Seven Habits For Building A Strong Marriage

Since we are away, teaching at a marriage retreat, it seems a good time to post some habits my husband and I have developed over the years which have helped to make our marriage strong.   37 years later, there is no one I would rather spend time with than my husband – my best friend.

If I were to list the most important habits we have incorporated into our marriage they would be:

1.  Practice daily prayer together. – It has been so meaningful to us to take our gratitude, concerns and requests to God as a couple, as well as individually.  I love the scripture in Exodus 33:12-17

    Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ [13] If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

    [14] The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

    [15] Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. [16] How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

    [17] And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”   

Our marriage is strong because we have chosen to practice His Presence with us.  Having God with us in our marriage means everything.  We cannot guide it or carry it alone.  We always need His Presence and involvement in our marriage.

2.  Have a purposeful assessment and planning time together each week.

 We have found that “life” gets away from us if we don’t deliberately make plans along with our prayers.

Every week we take some extended time together to talk about our spiritual and emotional state of being, what is going on in our lives as well as well as what  areas need growth.  We follow this with some extended prayer time together.

1 Peter 1:13-16

    Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. [14] As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. [15] But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; [16] for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

If we don’t set aside a time to plan and prepare our minds for action things get crazy and we end up not practically living out our priorities.

Our bumps have usually come from unmet or differing expectations, resulting from things that we did not talk through.

When our children were still at home, we also walked through their schedules  – considering  their physical and emotional needs, how we would prioritize getting time with them, and how to include time for family devotionals.  We strove to have a deliberate approach for developing the spiritual and emotional connections in our family, seeking family feedback from within and without the family.

3.  Eat together at the dinner table   – Most days (with a rare exception) we strove to have everyone together at the family dinner table.  These were precious times. We still enjoy dinner together, even as empty nesters.  It has also served us well to go to bed at the same time most nights.

4.  Practice openness and transparency  –We have found it extremely beneficial to have another couple or two consistently in our lives who know us really well and care about our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.   We open up our lives to them.  This practice not only helps us grow, but it also helps us get rid of “blind spots” that can weigh us down.  These friends provide  a place to get “unstuck” if we come to an impasse.

5  Cultivate an outward focused lifestyle      Col. 4:2-6

    Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. [3] And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. [4] Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. [5] Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. [6] Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Galatians 2:10   All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Practicing hospitality in our home, along with finding ways to serve the poor has served our marriage and family in a tremendous way.  It truly is more blessed to give than to receive, and these practices have reminded us and our children that we are not the center of the universe, but are instead meant to give to and serve others.  This habit has refreshed our souls over and over again.

6.  Express love and affection to each other daily…don’t just assume it’s a given.  I’m amazed at the ways God expresses his love for me in the scriptures, through people, and through His creation.   My husband consistently encourages me and expresses his affection toward me.  This practice helps me (and our family) remember why we love each other…and encourages us to keep on giving.

7.  Enjoy God’s pleasant boundaries.

Psalm 16:6

    The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

        surely I have a delightful inheritance.

We have found it extremely helpful and important to enjoy each other, and to enjoy the pleasant boundaries we have been given. That’s why you may find us taking a walk, sipping coffee on the front porch as the sun sets, sitting by the fire,  riding our bicycles, walking in the snow, playing with our grandchildren, running our dogs, licking a frozen yogurt cone at Bedford Farms, hiking a trail or watching the waves roll on the North Shore.

It’s never too late to begin good habits!

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About Jeanie Shaw

After retiring from forty-five years in full-time ministry, Jeanie Shaw went back to school to earn her master’s and doctorate in spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as a certified Christian life coach who loves helping people discover the joy, peace, and purpose that come from finding and following God’s plan for their lives. She has taught classes and workshops all over the world and has written numerous books. She has four grown children, eight grandchildren, and a golden retriever who thinks he is human. When she is not reading, writing, coaching, teaching, or enjoying her family she might be found walking along rivers, learning new lessons about life.

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