1. Treat your spouse as you would a new friend
When researchers from the University of British Columbia asked 31 couples to talk with either their romantic partner or someone they’d just met, both sexes made more of an effort to be pleasing and likable to the strangers. The lesson: don’t take your mate for granted or act blasé or bored with him or her.
2. Accept each other
Too often, partners try to change and improve their mates. Rather than that, apply these words of the apostle Paul to your marriage: “Honour one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
3. Mind your mind
Rather than recalling and rehashing bad memories, focus your mind on good and great marital moments. As Jesus once asked, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4).
4. Curb criticism
Think twice before you criticise. Offer many more compliments than criticisms. One careless criticism can undo a score of kind acts.
5. Be a Galatians 5:22, 23 partner
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Bring these virtues into your marriage.
6. Fight fair
Take this advice from columnist Ann Landers: “All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. ‘Good’ battle is objective and honest, never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive and brings to a marriage the principle of equal partnership.”
7. Encourage growth and change
As time goes on, neither of you will be the same as when you first met. All of us grow, change and develop. Expect this. Respect it. Encourage it. American novelist Pearl Buck wrote, “A good marriage is one that allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.”
8. Compliment your partner publicly
Private praise is good and public praise feels even better. Be your partner’s cheerleader in life.
9. Pull together in a crisis
When a crisis strikes, some couples turn on each other and fall apart. Others turn to each other and pull together.
10. Be domestic equals
Marriages run more smoothly when both partners share in domestic duties. Psychologist Dr Joyce Brothers said, “Marriage is not just spiritual communion, it is also remembering to take out the trash.”
11. Be supportive
Show support and understanding when your spouse is going through a hard time. Offer a listening ear. Do whatever you can to lighten his or her daily burden.
12. Recognise and respond to needs
When she’s not feeling well and is tired, pitch in and help with whatever needs to be done. When he’s feeling pressure and wants to talk, listen patiently, compassionately and carefully.
Say “I’m sorry!” Do this whenever you blunder.
14. Be best friends
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted that “it is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship, that makes unhappy marriages.”
15. Be sincere and clear
Say what you mean and mean what you say. When you do this, your partner won’t have to wonder what’s really going on.
16. Be a mindful partner
Pay attention to what’s important to your partner and acknowledge that.
17. Help your partner to feel special
It doesn’t have to be an expensive present, but do or say something every day that will make your partner feel loved.
18. Don’t be yourself
Be someone a little nicer than you are.
19. Say “I love you” in memorable ways
Sure, it’s always nice to hear your partner say, “I love you.” It’s even nicer when those words are conveyed in unforgettable and tangible ways.
For example, you could write your partner a love poem (even if you’re not exactly Shakespeare, your mate will be moved); get up before your partner and prepare a sunrise picnic breakfast; send a bouquet of flowers for no special day or reason except to say, “I love you, hope you’re having a great day!” or leave a card under your mate’s pillow expressing how much you appreciate and love her or him.
20. Ask for forgiveness
Whenever you err, admit it promptly and humbly, adding these crucial words: “Please forgive me.” As the Bible promises, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
21. Extend forgiveness readily
Avoid holding a grudge. When your spouse acknowledges an error, mistake or blunder and asks for forgiveness, give it without hesitation. This is good for a marriage. Author Agnes Sanford says, “As we practise the work of forgiveness we discover more and more that forgiveness and healing are one.”
22. Show affection consistently
Embrace when you greet each other. Sit side by side. Touch one another gently. Stroke a shoulder. Do these things consistently.
23. Don’t be a perfectionist
Don’t expect perfection in yourself. Don’t expect perfection in your partner. It isn’t there in either of you.
24. Remain committed for the long haul
Think of marriage as a marathon—not a sprint. Bring the virtues of perseverance and patience into your relationship.
25. Laugh together
Share a joke you’ve heard. Point out a cartoon you like. Laugh together often.
26. Choose hope over despair
Whenever there’s a rough patch in the relationship, remain hopeful. Rather than think about throwing in the towel, try to remember a time you felt that way but resolved the issue and moved forward together. Then remind yourself that a good outcome can happen again.
27. Overlook faults
Consider the wisdom of this French proverb: “A deaf husband and a blind wife are always a happy couple.”