Simple (?) marriage advice

Though my niche at Simple Mom is parenting teenagers, Tsh extended freedom to her contributors to deviate from our typical topics while she is on break this summer. I decided to take advantage of her offer, with one caveat:

This post isn’t for all readers; it’s written for those who are married.

Single moms, you are loved; this is no slight!  I know yours is a difficult, challenging road, having glimpsed single motherhood during a six-week work separation for me and my husband.

But this post is revised from a letter I wrote to encourage and advise young married moms, for the original Mother Letters Project.

It’s direct and candid, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m a little nervous to publish it here. But based on the previous response from women and men, it’s a message that could benefit at least a few of you in this broader audience.

To you, my dear mama friends ~

After 25 years of marriage, I know how difficult it can be to stay married at times.  We’ve had our share of highs and lows; when love was emotionally-charged and full of romance, but also when “love” was spelled c-o-m-m-i-t-m-e-n-t; when we didn’t like each other very much, even when I imagined being single was a better alternative.

But I believe God designed marriage as a forever thing, and I’m convinced that loving my husband well and modeling a healthy marriage is the best gift I can give my children.

We were together before we had kids, and if we’re careful and committed, we’ll be together when they’re on their own.  If you and I could visit over our favorite summer beverage, and the subject turned to marriage, these are the things I’d share with you:

Simple Marriage Advice

1.  Actively guard your marriage.

There’s danger in marital complacency, and if you aren’t careful, the little things can erode even the best of foundations. Issues can arise “overnight” that have actually been years in the making.  Become a life-long student of your partner; learn his love language and speak it often.

2.  The most common marriage advice is true.

Your spouse cannot read your mind; stop being angry or passive-aggressive when he doesn’t respond the way you think he should (tell him if it’s important to you).  Be clear about your needs and expectations, and be patient when he has trouble speaking your love language.  It often seems we are drawn to someone who’s the exact opposite of us; seek the complement, not the conflict in your differences.

3.  Don’t put yourself in compromising positions.

Early in my marriage, my mother-in-law shared how she decided never to be alone with another man, regardless of how harmless it seemed. I thought that was ridiculous at the time.  Looking back, having just witnessed some close friends’ marriage end because they didn’t follow this advice, I realize how wise my MIL was.

4.  Make sure your priorities are in order.

Your spouse must come before everything — your children, work, home, social networking and others. He’s got to know this by your actions, not your words.  Children are demanding, especially when they’re young; you’re needed to do everything for them.  It’s easy for your husband to be relegated to second place, a breeding place for confusion and resentment.  I know you’re tired; you aren’t recognized for all it takes to be a mom.  But always remember you’re a wife first.

5.  Give your spouse freedom of speech.

It’s so easy to be wounded by those we most love, but I urge you to allow your husband to talk about his struggles, to admit his thought-sins. This is difficult for most men; he needs to feel safe, that you won’t judge or reject him.  Sharing his heart will be cathartic.  This goes two ways; sharing your own struggles might open the door for him to do the same.

6.  Leave and cleave.

The “Leave” part: If you haven’t already, you need to put distance between you and your parents.  Ask your spouse if he thinks they’re too much a part of your lives (see #5, give him freedom to tell the truth!).  Don’t vent to them if you’re having trouble; tell a sibling, friend, journal or scream at God, but don’t tell them!  When you’re through that rough patch you might forget what you’ve told your parents, but they won’t.

Photo by firemedic58

The “Cleave” part: Contrary to popular thought, your physical relationship isn’t just about sex, it’s about intimacy.  I know sometimes you’re tired, and changing a tire is a more exciting proposition, but your husband needs to feel desired and needed; sexual expression is a large part of this.

Here’s a little practical advice from an old dog with sometimes new tricks:

By no means is this list exhaustive; for example, I didn’t bring faith into this conversation because of the diverse beliefs of Simple Mom readers (though, for us, our relationship with Christ is the most important thing in our marriage).  

And before anyone starts yelling at me about the husband’s responsibilities, because Simple Mom’s readership is largely women, I’m writing to women through the lens of my experience.  Men have a huge responsibility in nurturing their marriages, too, but since we can only change ourselves, I’m shying away from that conversation (for now – wink).  

And a last note?

Always keep in mind that you’re raising your children for someone else, not to keep at home.

That singular thought will help you to hold them loosely and to prioritize and esteem your spouse.

Is there any particular point that resonates with you? What marital advice would you add to this list?

Robin Dance

Married over half her life to her college sweetheart, Robin's guilty pleasure is Reddi Wip from the can. Mom to three, she's as Southern as sugar-shocked tea. Follow her on Twitter. Her beautiful new blog is a must-see.

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  1. “Always keep in mind that you’re raising your children for someone else, not to keep at home.” Wonderful advice!! My husband and I remind ourselves frequently that we are not just raising children, we’re raising people!
    I’ve seen too many marriages where the children are the center of the marriage. I’ve always had a huge problem with that mindset and my husband and I are conscious of this fact and take steps to keep each other before the children! With a 2-year-old and six-month-old it is HARD to do but possible.

    • Rachel,

      Marriage IS hard…parenting IS hard…but isn’t every good thing in life worth the struggle? How wise you are to see this NOW! At the ages of your children, this is a hugely demanding season where you HAVE to focus on them so intently. If you aren’t trying to keep your husband in mind, it’s so easy not to. Thank you for beginning this comment thread with an encouraging note :). (Funny, but after rereading it, I remember something MAJOR I forgot to include. Hmmmm….).


  2. Thank you for sharing this awesome truth. In the midst of newborn/toddler years, it’s easy to put my husband on the back burner of priorities. He’s my best friend and I need to treat him as such.

  3. What a great post! I have a 8 wk old and a 5 yr old and sometimes need to be reminded of these things! I have learned to pray a lot more for my husband and our relationship during the past few weeks. Trying to put him first even with little ones in the home… Thanks for the encouragement!!

    • Brooke,

      V e r y wise of you–the act of praying for your hubby and your relationship keeps it front and center; another way to help orient your thinking to esteem him :).

  4. Great post! Love the closing thought about how we are raising our children for someone else. These are all really good reminders and points I need to keep at the forefront of my mind. Thanks!

  5. Beth Gillespie says:

    This was such a good article. We have been married for 6 years and have three children under 5 – so much of our marriage has been about raising kids, establishing work and business, and serving in our church – we have been talking lots about making our marriage better, growing closer, and putting each other first.
    We are trying to work hard to “seek the complement and not the conflict” – which is hard when we are so different on politics (republican/democract), theology (conservative reformed/softer conservative!), raising kids, interests, etc! We often shake our heads at how different we are – learning how to appreciate each other, and support each other is such a challenge, but I was thinking last night that the way it forces us towards humility and sacrificial love, is a mercy – we are shaped and sanctified quicker (if we choose to love each other rightly) than if we always agreed, never had to give up the argument and always got to be right.
    Thanks for the encouragement x

    • Beth,

      Wow–we had been married 10 years when I had 3 children under five; I can’t imagine the additional stresses of doing that almost from the honeymoon…. I had to smile, though, reading your comment; y’all DO seem so opposite! All I can figure is what he has, you need, what you need, he has…together y’all are DYNOMITE, right? 🙂

  6. One I will add – praying for each other and praying together. Sometimes, in the midsts of day to day craziness, we forget to just stop, slow down and pray together. Something about this simple act brings us closer together as a couple.

    I would also add. . . never put down your spouse in front of your family/friends. (regardless of whether you think you are just “joking” or not) This is HUGE! Husbands need to know we respect them and we will quickly lose their respect if we are making him the constant butt of our jokes.

    • Two great ones, Brittnie; I’ll admit, we don’t pray together (just one on one, not including kids) enough. I think it would have changed a lOT of things through the years (namely ME!!).

      AND yes!!! Oh, my…nothing makes me hurt on the inside more than to hear a partner tearing down the other in front of people. I wonder how awful it must feel to the person :(.

  7. We’ve been married for nine years and it’s definitely hard work but so worth it. Communicating openly has been huge for us. I also think remembering the importance of priorities is a big one. We have a two-year old and it’s so easy to get so wrapped up in caring for her that our marriage takes second fiddle. My husband is also in the ministry so setting up proper boundaries on that front has been of utmost importance.

    • Steph,

      Yep, people who work in ministry are so vulnerable; those demands are 24/7. You nailed it by stating the need for boundaries. SO important to do that BEFORE issues arise!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. My husband and I have always had a wonderful “freedom of speech” policy and it’s been the best thing ever for our marriage. It’s so amazing to feel safe confessing sin and failure to one another. Thank you also for all the reminders about things I already know are important to my husband. It really is all to easy to forget them in the midst of the young-child years!

  9. What a great post! And very timely for my husband and I. Today is our 7th wedding anniversary (and 13th year together anniversary). I think that this is all great advice. I sometimes forget that my husband can’t read my mind, especially since we have been together for so long 🙂 But, have recently been trying to take a couple steps back to observe the situation with different eyes.

  10. These are all great points! I have been married just over 17 yrs now and I would say the biggest thing I have learned is that it is the little things that count because they build up into big things. This can go for both positive things, like sticking love notes in his lunch or better yet sharing his lunch hour with him, as well as negative, wrong attitudes and harsh words. Take time to build more positive little things than negative and you will soon find your marriage on the road to becoming the best thing.

  11. I always love reading posts on marriage. I’m nearing my fifth year of marriage with my husband and with one child and another on the way, a lot of your advice rings true for me. We’re not the same people or couple when we married five years ago but change isn’t necessarily bad as long as we still value and hold each other high. Thanks for your post!

  12. So many families seem to revolve around the children and their need/wants/lives in general. My mother once made me leave her house when we were visiting because I said that I loved my husband more than my children.

    Of course I love my children with all my heart – but – my role as a mother is to raise them to eventually leave me and cleave to their own spouse. If I make them the center of my life and my top priority, what happens when they are ready to “leave and cleave”? I would be lost an heartbroken that I spent all these years making them my only priority only to have them leave me. I will put all that energy instead into making my marraige one that will last – knowing that a happy healthy marraige is he best enviroment to raise happy, healthy children.

    • Jennifer G says:

      My son is very competitive (he’s 4) and he’s always asking me if I love him more than Papa (what he calls his daddy). I try to turn it around as much as I can and say Papa and I love you the same…like I didn’t understand the question. But I have had to tell him a few times that I love them the same amount just in different ways and that I have to love his dad “more” because when he grows up and has a wife and family, that his dad and I will still have to know how to be together and love each other (I have to be careful with that though because he doesn’t understand why he would ever not be living with us, and the first time I brought it up, he cried. A LOT). And while my husband and I don’t get as much time together as we would like, we try to show our son that we really love him but we need private time together without him. For example, I try to talk to my husband while he is in the shower and getting ready for work in the mornings, while our son is occupied with breakfast and toys or a cartoon.

  13. Amen!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this truth. It is so often we hear the things we should already know, yet don’t follow our thoughts. Raising kids is a very challenging task in a marriage and it is so easy to forget we are HUSBAND and WIFE. Thank you again for reminding me of I am not just a parent.

  15. Robin, from a single mum, thank-you for being brave and sharing your heart. Every single thing you wrote about I learnt after my divorce, and whilst it’s too late for me and the marriage I had to heed your advice, I am so grateful that there is someone courageous enough to promote these counter-cultural ideas.

  16. Mary Ann says:

    Good article! Thanks for posting.

  17. Love this. I’ve been in a marriage from hell, was a single mom for two years, and now I’m married to my gift from God, the man of my dreams, and more than anything I want us to live happily ever after.

  18. Great ideas! As a mother of six (20 yrs., 17, 16, 14, 12 and 10 yr. olds) no matter how hard it was when everyone was small and I had 4 in car seats, it get so much more hectic when they are teens. You are pulled in so many directions as they are all going their own way with sports, jobs, friends, etc. How I wish they were all toddlers again, and we were together as a family.

  19. A timely reminder—thanks!

  20. All good advice that we need to be reminded of all the time! The intimacy/sex book referrals are good ones. I think we’ve read all but one. Together. So important. I think people side-step this topic way too much.

  21. Tamra Krohn says:

    Thank you. Great post. I so needed that this morning.

    God Bless.

  22. Great post! Always good to hear advice on marriage. It can a. Hallenge at times. We have sought marriage counseling as well and that has helped us understand how to communicate better.

    We pray together every night, even when it is 2 am. You always need God ;). Thanks girl!

  23. I just wrote about this very topic on my blog last week. DH and I hit our 10 year anniversary and it got me thinking about how I had NO CLUE what I was getting into when I walked down the aisle. You THINK you know, but the reality is that marriage is exactly as you said–sometimes great, sometimes not so great–it takes serious commitment. I especially liked the comment about DHs needing to see our bodies. Never really thought about that, but it’s true.

  24. Robin, loved this post. I wish I had it 10 years ago when I was clueless and resentful, not giving and compassionate when we needed it most. Fortunately, my wise husband helped steer us forward and we have a strong relationship. Most important lesson – your spouse doesn’t read your mind. It’s important to communicate how you appreciate him and what troubles you. Huge resentments spring from this. Other big lesson – making your marriage the center of your world – social life included. Parents, siblings, friends come after keeping this relationship strong. That goes for confiding. Many things in your marriage should stay between you and your spouse unless you really need advice before bringing it up with your husband. Otherwise keep it between you two.

  25. Katie K. says:

    Do you or your readers have any recommendations for books that are not religious in nature? I’ve been reading your blog for two years or more, but I am starting to feel out of place because it seems to be increasingly tangled up with your faith. Please remember that some of your readers are from very different religious backgrounds. I want to keep reading, but feel alienated.

    • Jennifer G says:

      Katie, are you looking specifically for books about marriage? It is a bit old and cliche’d but Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, really helped shed some light on our relationship when my husband and I were engaged but not yet married. Tsh is on vacation so she may not be able to respond to your question for a while.

      • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an excellent book that has little/no religious angle. This book can not only with communicating love to your spouse, but also to your children, other family members, and friends.

    • Though I am a Christian, I read a lot of literature that isn’t “Christian” and find that there are many lessons to be learned even though we don’t share the same faith. For example, I find a lot of value in many Buddhist writings but view those nuggets of wisdom from my own faith paradigm.

      I don’t have any marriage books to recommend but would suggest that if you find content of value at SimpleMom, keep reading. Keep what you like and throw out the rest.

    • Hey Katie,

      I’m Robin, author of this post, not Tsh (Simple Mom) herself. I tried so hard not to make this too “religious” (I’m not a fan of that word but can’t figure out how else to express it) so it WOULDN’T alienate people outside the Christian faith but I hadn’t thought about that relative to the book list.

      I don’t think “His Needs/Her Needs,” Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. is faith based. I read it a LONG time ago,can’t recall much, but I do remember thinking it was good at the time; at least pick it up and thumb through it to see what you think. Also, regardless of faith, I still think Shaunti Feldhahn’s “For Women Only” is an important book based on the insight into how a man thinks. And though it’s not a marriage book per se, and it IS faith based, “The Five Love Languages” was extremely helpful into understanding how differently we give and receive love. (Not trying to pressure you, but after 25 years of marriage I can still attest to how helpful those books have been to me in negotiating some of those harder seasons and marriage in general.)

      Though I can’t speak for her, I know Tsh strives for Simple Mom to be a helpful parenting resource; she’s assembled a wonderful group of talented authors and hopefully the value you receive will keep you coming back despite not every post being your favorite. Thanks for engaging in this comment thread; I DO hope you find some benefit :).

    • Katie- I second the suggestion on The Five Love Languages – regardless of your faith I think you would find the book eye opening – it was IMMENSELY helpful for my marriage (we both read it). Also “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love” was like a mini marriage counseling session for me every day. May sound corny but that book nailed me every morning and really turned my attitude around to how my husband and I could “complement and not conflict.”

    • suzanne says:

      I like everything I’ve read by David Schnarch. Definitely not Christian, in fact I expect most Christians would find his language/content offensive. He does address spirituality in a marriage/sex relationship but it is a whole-person approach rather than a specific religion.

  26. Jennifer G says:

    My husband and I had been independently married for 10 years when we had our son. At that point, I suffered from post-partum depression and my husband was having trouble with anxiety, in part due to my unexpected ppd, but other factors contributed as well. As a result we made the mistake of turning to his parents for help. Now almost 5 years later (and pregnant with baby #2) we are in the extremely difficult position of extricating our family from their smothering parenting of us and our child(ren). It is not a position I would recommend anyone put themselves or their family in. If we had it to do over again, we would do things very differently.

  27. I appreciate the advice! I’m engaged to be married this coming January, but I’ll be instant mom to his 8 yr old daughter. I’m trying to get all the good advice I can in advance – why learn the hard way if I don’t have to. 🙂 We’re already learning in our courtship to share everything without filters or judgement, and it helps that we’ve realised our individual as well as shared love languages. Hopefully I’ll get more fluent in his as time goes on, and that I’ll remember the priorities – God, husband, kids, church, others…

  28. Amen, amen, and amen. I LOVED everything you had to say about marriage here. I think I’m going to print this out and read over it every day 🙂 Thank you for reminding us that husbands are supposed to come FIRST (before kids!) – so contrary to popular culture but so true. We have a 2 year old and a 7-week old, so it’s not the easiest time in our marriage. Please know God has used you and your wise words this morning to remind me of some very, very important truths.

    • Michele L says:

      Please dont say that we are supposed to put our husbands first before our children. This may work for some families but not all. It is not a rule or law. What works for some families, does not work for others. There is not just 1 way, like if you dont follow these rules you wont have a successful marriage. My husband and i have a better marriage than all my friends and a lot of people i know, and we put our son’s needs before our own. When my husband gets home from work, he gives our son a kiss and hug before me, i wouldnt have it any other way, and he feels the same way. We have a great relationship, we talk, communicate our feelings, spend alone time together. But we still feel that our family time is equally important as our alone time together and we make sure our lives arent filled with much extra stuff , so that we do have time to have that balance. So to say that it is a must to put our spouses first is absolutely incorrect. Every married couple makes the choice what works best for their marriage.

      • I agree Michele, I know a lot of families who admit to loving their spouse more than the children and a lot of families who are the opposite. I think it’s about being honesty in those moments. I was honest with my husband very early on when we had our first son that I loved our child more than him. It wasn’t easy to do,but it was honest. I don’t love him less than I did before children, in fact I love my husband deeper than before we had children.

        The opposite is hard to grasp for each of those families, but I offer a compromise:
        Before children a husband and wife are asked to “give their selves” to their marriage. So at the end of a long day you only had to decide between those two things. But when children become a part of it (and particularly young or special needs children who do need more attention) we must relearn how to “give our selves” between the person, the spouse and the children. I think it’s more important to remember to put your spouse before yourself always than to pit the spouse and the children against each other – it’s as simple as saying “the kids are finally in bed. do I go turn on the movie I’ve been wanting to watch or do i – pick up the toys, turn down the bed, clean up the kitchen, make sure my husband/wife doesn’t go to bed alone, surprise the spouse with desert or a glass of wine or whatever little thing makes your spouse a little happier” before choosing yourself.

  29. So much great advice! I have been married for 14 years to my 2nd husband, but wish I had had this information the first time I married. I especially appreciate your advice not to share your troubles with your parents because they will NEVER forget even if you have! Several others mentioned not badmouthing your spouse to others, and I heartily agree! You need to discuss it with your spouse in order for things to be resolved.
    I think it would be a great service to write something along these lines for engaged couples. If more people knew these bits of wisdom going into marriage, I think the the divorce rate could greatly be reduced.

  30. Why did this one quote in your article make doubt my decision to homeschool this year~
    Always keep in mind that you’re raising your children for someone else, not to keep at home.
    I have prayed and struggled with this decision for weeks now. I want to make sure I am making a sound decision for HER, not ME. Why is this giving me second thoughts. I know you don’t know me but just thought reaching out might spur some sort of encouragement.
    Thanks for the post~ I have taken a lot of it to heart.

  31. Johanna S. says:

    I want to put my husband first but what does that look like in a practical sense? We have a 3 yr old & 5 month old. All day long, I’m fixing meals, breastfeeding, changing diapers, or taking someone to the potty. When my husband gets home, I’m finally able to break free & throw something together for dinner. Then we divide & conquer baths & bedtime. Usually, my baby fights going down for the night until 11:30 or so. By that time, I collapse in bed until around 7:30 the next morning, when my 3yr old wakes up & the whole cycle begins again. Other than a few minutes here & there, there is zero time to spend together, especially since he leaves for work by 6am each morning. It’s not that I disagree that he should come first, it’s just posts like this make me feel like I’m doing something wrong when I feel like all we’re all just in survival mode day after day. I appreciate any advice.

    • I think each day is a matter of survival and that is the kind of the way it is for awhile. The only advice I can offer as fellow mom to young ones (ages 6,4, and 2) is that we made it a goal to get our kids in bed by 7:30 PM when they were about three months old so we could have time to ourselves in the evening. It was exhausting at times, I had to seek advice from their doctor (my son had some sleep issues), and we had plenty of setbacks. I treasured (and still do!) that time after they go to bed to spend with my husband. Even if some nights it’s just a half hour or so. BTW – I followed some of the principles in the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child to get my kids to go to bed at a decent hour.

    • Beth B. says:

      Johanna, it sounds like you are doing the best you can. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself at this stage of life… like you said, you’re in survival mode. Frankly, at that stage in my life, I didn’t have anything left to give. I don’t have any advice except to keep perspective that it’s just a stage and it will pass.

    • I have been where you are, and I can tell you that this stage of your life will feel long while you are in it, but short once it’s gone. Practically speaking, try once a week to do something small to show him love: A 5 minute shoulder rub, a note in his lunch, a candlelit dessert after the kids are in bed (store bought dessert works great), fix his favorite dinner, thank him for working hard at his job. I second the advice on trying to get an earlier bedtime routine for the baby, it makes a world of difference.

  32. Just want to say this is wonderful advice and definitely speaks to me.

  33. I like the advice of never putting yourself in compromising situations. My husband and I are very legalistic about this one – he won’t even drive alone with a woman. People think we are peculiar, but this is such a help to us and I fully trust him because of it. (He works with people all day long, travelling around seeing all kinds, but he is always sure to make provision for this.)

  34. Johanna says:

    Good advice, as far as I can tell (4 years late summer).

    I want to argue one point, though. Your spouse comes before your children.
    I disagree. For my husband and me, our children come first, if they truly need it. Because we are grown-ups and are able to talk through a hard time of need. Our children are not, since they are quite young. This might chance when they grow older.

    • I agree with you, Joanna.
      I’ve been married over 10 years.
      And when the children need it (which is often the younger they are) they do have to come first sometimes.
      I think the husband coming first is a cop-out sometimes, because even an immature husband is easier to take care of than a ‘easy’ newborn.
      I think advice like the husband always comes first can lead moms to ignore their maternal instinct, leading to choices they never wanted that are harmful for their kids.

      If you’re looking for a different viewpoint, here’s some of Crystal Lutton’s posts on marriage:

      For a male perspective on marriage issues, I like this blog:

  35. Johanna says:

    (I wasn´t done writing… )

    My husband and I decided, the one who needs the most, gets attention. That might be a child or one of us.
    Above that, he and I enjoy each others company. Even when we argue and fight, below that is always the feeling of belonging and wanting to have the other one in ones life.
    So, there is no danger of losing each other over that.
    In summary, I would argue the point to slavishly put your husband first. It is a matter of talking about the things, of whose needs are greatest at the moment and about the commitment to talk.

    • Rebecca says:

      I used to feel this exact same way in the earlier years of our marriage. How I used to hate hearing my husband say something like “You were my wife before they arrived, and you will be my wife when they are gone. You might want to remember that.” Now, 21+ years later, as much as I hate that I was wrong, I realize this advice is not only healthy and true, but very very brave to offer. Maybe it is because I have matured. I don’t know. I just know that somehow, someway, I have come to learn the realest, best way to love my children first is to honor their father, my husband, above them. Doesn’t make much logical sense, but it’s true. How I wish I had been wiser and received wise advice such as this in the early years. What peace it would have brought to our home! Our children would have been blessed so much more had I made their father a greater priority.

  36. Great insight. Thanks for sharing this!

  37. Oh wow, such a great post! It was so timely, and very touching. I think so many people forget that marriage is hard WORK, you have to work at it, it doesn’t just truck along on its own.

    We’ve been married for 10 years, and we have a nine year old, and we homeschool, so it’s extremely difficult for me to remember to put my husband first at times. With a business of my own I’m building, his being in the Navy for almost eight years and never being home, and his rotating 12+ hour shifts, it can be so difficult to remember this.

    I recently enacted a “let’s sit on the patio and look out at the lake and the fireflies and chat” rule after he gets home from work. We can’t always do it, but it’s really helped. I think I wasn’t putting him first and he definitely noticed.

    And that last statement: heavy.

    Thanks for sharing.

  38. Thanks for posting this!! Great insight! I would also add to your book list Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Not only did this book help my husband and I tremendously (we did not read it together–I read it about three years after he did–wish I wouldn’t have waited!!), but it addresses some of the leave & cleave issues. It helps people realize how their childhood and own parents affects their marriage and he gives you tools on how to make peace with the struggles of your past. Even if you had a somewhat “normal” childhood, it still is very helpful and everyone can relate to it.

  39. You’ve scored with this one robin! All I can say is “Amen!” and “gulp…” We’ve been married a long time, and I already know all of what you wrote to be true, but it’s still hard to practice some of it. You give me hope and inspiration!

  40. Hoo-ah! My husband and I celebrate 20 years in January, and I wish we’d had this advice 15 years ago. Beautifully thought out and written.

  41. Kudos!!!! Sound advice for any wife/mom at any stage of their marriage.
    And that last note? Amen sista!!!

  42. Wow. Thank you. We’ve been married three years, and have a two-year-old high needs son, and you’ve told me several things I needed to hear.
    “Always keep in mind that you’re raising your children for someone else, not to keep at home.”
    We both put our son first always. And it’s wearing on us. I knew we needed to find more time for each other, but it needs to be a much higher priority than I thought.

    And like an above poster, we have needed to lean on both our parents for a lot of support since our son was born. Far more than we ever expected or intended or are quite comfortable with, especially since neither of us were close with our parents beforehand. I think we’re ready for a re-evaluation of that position.

    Thanks for the perspective on some things I wasn’t seeing.

  43. I enjoyed reading this, after being married for 11yrs I can relate and was reminded of needing to put my husband first before our kids, before my need for times with girl-friends etc. One thing that came to mind as a word of advice that was given to me right around the time I got married was to “bless and not curse”. I have experienced it, and seen it in others time and time again where we nit-pick at all the things we might see wrong or wish we could change or are frustrated that he doesn’t do, and it just destroys intimacy and eventually can destroy a marriage. So instead of dwelling on all the faults of my hubby or comparing him to a friend’s husband who washes dishes, I choose to write a list of things I love that my husband does for me. It isn’t very often that he washes dishes, but he does do ALOT of things for our family. So “bless and not curse, build up – don’t tear down”

  44. “Now in my 40s and having given birth three times, my body isn’t the same body TO ME that he fell in love with, but it is to him.”

    This brought tears to my eyes. Now in my 30’s, having given birth to four in five years, currently going through hormonal issues, and being 65 lbs heavier due to it all… I can’t help but constantly think to myself that I am not the same body he fell in love with, and how could he possibly even slightly like it. Thank you for the reminder to trust him and believe him when he tells me that I am more beautiful to him today than I was the day he married me. It does harm to the marriage (not just my self esteem) when I mentally insist that I am old, fat, and ugly.

    Thank you for your candid-ness.

  45. Kolyssa says:

    I am getting married in less than 4 weeks, and this blog post has been a very insightful read for me. I learned a lot of things that I simply never even thought of before! I bookmarked it and I will definitely come back and remind myself of this advice in the future. Thank you!

  46. I adore this post, Robin.

    I think the best advice we received as a couple came from my aunt the summer before we were married. She said to wake up every day & decide to be married, to decide to love each other. That sometimes it would be as easy as breathing & other days it would feel like a heavy, active choice. But to keep making it every day for the rest of your lives.

    Also, I completely agree with you on the intimacy part, which a lot of folks don’t agree with. Oddly enough, I often feel judged when I mention that I wear pretty pajamas & lingerie to bed after six years of marriage – people respond with, “eh, it doesn’t matter anymore & I’m a mom & this is just what he gets.” But to me & to my husband, it does matter. But men are just different from women – they just are. & I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge the differences.

  47. LOVE this post… As a woman getting married in just 3 weeks, I’ve been doing all I can to prepare myself for a happy and healthy Christian marriage. I’ve already got the books you suggested ordered! Can’t wait… Thanks for being so frank and open about it all! You’re FABULOUS!

  48. Wonderful, wonderful advice. One of those “duh” lists that we all forget sometimes. We had a wonderful pastor who stressed #3 and it has stuck with my husband and me. My sweet husband doesn’t even like to go to lunch with his co-workers if he will be the only guy. It’s just such a simple way to help insulate yourself from those dangers to marriage. Love all of this list!!!

  49. I realize this is a space to support women, and I applaud your writing efforts, but this is awful advice. I’m not sure how you can, in good conscience, write a piece–and release it into the blogosphere–that places the responsibility for a successful marriage squarely onto the shoulders of wives. Yes, I read your quip that “I’m writing to women through the lens of my experience. Men have a huge responsibility in nurturing their marriages, too, but since we can only change ourselves, I’m shying away from that conversation (for now – wink)”–however, as a Christian wife, I simply must point out how irresponsible this is. Wear sexy underwear and get naked for your husband? These are among your top 6 tips for a successful marriage? For many Christian women who feel their needs (or even desires) relegated to second place, this is *not* the advice for them to read. The young women I talk with who feel overburdened by the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood (and that their needs can’t/shouldn’t come anywhere near the top of anyone’s list), would be further damaged by reading this article. Whether you’re addressing a primarily female audience or not, it is simply irresponsible to put out a piece like this. You may be blessed to have been married 25 years and counting, and may God grant you and your husband many more anniversaries, but please be mindful of the perspectives of young wives and mothers who may be hurt by writing like yours.

  50. You’ve penned a wonderful article, Robin. Thank you for sharing. The particular phrase that grabbed my attention, probably because it is the action I need to embrace the most is “seek the complement, not the conflict in your differences.” Blessings.

  51. It’s my anniversary today, so I doubly appreciate this wonderful advice. #4 is so very wise, and so easy to forget. Thank you.

  52. Although this is a nice post….I think it is even more simple yet, more challenging in some ways. I think it boils down to you are NOT a “wife first”…you are a woman! If you focus on being a happy, healthy and passionate woman, you will be a great wife and mother by default. You will not find yourself in compromising positions or not engaging with your children and husband. It is too easy to lose ourselves to being wives and mothers……just be great women! Married for 10 years with three little girls…

  53. As always your words are encouraging and thought provoking. thank you for risking the post!!
    I need this – dealing with keeping too much to myself and NOT asking for help and expecting some kind of mind reading…
    this human thing stinks sometimes!
    Many many blessings!

  54. Thank you for this. You reminded me of some very important things; things God has been convicting me of but I haven’t allowed myself to truly repent of and change. Praying for the strength to take down the walls between my husband and I – to open myself up to him and be vulnerable again. I’m just so afraid of being disappointed again, of feeling like he doesn’t care or want to understand. But just because he doesn’t always have the right words to say doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.

  55. Solid advice here. Glad you shared it here. As we are going through Gift from the Sea on my blog this summer, we happen to be wading in the waters of relationship in chapter 4 this week. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote that the beginning of a relationship is “like the artist’s vision before he has to discipline it into form, or like the flower of love before it has ripened to the firm but heavy fruit of responsibility” and that “…somehow, we mistakenly feel that failure to maintain its exact original pattern is tragedy…. It moves to another phase of growth which one should not dread, but welcome as one welcomes summer after spring” (57-58). While we sometimes get to feel that tingly, magical butterfly sensation, our real focus is our job of working together and blessing the people around us through our union. After the initial spark of love, instead of staying in our own little world, we turn outward and serve together, deepening love. I think many women mistakenly believe that romantic feeling is the substance of relationship, when it is really just an accessory.

  56. This is seriously fantastic, Robin! More more more of this stuff -write more! :)#YouKnowWhatIMean Ms. Dance

  57. The best advise I was ever given was from my MIL she said this to me before we got married. “Marriage is the hardest job you will ever have” She said this because she knew I was a single mother of two girls and that I had it rough already but didn’t want me to think that getting married was going to make my life easier. Let me just say she was so right. Having a blended family was most of the time more difficult than being a single mom. I love my husband and truly appreciate the blessing of him being in my life and the lives of my children. My husband’s parents have been married for over 40 years and his grandparents were married for over 60 years before grandma passed. I feel very lucky to have married someone who cherishes marriage and the vows we made even when I feel like throwing in the towel he just loves me through it. We just celebrated 10 years together and we now have 2 children together as well as my previous two, even though my oldest daughter fought him through it all she knows she is lucky to have him in her life as he has loved her even when she hated him. Everyday I am thankful that I waited and married my best friend cause I know he is the only one for me and so thankful that we met and grew the way we did. He is a very special man to take me the way I was and just love me through my difficult times.

  58. This is wonderful advice! I wish more newlyweds got this kind of straight forward marriage advice. I’ll definitely be sharing this article! Thank you!

  59. Dear Robin,
    What a beautiful post, thank you! I have been trying very hard to choose my words wisely — and not just spill criticism or the negative stuff all over my husband. Easier said than done at times, as those to whom you are closest, are almost always the ones that bear the majority of our emotions. : ). We do need to guard our marriages and cherish them everyday. And also guard our thoughts so that they uplift rather than tear down our spouses so that our words will then follow suit– I have to be especially on guard after a poor night’s sleep : )! Thank you again! You have helped me and countless other wives, thank you!
    Sincerely, Elizabeth Lane

  60. Robin, thank you so much for this list of advice from your experience. I’ve been married 5 years, we have a 1 and half y/o daughter and another due in a month. This is a very timely post for me to read (thank you Lord). The reminders, no matter how often I hear them, are so helpful (#1, 2, 4, 5 and 6)! #3 is somewhat new to me. I’ve heard a variation of advice from it, but it pricked my heart as I read it here because it made me think about my past prior to being married. Being married, it’s easy to think that harmless situations are truely harmless, but with a pre-married past like mine (or perhaps for anyone for that matter), I don’t think there’s a truely harmless situation with that. So good to be reminded to be careful INTENTIONALLY!! I also really appreciate all the resources you listed in #6. Thank you for that! Physical intimacy is so important to men in a way that’s different for women and I feel like I’ve still been trying to wrap my head around it in understanding their perspective. I will definitely look into those resources. Thanks again for your candid-ness!

  61. Thank you for this post. I think I’m going to print out the list. Reminders are often needed when I read an excellent post, meditate on it….then “the daily routine” sets in and so does forgetfulness.

    What struck me most, was #4 Make Sure Your Priorities are in Order. I was a wife first but I don’t think I act like it. Matter of fact I think that my priorities are often scrambled up from day to day. That is my opinion, after reading this post I wonder what my husband would say. I don’t think he would feel he sits in first place often. Thank you for showing laying out the order of things.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this will strengthen our marriage, and eventually our kids.

  62. Thanks so much for the honesty and wisdom you share! This is great!

  63. Fantastic post, Robin! Hearing that I’m not the only one who has thought that being single would be better than the hard times in marriage puts my mind at ease. And especially hearing it from someone who has been married many more years than I have is encouraging! I really need to work on putting my husband first. It is so easy to put my daughters needs ahead of his, but I know that maintaining our marriage is the most important thing I can do for all of us. Thanks for going out on a limb and sharing your heart with us!

  64. Absolutely brilliant post, particularly the points about sex and not putting yourself in the way of temptation. These are two of the biggest issues I see with couples today.

  65. i really thought this was a great post. with 5 kids ranging from 8 to 2 months it is very hard to practically put my husband first! i believe it is very important though and try to set my heart towards him every day.

    we are also in full-time ministry and the very valid needs around us have in the past caused us to often push our time together to later. i found myself getting resentful of this. now we have a weekly date night, rarely with a babysitter, where no matter what we spend time together that night on a “date” and ministry, kids, friends, family, events… nothing gets priority first on that night (often the kids just go to bed early and we stay up late and bake cookies together, watch a movie, play a game, etc). i have hurt girlfriends feelings from turning down party invites on that night, but after 10 years of marriage, and having quite a few friends married the same amount of time around us getting divorced, i want to put my husband first now more than ever.

    i struggle with many of these points and it is good to have a reminder of what i want in our marriage.

  66. I’m totally with you until the “Leave” part – this might be great advice for certain families with parents with certain types of personalities, but it might not be right for everyone.

    My mother is my best friend and in just 5 years (particularly after weathering a horrible bought of Antepartum or during pregnancy depression and my parents opening their home to us and our new baby so we could save for a house) they have helped us out so much just simply by being there for us. I also believe that if you’re parents/extended family are good, wholesome people who good rolemodels for children then you should encourage them to have an active part of your family life. I’m not saying they should be over everyday or have dibs on every weekend or holiday. But with the right parents/in-laws (again, there are some that deserve distance due to bad personalities or behavior) can mean the world of difference from being comfortable or overwhelmed, especially in those first years of marriage or when your children are young.

    By assuming that you must “leave and cleave” 100% you are potentially putting up a wall in front of a huge network of support and lets admit it sometimes our parents still have the ability to look at things objectively. In fact whenever I have a huge complaint about married life my mother often takes my husbands side first making me look at my often petty complaints from his point of view and that’s worked wonders for us!

    • P.s. to recap what I wrote in another response. I think it’s too much to pit our husbands vs. our children – we’re talking about different needs and different types of love (maternal love for a child can be completely different than the womanly love of a husband). I think we need to remember that it’s the question of our overcoming our love for our selves. When the kids are a sleep and well cared for we should (wives and husbands) think of what they can do to show their love for the other before choosing themselves – even it’s as simple as turning down the bed or picking up the toys in the hallways so your spouse doesn’t have to do it. Not that I’m saying we should loose ourselves completely, to the point where depression or ill health comes into play, but rather wives and husbands should think of each continually – one of the best ways we do this is by taking our son for “mommy” or “daddy” time for an hour or two so the other can have their own quiet time; in the end we’ve cared for our child (the ultimate culmination of ourselves), shown love by putting our spouse before our self and given the other precious time to be themselves.

  67. It’s easy for your husband to be relegated to second place, a breeding place for confusion and resentment. I know you’re tired; you aren’t recognized for all it takes to be a mom.

  68. Thank you for this post. It’s helpful on it’s own… but I mostly benefited from all the resources and links you added.
    So far I have only had time to taste a bit of “Love & Respect”, but that in itself has been potentially life changing. =)

    Thank you.

  69. “Don’t put yourself in compromising positions”
    I just thought I’d share something interesting with you.
    In the observant Jewish world (of which I am a part of) there are laws that do not allow men and women that are not spouses, grandparents, brothers or sister, either spend time alone with one another in a closed place nor …get this…to touch one another unless you are married or a brother, sister, or parent. This makes marriages a lot easier to work on without these outside distractions.

  70. Robin, I loved this the first time I read it and still love it. This is so true and guess what? We all need reminders from time to time and tonight was a perfect night. Thanks! {{hugs}}

  71. Mamminadiquattro says:

    I have never, never commented on a blog post before ( and I read several! ) , but Oh My! did this resonate very strongly with me!! What wonderful and inspirational thoughts…truer words were never spoken! I will be happily married 20 years in October and have 4 children, 16, 15, 11 and 4 years old. The one that resonates the most with me is #4 about prioritizing your husband above all. I received such flak for this when I expressed this to inlaws over 20 years ago! But your point is so very true! After the children are grown and out of the house, do you still turn and “cleave” to each other as you did when you first began your relationship? Are you still each other’s best friend? Have you taken care of the two of you all these years? How very important is this message to young and old married women and men. Treasure each other always, especially during the difficult times. You will be grateful you did. Thank you for sharing this-I am immediately sharing with my sisters AND my husband!

  72. I love the wedding advice you gave here. Since, I am not yet married I will definitely keep the learning I got from here. Your inspired me about relationship of the two individuals and I really like it. I love romance and it is important to follow this advice.

  73. Wow, thanks for the great article! We sometimes find it hard too and it’s only been 4 years, not 25! It’s not all the roses and “fluff” it was at the beginning, but that’s because it’s real life and children and schedules…etc! BUT the work to keep your relationship healthy is definately worth the payoff you get! Good point too that men are visual creatures and whether we like it or not, sometimes a little light has to come into the bedroom! LOL
    Thanks for the advice and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  74. Hi Robin!
    What an amazing article you have here. Thanks for these simple advices, they looks easy to apply too. I’ve also found a site that does marriage advice, you can check it if you like. 🙂

  75. Great post i enjoy reading it. I especially like the idea to allow your husband to express himself. This is important as too often a break down in many marriages start with a break down in communication

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