on a consistent basis.... it’s usually very little. I know when you have young kids – you have to really fight for the time – or if one of you is working a night shift – you might have to get creative, swap babysitting your friends kids, or grab random or late night moments... but let me assure you, it’s worth fighting for! At the very beginning of our marriage, Rob and I adopted a ‘777’ plan and have continued it to this day. Every week, we take the 7th day off, part of which we use to connect on a deeper level. Every 7 weeks, we take a day and a half off and spend more focused time together, which occasionally entails a day trip or quick over night away. And once every 7 months, we enjoy a vacation or stay-cation, making sure our relationship is in a healthy place. Of course there are our daily connect moments, even if it is over dinner or pillow talk. This year I started a new tradition where at the end of the day we toast and talk about all the things we are grateful for on that day. Weekly, we take turns planning our date night.

Life can get so busy... it is vital to prioritize your relationship!

-Laura