I remember how surprised Bryan and I were when we realized we’d spent more of our lives married than not. Crazy. Not only have I been a wife and mother over half my life, but we still have six kids at home. My mother was an empty nester and a grandmother at my age. (Now that’s really crazy!)

I’d like to share some thoughts on staying married—happily—for a very long time:

No matter how wonderful your children are, there will be days when they break your heart; eventually—hopefully—they’ll grow up and start families of their own.

No matter how much you love your job (and I hope you do), it’s still your work, not your life.

No matter how supportive your online community may be (and I hope it is), it’s not face-to-face and intimate in the day-to-day.

No matter how close your girlfriends, they’ve got their own lives, their own families, their own obligations.

But that man you married? The one you chose and who chose you, till death do us part? His is the relationship you need to nurture above these others.

Valentine’s is a day when our culture focuses specifically on love and marriage, but how can you nurture that relationship the other 364 days of the year?


1. Date nights

Even if we go to dinner but we’re too tired to talk, or we sit in a movie staring at a screen instead of each other, date nights—just the two of us—are a high priority in my marriage. Bryan and I have the same Love Language, Quality Time, so just being together is extra important for us.

Our kids sense when we need time as a couple and they’ll either suggest we go out or arrange for us to have a date night at home, which means they cook something special and serve us separately in our eat-in kitchen: candlelight, wine, and all. Some nights we send them to their bedrooms early to play quietly or watch a cartoon while we talk or stream Netflix.

Kids need to understand that your time alone as a couple is important. The best gift you can give your children is the security of knowing that their parents have a stable and loving marriage.

I read somewhere that every couple should have both a shared indoor and outdoor activity that they enjoy doing together, such as Scrabble and bike riding. There’s a lot of wisdom in this.

[Check out Movies for Date Nights at Home for more ideas!]


2. Learn His Love Language (and yours, too)

Did you know that there are five primary love languages, or ways that we communicate emotionally with one another? Understanding each other’s love language can help avoid miscommunication and hurt feelings in your marriage.

Most couples don’t have the same dominant love language, like we do. If yours is Receiving Gifts and your husband’s is Quality Time, you could have a seriously unsatisfying Valentine’s Day (not to mention the rest of the year). He proposes dinner and a movie, but you’re thinking, “Where are my flowers and box of chocolates?”

I’ll take a theater and a bucket of popcorn over a dozen roses any day, but you may be just the opposite. Click on over to the 5 Love Languages website and take the brief test, and then ask your husband to take it, too.

This video shows a brief overview of each language:

The 5 Love Languages Trailer from Dr. Gary Chapman on Vimeo.

3. Journal Together

This one is new for us, but I wish we’d started it a long time ago. I have journals for each child where we write notes sporadically back and forth to each other, but my husband and I have never done this.

I gave my husband the Mr. & Mrs. – Two in One Inspirational Journal and Coupon Book at Christmas. Some things are just easier to write than to say. The biggest surprise? He’s written more notes to me than I have to him.


4. Don’t Bad-Mouth Him to Others

No matter how frustrated you become with him or how tempting it might be, don’t bad-mouth your husband to others. If you do it in front of your kids, you undermine the respect they should have for their father. If it’s in front of your girlfriends, they’re either going to encourage it, which isn’t good for your marriage, or find it uncomfortable, which isn’t good for your friendships.

This is a lose-lose. Don’t do it.

You’ll probably kiss and make up, but your friends and family won’t forget the things you’ve said about your husband.


5. Show Some Excitement When He Gets Home

This one takes a small amount of time, but makes a big difference: stop whatever you’re doing and go give your husband a good, long hug when he walks in the door at the end of the day. Encourage your kids to do it, too.

Although I don’t always manage this, I see a difference when I do: It sets a mood for us as a couple for the rest of the evening. Studies show that a good hug (ideally 20 seconds) can reduce stress; lower heart rates; and reduce blood pressure. Hugging makes us release oxytocin, a hormone that helps us bond with others (usually associated with childbirth and breastfeeding), and lessens our production of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.

A good hug says I love you in the simplest of ways, and helps both of you stop and shed the day’s stress.


Do you have creative ideas for date nights or nurturing your man and your marriage? Please leave them in the comments!

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