“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18 NIV).
Navigating a successful marriage can be challenging. Whether you’ve been together thirty days or thirty years, you’ve probably figured this out. As wives, we had expectations that began way before our man got down on one knee. We had hopes of what our lives as a forever couple would look like. Maybe your dreams became reality. Maybe they didn’t. But I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, you found what came after you walked down the aisle to be somewhere in between.
Here’s something I’ve learned over the last twenty-six years since I said, “I do.” There are ups and downs in marriage just like there are in life. When your relationship with your husband is soaring and you want it to stay that way, ask yourself, “What can I do for him?” When your relationship is plummeting and you’re desperate for a foothold, ask yourself, “What can I do for him?” Putting ourselves temporarily aside, answering this question, and backing it with action can only strengthen your marriage. The list I’m offering next is meant to be a springboard. God knows your husband better than you. Ask Him to reveal your husband’s heart. Then pay attention and run with what He tells you.
1. Touch Him
I’m not talking about behind closed doors. I’m talking about in the car, in the grocery store, on the couch, as you bump into each other in the kitchen. Touch is a powerful connector. It shows affection, offers intimacy, and communicates “I love you” without a single word.
Even though your husband may not act like he needs that kind of affection connection, he probably does. He may not even realize it. This week, make a conscious effort to get physical. See how he reacts when you sit close to him the way you did when you were dating, when you take his hand during a movie, when you rub his shoulders after work. He’s yours to love. Take advantage of the fact that you’re the only woman who gets to touch him this way.
2. Show Him Respect
Respect isn’t about letting him make every decision and then going along blindly. Respect is about trusting him as your life partner. It’s about treating him the way you want to be treated. Considering his thoughts before you make decisions. Talking things out and working as a team.
A lot of responsibilities come along with the words, “I do.” Respect is trusting your husband to take care of those things he’s promised to take on so you’re free to handle the things you’ve promised to take on.
3. Carry His Burden
One of the best parts of being married is not having to be alone. The second you exchange rings, you have a best friend, roommate, and life partner who is exclusively yours. You don’t have to do life as a single person, and neither does he.
There will be seasons in life, seasons in your marriage, where one of you will need to take the lead and be strong for the other. Your hardships are his and his are yours. Step in when you see him struggling. Offer to carry the load while he catches his breath. Be his strength and his respite.
4. Speak His Love Language
Maybe I should start with learn his love language—it’s not always yours. You may feel loved when he makes dinner or brings you a gift, but when you reciprocate, he may not react the way you want if he sees love differently than you.
Take the time to notice what makes him feel closer to you. What makes him smile. What makes him feel special. What makes him feel like your number one. And if you’re not good at reading him, ask. I’m betting he’ll be happy to tell you.
5. Let Him Be Himself
He got your attention with his out-of-the-box personality, his crooked smile, the way he laughed during TV shows that weren’t really funny, and…you fill in the blank with all the things you loved about your guy when you first became a couple. So why do so many of us try to change our husbands after the wedding?
Life will shape him. He’ll grow, adapt, and change with God’s help, not yours. Let him be the man you married. Accept him now. Give him room to figure out who he is later. And never stop falling in love with the man he’s becoming.
6. Give Him Space
You’re married. You live together, sleep together, maybe work together or parent together. That’s a lot of together. But you don’t have to suffocate each other.
Does he need a few minutes when he walks in the door to transition from work to home? Gift him with space to decompress. Does he need guy time? Encourage him in his friendships. Even the closest couple needs time apart. Whether that time apart lasts minutes or hours, figure that out and allow him what he needs to recharge. You’d want the same consideration.
7. Treat Him Better than a Stranger
It sounds weird, I know. But how many times are we more considerate of someone we don’t know than we are to those closest to us? I’m not suggesting we hold ourselves aloof, keep our needs to ourselves, or become a doormat. I am suggesting we treat our husbands better than anyone else we meet.
Think about it this way. When we’re with someone we don’t know very well, we don’t let our emotions get the best of us, we don’t demand things, and we try our hardest to be polite. What if we expended a little energy to tone down our temper, to ask for what we need, and to care about what he needs? Try treating him better than a stranger and see what happens.
8. Expend the Effort
I’m sure you’ve heard marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100. But that’s not quite accurate. Sometimes it’s 20/80 or 40/60 or 70/30. Sometimes you will need to give more than he does. This can be hard. Especially if you feel as though he’s never taking his turn. But if you want the marriage to work, accept that the same truth that applies in life—it’s not fair—also applies to your relationship.
Hear what I’m not saying—it’s your job to do all the work. It isn’t. In an ideal world, you and your husband both do the work. You both reap the benefits. Sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world. But here’s what I’ve discovered. If expending the effort becomes a struggle, don’t make it about what he wants or what you think is expected of you—take it to God. Ask Him exactly what you need to give. He knows your husband better than you do. He’s rooting for your relationship. He won’t steer you wrong. And He’ll give you the grace to follow through.
9. Ask Questions
Remember when you used to be interested in everything he did, everywhere he went, everyone he was with? The details of his life couldn’t come detailed enough. Sometime along the marriage road, we all get caught up in ourselves—our jobs, our responsibilities, our kids, the daily crisis we’re left to manage—and we forget we’re part of an “us.” As we pay less and less attention to what goes on in our husband’s day, we start to drift apart.
Remember, the guy you’re married to is not only your roommate, he’s your friend and the other half of your team. Make an effort to know what’s going on his life when he’s not with you. Ask him questions. Listen when he shares. Be the person he turns to for advice.
10. Be Still and Pray
There’s a time to ask questions. And then there’s a time to be there. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know how to differentiate the two. Sometimes talking makes it worse. Sometimes he just can’t tell you what’s going on or what he needs. Sometimes life just gets too hard.
Don’t beg him for what you need. Pray.
Don’t argue with him over and over. Pray.
Don’t nag him to do what you feel is right. Pray.
And don’t give up. Ever. Just pray.
**This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com (October 2017).
About the Author: Lori Freeland is an author, editor, writing coach, wife, mom, and creator of imaginary people—not necessarily in that order. An acquisitions editor for Armonia Publishing, former editor for The Christian Pulse, and regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, she writes fiction and non-fiction in several genres and has presented numerous writing workshops nationwide. When she’s not curled up with her husband drinking too much coffee and worrying about her kids, you can find her blogging at lafreeland.com.