10 Habits That Can Strengthen Your Relationship

10 Habits That Can Strengthen Your Relationship | KeatingBartlett.com

Marriage isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work every single day to make a marriage successful. Since Zack and I got married so soon into our relationship, I sometimes feel like we have to work even harder to make our marriage work. We spent the first couple years of our marriage pretty much getting to know each other on top of also learning how to be a marriage couple, learning to live together, and even learning how to work together as a team. It was a whole lot of newness that we were thrown into and sometimes, it was a really challenging adjustment for us.

Now, we’ve been together and married for almost four years and I am just now feeling more settled into our relationship. We’re at a point where we’re comfortable and have established our own routines and habits that work well for our relationship. While there’s always something we can be doing to improve our marriage, I’d call our marriage a success so far. So today I’m sharing ten habits Zack and I make in our marriage that have helped us stay connected with one another on a daily basis.

ALWAYS KISS EACH OTHER GOODBYE.

It doesn’t matter if one of us is sick or if we are in the middle of an argument or even if we fought all night the night before. We always make it a priority to kiss each other goodbye before we part ways. Always. Even when he’s the last person on this earth that I want to be kissing in that moment. I will always take a second to kiss him goodbye. Why? Well because you really never know if it’ll be the last time you get to kiss your significant other. Your entire life can change in the blink of an eye and it would kill me to get a phone call saying something happened to him, knowing I refused to kiss him goodbye that morning. I couldn’t handle it. So if we’re parting ways, even if it’s just to run to the Seven Eleven, we stop to kiss each other goodbye first.

SAY “I LOVE YOU”.

Like kissing each other goodbye, we also always make it a habit to say “I love you” before we part ways for the day or when we’re finished with an argument. Sometimes we’ll even say it when we’re in the middle of an argument as a reminder that even though we’re fighting, we still love one another and are there to make it work. Sometimes I say “over-say” it throughout the day and it drives Zack insane to hear it every five minutes. But like I mentioned above, you never know when it’ll be your last chance to say it. So I’ll say it a million times a day for the rest of my life if I have to. And he’ll just have to get over it!

TURN OFF THE CELL PHONES.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where technology surrounds us on a daily basis. It’s a big part of our every day life. I admit, it can sometimes be hard to disconnect from my iPhone or MacBook, especially when I’m in the middle of getting some work done. I’m a workaholic sometimes. But it’s just not healthy to be glued to them all day, every day. So at the end of every day, we make it a priority to have uninterrupted Netflix nights. And we do this every single night that we’re both home, no matter what time of day it is when we get home from work. My MacBook stays in my office or in the living room and our phones are plugged in and put on silent. That’s our time together to rewind and when we’re both working full-time, this is literally our only time together most weeks.

DO SOMETHING NICE FOR EACH OTHER.

 Zack is an acts of service kind of guy when it comes to showing his love so sometimes he’ll do the dishes for me or have the house straightened up when I come home from work or a day out with a friend. Some nights he’ll even cook dinner if I’m too tired to do it myself or I’m busy with schoolwork. When he’s out getting a hair cut, he’ll bring me home a treat like Starbucks or a Snickers bar. I know these are seemingly small tasks, but sometimes they make my entire day. I love and appreciate it a lot when he does these things for me and I know he appreciates those things too. So I’ll bring him coffee and food while he’s at work or do the laundry AND put it away all in the same day (this is a rare occurrence in my household…I hate laundry). Love doesn’t have to be these big, grand gestures.

MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE YOUR TOP PRIORITY.

This one is so important to me. My marriage will always be my top priority. Even after we have children. He comes before my blog, my career, even my schoolwork some weeks (side note: I’m not skipping work for no reason or getting F’s in school to put him first or anything like that. Don’t do that! But know how to balance these things instead). It’s so easy to get caught up in everything you have going on in your life and after a while, your marriage can sometimes feel like it’s been put on the back burner. But a marriage is a living, breathing thing in my mind. It’s important to make time for it or it’ll end up falling apart.

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So if my husband tells me he misses me or even flat-out tells me he needs time with me, then I take that very seriously. He’s the least needy person I know so he’s not the type to ask for my attention. So when he does, it’s serious and I’ll drop everything to make that time for him and our marriage. And when I say to make time for one another, I mean one-on-one time together. Not group activities. Go out for dinner just the two of you or get away for a weekend and stay at a cute little bed and breakfast on the coast. Get dressed up and go downtown for a night or send the kids to grandma’s for a night and crawl into bed early with some movies and take out food. Maybe even try a new hobby together or explore a new town. Do something together just the two you!

LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS.

You’ll never know how your spouse is feeling if you don’t take the time to listen to them. It’s taken me a while to learn that it’s not always best to have the last word in an argument or to get every single point across. Believe it or not, the world doesn’t actually revolve around you. Your problems and feelings aren’t the only ones that matter, especially in a marriage. So sometimes it’s best to just take a step back and listen to what your spouse has to say. Both of you should have the chance to express how you’re feeling.

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Not only do you hear how your partner is feeling, you can also hear what they’re actually saying. And this goes for even basic, everyday situations. For example, when Zack asks me “what’s for dinner?”, I used to hear it as “why haven’t you made dinner yet?” which isn’t what he’s saying at all. He’s simply letting me know he’s hungry and wondering what I’m making, yet this can easily turn into an argument on any given day. This would instantly put me in a mood because it came across as a bit pushy. And I know I’m not the only one out there who misinterprets simple statements like this. Especially after a long, stressful day. So take a moment to really listen to your partner.

LEARN TO ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER.

I hate seeing couples who spend all their time trying to change each other. If that person isn’t the type of person you want to be with, then why are you with them in the first place? I understand that it’s sometimes challenging to accept every aspect of someone, but don’t waste your time trying to change them. When you enter into a marriage, you’re choosing to accept that person for who they are: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I might not like that Zack’s not a super cuddly person, but that’s just how he is. What matters to me is that he does his best to be more accepting of my hugs and kisses. On the other hand, I know that my depression and anxiety are really hard things for him to accept sometimes as well. But he’s so incredibly patient with me through those struggles and is my #1 supporter when I need him the most. I’m a strong believer that love is a choice and regardless of what flaws we may have, Zack and I accept who were are as individuals and we choose to love each other every single day.

REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE ON THE SAME TEAM.

This is so important! In our early months of marriage, there were many times where I felt like Zack and I were on opposite teams. The big issue at that time, being his work schedule and the demands of the military. It was a really hard lifestyle to settle into and sometimes I felt like he’d rather be at work than home with me (yes, I now realize how ridiculous that sounds. But give me a break. I was young, dumb and newly married).

It wasn’t until Zack went overseas to Japan for 12 months that I finally started to realize we were on the same team. It was hard at first being apart and again, I felt like he’d “rather be in Japan than home with me”. But after a few months, I started the realize how important it was for us to work together in order to get through the year apart. He didn’t want to be in Japan without me and I certainly didn’t want to be living in Maine without him. So at the end of the day, we wanted the same thing: to be together. And that’s what we focused on.

This mindset, alone has helped us through so many arguments and so many challenging life changes and transitions. When you realize the two of you are on the same team and working towards the same goal, then life becomes a hell of a lot easier.

KNOW AND UNDERSTAND YOUR SPOUSE’S LOVE LANGUAGE.

I’ll try to keep this one short since I have a whole blog post on this one. When Zack and I first got married, I decided to check out the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and loved it! I can’t even begin to explain how life-changing this book can be for a relationship. I felt like we had been struggling a bit in those early months and just couldn’t figure out how to get past it and reading this book literally changed my marriage for the better.

In short, everyone has a different way of showing love (aka a “love language”) and sometimes two people in a relationship speak different languages. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but I believe that this is one of the top reasons why some relationships just don’t make it. Some couples don’t understand how to connect with their spouse because they don’t understand that they’re just not on the same page when it comes to how they show and receive love. It doesn’t mean you’re not compatible, it just means that you have some things to learn about your spouse.

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So in our marriage, Zack’s more of an ‘acts of service’ and ‘quality time’ kind of person. This means that he shows love by doing things for me and by spending time together (although our versions of time together can sometimes vary). He’s not the type who needs constant attention or gifts and he certainly doesn’t need to hear the words ‘I love you’ every five minutes either (oops) or be holding my hand at all times. He’s pretty low maintenance and the simple fact that I’m still here, working on our marriage every day is enough for him to know that I love him and want to be here with him.

I, on the other hand am more of a ‘words of affirmation’ and ‘physical touch’ (although ‘quality time’ is slowly starting to replace ‘physical touch’ for me). I love being told when I’m appreciated and when I’m doing something right and even more so, I love when Zack tells me he loves me. Hearing those things can easily make my entire day. And in addition to that, I love hugs, kisses and cuddles which Zack just isn’t into very often. So being that we have differing love languages, we sometimes have to work a little harder to make that connection with one another. And a lot of other couples experience this as well, even if you don’t realize it. So take the time to read the book, take the quiz, and find new ways to connect with your spouse.

PICK AND CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES.

If I could give my newly married self some marriage advice, the first thing I’d tell her is to learn how to pick and choose her battles. As a young, newly married couple we argued over the dumbest things. Like seriously. The dumbest. I’d get mad over him having to go to work, or when he had to take work calls on his off days, or whether his clothes ended up in the laundry basket or on the floor. I’d get mad about the toilet seat being up or his nights out with the guys (which actually rarely happened). I even got mad that our relationship wasn’t “Facebook official” and even now, almost four years later, our Facebook accounts still don’t say we’re married. And guess what! It’s not the end of the world!

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All these little things really do not matter whatsoever. They’re not worth arguing over. If you’re on the verge of breaking up because your spouse left his laundry on the floor then you have bigger issues there. The sooner we realized how insignificant these “issues” were, the faster we were able to get back on track. And now, it’s super rare that we get into a legitimate argument. If we’re going to argue, it’s not going to be over the laundry. So learn how to pick and choose your battles.

What habits do you make in your marriage?

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  • All such important things!

  • Mom

    These are all reasons that make me love you both more and worry less. A beautiful and intelligent post. Xoxo

  • Great list of things to make a marriage better! So important.

  • Kara Schwieterman

    I love these tips! They are all so important!!

  • These are great!! I agree with always kiss goodnight. Sometimes you just want to roll over and pass out but it takes a minute to kiss your husband good night. I definitely need to do better at some of these. We agreed to do better at going on dates this year!

    • Thanks so much Katie! I cannot go to sleep without a kiss lol he’s overseas right now and it makes going to bed so sad.

  • great tips! def agree with all of them

  • Yes to all of these!!!! My boyfriend and I have been together for over 6 years and even though we aren’t married, I love the idea of dating each other. It reminds you that even though you’ve been together it’s important to still keep the things going like you did in the beginning. Picking and choosing your battles is also so important. I am the type of person who in the past would pitch a fight over the smallest things, now I know to let certain things slide.

    • I’m the same way when it comes to starting arguments! You really have to take a step back and ask yourself if that issue is really worth fighting over. Will it actually matter a year down the road? Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. It wont matter a year from now.

  • Caroline

    I am working hard with your last tip! Good Lord I try not to fight over things that drive me bananas!! Ha! Great post!

    • Thanks so much Caroline! It can be challenging sometimes haha I try to ask myself if that issue will still matter a year down the road. Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. It wont matter a year from now. So if the answer is no, then I drop it and move on haha

  • These are perfect.
    The last one is one I am working on with each day.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • Thanks Jenny! I used to be horrible at picking and choosing my battles. Horrible haha I’ve definitely improved a lot. I try to ask myself if that issue will still matter a year down the road. Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. It wont matter a year from now. So if the answer is no, then I drop it and move on haha

  • Such great tips! We’re working on getting back into date nights. We definitely started slacking on it after our son was born but we’re getting better!

    • Thanks Susannah! It seems like a lot of people have “issues” with sticking to date nights. We do a lot of outings with friends. A good majority of our friends (especially those from our last base) are couples so every night out turns into a triple or quadruple date night lol we’re working on balancing group dates and individual dates.

  • Pick your battles is so important. Especially when someone has a short fuse, is it really worth the inevitable escalation??

    • It really is! I’ve been working on that one for a while now. I try to ask myself if that issue will still matter a year down the road. Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. It wont matter a year from now. So if the answer is no, then I drop it and move on haha

  • Homeschool Homegrown4

    Love theses tips. I have been married for almost 14 years and we apply your tips. We always say we love each other. Especially, right before we go to sleep. When we talk on the phone and part. We also always hug and kiss when we part as well when we see each other. If you do this as a couple you will be doing this with your children. My husband always tells our children he loves them and always hugs them when he goes to work and comes home from work. It is very special. I believe it has to first come from the couple.

    • I’m so glad you loved them! And I completely agree that it starts with us. It’s so important to us that we’re able to show our children what a good marriage looks at and to be able to love them the way that we want. I come from a divorced household and my husband only has his mother so our marriage and future family are even more important to us.

  • Elizabeth Edgar

    Love the tips here! I agree with turning the phones off! We both struggle with that because he uses his phone for work and I use mine for blogging. We have been together for 8 years. Thank you for sharing.

    • We’re the same way! He has to keep his on for work just in case someone is trying to get ahold of him and I’m just naturally on mine 24/7 either typing up a blog post or answering emails or doing some networking on social media. It never ends! haha but it’s so important to learn how to disconnect a bit and spend time together just the two of us. We’re still working on that balance, but we’re definitely getting better at it.

  • These are great! Sometimes we find ourselves playing on our phones at the same time and although some days that is okay, other times, like on a date we have to stop and remind ourselves that isn’t the time for that.

    • Thanks Julie! It took me a little while to explain to my husband that that wasn’t considered quality time haha I’d get upset over the lack of time together and in his mind, we’re together all the time. We now make it more of a priority to do things together just the two of us outside our home. Even phone-free movie nights work for me! lol

  • Thanks so much Erica! Those things have been so important in our marriage. And for us, communication and our individual love languages so hand in hand. It’s probably one of our biggest “challenges”. Since we have different love languages, it’s super important that we’re communicating with one another so that we know what the other person needs. It’s made such a huge difference for us!

  • Katie Brown

    Such a great post! I love every tip. Communication is so important!

  • I love this! Knowing your spouses love language is something I just recently learned and it changed the way I think about catering to your spouse! Great list.

  • Wonderful tips! It isn’t easy, but a good marriage is worth the work! As a mom though, I will say my kids take my top priority, and my husband understands that and wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Remembering you’re on the same team has been a big lesson for us. We need to work on putting our phones away though.

  • Jessica Rose

    I absolutely love this post! Such great advice and I think the 5 Love Languages book is a keeper!

  • Love this post! My fiance and I are in pre-marital counseling right now and we discuss a lot of this and it’s seriously so helpful! <3

  • Beautiful post and some awesome reminders! I’ve heard so many good things about the five love languages! It is on my summer reading list. I can’t wait to read it and implement it into my marriage.

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    These are all spot on! One that I like to do is constantly show my appreciation. People like to feel appreciated and when I am saying thank you to my husband for things he does it is a real ego boost for him. Makes him feel wanted and that is a good thing 🙂 Great post!

  • Neely

    The love language is a big deal for us. We constantly remind ourselves about it. Also kissing goodbye 🙂

  • Jenna

    Love this! You have great advice! I especially agree with picking battles, learned that pretty quickly over the years! And i need to work on him putting down his cell phone, but then I feel like a nag, but it really does hinder our relationship sometimes…

  • Wife Sense

    Really solid advice – especially focusing on accepting one another instead of changing one another. As if we could! We can’t even change ourselves when we want to (still addicted to sugar even though I know better.) Great post.

  • I so so so agree with saying I love you and kissing each other every time you leave! I’m the same way – it took my husband some getting used to, but now both of those are meaningful for him too.

  • These are all wonderful tips! I always tell my husband I love you before he leaves to work each morning.

  • When I think of the advice to always kiss each other hello, goodbye or goodnight my only concern is that if one is just going through the motions. That would certainly take away the specialness of a kiss from my beloved.

  • Caroline Murphy

    I couldn’t agree more with this list. However it is so hard for me to turn the damn cell away!! My husband says I’m addicted and I know he would appreciate it if sometimes I wasn’t so glued to it. I hope I’m not the only one doing that!

  • Christine Keys

    3 years in and 2 kids later I totally agree with all of these! 🙂

  • Allison Ellzey

    These are so great! Turning off the cellphones is critical (and so hard)! I love that you included remembering your spouse’s love language! That was my favorite exercise from our premarital counseling sessions 🙂