Many years ago we were watching a video curriculum with our couples’ small group. The speaker made a point that initially stung us that we have mulled over and over ever since. He said that marriage was never intended to make you happy. It was designed to make you holy. Since my marriage has been one of the most significant sources of happiness in my life, I (Bonnie) took offense to the comment. But upon more in-depth research and understanding, I’ve come to realize he was right. God never promised husbands and wives that they would live “happily ever after” like the princes and princesses in fairy tales. In fact, more likely than not, two incredibly different people will spend a lifetime together, learning to die to themselves and live for each other. This uncomfortable process smooths out the rough patches on each of them, conforming them to look more like Jesus.
With that said, just because our individual happiness is not the overall goal of our marriage does not mean that we have to settle for unhappy. We can intentionally work toward things that will eventually produce happiness. In fact, studies of long-term happy couples find that those marriages have a lot of things in common. Based on several online studies and our own observations of some of the happiest couples we know, we narrowed down 12 things that happy couples do. We discussed it in length on two back to back podcast episodes. This week I want to share half of them with you, in no particular order, and you’ll have to come back next week to read about the other six!
- Happy couples are nice to each other! Now, I know this sounds like a “no-brainer,” but you’d be amazed at how far the simple words, “please” and “thank-you” go in a relationship. We all know how to mind our manners with friends and co-workers. But sometimes it’s difficult to remember to simply be kind to our spouse- the person we are supposed to love the most. Simple gestures like unloading the dishwasher or refilling our spouse’s coffee in the mornings foster feelings of mutual respect and overall well being in the relationship.
- Happy couples go to bed at the same time. We’ve mentioned this many times before, but it bears repeating. Going to bed at the same time builds in quality time to be able to unpack the day. It provides the opportunity to talk, touch, and reconnect in ways we cannot when children are present. It’s also a built-in safeguard against any temptation that may arise late at night when one spouse is sitting up all alone.
- Happy couples develop common interests. You may not both enjoy browsing antique shops or training for marathons, but it’s essential to find something that you can do together to just have fun. That’s one of the reasons we’ve issued The Marriage Adventure Challenge. We’ve included a free download of tons of date ideas to allow couples to find something they love doing together. It’s not about the activity itself. It’s about intentionally enjoying each other.
- Happy couples don’t nitpick each other. Daniel says that’s an old southern word. It basically means you don’t constantly pick out all the things your spouse does wrong, making them feel like they can never win or be good enough. If you pick at a sweater long enough and keep tugging on a thread, the whole thing will eventually come unraveled. Couples who enjoy each other let the little things go and allow their spouse to be themselves.
- Happy couples touch base with each other throughout the day. This doesn’t mean they are constantly on the phone. They just shoot each other a little text or leave a voicemail to check-in and stay connected. This kind of quick communication helps you stay connected to your spouse when you’re apart. It reminds them they are your priority, and that you’re just thinking of them.
- Happy couples touch each other often. Physical connection ranges from non-sexual hugs and kisses to hand-holding, sitting close while watching tv, or snuggling before lights out. And it can definitely mean sex. God created us to physically and sexually connect with each other regularly. It’s one of the secrets that happy couples have discovered!
Every day is not going to be filled with wedded bliss. Every couple goes through difficult days, weeks, months, possibly years. But, there are some simple things we can do regularly to spark and fan the relational flames that can make us much happier in our marriages. Why not put some of these into practice this week while you’re anxiously awaiting next week’s post with six more things happy couples do? What do you have to lose?
“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” -Proverbs 5:18
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie