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10 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage During Lent

11 February 2013

I don't think I've ever given the back story here, but Markus and I were a big bang theory kind of romance. We worked together at our college pizza place for over a year and then, after a night of all the pizza shop kids going to the dive bar after work, started talking and proceeded to stay up all night...talking.... Five days later we were still attached at the hip and knew we were done as far as looking around for The One was concerned. Every day {ok, almost every day} from that week forward, my life has been totally different and way more fun and loving than I could have imagined.

I think the benefit of the quick spark we had at first is we've always wanted to work to keep our relationship and exciting and fulfilling as when we first saw each other with love eyes instead of just, you know, pizza friend eyes. Of all the things we dedicate time to: our jobs, our house, our health, whatever, I can confidently say that for this first chapter of our relationship and marriage we've put our biggest investment into learning ways we can stay in good communication and make a loving environment for us to come home to each day. It continues to pay off!

We recently talked about Lent and how we want to use that time to really focus on our marriage, so I pulled the "best of" different things we've done over the past six years together. I think we'll do an a la carte of these over the course of Lent, and doing these one at a time or in conjuction for a few weeks has always benefitted our marriage so I'm sharing here in case any one else is looking for some fun ways to grow closer in marriage over Lent!


1. Turn the TV Off During Dinner at Night
When graduated from school and joined Markus in Dallas, that first year he would come over to my apartment for dinner every night and we'd sit at the real table and talk about our day. After a few years we got out of the habit and when we make the choice to leave the TV off during dinner, there is a huge difference in our conversation! With Markus, if you ask him how his day was you'll always hear, "It was good!" and it takes some extra time and silence to get him to start sharing anything beneath that. Those are the conversations that are usually the most worthwhile and interesting. 

2. The Christian Marriage Book Club
I've really enjoyed the books I read at the beginning of our marriage and during our engagement and hope to add some more to my list soon. I've written before on how much I found the Wild at Heart Revised & Updated: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul and Captivating Revised & Updated: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul series to help me understand gender differences in marriage and just in our communities in general. I also did The Love Dare a few years ago and it taught me a lot about keeping respect during conflict and the return on giving selflessly in marriage without expectation, which is also the main takeaway in another one of our favorites, The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship (Toltec Wisdom Book) . If you have a recommendation for some good realtionship books that I can read during Lent, I would love to have them! Add them to the comments section, won't you please?

3. Go to a Church, Worship or Community Service Every Week
Like eating dinner with the TV off, going to church is something that always brings happiness and closeness to our marriage that we very (very) easily fall out of the habit of. I enjoy going to church and being around other couples who are making time for their faith in their lives and seeing it strengthen them. The up side of doing a challenge of going every week for Lent is that you don't feel like a chump for showing up for the first time since maybe Christmas on Easter morning! 

4. Find a Good Marriage Counselor {or Add an Extra Appointment to Your Current Schedule}
A Facebook friend posted this interesting article last week about the need and benefit of being open about attending counseling or therapy, and I wholeheartedly agree. I don't wear a "I Love Marraige Counseling" t-shirt around town, but when people ask me why I think Markus and I have good communication in our relationship or when it comes up in conversation due to scheduling, etc, I have no problem sharing our trips and their benefits at Lifeworks Counseling in Dallas every other month. The follow up from my friend is usually something like, "Oh wow, I wouldn't have guessed since you two seem to never fight." My opinion on that is, first of all, we do argue. But most importantly, conflict in a relationship with two individuals from two backgrounds in natural and our ability to navigate this without reguarly offending each other is probably 40% our love for each other and 60% using the tools we've learned in relationship counseling. So that is always a funny question to me - If it looks like we never fight, it is because we go to counseling, not because we're above it!

Counseling to me is that nonpartisan, educated insight that we need to stop and take in every few weeks that keeps us on track. I like to call it "outsourcing our crap" and we'll be adding a bonus round during Lent just to keep on the same page during this special time of the year for reflection.


5. Say No to Social Constipation
Social Constipation is my kind of gross term for the feeling I get when my social/life calendar is so jammed packed that I'm everywere without actually feeling like I'm having fun or getting any forward momentum. If I go back to the times in my marriage when there is the most miscommunication and arguing and I start to keep things in to myself instead of sharing them in a healthy way, it's the weeks where I've got Junior League and other commitments on top of meeting up with girlfriends, birthday parties group outings, the works. We're going everywhere but we're not actually truly spending time together.

One of my challenges for Lent is going to be saying yes to going out with friends one night a weekend, and saving the other night for spending one on one time with Markus. Like having dinner with the TV off, creating quiet on a weekend is the time when we really get to talk about what's going on and plan for the future together. Our friends will still be our friends (even if that tiny voice in the back of your head makes you wonder if you're missing everything cool) and we'll be more confident in our relationship!

6. Switch Chores for a Week
In our house, we have chores we both pitch in on, and then chores that are one specific person's thing. For example, Markus is the garbage and recycling guy, I clean the bathrooms, we both do the dishes, etc. I've come to learn that when I haven't taken out a garbage bag in four years, it's pretty easy to wonder why it is behind on being taken out, but the minute Markus is out of town and I'm home by myself for a few days, I don't care how long it stays inside so long as somone else hauls it outside and across the yard to the bin. They say walk a mile in someone else shoes, but I think spending 15 minutes in a shower with a can of Scrubbing Bubbles can equally earn respect once and a while. So I'll be taking out the trash for a week during Lent to show my appreciation for how Markus helps with chores and also remember how awesome it is to have someone helping at our house. I'm expecting any griping or eye rolling when it comes to housekeeping to die down significantly.

7. Join the Mid-Morning Texting Club
One of my favorite parts of the day is about the middle of the morning (10-11am) after I'm settled in at work when Markus or I will send a quick text to each other. It helps to break up my morning and even if things are crazy at work, remind me that I have something fun to head home to. Sometimes it's a thank you for something one of us did for the other that morning, a funny line we remember from watching TV the night before, or something to get excited for the evening's plan of events, like "WOOOHOOO! I can't wait to have nachos for dinner tonight with you!!" (That one is a regular, for sure) Markus likes to send ones about my outfit, "Are you having a good morning in your boots?" They always make me smile!

8. Get Spiritual on your Social Media Feed
For as silly as I can get in a late night Tweeting session, suprisingly some of my favorite feeds to follow are Christian messages. I consider them the little angel on my shoulder throughout the day. I like Women of Christ and really love Marraige Works, who always seems to be tweeting the importance of forgiveness and dropping grudges in marraige right around the time that I feel like doing the opposite of that. I do the She Reads Truth online devotions, and will sometimes go over to the Twitter hashtag #shereadstruth to see how women are continuing the conversation from that day's passage over in the Twitterverse. I think taking the conversation of Spirituality online is a great way to bring God to where I am and is a great way to meet like minded women where we can draw inspiration from each other.

9. Get Date Night on the Calendar
I don't know if you feel the same way, but the hardest part of dating for us is remembering to do it with everythng else we tend to have going on! To make sure we're taking time for us, we picked how many planned out, fun and formal dates a year we wanted to go on (4-6) and Markus put them on his Google calendar so he can plan something, buy any tickets or make dinner reservations and get all the details in advance so we have something committed on the books that we want to honor. I'm always so glad when we go but if it wasn't scheduled I doubt it would really cross my mind. I highly recommend this for couples like us who tend to book up fast and get socially..you know...(see number 5).

10. Pray for Your Marriage 
Sounds easy enough but it is something I so rarely do! We pray together before dinner and have a list of others to keep in our prayers, and this Lent I am going to remember to include our own relationship with God and each other on that list. Strong marriages create strong families that anchor our communities and build a better world, so when we pray for our own marriages we're making ourselves stronger to be more helpful and available to others, right? Right.

Now I'd love to hear from you! What are some things you do that make your marriage stronger?

What are you planning to work on or sacrifice for betterment this Lenten season? 

2 comments:

  1. If the couple is believer, praying can bond and refresh their relationship. It really works because when you are praying together, praying for each other the eternal love will increase without any doubt which will definitely lead towards a bright future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good advice. My advice, * always respect your significant other. Never disrespect your wife or husband and always talk them up among your friends! It's worked for us for over 20 years!

    ReplyDelete

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