Marriage and relationships take more than love; they take work. I’ve learned that from experience with my husband, Nate. Together, we’ve gotten really creative with how we keep our love alive, especially as we’ve added 7 children to our family over the 26 years that we’ve been married. Oh, and did I also mention that we’re in business together? That’s right. We started Chatbooks, the easiest way to make photo books, 6 years ago, with the mission to strengthen families. And building a strong rock solid marriage is key to strengthening our own family and our growing business. Like every relationship, we too have our bumps in the road, but we’ve figured out a few very important things along the way that help strengthen our family throughout time, and now through spending much more time together than we normally do. Here are our 7 tried and true tips for making your marriage and family stronger.
Do daily check-ins with family and each other
It’s important to check in with each other. Why? Because after a really hard day it can be disappointing to expect that your partner will be ready to relieve whatever stress you're carrying around only to find out that their day was just as hard. When we check in together throughout the day, we are better able to stay in sync. We love using Telegram for our private text messaging conversations. If you have kids who know the passcodes to your devices and can easily go through your messages while everyone’s home together, Telegram is a lifesaver!!
Assume the best
Don’t create stories in your own head about what your partner is thinking. Learn to trust that they probably just need some extra love and attention. Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response. Sure, there will be days when you or your partner just can't choose to be happy, but that’s ok as long as you’re both on the same page about trying to get into a positive mindset. And when either of you are feeling stressed, it’s important to lead with something like: “I’m having a hard day, but I love you and you’re amazing. I’m going to wake up and things are going to be better.” In my opinion, “never go to bed angry” is bad marriage advice. Don’t hash through things when you're tired and maybe a little strung out — 90% of the time you will wake up feeling better and that’s a much better place to work from.
Find time to date each other
Regular date nights can easily be pushed to the back burner, especially while you find yourself at home more than usual — don’t do it! Date night doesn’t need to be fancy. It can be inexpensive, short, at any time of day, and doing just about anything that you both think is fun - even at home! Getting outside, watching a movie together while the kids are asleep, or maybe just going for a walk is a nice healthy habit where you can reconnect as a couple.
Cheer each other on
Learn to love and encourage your significant other’s strengths and talents. Most likely, some of these attributes were what initially attracted you to one another. Make sure that you are still creating space for one another to use those talents, and be sure to cheer each other on in the process.
Take time to make each other laugh and help each other decompress. I love to play games. When we were first married and had no money, we played scrabble every night. It was a fun, free way to just enjoy being together. Give yourself some space to do simple activities that feel like a little break from your busy, day-to-day lives, especially while working from home.
Work at the relationship
Take time to learn from the experts and apply it to your relationship. I love listening to the Connexions Classroom podcast by Jodi Hildebrandt as well as the Couples Coaching podcast by Natalie Clay for some pro tips. I also love going to the experts myself to get some advice -- I’ve had some great guests on The MomForce podcast where we’ve talked about finances in relationships and how to sleep better together.
In today’s world of social media, comparison seems to be at the root of a lot of unhappiness in relationships. It tends to make things look better than they actually are. It’s easy to see lots of smiling faces on cool road trips and feel jealous that you’re in your sweats on the couch. tIf seeing other couples on social media makes you feel bad, unfollow them and focus on what is right in front of you.
Quarantine has certainly been a challenge for all of us, especially when it comes to our relationships. As we spend more time together at home, it’s essential to focus on our relationships with loved ones that we may not have focused on before. These tips have not only helped to improve our marriage, but our family as a whole.