When Ashley and I got married thirteen years ago, we were young and in love, but we were also pretty clueless (me especially)! Along the way, we've had so many people share wise marriage advice and life experiences with us, which has helped guide our family through good times and hard times.
Through the years, I've been collecting some of the best tips others have shared with us (and some I had to learn through my own mistakes). I found that the 3 most important things in marriage are communication, looking at marriage as a life-long commitment, and being a team.
The most common problems in a marriage? Lack of respect, lack of attention, and a downfall in sexual intimacy.
If you apply this list of 25 principles to your relationship, it could make a life-changing difference in your marriage.
1. Choose to love each other.
Even in those moments when you struggle to like each other. Choosing to love your partner every day means focusing on the gifts they are bringing into your life: their laughter, beauty, sensuality, playfulness, companionship, and so much more.
Wake up each morning and kiss them, morning breath and all! Love is a commitment, not a feeling. This is great advice to give to a bride-to-be before getting married.
2. Always answer the phone when your husband or wife is calling.
This action falls in line with respect and attention. Two very important things not only in a marriage but in any relationship.
You answer when your significant other is calling as a sign of respect. They are trying to contact you and whether it's just to see how your day is going or an emergency, you answer that phone call.
Also when possible, try to keep your phone off when you're together with your spouse. Don't let a phone distract you from spending quality time with your life partner.
Pay attention to them when you are with them. Attention is truly important when building and creating a life together.
3. Make time together a priority.
As stated before, attention is important in a relationship. Your wife or husband needs to feel appreciated and needed. Attention will do that for them.
It doesn't have to be some grand romantic gesture every weekend. It could be as simple as calling them out of the blue just to hear their voice or hugging them the instant they come home.
Budget for consistent date nights. Time is the "currency of relationships," so consistently invest time into your marriage.
4. Surround yourself with friends who will strengthen your marriage.
Your friends influence your marriage more than you realize. The thing you need to be aware of is if they begin to cause problems in your marriage.
Are they pressuring you to do something your partner doesn't want? Are they seeding doubts about your marriage into your head? If so, they probably aren't really your friend and you should straighten them out or cut the cord entirely. Remove yourself from people who may tempt you to compromise your character.
5. Make laughter the soundtrack of your marriage.
The benefits of laughter are endless. As Lindsay Detwiler wrote in an article for YourTango, "I firmly believe it is our ability to joke together, to not take life too seriously even in the most serious of circumstances, that we have fostered a connection deeper than the surface-level struggles found in marriage. Even on terrible days when life throws a rough hand our way, our ability to make each other laugh has carried us through."
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Laughter often helps people cope in stressful or serious situations.
So in your marriage share moments of joy. And even in the hard times, find reasons to laugh.
6. In every argument, remember that there won't be a "winner" and a "loser."
Marriage isn't a competition. There's no gold medal for being the better partner.
Marriage is a partnership, you become a team. It's no longer you vs. them it's us vs. the world. You're partners in everything so you'll either win together or lose together. Work together to find a solution.
7. Realize that a strong marriage rarely has two strong people at the same time.
It's usually a husband and wife taking turns being strong for each other in the moments when the other feels weak.
That's the point of marriage, that you will always have someone there to help carry you when you trip and fall. It's having support when you lose your job. It's taking care of the other when they lose their way. Life is hard and married life is no different. No one is strong all the time and it's important to understand that concept.
8. Prioritize what happens in the bedroom.
It takes more than sex to build a strong marriage, but it's nearly impossible to build a strong marriage without it. We are all human and we all have needs.
Though many will deny it, a relationship with sexually active people requires regular sex. It's normal, but many may forget that sex is a necessity.
This is one of the most common problems that can arise in a marriage. Not just because it's pleasurable but because it conveys a sense of closeness to your partner. It's not just pleasure, but intimacy and love that sex creates.
9. Remember that marriage isn't 50/50 — divorce is 50/50.
Marriage has to be 100/100. It's not about splitting everything in half, but both partners giving everything they've got.
But then there are times where one person just can't give you anything at all because they are focused on keeping themselves together and that's alright.
Support in a marriage is not a nice 50/50 split. Some days you are giving your all while your spouse is giving nothing and other days you are taking, offering nothing. This happens mostly while grieving. But after it all, you are back to 100/100 working as a team.
10. Give your best to each other.
Not just your leftovers after you've given your best to everyone else. Again, your husband or wife comes first. You married each other so that you can build a life together and see every inch of each other's souls to the very end.
If you aren't giving your all to your significant other, then who are you giving it to? And why? This could be a sign of a failing marriage if you can't talk to your partner about everything.
You give your best to each other every day. Whether you've been married 6 months or 14 years, you wake up every morning and you give your spouse your all. Make sure your partner feels seen, needed, and heard.
11. Learn from other people, but don't try to be them.
It's important to realize that you can take relationship advice from other couples but when it comes to your marriage, it will never be like anyone else's because it is yours.
Each marriage is made up of two completely different people than those who make up another marriage. Therefore, no marriage should or can be comparable. There's no need to compare your life or your marriage to anyone else's.
12. Don't put your marriage on hold while you're raising your kids.
If you do, you'll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage. Many people forget that they have a marriage to take care of when they have children. That doesn't just go away. This is the reason why people should never have children to "fix their marriage" because it won't work in the long run.
When you have kids it's still important that you work on your marriage, that you spend time with your partner, that you give them attention.
Doing this along with raising children can be a lot, so make sure you are ready for it before you start trying to have a baby.
13. Never keep secrets from your spouse.
This is some of the best marriage advice I can give you. Because secrecy is the enemy of intimacy.
Secretes can lead to questioning which leads to doubts and you don't want those in your marriage.
Don't give your husband or wife reason to be suspicious or paranoid of you.
14. Never lie to each other.
Lies break trust, and trust is the foundation of a strong marriage. If you lie to each other, especially constantly then your marriage is headed for the graveyard. Just don't do it. There's no reason for it. If you love each other tell each other the truth. A piece of advice is that if you made a mistake, talk it out so you can both move forward.
15. When you've made a mistake, admit it and humbly seek forgiveness.
Know how to apologize, and do it. You should be quick to say, "I was wrong. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
Along with that, you need to understand and admit when you are in the wrong. Never blame the other for your mistakes. Be open and honest about them. If you follow this, there is room to grow together and make your marriage even stronger.
16. When your husband or wife breaks your trust, give them your forgiveness instantly.
This will promote healing and create the opportunity for trust to be rebuilt. You should be quick to say, "I love you. I forgive you. Let's move forward." But if you need help to do this bringing in a marriage and family therapist is not a bad thing to do.
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17. Be patient with each other.
Patience is a virtue and that rings true today. If you are arguing it's important to listen and be patient or things could snowball quickly and nobody wants that. If your spouse needs help be patient and give them a hand. Your spouse is always more important than your schedule.
18. Model the kind of marriage you would want for your children.
Be the kind of spouse that will make your sons want to grow up to be good husbands and your daughters want to grow up to be good wives. Show them what a marriage can be like and set the bar high. Don't let your son or daughter be trapped in a bad marriage because you showed them what they should tolerate.
19. Be your spouse's biggest fan, rather than their biggest critic.
Be the one who wipes away their tears, not the one who causes them. Constructive criticism is always good because you want your partner to grow and be the best they can be. But you can't always criticize their bad habits. There are other ways to help your partner improve and one way is to be their personal hype man or hype woman. That's right, be their cheerleader!
Praise them when they get something right or accomplish something they've been wanting to get done. Cheer them on. Believe in them. Support them.
20. Never talk badly about your spouse to other people or vent about them online.
If you have an issue with your spouse, you handle it with them. You don't go vent to your best friend or your "Finsta" account. You work it out with them and them alone (unless you have a therapist then by all means go to them if you need to). But when it comes to venting to your friends, it's not a good idea.
Don't even do it with family members! You should protect your spouse at all times and in all places. This is respecting them.
21. Always wear your wedding ring.
It will remind you that you're always connected to your spouse and will remind the rest of the world that you're off-limits. It's a symbol of your love and promise to each other, so why would you take it off?
22. Connect with a community of faith.
A good church or faith community of any religion can make a world of difference in your marriage and family. Marriage is a sacred concept and a faith-based community can help you understand that. They can offer deep advice and guidance for your marriage that can help bring you both closer in faith and love.
23. Pray together.
For those who are religious, having God at the center of your marriage can have a strong pull that will glue your marriage together. Having faith and asking God for advice and guidance is something that will not only help in your marriage but make it constant. Every marriage is stronger with God in the middle of it. And it won't only be a strong one but a happy marriage as well.
24. Say nothing rather than saying anything mean.
This is one of the rules we learn at an early age. If you don't have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all. We are taught early because it's a great lesson to learn in life. When you have to choose between saying nothing or saying something mean to your spouse, say nothing every time. No really, every single time. Being mean gets you nowhere.
25. Never consider divorce as an option.
Relationship experts find it crucial for people to remember that a "perfect marriage" is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. Do everything and anything besides divorce to fix the issue or problem that has come up.
Marriage is a commitment. When things go sour remember how you fell in love with your spouse.
That day you said "I do" you entered into a contract that said you would stand by your spouse until death do you part. And I bet you meant it for the long haul that day, so why wouldn't you mean it now?