9 Simple Ways To Improve Your Marriage!

Today, Brooke and I are celebrating nine years of marriage.  "Celebration" is a loose term today since we have a 3-year-old and four-month-old.  Don't worry though; we enjoyed a dinner for two and a slow, enjoyable walk around Target last week!

A few years ago I wrote a post called, "10 Hard Steps To An Awesome Marriage (That are totally worth it) which went semi-viral and had made its way around the internet a few different times.  Now and then I go back to that post and ask myself, "Do I still believe these? Do I still follow these? Do I listen to my advice?"  I still believe them, and I always try my best to follow and listen to my advice.

Today, I thought I would write a simple list of advice.  Things that you may not think about but I think will make a world of difference when it comes to wedded bliss.

1. Be Aware of Your Tone 
Being aware of your tone is a simple idea that is hard to put into practice, especially for me.  I do not have a naturally happy sounding voice, and I also straightforwardly respond to things.  That's a formula for some hurt feelings if I don't watch the way I say things.  A mentor of mine once told me to "actively practice warmth with people" which is hard to do for me, especially at home after a long day of work.  The tone of your response can be the difference between a pleasant evening and hurt feelings so be aware of it.  Practice answering questions with warmth in your voice to avoid those hurt feelings, misunderstandings and frustrating "why are we even fighting" moments.

2. Split the dishes and laundry
During our first year of marriage, I looked at my beautiful new bride and said, "Do you want to make a deal?" A phrase I say a lot to Brooke, normally involving her getting me some food or beverage in exchange for a back or foot rub! But this deal was different.  I asked her, "Would you be interested in being totally in charge of the dishes and having me totally in charge of the laundry?" She said, "Yes" and, for the first five years of our marriage that's the way it was.  Brooke was in charge of dishes, and I was responsible for the laundry.  Those two reoccurring chores can be the cause of a lot of frustration because you can often find yourself expecting your spouse to do them without ever actually asking them.  This separation of chores took away those wonderings and made the tasks cut and dry, but it also gave us an easy way to go the extra mile for each other.  When I wanted to wow Brooke, I would suffer through hell on earth and do the dishes.  

3. Tidy up the main living spaces before bed
While we are on the topic of chores and cleaning I will add this simple one to the list.  Whenever I can, I try to tidy the downstairs before bed because there is almost nothing better than waking up to a clean house.  It, without fail, always makes the day better and less stressful.  Less stress = happier marriage.  My rule when I tidy up is to start in the kitchen because it's my least favorite place to tidy, so I always start there to get it out of the way.

4. Create date night for the season of life you are in
Before kids it was easy to go on dates, then we had June, and we were establishing schedules and trying to have a routine, so we didn't go out as much.  After we developed a good routine, we could start having babysitters and could go out from time to time.  Then, came Sunny and we are back in that season of establishing a routine, so we haven't gone out much.  The difference this time is that we create a date night for this season of life.  It is usually a very late dinner after the kids in bed while we watch one of our favorite shows.  It's not going to win any medals for romance but for this season it works, and it's enough.

5. Taking the kiddos with you
This one is for the married couples with little ones.  Lately, I have been trying to take June with me when I run errands.  The break from two kids for Brooke is always so appreciated, plus I get one on one time with June which is a win in our relationship! Brooke reciprocates when she needs to run errands, and I always appreciate the house with just one kid!

6. Watch more comedy
I truly believe that laughter can be the best medicine in a lot of situations, but it can also be the best preventative medicine.  I love seeing Brooke laugh which is why I try 9,450 times a day to make her laugh and usually fail 9,449 times, but I can always get her once to which I triumphantly proclaim, "got her!"  When we watch comedies together, whether it's stand-up or a show, it often gives us a catchphrase or two that we can use to make the other person smile.  That can come in handy when one of us is having a sad or stressful day.

7. Say "Yes!" with immediate action
Have you ever asked someone to do something and they say, "Yes" and then don't move?  If you have kids, then your answer is definitely yes!  It can be a frustrating feeling, and I know that I am probably not alone, so I always try to say yes to Brooke and then follow it with action.  It's a simple way to show how much of a priority she is, plus whatever I usually am doing, can wait.

8. Send the occasional snail mail
Next time you are buying groceries or at Target, stop by the card aisle and pick out a card that will make your spouse smile.  The ones I usually pick for Brooke are borderline inappropriate but funny, and whenever she gets them in the mail, it always makes her day. It's a $4 to $6 investment that shows your spouse they are loved and thought of often!

9. Say the words "I  love you."
I know that my wife knows that I love her and I know that she loves me, but I often have to remind myself to say it. It's a natural thing to forget in the chaos of life, so take a moment today, look at your spouse and tell them, "I love you."

Being married is amazing, but it takes work and sometimes the littlest shifts can make the most significant difference.  Currently, I am working on watching my tone, and I can see the difference in my marriage.  Whether you try all nine or stick to one, I would love to know if you have any simple tips that have helped your marriage blossom.  Thanks for reading - T.J.