Every now and then, I run across a couple who has it figured out. Somehow, it seems, they navigated the hurdles and pitfalls of marriage and now are coasting down easy street.
It makes me want to vomit.
I’m only joking. Kind of.
But seriously, you probably know a few of these couples. Marriage looks easy for these fortunate few. They encounter problems. Everyone does. But there’s noticeable joy in their relationship. These couples enjoy being around one another. It’s genuine. They say things like, “I love him more today than the day I married him.”
And they actually mean it.
How does this happen? Is Cupid on speed dial? Is there a mystical marriage monk located deep in the Himalayas? If it were this easy, I assure you Cupid would be everyone’s best friend and the Himalayas would contain, at any one time, half of the world’s population.
Healthy relationships don’t just happen. They’re built with healthy habits. In the words of 19th century psychologist William James, “All our life…is but a mass of habits.” This really is true, especially of your marriage. Here are a seven habits of healthy couples.
1. Healthy couples never stop dating.
There’s not a healthy couple on earth who doesn’t make dating a consistent practice, whether they’ve been together one year or fifty. I put my parents’ retirement on it.
Any time you’re around another human for a long period of time, complacency is a temptation. Without intentionality, complacency will take the wheel of your relationship. Before you know it, years pass without any meaningful time invested in the relationship. This is problematic because relationships are organic.
Healthy couples fight this problem by continuing to date one another. They set aside intentional time to invest in one another. This time might come once a week or twice a month. But regardless the frequency, it’s always consistent and protected.
If you’re not dating your spouse, you should start. It will change the culture of your marriage.
2. Healthy couples practice empathy.
All healthy couples practice empathy. Empathy puts the shoe on the other foot. Rather than convincing your partner you’re right, empathy sees the other side. It walks a mile in the shoes of the other.
Several years ago, on the heels (I’m killing the shoe references) of a difficult season in my marriage, I sat down with a mentor, seeking advice. I’ll never forget his response. He told me to sacrifice myself for my wife like Christ sacrificed himself for the church. He referenced Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:25.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
I’ll be honest, at the time his advice sounded like a cop-out. Then, I started to apply it. I never looked at my wife the same. If you want to transform your marriage, love your spouse like Christ loved the church. I’m convinced divorce would not exist if mutual submission were the core practice of every marriage.
3. Healthy couples enjoy the relationship rather than trying to change or fix it.
Your spouse has flaws. That’s no surprise.
But this might be slightly surprising.
Your spouse’s flaws are almost always a projection of yours. You see in your spouse what you can’t see (or refuse to accept) in yourself.
If you need a minute to collect the pieces of your brain, go right ahead.
Assuming this is true, and I believe it is, the one who needs changing isn’t your spouse. It’s you. This is the great secret of healthy couples. They don’t point fingers or blame. They don’t seek to fix or change what they perceive as bad behaviors. When conflicts and tension come, individuals in a healthy relationship ask themselves, “What does this say about me? What do I need to change?”
And here’s the kicker. You can’t enjoy a relationship while trying to change or fix it.
Not to mention, a Brady Bunch of problems arise from trying to change someone. Co-dependency. Erosion of intimacy. Resentment (both ways).
If you allow it, marriage will expose your flaws and inside this covenant bond you have an opportunity to become more like Jesus.
4. Healthy couples don’t keep score.
Early in my marriage, I kept score. Every time I folded the clothes or fixed something around the house, I marked a mental tally. Then, when I wanted to golf or spend a weekend watching football, I showed her the scoreboard.
The problem? Marriage isn’t a game. You’re not competing against your spouse. There are no winners and losers.
You will not find a scoreboard in a healthy relationship.
5. Healthy couples pray together often.
I ran across a statistic several years that said only 1% of couples who pray together regularly end up divorced. I don’t know the details behind the findings. But I know this.
When Tiffani and I pray together regularly, our marriage is healthier. I feel closer to her. The peace and joy in our relationship noticeably increases.
But praying together regularly is a difficult endeavor. Go ahead and try it.
There’s a spiritual reason for this. There are evil forces that want to tear your marriage apart. I call them Satan. Y
Pray with your spouse tonight. Pray out loud for one another. See what happens.
6. Healthy couples surround their relationship with healthy people.
Healthy couples have boundaries. Among those is the commitment to positive voices and people who will strengthen their marriage. Sometimes close friends and family are the most toxic voices. When this is the case, tough decisions will follow.
But healthy couples would rather have a hard conversation than allow a negative voice to impact their relationship.
7. Healthy couples pursue emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy.
Intimacy is the goal of any relationship, especially marriage. But intimacy is hard, really hard. Just existing in the same house with someone is much easier and requires far less vulnerability.
Healthy couples aren’t content with existing in the same space. They embrace the beautiful struggle that is intimacy. They take down walls and accept the risk that is exposing their true selves.
This is uncomfortable. This is scary. But it’s the path to true love, the only road to intimacy. Most importantly, healthy couples believe marriage is a gateway to something greater, something deeper, something eternal. That something is God.
I want to hear from you. What are some habits of healthy couples I didn’t mention? Leave a comment below!
Grace and peace, friends.