So many Top Ten lists. Top Tens for politics, sports, and television shows. Top Tens are an easy way to get quick conversation about a topic. Before my wife passed a few months ago, Jane and I put together the Top Ten Ways to Improve Our Marriage. Nobody has a perfect marriage. But here's our attempt to create better marriages.
1) Listen - It sounds so simple, but it is true. How do you feel when you know you are really being listened to? How do you feel when you know you are not being listened to? See the difference? Listening while you read the paper or watch the TV is not listening.
2) Apologize - Take my advice men and apologize every morning when you wake up. Before you do something wrong! In any relationship, you will have something for which to apologize. A genuine apology communicates that you care enough about the other person to admit when you are wrong and try not to do it again.
3) Compliment - Saying something nice about your partner’s dress, shirt, or haircut are all nice things. But, you can go farther than the outward with the following: "I really like the way you handled that situation”, “You are such a good example of a dad/mom”, “That was a great meal honey”, or, "If I had the chance to marry you all over again, I would."
4) Touch-hold-caress - Everyone needs to be touched. When I work with couples who are having problems, one of the very first things I suggest is to simply hold each other. That one small move contributes to a great deal of healing in a relationship. It is hard to argue or criticize when affection is the culture. This is a great way to build the entire family relationship.
5) Ask questions - Asking questions is one way to show genuine interest in a person. And it can help us to discover someone’s dreams. It honors them and places real value on who they are. Asking questions also will get people talking about all kinds of topics in life (family, work, interests, and current affairs). And talking is always good.
6) Recreation - You can learn a lot about each other in recreational settings. Running, tennis, outdoors, biking, and the gym will put you in better shape. And that contributes to attitude and outlook. It will be much easier to handle crisis and hardship when you are relieved from stress through wellness. Plus, it adds a competitive edge to the relationship!
7) Date Night - Cheap activities. Not Cheap dates! Ha. Laugh. Drive to a park and walk. A trip to the mall to just walk and talk (no shopping). Go to the city and take pictures. See a movie and eat popcorn together. Go to a sporting event, theatre, or local show. These settings remove us from always being in the home or the workplace. Schedule it and keep it consistent.
8) Notes - Write notes and leave them around the house. There aren't many things that can replace a great note. It says that you took the time to think through your thoughts and place you in aa situation to choose your words. They can also be kept forever. Before Jane passed, she left me a note that I found in our bedroom. It is still on the night stand next to the bed and I read it every night that I am home.
9) Spiritual Discipline - This can be intimidating for most men. But, when you pray, read, worship, fast together with your wife, look out. It is unifying. It is bond-building. It is chemistry. And our spiritual discipline will win many battles before we even see them. Even if you are playing worship in the home 24/7. Or, when you pray together 3 times a week. Don't set your goal too high that you cannot achieve it.
10) Get away from each other - Really. Absence can make the heart fonder! There is an attraction that is renewed when you take a night away for a conference, or an event, or a game, or a business trip. It is almost like a renewal when you return to each other. The affection is kindled through time away. Every couple should do this on a monthly basis.
Again, we weren't the perfect couple. But these things were the kind of disciplines that built our marriage. There are ten of them so choose which fits your situation. Try them. You'll like it.