Christian marriages are under serious attack. I think this is something we can all agree on. The enemy uses many weapons to destroy marriages. From busyness and stress to businesses, careers and kids. Life gets overwhelming. One crisis after another after another after yet another burns through the time, love, and affection a couple has for each other. As a result, it is not uncommon for people to say they have grown apart. And that’s why growing together as a couple just cannot be left up to chance.
What does it mean for a relationship to grow?
Relationships are like plants. They need to be nurtured, watered, tended, cared for. That’s the only way they can thrive. We know when plants are growing because they change in obvious ways that bring joy to our hearts. They get larger, put out new leaves, produce flowers, blossom, and bear fruit.
So it is with relationships. Change should be taking place. Positive changes. A progression that you can clearly see. A sign of a good relationship is that you are becoming a better person, a better Christian, a better professional. You should be growing and becoming more balanced in the wellness areas of your life.
A growing relationship does not mean that there is absence of problems or conflicts. On the contrary, even very successful relationships have unsolvable problems. But because of the growth of the relationship, the couple has developed healthy strategies for dealing with such issues.
Both persons have come to a mature and compassionate understanding of each other that allows them to enjoy a long, peaceful relationship in which they can co-exist while still being completely their own person. These couples have developed strategies for dealing with change in their relationship.
God intended for us to enjoy our marriage.
What does the Bible say about growing in a marriage?
When God created marriage in the Garden of Eden, it was His will for a couple to be together forever, learning about each other and growing young together. Yes, young. We were never supposed to die. Remember?
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. (Mark 10:7-9)
The reality is that no self-respecting, well-meaning person gets married and plans to get separated or divorced. But invariably life happens. People then have to make choices about whether to stay together or call it a day. In Bible times, this issue was a big one.
People would get divorced for silly reasons. A man’s wife burnt the food, he would divorce her. He didn’t think she was pretty anymore, he would divorce. She lost her hair, he would divorce her. They felt they could not communicate well, they would get divorced.
Women especially were disadvantaged by this because their survival was largely dependent upon the men in their families. In the Old Testament, Moses gave permission for the people to divorce, not because it was ideal but because people wanted what they wanted. When asked about Moses’ decision, Jesus said
Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. (Matthew 19:8)
In other words, the people had no interest in growing together and dealing with the “worst” that comes with being a couple. Are there marriages which are just unhealthy and better left to crumble? Absolutely. But God’s ideal is for a couple to grow old together. God likens divorce to violence.
The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. (Malachi 2:16)
That’s why it’s a good idea to have a conversation, prior to marriage, about what you each think about divorce and separation. Just so that you are on the same page. Which leads me to my next point. God knows that for your relationship to work, you must be in agreement. He asks:
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3)
You see, being in agreement is super important for the spiritual growth of each other and for getting your prayers answered as a couple.
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:19 -20)
There are so many benefits to growing together as a couple. And who better to highlight some of them than Solomon, the king with the most wives in the Bible. He says:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Do you see that? There are economical, emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits to building your relationship together. You both become a force to fight life’s battles together. You will have each other’s backs. Neither of you needs to do it alone.
People grow apart for various reasons in marriage. Out of control emotions and unresolved issues which produce resentment and unforgiveness are among them. There is encouragement in the Bible for these kinds of marital problems:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ecclesiastes 4:31-32)
The whole idea of growing old together requires always thinking about the other person. If each party focuses on fulfilling the needs of the other, then both will be happy. Jesus is our example in this regard:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:3-6)
Our life on earth is short. Quite temporary. We each will have to give an account for how we managed the relationships God blessed us with. Growing together requires keeping heaven in mind. Do you want both you and your spouse to be in heaven? Here is some counsel for you straight from the Word
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
What does it mean to grow together?
Do you remember your wedding vows? Let me refresh your memory.
I, _____, take thee, _____, to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my love.”
Embedded in this vow is the very definition of growing together. According to the MacMillan Dictionary online growing together means to gradually become attached or close or to join together through growth and development.
Think of a plant that has been engrafted. To grow together means that over time you become so close to your spouse that you are intertwined. Woven together like fabric. Knitted together like a baby blanket. Plaited together like a rope. You don’t know where you end and where he begins. The Bible describes it as “becoming one flesh.”
When you are growing together, you go through the thick and thin of life together, you weather every storm together, celebrate every joy together, fight together, make-up together, succeed together, fail together. You share your whole life together. All the little moments. And all the not so little moments.
The story of Danelle Umstead comes to mind. She is a professional skier. And, she is also blind! Yes you read that right. Blind. How does she do it. She and her husband, Rob, take on the slope together. He becomes her eyes and communicates with her using a customized helmet with bluetooth. As they race down the snowy hills he tells her when to turn, speed up, slow down.
The communication and trust between has to be turned all the way up in order for them to take on a dangerous, challenging and thrilling sport. Kinda like married life, right? This kind of deep bonding and closeness happens only with the passage of time and whole lot of deliberate work.
Naturally, during the course of your marriage you will change and so will your spouse. But you both find ways of maneuvering those changes to create a lasting friendship and romance. The different people you both become throughout your marriage are better than the version of yourself you started the relationship with. You both rub off on each other, making up for the weaknesses of each other and nurturing the strengths of each other.
Growing together means sharing your lives together. For real. Not the fake, masked version of yourself you presented when you dated and wanted to impress each other.
How do you help each other grow in a relationship?
You don’t have to want the very same things to grow together as a couple. Most people have the wrong idea about compatibility. In fact, most popular ideas about compatibility are myths. Difference is what makes relationships exciting and interesting as you spend forever together. When there are different things to concentrate on in your relationship, you can learn so much from each other. You can be released from the monotony of life. So how can you help each other grow in your relationship?
1.Get to know yourself. You know how they say if you’re on a flight that’s in difficulty you should put on your face mask first before helping anyone else, even kids? The same holds true for life and relationships.
When we dated, I was able to explain some of my behaviors to my husband and the reason for them. This was a huge relief for him because he didn’t have to “figure me out.” He didn’t need to try to climb into my head or heart to understand some critical things. I just told him. In this way he could easily position himself for us to grow together because he had a certain level of understanding.
The Bible says “Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge…” (1 Peter 3:6). Knowing yourself will help you get your spouse to know you better.
2. Build your marital friendship. Friendships built on comprehensive knowledge about each other, deep trust, and unwavering commitment allow married couples to experience lasting, fulfilling relationships.
Couples who are friends find it easier to have difficult conversations and resolve conflicts. They tend to have more positive feelings about their relationships as a result of this friendship. If you seek to build a friendship with your husband it will be easier to understand and relate to him as you grow together.
3. Develop a sense of meaning that’s unique to the both of you. What do you want to define you as a couple? Your resilience? Your savviness with money? Your love for a life of service and ministry? Your acute business acumen?
You don’t need to have the same interests or dreams but for shared meaning to be possible you must know what your partner’s dreams are and how you will respect and support them. It is even better when your dreams are melted together. Your dreams become his and his become yours. Build a life together that has meaning for the both of you.
4. Become aware of and sensitive to each other’s vulnerabilities. Every family has some form of dysfunction. They leave us with scars and things we are very sensitive about. We all have areas from our past that haunt us and eventually play out in our marriage.
Sometimes couples actually bond over having grown up in similar circumstances and create shared meaning out of it. Be aware of each other’s triggers. Take steps to avoid digging them up or using them as weapons during conflict. This kind of sensitivity can endear you to each other and create a sense of closeness.
5. Be open to each other’s opinions and ideas. While growing together you will need to make many decisions. A part of the success in shared decision-making is knowing what your spouse thinks and allowing him to influence your thoughts. Both your opinions and ideas are valuable. You don’t need to agree on them in order for them to be aired. After you both know what each other thinks, then you can decide which path to take.
6. Have family meetings. Family meetings are where you have discussions about how you both want to grow. It is where you write down your goals and determine how you will track your progress. It is where you create your vision board. However often you have these is up to a unanimous decision. But it can be quite productive to have these sessions at least once per quarter.
Can you grow individually in a relationship?
The short answer is, of course you can. And by all means you should. Put the idea of not growing in a relationship far out of your mind.
Personal growth while in a relationship is often demonized, especially in Christian circles like ours. But I have come to realize that being an individual is completely fine. In fact, losing your individuality because of your marriage is probably not the best thing to do. This is how some women wake up one morning and realize that they don’t know themselves anymore. Worst yet, they are frightened at the fact that they really did what they wanted to do with their lives.
The feeling of unfulfillment is usually accompanied by feelings of regret. Giving up your God-given purpose might not be in your best interest, or the interest of your marriage. Not in the long run. On the other hand, undertaking personal growth also means growth for your marriage overall because you will constantly have new, fresh ways in which to contribute to your relationship.
Your growth and wellness as a couple is dependent on each of you being well. There is nothing with being a whole person in a relationship. God made two completely different beings to be dependent on each other but never to be lost in each other’s shadow.
Something is wrong if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with having separate friends, pursuing separate careers, doing separate activities without each other, and constantly having negative thoughts about what your partner is doing while away from you.
It might be time to get some help in exploring these thoughts and feelings because sooner or later your marriage will be affected. Insecurity ruins relationships.
One reason it is so important for you to grow individually is that your interests may not be the same as your husband’s. For example, my husband is extroverted and loves the adrenaline rush that comes with some of those jarring theme-park rides. I would never be caught dead riding a roller-coaster. I did it once.
That’s enough. But that does not mean I would stand in the way of my husband having a whale of time enjoying those rides. While he does that, I will stretch out on the grass somewhere and dive into a good book. Yes! That excites me. That’s the time we can have our “me” time. It’s completely fine to spend some time nurturing yourself in the way that appeals to you. It’s totally refreshing.
In some marriages, one person might want to concentrate on growing the family finances while the other wants to focus on going back to school. We don’t need to argue about the importance of family finances.
But returning to school might mean a huge deal to increasing the family income over time. One person might want to be more deliberate about growing spiritually while the other might have no interest.
This is where your marital friendship and communication comes in. You both need to be aware of areas in which you wish to grow and discuss how you can help or support those areas. Make space for each other to pursue these areas and time to talk about how you are meeting these personal goals. Scattered throughout this post are ideas for growing individually even within your marriage.
How to grow together in a marriage
Growing old together takes work. For each year of your marriage you get older. you experience more of life. You become a different person in each area of your life. That’s why these tips for growing together in your marriage according to the wellness dimension.
Growing together spiritually as a couple
Walking with God in your marriage is the absolute best way to build the spiritual intimacy in your relationship. This right here is what the enemy of godly marriages wants us never to remember. But if you are going to win at your marriage, you have to know that you will be actively engaged in spiritual warfare. Every. Single. Day. Here are some tips for engaging the battle head on.
7. Read the bible together. I mean really really read it. Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. Make time to dig into the Word together. My husband and I took on this challenge. It is such an empowering and refreshing experience.
We both have gone on the same spiritual journey as we read and re-read the Bible, discovering new things. We get excited, laugh, get annoyed, debate, repent, pray, and grow. Each time we meet, we read four chapters and check off our Bible Reading Plan.
Sometimes after reading we separate to different parts of our apartment and journal individually to get in some one-to-one time with God. Let me tell you something, we have not been the same!
8. Fast and pray together. One powerful promise that Jesus made was that if two people come together in prayer, Heaven will be tuned in and answers are sure to come. Jesus also said that there are some things which can only come through fasting and prayer.
Doing these spiritual activities together will allow you to see how God is answering your prayers or redirecting your prayers as well as your lives. When you experience spiritual joys and sorrows together, you learn and grow together.
The spiritual connection between the two of you will become stronger and ultimately so will both of your relationships with God.
9. Make time for personal worship sessions. While praying together will help you stay together, maintaining your personal relationship with God also serves a different purpose. My husband and I marvel all the time at how differently God deals with us as individuals although we are married.
For instance, my husband is of the opinion that God spoils me. The verdict is still out on that. But I can tell you that when I get into my private closet, my conversations with God are different.
Having personal prayer time is important. There will be things you want to talk with God about that you don’t want your spouse to be aware of. Trust me, there are some things your husband does not need to know you’re praying about.
Like when you want him to make a move on something you know could affect your future big time and he is like a mule. Do you know what I mean?
You don’t need to cuss or fuss or nag. As Ms. Clara said, just pray and get out of the way. (Watch the movie War Room if you don’t know what I mean).
You might also be at a different place in your spiritual experience because you have a different calling on your life. God has an individualized plan for your life that you need to have an open ear and heart for. And you need to nurture your personal walk with God so you can hear Him talk to you about. walk in His will and your destiny. Spend time in prayer alone.
10. Find out and use each other’s spiritual gifts. Each of us has been gifted by God. Being married does not remove those gifts. Instead, your marriage should be a place to get support in using and growing your gifts.
As a couple, discover and discuss your gifts. Talk about how you can use them to serve each other, your community, and your church. One reason this blog exists is because my husband supports my gift with words and writing. When he stands up to speak, he knows I am there praying for him as he uses his gift.
11. Step out in faith together. You both have big dreams. God has put a strong desire in both of you to be more than you are now and to do some extraordinary things. But you have no money. No time. No resources. Well, you’re both at a perfect place.
You see, God specializes in these situations. They are a perfect time for you to step out in faith.
My husband and I have taken on some lofty and pricey goals with very little to no money. Imagine us both in grad school together without student loans. We have grown closer as we have trusted God to make a way out of no way.
Together we have experienced miracle after miracle after miracle. These miracles have boosted our faith over and over, especially when we encounter difficult times. Our stories serve to encourage other couples too.
And for years to come, we will have our faith stories to tell because they are a part of our faith identity. Building your lives together on sacrifice and faith is bound to help you build your own spiritual story.
Growing together physically as a couple
After the comfort sets in, our physical health and appearance is probably one of the first areas of marriage to get neglected. Raise your hand if you have felt or are currently feeling like you just want to let yourself go!
I know the feeling.
You battle the weight gain, the lack of motivation to work out, the low libido. You just feel so tired as you try to keep up with the demands of wifehood and work. Maybe you are the health enthusiast but your husband could care less about taking care of himself. The battle is real sister!
Where do you go from there?
12. Talk about it. This is the place to start. Maybe the hardest place to start because it is a touchy subject for many self-conscious people. It can be hard because you don’t want to nag nor sound like a broken record. I have been guilty of this.
In addressing the issue, frame it in a way that will help your spouse to understand your heart. Share with him your wish and desire for you both to live a long life of good quality, that you do not wish for him to be in pain or to be burdened by illness. Make sure you’re having this conversation at the right time though or things could go south really fast. Your intention will have been completely missed.
If he is willing, help to brainstorm some ideas on where he could start and provide specific ways you plan to support him. When my husband realized he could not bend over to tie his shoelaces, it hit him like a load of bricks that he was not heading in the right direction. He immediately decided he wanted nothing to do with carbs for a while.
I supported him by searching out and preparing exciting and delicious vegetarian meals that had little to no carbs. I am a bit adventurous when it comes to food so I really didn’t mind. I also created a habit tracker for him so he could watch his progress with working out daily.
He dropped about 15 pounds in 7 weeks! I celebrated with him all along the way and rewarded him too! Create health goals together and track each other’s progress in achieving them.
If your husband is unyielding, as a last resort, separate your health habits and pursue your own health goals. You still have a personal choice to make. Continue to pray that your spouse will be so inspired that he will want to join you.
13. Agree on an exercise routine. Hit the gym as a couple. Ever heard the saying “those who sweat together, stay together”? There are tons of surprising benefits to exercising together. But everyone has their preferences for working out.
Develop a routine to which you can hold each other accountable. You may prefer to work out at night while your husband prefers morning workouts. That’s fine. As long as you are holding each other accountable, do what’s comfortable for the both of you.
The important thing is that we are getting that time in. Exercising improves your relationship in so many ways. You will notice a distinct difference in your mood, the quality of your sex life, your sleep quality and tons more. If you have a weight loss goal, that is something you can work on together and keep track using a habit tracker. It can be fun.
14. Plan meals together. There is usually one person who is in charge of meals. But if you do some parts of it together, this can be used as bonding time.
Ditch the restaurants and the eating out. Instead, go grocery shopping together, or plan your meals for the week together. When it’s time to prepare meals, you both hit the kitchen and split the tasks.
Just being in each other’s company and chatting about everything or nothing will turn meal planning into friendship building exercise. When it’s time to eat, keep the gadgets away from the dining table. If the sun is down, light a candle for the sake of it and keep talking. It’s a great time to play footsie too (wink wink) to get in some physical touch. Which takes me to my next point.
15. Engage in non-sexual touch. It can be so easy to forget to touch each other but this is majorly important for maintaining intimacy.
Non-sexual touching could be:
rubbing your husband’s head,
kissing on the forehead,
sitting close to each other so you touch,
spooning when you sleep,
rubbing each other’s backs,
allowing hands or feet to touch while sleeping,
playing footsie under the table,
resting your head on his shoulders while watching TV,
lightly slapping him on the butt
…and the list could go on.
Although it is not the intention, non-sexual touch actually boosts sex-drives and increases closeness in a relationship. Be more deliberate about touching each other. You both need to be touched as much babies need to be held.
16. Make love often. This is relative to every relationship. Experts say once per week produces a happy couple. But every single couple is unique.
Decide what ‘often’ means for you both. Spontaneity has its place but it’s also perfectly fine to plan sex. Especially when you are busy, a plan might be better so that you can prepare for and look forward to it. The point is, be sure you are both satisfied with your sex life.
Growing together intellectually as a couple
17. Read books together. Reading is not only a brain boosting activity but it’s also a great stress buster. Doing it together allows you both to gain these benefits. You also uncover new and interesting things that are great for sustaining a conversation.
Reading together doesn’t mean reading the same book aloud. You can listen to the audio version at your own pace on your own time then have a discussion when you get together. You could even be reading two different books and sharing what you are learning.
As you have these discussions and exchange of ideas, you get to learn new things about each other. You will enjoy each other’s company more because you will continue to find each other interesting. And it’s a great way to bond without a screen!
18. Take free courses in your areas of interest. Open source courses are a dime a dozen nowadays. Many ivy league universities offer them. If you find yourself with time, take a free course.
You could both take the same one if you share the same interest. If not, take separate ones. You will invariably share what you are learning with each other. You are unlikely to run out of things to talk about. You both end up growing.
19. Travel together. This is a more pricey option. But if you can afford it, go to new places together. This may mean going somewhere across the country instead of across the world. Pick an interesting place and have at it. You learn tons of stuff that will make for great conversations for years to come.
20. Explore new hobbies together. Do you both share an interest in something for which there is a club? Join the club. Or, pick up a new hobby and go on a journey of learning together. This could range anywhere from dancing to pottery making to a board game club. Tons of ideas out there.
You could even follow a YouTube channel that teaches you to make stuff. Create your own little private club and invite others to it eventually. The whole idea is to increase your knowledge and skill about something as you spend time together.
Growing together financially as a couple
If you are going to grow old together, you will need to ensure that you are able to take care of yourselves financially. Your finances is definitely one area that can make or break your marriage. So you must decide early how you handle finances in your relationship.
21. Get financial education together. Money is one area of marriage that can be hard to talk about. If not treated properly, it can also destroy your marriage. However, if you are both on the same page, much of the burden will be lifted.
Together, go on a journey of discovering how money works. Read books, take courses, watch videos, subscribe to blogs and YouTube channels, listen to podcasts.
Good decision-making about money starts with sound knowledge. As you consume the information, discuss how you will implement the ideas in your lives. This is a good place to discover each other’s money values or the meaning and beliefs you both have about money.
Invariably you will realize that you may not agree on many things, that you have different strengths, and that you have some things to work on. Learning about money is a marathon, not a sprint. So, prepare for it.
22. Create a budget together. When we did premarital counseling, one of our assignments was to create a budget together. There were no monetary figures but it gave us a chance to discuss the items that should be on a budget, their priority on the list, and to agree on a plan for dealing with our finances.
In over 70% of households it is the wives who manage the money. And that’s fine if that’s what you both agree on. But still it is a good idea for the both of you to know what your expenses, income, savings and investments look like. Have money meetings however often you deem it necessary. This is a good time to know what is going on with your money.
Know where every penny is coming from and where it is going. Consider the 7 accounts every household should have. Couples who can talk about money are more likely to be happier, feel less money stress and feel safer about their financial future together.
23. Set financial goals together. Goal setting is one way to achieve success in life. Take this approach to your money as a couple. Write down your debt. Write down exactly what you will do to tackle it. Write down how much you want to save and by when.
Make a list of business ideas if you are so inclined. Write down potential investments you could make. Be open about where you are financially and where you need to be in order to feel safe. Then take action.
As you implement the processes to achieve these goals, you will both be on a journey of wins, losses, and learning that will cause you to grow closer.
24. Have a sum to spend on your own. This is especially for couples whose finances are combined. While you have joint accounts for various budget items, you should have ‘his’ and ‘hers’ accounts.
This amount is called ‘play money’ or ‘fun money’. It’s yours to spend on anything at any time without consulting with your spouse. It gives you a chance to indulge in guilty pleasure without dipping into family finances.
Having autonomy over this small amount gives a sense of individuality. You absolutely need that!
Growing together emotionally as a couple
According to John Gottman, the most successful couples are emotionally intelligent. That’s the scientific term which means you know how to manage your own emotions, be in touch with your own feelings, while understanding and respecting the feelings of your spouse.
This does not come naturally for everyone but it is certain that it can be learned. The matter of feelings almost always comes up during conflict, which is inevitable in marriage. Keep this in mind as you consider the following tips.
25. Learn feelings words together. Describing feelings is hard. For men, it seems like the only feeling word is anger. Men often respond to questions about feelings by telling you what they think. This happens while there are too many feelings words to count.
Going on the adventure of learning to identify and label emotions can be fun. Google a list of feelings words or the feelings wheel. Then whip out a dictionary and look up the meanings. Make it a fun date.
Expanding your vocabulary will help you find the words to describe your feelings when you need to do so. And since you both did the exercise you’ll know exactly what your partner means.
26. Say exactly what you felt and tell exactly what you need. This is where your feelings words come in. As you describe your feelings use “I” statements. Do this so your spouse does not feel attacked or criticized. You help your husband a great deal when you focus on how something made you feel.
Also use passive language to describe the actions or words that triggered your emotions. For example “I felt disrespected because it seemed like my opinion was not valid. I needed to hear that my opinion was worthy of being heard.”
If you are not used to talking about your feelings and your needs, this is going to take practice. As a couple learn how to do this. You will find that you are better able to enter and appreciate each other’s emotional world.
27. Know each other’s trauma stories. Dysfunction is in every family. The only difference is that both of you might have experienced the dysfunction in different ways. Or, not. What you can be sure of is that when you both get into a conflict those childhood memories come floating to the top and your emotional response is largely influenced by previous trauma.
The story might not be related to your childhood but may be linked to more recent, negative events at your workplace. These experiences are like invisible strings tugging at your feelings, telling you which way to turn.
Ensure your spouse knows these stories and how they have impacted you emotionally. If one of these events was at play during a conflict, be sure to reference the event when you are processing the conflict. Tell your husband how that conflict reminded you of that experience and why. During your talk, your husband should do the same. Identify what set you both off down the emotional path you took.
Listen to each other as you talk about your feelings and recount your events. Decide how you will both avoid stepping on each other’s emotional toes by being mindful of each other’s trauma stories.
Social skills help couples to maintain good relationships with other people. This helps you to feel a sense of safety and belonging. When God created Eve and then commanded them to be fruitful, he did so because people need people.
Early in your relationship, it is easy to maintain your social life. You cannot get enough of each other. As you grow together as a couple, it takes more work to make it happen.
28. Make friends with like-minded couples. A great way to boost your social life as a couple is to create a network of friends who are similar to you both. Forging such a relationship with a couple in your own age group as well as a couple who is older and married for longer is a nice balance. Both have something different to offer. An older couple will provide you with incites into staying happily married.
The couple of your own age will provide an avenue for you to talk about your hopes and dreams, inspire each other, and celebrate life together. Plan couples dates, movie nights, retreats, lunches, dinners, fasting and prayer sessions, book clubs etc. If your marriage is in trouble you will have these well-nurtured relationships to draw on.
29. Nurture your personal individual friendships. Marriage is no reason to allow your other relationships to languish. Make every effort to keep in touch with your good girlfriends. Life gets busy with wifehood, children and career but you want to have someone apart from your husband to talk with about life, to agree with you prayer, to brainstorm ideas for surprise gifts, parties and dates, to celebrate the achievement of those things you dreamed about in your dorm rooms.
Your husband should also have his pool of good guy friends with whom he can go for a guys night out, to play ball, to discuss things that only another guy would understand. Encouraging each other to go out with your friends can help you to be happier as individuals. When you get back together you will have lots to share. You will be more attentive to each other too.
30. Pick social activities that cater to your similarities, differences and preferences. I’m an introvert. I hate crowds. I hate noise. I love my own company. I have a small circle of friends. My husband couldn’t be more different. So when it comes to social events there is a lot of bargaining and compromising. We choose a mixture of social activities that we both like.
It takes a lot of energy for me to be around people and to go to crowded places, like a football match for example. Because my husband knows that, he is so grateful when I go with him to such places. Balance going to a concert with picnicking. Your spouse might not want to do activities that take him out of his comfort zone for reasons that demand your understanding. Whatever social activities you decide to participate in, be sure you both agree on and are comfortable with it.
31. Develop good social habits. It’s the little things that you do everyday that nurture your relationship and boost the intimacy between you. Little things like keeping in touch throughout the day by calling or texting fuels your connection. Be truly present when you are with your spouse by putting away cell phones and turning off the TV or laptop. Schedule both ‘me time’ and ‘we time’. You need both.
And last thing. In talking about your spouse to others, highlight his positive attributes. His indiscretions are none of anybody’s business. Protect him and your marriage in social circles.
Growing together occupationally as a couple
Not all couples are career driven so this part expands to what you do with life and time on a daily basis. You may or may not earn money from it. Helping your partner grow in his career is one way to grow together in a marriage. Our careers and daily activities make up a huge part of our lives as couples because we spend most of our waking hours engaged in these activities. It matters a great deal that what your spouse does matter to you.
32. Be absolutely clear about your aspirations and what it will take to get there. Have detailed discussions with each other about your professional goals both for the short-term and the long-term. Talk about how you will get there and all foreseeable resources it will require. Will you need to get a higher degree? Will you need to move across the country or the world to make it possible? How much will it cost and where will the funds come from? How long will it take to accomplish the goal?
As you discuss, also talk about the tangible and intangible ways you can support each other. It’ll be great if you both put pen to paper and document your discussion. In this way you can go back when you review your goals, check your progress, revise your plans and restrategize. As you both grow professionally you will share the celebrations of each milestone together.
33. Be interested in your spouse’s work. I wasn’t in the workplace for too long before I heard terms like ‘work husband’ and ‘work wife’. These were new to me especially since I wasn’t married at the time. These terms are used to describe the person at work you’re closest to in a way that is too comfortable, almost like a spouse. You eat lunch together, take breaks together, gripe about your jobs to each other, do work favors for each other etc. This type of relationship can develop when there is distancing at home and there is little to no room for discussing work with your spouse.
Growing with your spouse includes being intimately aware of the details of your spouses work world. It truly is a whole world for you if you don’t work at the same place. Actively listen to each other talk about work. Tune into how they feel about work events. Give feedback on what you hear and ask questions where necessary. Complement where it is due. Give solutions if and only when you are asked.
No matter what challenges are happening at work, it’s not your place to tell them to quit. Pray about work-related issues. Encourage with pep talks when frustration and discouragement set in. Let your spouse know you are his greatest cheerleader. And celebrate wins when they come.
34. Be each other’s accountability partner in balancing work and home. Set healthy boundaries between work and home. Sometimes these boundaries might be challenged but as a couple agree on ways you will gently nudge each other back in the right direction. Make plans for how other aspects of your lives will be managed. Decide how you will divide the chores at home. Be present when you are home. Log out of your email and shut off your phone. Being perpetually available for work is not healthy for your relationship. Plan your out-of-work hours so you will not be tempted to work. Preferably, plan something you will do together as a couple.
Growing together environmentally as a couple
The discussion on environmental wellness is stretched everywhere from not having kids to save the environment to sitting down when you pee instead of standing. As Christians we should be concerned about the planet we live on. God gave us dominion over it. That’s a given. So, for the purpose of our discussion here, we will only talk about the home environment.
35. As a couple work together to eliminate clutter and live frugally. Clutter might seem harmless but it is one thing that can affect creativity, productivity, success, and the quality of your relationship. Just watch a few episodes of Hoarders and you will see couples arguing and sneering at each other because of too much stuff in their house. It is hard to build a home when you can’t even use your sofa or dining room table for family time or family dinners.
Decluttering will take lots of compromising on what to keep, sell, throw away, and repurpose. If your spouse likes clutter, compromise on where he can have clutter and where no clutter is allowed. It is important that you not try to change each other in this regard. Rather, try to meet each other halfway. Respect the space of each other and the common spaces of your home. Decide who will be responsible for the chores so things do not get out of hand.
36. Develop a philosophy for what you both consider to be a comfortable home. That philosophy will guide the way you decorate your home and keep it clean. Most of us want to feel calm and relaxed when we walk through the doors of our dwelling place. Agree on what elements of the physical space would help to achieve this for you and see how best you can implement.
The colors of your curtains or drapes (if you have them), carpets, walls, and wall paper can be instrumental in lifting the mood. Including a few real plants and family photos can do wonders too. It doesn’t have to be expensive to make your physical space homely and cozy according to your philosophy. All you need is Pinterest, some research and creativity. But you can do it!
Growing together as one is possible
Nobody said marriage is easy. The idea of being meant for each other comes under serious scrutiny in those first seven years of marriage when the reality sets in that it takes work to make marriage work.
It takes a lot of prayer, gumption, patience and determination to make it. But this one thing I know: God specializes in the hard things. Yes, even in the impossible things. He meant for marriage to be a blessing, not a burden.
But it pays to be aware of this: God has a glorious plan for your marriage but the enemy has one too. “There is an enemy,” said our marriage counselor “but your spouse is not the enemy.” That’s the best marriage advice I’ve ever gotten. This enemy aims to steal your joy, kill your marriage, and destroy your future together.
But you must fight for your marriage because:
You are not alone in your desire to succeed in your marriage. God promises help.
You deserve a happy marriage and a happy life because you’re a child of God to whom He gives good gifts.
You will be healthier and live longer as you grow old together
You will be empowered and supported in living your God-given purpose.
Growing together as a couple is a wild ride. But rest assured that it is worth every effort.
Which area of growth will you tackle first?