Think back to when you met your spouse. The effort you placed into the initial relationship was unrelenting. If you are like most, you put more effort into those first few months than a team preparing to play in the national championship (Go Bucks).
Then one day, you stop putting in the work. You start moving through life on autopilot with no course correction. You go through life be-bopping around, but deep down you know the preventive work is not being done, and eventually the lack of maintenance will show.
It reminds me of land navigation. Land navigation courses were never my strength in the Army and night land navigation was even more frustrating.
First you find an azimuth, the direction you need to head on a compass Ex. 0 degrees is north, 90 degrees is east, 180 degrees is south etc.
Now you need to plot out on a map the distance to point B before heading out.
As you are walking through forests, ridges, mountains, and thick brush you may not notice it, but you will often begin moving off course. Moving off course by 5 degrees for 3 meters may not result in a significant error, but moving off course by 5 degrees for 1000 meters will place you on an entirely different ridge or hill.
This is why you will often stop, look at your compass, and adjust back on course.
Like our marriage, we may think we are on the correct azimuth, but we are often straying off course. Without course corrections, we will end up in a pile of thorny bushes.
Aim: A house is only as strong as its foundation
You can build the house of your dreams, manufactured with the strongest material, designed just how you imagined, but if it is built on a weak foundation it will crumble.
Your marriage is the foundation of your family. The foundation of your life.
If your marriage is on the rocks, your kids are affected, careers are affected, and your mental health is affected which will often lead to poor choices that affect your physical health.
It becomes a game of dominoes. EVERYTHING AFFECTS EVERYTHING.
Kids who come from a broken household are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol, crime, and overall have less success in life.
Strengthen your marriage for yourself, your spouse, and your children.
Fire: Fight for it like you are going to war
The title of this section may sound “over the top”, but bare with me for a moment.
When you are going to war you prepare to defend your life and the lives of the people around you. You strengthen yourself physically, mentally, tactically, and emotionally.
You train month after month. Day in, day out. In an effort to prepare for success.
When it comes to our marriage we should do the same, it just looks a little different. Or at least I hope. If you are preparing to battle your wife in war, you may need more help than this newsletter can offer… Okay, enough with the comedy, let’s get practical.
5 ways to strengthen your marriage
Be intentional: When you are intentional you are choosing to make decisions and take actions on what’s really important to you. Decide what your values are, what your priorities are, what direction you want to go. How you want to focus your energy and finances. Have an azimuth.
Tell your spouse “I love you”: Such a simple yet powerful act. Let your spouse know they are loved and appreciated, and stop letting it be a mystery. You may do this already, and if so kudos, but a lot of us find ourselves falling short when it comes to letting our spouse know. When you say “ I love you” you are saying “I am with you”, “ I support you”, and “ I will be here for you”. Make it a habit
Date your mate: You get married, careers take off, kids are born, 5 years pass, and going on dates gets moved to the back burner.
It happens to everyone. If you stop lifting weights your muscles atrophy. If you stop playing chess your chess skills atrophy. If you stop going on dates, your marriage will atrophy, it is no different.
Find the babysitter, schedule the date, repeat once per month.
This may look different for each couple depending on the resources available. For example, we are currently living as ex-pats in Barcelona, Spain. We do not have any family nearby, and babysitters are hard to come by during a pandemic.
What do we do? We wait until the kids are asleep and essentially have our own dates here at the house.
It could be red wine by a fire, watching a movie together, or when we are lucky thanks to our creative children, they put dates on for us. The last one being an Italian theme date involving our 7 yo boy as an Italian waiter delivering our food to us via rollerblades.
Forgive and forget: Easier said than done, I know, but if we are focusing on the first rule of “be intentional” it will become easier. There is no reason to hold a grudge. The more time you spend forgiving and forgetting, the more time you free up for love and solidarity. Maybe this is why dogs are so happy, they forget everything that happend in 2 minutes.
Get on the same level: This could apply to almost any aspect of marriage, but the main item for most couples is finances. The sooner you and your spouse get on the same level for finances, the sooner your marriage will strengthen.
In my own marriage, my wife is a penny pincher, while I enjoy indulging more in the finer aspects of running gear, computer gear, and hobbies. Early on we had to both come to terms with each others life philosophy around finances, and work out some common ground.