As a therapist, I often have the opportunity to meet with couples working to strengthen their marriage relationships. Sometimes we stumble upon “relationship road blocks” that I think can challenge even the best of marriages. Here are some ways couples can improve their marriages and achieve greater marital fulfillment. Practicing the following guidelines may help make a good marriage even better.
Learn to speak your spouse’s love language. Gary Chapman in his book,The Five Love Languages describes five basic ways men and women seek to experience love and affection. These expressions of love include usingwords of affirmation, having quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Most of us have a dominant love language we prefer which is often complimented by one or more of the other love language styles. Discovering and speaking your spouse’s love language helps foster deeper ways of connecting and relationship satisfaction.
Make a commitment to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. Resolving conflict successfully means that you remain emotionally connected with your spouse when all is said and done. We stay emotionally connected when we are careful to listen and validate the other person’s thoughts and feelings. This is more likely to happen when one seeks a win- win solution rather than a win-lose or lose-lose approach. A win-win conflict moment occurs when husbands and wives commit to demonstrating mutual respect, self control, patience, gentleness and forgiveness . Avoid the “words will never hurt me” myth. Making efforts to speak words of encouragement, kindness, affirmation, and love will foster wonderful relationship growth. Speaking in this manner will build your spouse up rather than tearing him down.
Take time to understand the needs of your spouse and discover the joy of tending to her. Willard F. Harley Jr describes in his book, His Needs Her Needs the importance of learning to meet the needs of your spouse. He describes each person having a love tank that is kept full when one’s needs are fulfilled in the marriage relationship. Each spouse seeks to make deposits into the other person’s love tank recognizing the value of this process. A love tank left empty threatens the marriage relationship. Harley continues by identifying some of the needs husbands and wives have. Her needs include: affection, conversation, honesty, security, family commitment. His needs include: respect, companionship, household support, and being sexually fulfilled. I think that these needs can apply to either spouse in the marriage. The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to have honest and respectful conversation about one’s needs and how to fulfill them. Once we know what our spouse’s needs are, we can be creative and have fun meeting those needs.
Seek out supports for your marriage that will help the relationship grow and stay on track. Attend a marriage conference weekend with your spouse or go to a study series on marriage building at a local church. Ask a married couple you respect to encourage and support your marriage by praying for you and checking in with you on how things are going.
Finally, remember to pray with your spouse. Go to God with your concerns, because He created marriage and can restore it to a place of health and stability. Ask Him to show us what we need to do to make things better, to teach us how to love and meet our spouse’s needs and to heal deep wounds from the past. God is able to give marriages a fresh start and can breathe life into any hurting relationship.