I absolutely love being approached for relationship advice. Many single ladies come to me because they see my wedding rings and the two anniversary bands I wear and they want to know how I got him to “put a ring on it.” Many married women come to me because they want to know the “secret” that has kept us together and in love for 20+ years.
While I never claim to have all the answers, it always brings me great joy to be able to share what I have learned. Below are five relationship tips that have REALLY made a significant difference in my marriage.
1. Learn a Foreign Language
Hablas el lenguaje del amor de tu conyuge? Pensez-vous que parler la langue d'amour de votre conjoint entraînerait un changement dans votre relation?
Isn’t it frustrating when someone is trying to communicate in a language that isn’t your native tongue? And doesn’t it seem counter-productive to continue conversing in that manner when it becomes obvious that the other person isn’t getting it? This sounds like common sense, however many of us speak foreign languages to our spouses every day.
My first question was, “Do you speak your spouse’s love language?” Our love language is best described as the actions we perceive as love. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five love languages: Physical Touch, Quality Time, Gift Giving, Words of Affirmation, and Acts of Service. Knowing our spouse’s love language is essential to effectively expressing our love for them. My primary love language is Physical Touch and my husband’s is Quality Time. I can hug and kiss him all day long and he may appreciate it, but that will never make him feel as loved as a long walk together by the lake.
My second question was, “Do you think speaking your spouse’s love language would bring about change in your relationship?” Why not give it a try?! It may feel like a foreign language at first, but it’s a language worth learning. Here’s a link to a quiz where you and your spouse can discover your love languages.
2. Wear Your Spouse's Glasses
Recently my husband confused his glasses for mine and was shocked that he saw the world very differently. He kept saying, “I need to go to the eye doctor. I can’t see!” We laughed once I reached for the other pair and figured out the mix up, but later I thought about it more deeply. We were in the same room, seeing the same things, but our perspectives were very different when we had on each other’s glasses.
From that experience I realized that that principle is probably true in many situations that we experience together. My perspective may tell me that all is well, while his tells him that there’s a problem. Every now and then, especially in times of conflict, I believe it’s valuable to switch glasses with our spouses to gain an understanding of what they see. In doing so we not only gain a different perspective, but quite often a deeper glimpse into our spouse’s heart.
3. Get a New Mirror
Most of us look at ourselves in the mirror every day, whether we realize it or not. I’m not speaking of a physical mirror, but a subconscious one. Some of us see a person that is a complete mess; some of us see a work in progress, while others see a person that has “arrived.” No matter where you fall on this spectrum, I challenge you to get a new mirror and take a fresh look at yourself. Believe it or not, the way we perceive ourselves has a dramatic effect upon the health of our relationships.
As we gaze into our old mirrors, too often the reflections we see are clouded by the opinions of others, lies that we believe, or even false stories create to ease our own fears or anxieties. In contrast, our new mirrors will show us the reflection of Christ in us. We will see beauty in spite of flaws, opportunities for growth rather than shortcomings, and become intimately aware of the fact that we are continuously being shaped and formed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
With this revelation we are more equipped to exhibit the character of Christ in our relationships. Just as encountering Christ creates positive change in our lives, reflecting His image creates positive change in our relationships.
4. Color Outside the Lines
As children, most of us were taught to neatly color inside the lines. In most kindergarten classes students are given copies of the same picture, but granted the freedom to choose their own colors to create masterpieces that are unique and beautiful.
In the case of our relationships, I’d like to challenge the thought that staying inside the lines results in a work of art. Quite often we will have to push the boundaries placed upon us by society, those close to us, and sometimes even our own perceptions of how relationships should work.
Who says it’s not OK for Daddy to do things that Mommy usually does, and vice versa? Why can’t we come outside of our comfort zones to join our spouses in activities they enjoy, even if we typically wouldn’t participate? Why do we think our marriages have to function like anyone else’s to be “successful” and happy?
Relationships are made unique and beautiful by not only choosing the colors that fit us, but also by releasing ourselves from boundaries that stunt our creativity, and working as a couple to create the masterpiece that works for us.
5. Act Like a Child
As we know, children can be self-centered, impulsive, and prone to emotional outbursts; all characteristics that aren’t especially helpful in a relationship (I know from personal experience). However, children are also very honest, trusting, and forgiving.
How much more authentic would our relationships be if we always chose honest expressions of our thoughts, fears, and emotions? How much stronger would our relationships be if we fully trusted our spouses’ decisions? Can you imagine how intimately connected we would be with our spouses if forgiveness was a foundational principle of our relationships?
In Matthew 18, when the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, He presented a child before them and said, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” In the same vein, whoever acts like a child (honest, trusting, and forgiving) will have a great impact upon their relationship.
There are many other relationship tips that really work, but I can testify to the success these tips have created within my marriage. I think most of us are familiar with the saying, “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again, but expecting different results.” Strained relationships can become stronger and great relationships can become even greater!
Why not try something new and open the door to a relationship that is more loving and intimately connected than you could ever imagine!