I actually disagree with that title, “keep love fresh.” It’s really there to grab attention, but the basic goal is the same: how do we stay married without killing each other? How do we stay in love without drifting apart as life’s insanity takes over? People often say “Marriage is difficult” and “vibrant love is just a phase.”
I disagree with the word “fresh.” I don’t want a fresh love. Back when love was fresh, it was brand new. Like a newborn baby. Soft, wonderful, best joy in the whole world. But the child has to grow up, add muscle, develop skills, learn to speak. There are many more joys yet to come. Real love is always growing, adding new onto the old. If it stays stagnant, it won’t be that way for long. Either it will eventually die or move forward. That’s just the way it is.
But “fresh” is what our marriage looks like to other people, even two years later. We get lots of “newlywed” compliments. People finally stopped telling us that our love is just a “phase.” It hasn’t faded one bit. In fact, it’s gotten stronger. Here’s the secret to our success. It has nothing to do with luck, believe me! We’re both a couple of really messed up jerks stumbling through life.
If you’d like some budget-friendly ideas for date nights, I’ve got some right here! 21 FREE Ways to Connect With Your Spouse.
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We get really creative with it. Why should the rebellious teenagers have all the fun? Like if I’m waiting for Hubby to pick me up he rolls down his window and whistles. “Heeeeyy, you look pretty. Wanna stay with me tonight?” You can even turn the small inconveniences of life into a golden opportunity. Left something on the coffee table but he’s in the way? Go ahead and reach for it. Don’t ask. Like really reach over the top of him with emphasis, apologizing sarcastically, “accidentally” touching something along the way. I could make a massive list of ways we flirt. We flirt a lot. Especially when connecting in the bedroom gets a bit tough. It’s a nice comfort, ya know? The little things matter. They really do.
We’ve all been there–you just want to throw this whole marriage thing aside and give up. It’s not working. Well, now you can! Think about it–why stay “married” all the time? In the middle of an argument or a problem, when you feel like all hope is lost, your underlying loyal friendship can catch your fall. The conversation takes a widely different turn once you stop trying so hard to be “married” and just talk to each other like friends. It works. I’m glad to have him as my husband but infinitely more grateful to have him as my best friend.
I don’t care who stays home and who goes to work. I don’t care if you both work. I don’t care who does the budget, who takes care of the kids, who makes final decisions. It doesn’t matter. Gay couples statistically have happier marriages than straight because they have equality. They see each other as equally important. There’s no “hierarchy.”
What about the curse? “He shall rule over you,” God told Eve. Firstly, do you really think that one should still be in play? If that one’s still valid, then the other one “You shall toil all day and produce nothing but weeds” is valid too.
What about “Wifes submit/respect your husbands,”? Firstly, that’s a bad translation. The real Hebrew meaning is much deeper than that. Secondly, does this really define roles in a house? Was that its intended purpose? Or was Paul more concerned about the hierarchy of who does the dishes than the souls of real people?
I can show respect for my kids and my coworkers and they don’t have to pay my bills in return. What about the husband? Should he show no respect for his wife? Some do–when they take the “head” as permission for tyranny. I don’t recall disregarding your wife’s opinion completely and forcing her to be your personal house slave as respect. What about the wife? Should she then show no love for her husband? Of course not.
What about “Husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.” Let me ask you–was that talking about being a covering of dignity and purity, or was it talking about who should do the dishes? If you equate that verse to “if the wife so much as looks at the budget or disagrees with her husband, she’s disobeying God,” I feel very sorry for you. I don’t see Paul getting that specific about things. Does God do all your finances for you? Does God go to work for you? Does God leave you to nurture the family and clean up by yourself? No, He co-labors with you as an equal partner in the kingdom. You are a ruler by His side. He builds you up so you can be the best you can possibly be.
No matter what you believe about how your house should be run, there has to be equality. Choice. I stay at home and take the role of Nurturer because it’s what I’m best at. My Hubby does the bills, has a job, and leads the house because that’s what he’s best at. And we really enjoy our roles!
Sometimes he will need to be a Nurturer with me and sometimes I will need to be Provider with him. We’ll cross over roles as needed. The point is: both of you should work together in the roles you are best at, to build each other up in your unique strengths. When you both sit down and define your basic roles together, teamwork can flourish. Don’t assume or just slide in with cultural demands. Decide it together. Both need to be Providers? Then decide how you’ll split the Nurturing work between each other at home so you’re both not so burned out.
This also gives the wife or husband a better way of communicating frustration. “I feel like I’m carrying the weight of Provider and Nurturer alone” or “I feel like our roles are too separated. I would like some help around the house and I would also like to help a bit with deciding finances.”
This has been lifesaving for us! As soon as I stopped working and took on the Nurturer role fulltime, both of us suddenly were less stressed out. My Hubby is finally able to do what he loves and is good at. So am I. The difference was amazing! Before, I was trying to be both Provider and Nurturer. There’s not enough time or energy for both. They are hard jobs. My Hubby couldn’t help me with the house because he’s TERRIBLE at it. He didn’t grow up doing that so he has no clue how to help. So I was doing all of it alone while both of us worked. No wonder we were both stressed out!
I can’t emphasize this enough! Everything I’ve mentioned above helped nurture a safe place for brutal honesty. This has saved our marriage time and time again.
Remember when everyone gave you unsolicited marriage advice? The most common thing they would say to us was, “You’ll want to kill each other sometimes, but you just have to love them anyway. Love isn’t a feeling and you won’t always feel it.” Sound familiar?
I couldn’t leave it at that. I’m a problem solver. I get at the root of the issue and prevent the whole mess from happening. I don’t waste time on band-aids and pain meds. I prevent the cause altogether.
This was our solution. If it is GOING to happen, then why not embrace it? Why fight it? Those moments when the emotion is swelled up inside, when I feel a tinge of anger, when I feel abandoned… can I express it safely?
Most couples fight it. They hide it, stuff it, try to solve it, try to ignore it… but it comes back. Always does. Its a festering wound hidden beneath layers and layers of dirty cloth. It will never go away. It will continue to get worse until it kills.
Uncover wounds. Expose hurt. Admit brokenness. Express emotion.
This is why it is important to marry your best friend. While most marriages suffer and die, there’s an unspoken requirement for being friends: a safe haven for brutal honesty.
Do whatever it takes, no matter how crazy the lengths. Nurture a place of complete honesty. Wear clown noses if you have to! Find a private place to say things like, “Sometimes I just really hate you, and here’s why…”
To the recipient: listen. Let them talk. Let them get it out. Expose the wound. Don’t solve it, don’t defend yourself, don’t talk. Just listen and let them be honest. Thank them for their openness. It’s a true HONOR to be trusted with the deepest things of their heart, no matter how ugly.
For big things, little things, and everything in between… keep no secrets. Expose everything. If you don’t feel comfortable exposing your heart, then talk about that! Start somewhere.
I PROMISE you, the sex after these brutally honest conversations is WORTH IT!!
Tell the Whole Story
This is part of being honest that helped us work through issues, understand each other, and grow personally. It’s telling the WHOLE story–from the very, very beginning.
About 99% of our marital troubles can be explained by or traced back to childhood. We say things like, “When I grew up…” or “The rules in my house were…” or “I was often treated like…” or “I’m used to…”
If you’re not a young adult, you can talk about the rest of your life as well. The point is: tell the STORY behind your feeling. Ask yourself where this feeling came from. Why do you think this way? What happened that shaped your worldview? Was there a traumatic moment that started this whole thing?
Understanding each other in a deeper way helps nurture compassion. It’s hard to be angry at your so-called “lazy husband” when you find out that his parents told him his entire life that he was slow and good-for-nothing. That they never took time to let him live his own life. That they never trusted him with the slightest responsibility around the house. Is that going to suddenly change with marriage? Absolutely not.
Not only do I understand my husband better, but now I know how I can help him work through his problem. I can teach him, support him, and encourage him in the way he needs it most. He can also do the same for me.
There’s no more pressure to solve every problem overnight. Simply seek to understand each other and face your struggles together. That’ll make marriage not only less stressful but also a lot more FUN!
This can be easy or tough, depending on how similar or different you both are. Some couples have everything in common. Statistically, most couples marry an opposite personality.
Try to take time to do something together. Something that’s NOT life. Not kids, not dishes, not bills, not working, not schedules… What do you both love to do? If you have different interests, find a medium hobby that you both can enjoy doing.
My Hubby and I find common interest in Cardfighting. It’s cheap, easy, and fun! We needed a common hobby because our marriage was tough in the middle of the craziness of life. Both of us were working hard paying off debt. I was newly pregnant. It was hard to find time for each other and sometimes hard to talk even when we did have time. The hobby helped us forget about everything, blow off some steam, and realize we still do love each other after all. It was a nice place to fall back to when everything else seemed so out of control. There’s nothing like laughing together with your best friend in the middle of life’s stress!
It’s also important to support each other’s interests. It’s hard to grit your teeth and join your partner in something you don’t like doing, but maybe you could at least watch and admire them from the sidelines? Taking time to enjoy who they are as a person in this way will deepen your relationship so much!
Marriage is NOT a 50/50. It’s 100%!
How is a baby made? ALL of who you are blends with ALL of who he is. The jumble then morphs, works things out, and balances into a perfect little human being. It couldn’t do that unless it had all of the information from both sides first.
Sex is the same way. You don’t bring half of yourself to the party. Hopefully, he doesn’t either. The best moments come from both sides being fully engaged, fully absorbing the moment.
Now back to normal life. Suddenly everything has to be separated. I do this, so you do that. This is my side, that’s your side. Your job, my job. Negotiation, war, strife, conflict.
The answer is teamwork. Both of you take full responsibility and put your heads together. Decide to solve this issue together, for their sake as well as your own. Compare each of your strengths and weaknesses. If the plan fails then you fail together. If one of you is weak, the other can encourage him.
Teamwork is very hard work. It takes practice. You’re going to be terrible at it at first. That’s why the first year is usually notorious for being the hardest year. I’d say our first year was a breeze. We had a lot of obstacles to face together, and many tears were shed, but it was a great year. We were always happy together, no matter what. And yes, through it all, we were TERRIBLE at teamwork. Still are! The journey though is so rewarding! We celebrate every little victory together. We support each other in the learning process and grow together. The goal of “better teamwork” can be tackled with teamwork!
First Fix Yourself
Bringing 100% to your marriage is easier said than done. Not many of us have 100% of ourselves to give.
The truth is: we’re all broken. Traumatic childhood, horrible circumstances, bad choices, the unfairness of life… Many of us hurt inside. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m messed up inside. Very.
If you came into this marriage thinking your spouse can fill that 30% you’re missing, then you’re in for a disappointment. No one should give more than 100%. If one of you is giving 110%, that’s called codependency.
Codependency is one spouse being a source of painkiller for the other. It doesn’t solve the problem, only masks the symptoms. Your spouse could be dying of cancer, but instead of going to the hospital, he sucks painkiller out of your neck with a straw every night.
Every. Single. Night.
Then, when you’re drained the next morning, he still demands the same 130% from you, while he continues to contribute only 20%. But you don’t have 130%. You don’t even have 100% anymore. He’s taken everything. Your levels get lower and lower with each day until there’s nothing left.
Codependency is like looking at your spouse’s dinner and saying, “I’m still hungry. I want your dinner.” By manipulation, force, sweet talk, lies, or whatever, you get your hands on their dinner and eat it. You may have gotten more full, but now your spouse is hungry and weak. But you still expect them to live as if they were fully fed like you.
Marriage takes 100%. You must take care of yourself and be the best you can be. If you love your spouse, you will want them to be the best they can be. What does fighting codependency sound like? “Hey, I know you struggle in this area, but I believe in you. You’re strong and capable. I want you to be everything you can be. I will encourage and support you in your fight, but you can’t lean on me for an answer. That will hurt you and prevent you from healing.” Tough love at work!
Codependency is the #1 reason marriages fall apart. Don’t stand it for one second, in marriage, or in any other area of life! No one has the right to steal bits of your soul. Not only will it not help heal them, but both of you will end up worse off than before. It does nothing except kill.
So what if you’re hurting? What if you only have 70% of yourself to give? What if you’re not whole? How do you avoid being a leech?
Firstly, if you’re not married, don’t get into a relationship unless you both can work it out WITHOUT codependency. If you’re too broken to stand up and heal, then just don’t get married. Not until you’re whole. For both of your sakes.
Secondly, it IS possible to work things out without leaning on each other. God puts together broken people on purpose sometimes, to give you the chance to grow together. I’ve gotten a TON of healing since the day I met my hubby. I don’t know how I would have done it without him! He’s so encouraging, supportive, and honest. He’s helped me see the areas that I need to grow in.
Commit to fixing yourself first. Commit to being the best YOU can be. Commit to healing, being whole. That’s what “fixing yourself” truly means. It starts with exposing (brutal honesty), then admitting (saying “I’m done. No more.”), and finally healing (one step at a time). Its tough, but it’s the answer to everything.
(Struggle with anxiety and depression? Here are little ways that help me get up in the morning: 10 Tricks I Use to Beat My Anxiety)
Listen: you don’t have control over other people. That’s forced codependency. You only have control over yourself. So if you like to fight for control over a situation, if you like to find solutions, then do it! You CAN be in control! You ARE in control–of yourself. There’s a lot in life that you can’t fix, but that’s one thing you can. You’re never stuck.
Keep at it. Don’t give up. God will fill that extra percentage that you can’t. It’ll be okay! What’s important is that you stay completely honest with yourself, God, and your spouse. And keep fighting. Keep healing.
To be clear: fixing yourself means doing what is best for you AND your spouse. It means not letting someone be codependent on you. Support, encourage. Draw those safe boundaries. It’s best for everyone.
Being “selfish” isn’t a bad thing, after all, when you’re doing it the right way.
Nobody is Perfect
Remember that saying, “No marriage is perfect”?
That’s the rub. Is there anyone who’s a completely whole, functioning human being, without weaknesses or hurts? You can get pretty close, but there’s always still some room for improvement. That’s the joy of marriage! The better you both are as individuals, the better your marriage will be as well, and vice-versa! Especially sex 😉
My goal with my marriage and even my parenting isn’t to be perfect. I want to be 100% whole, but I’m not going to be that perfect. I will strive to be the best I can be. To do that, I can help those around me be the best they can be. If they’re hurting, then how will they be able to encourage me?
Like fattening up a calf before slaughter, I suppose. Haha! It’s still selfishness–I’m just smart about it. And I get better sex out of it too.
Hey, since when was it a BAD thing to want the very best for yourself? Isn’t that why you want to stick around Jesus too? Everyone wants something, whether they admit it or not. It’s how we’re made. Case in point–that’s why God made sex a vital part of marriage. When all else fails, nothing motivates your inner greed better than that!
My goal isn’t perfection. My goal is to love well and do what’s right.
Relationship is the goal, the means, and the journey.
Thanks for reading! What do you think? What marriage advice do you have to share?