40 Promising Ways to Improve Your Marriage
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional/expert, nor am I a counselor. I also don’t know the deep, dark details of your marriage. If there is any abuse, infidelity, or other severe dysfunction present in your marriage, please seek help immediately.
Y’all. I thought I had tried it all. Made his favorite meals. Put on some sexy lingerie. Did the ironing. I was very verbal and clear about what I needed from him. I set up date nights and hinted that he should reciprocate. I encouraged him to be more involved with the kids. I learned his “love language” and made it my goal to perform acts of service for him on the daily.
I made working on our marriage my full-time hobby.
I thought I was doing everything I could to improve our marriage. And failing hard. Because nothing seemed to work.
Have you ever felt like you were rowing a boat with one oar?
Y’all. Turns out, not only was I misguided in my efforts, but I had no actual idea what I was doing. And–get this–I found out that it didn’t have to be as difficult as it seemed.
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I HAD TO FACE A HARD TRUTH
It took me quite a bit of prayer, reading, and optimally-timed conversations with my husband to learn that my husband doesn’t actually need what I think he does.
In my (sometimes admittedly self-centered) attempts to love my husband, I was driven by my own desires. I wanted appreciation, so I made his favorite meals. I craved attention, so I put on lingerie and hinted about date nights. I desired more family time, so I used my words to nag, coax, and pretty much manipulate him into coming home earlier from work.
In praying for insight into my husband’s needs, God showed me some deep, dark crevices in my heart that needed healing. Pride. Anger. Bitterness. Selfishness. All things I needed to admit and turn away from so that God could do what He does best–what I couldn’t do all on my own effort.
The only thing left for me to do was to let go of my desires and expectations–and to let God love me the way I wanted to be loved. God wanted me to see that He is my Source, my Provider, and the only one who can love me the way I want to be loved.
Today’s world puts a lot of emphasis on self-love and self-centered love. We have come to expect our spouse/partner to meet our needs, and we strive to meet their needs as well.
Some of the most popular marriage and relationship books out there teach us how to meet each other’s needs. One of my favorite relationship tools–The Five Love Languages–offers plenty of ideas to help you effectively love your favorite people.
But, what happens when we inevitably drop the ball? If our ability to feel loved depends on someone else’s efforts, we can easily default to score-keeping. When we don’t feel loved, we withhold love, and this cycle is lethal to a relationship. So–what do we do?
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LOVING FROM THE OVERFLOW
The truth is–we can’t give someone else what we don’t already have. We can only love effectively if we ourselves know that we are already loved. We love others better and more fully from an overflow of love.
What that means for your marriage is that you can love your husband more effectively once you understand that God loves you more and better than anyone else ever can or will. In order to change your marriage, your understanding of love has to be transformed.
For me, that meant digging into the Word to find out how God loves me. And talking things through with a counselor to identify any holes in my love bucket. For many of you, it will mean laying the same groundwork.
Once I began to take my holey bucket to my heavenly Father to heal and fill on a regular basis, God gave me insight on how to love my husband through inspired conversations with my husband and resources He led me to.
As a result, I’m able to love my husband more fully without depleting myself and without feeling gypped or jaded–because I know who my true Source and chief love bucket-filler actually is.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
The longer you are married, the greater the potential to rack up offenses, which will harden your heart toward your husband. It’s easy to say you’ve forgiven and let stuff go, but every marriage has its own share of minefields. You know–the idiosyncrasies that are annoying on a good day, and have the potential to cause an explosion on the worst.
And some marriages hold deeper issues. Some of you are facing a rift between you and your husband. Some of you, like myself, carry heavy, hardened hearts.
You’re tired of fighting. Tired of crying. Tired of hoping. Tired of trying.
For the woman who is just about done, for my fellow marriage-fixers, I hate that you feel this way. I understand that it’s hard. You have worked SO hard on it, and it might seem hopeless.
If I could, I would reach through your phone or your monitor and give you a hug. But since I can’t do that, I want you to know that the old adage “less is more” can absolutely apply to your marriage. How you apply this will depend on your marriage and your husband’s unique personality, so please don’t take my word for it– ask God for insight. I am merely sharing some things I learned as I would with a girl friend over coffee, hopeful that this information will help someone else.
But–you need to know that if you are in that dark place, none of this is going to be easy. You’re not going to feel like praying. Pray anyway. If your prayer is nothing more than a heaving sob, that is more than enough. It’s going to take time for you to see the fruits of your labor. I can almost guarantee that you will question your effort, and possibly even your faith in God. You will likely feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick. Keep seeking God. Keep taking care of yourself. Keep loving your husband. The more you pray, the more you contribute to your own happiness, the more you love your husband selflessly–the more your perspective on your marriage will change. You will develop new eyes for your husband, and he will take notice. He may not say very much about it, and you may be tempted to ask him if he notices how you’ve changed. But keep stepping, one day at a time. There will eventually be a shift, and you will feel it. And you’ll be glad you didn’t grow weary of doing good to your husband, for your marriage, for your family.
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SIX THINGS YOUR HUSBAND NEEDS MORE THAN YOU THINK
I have a stack of my favorite marriage books on my bedroom bookshelf, but so far my favorite by a long shot is For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. Shaunti polled thousands of men to find out what they truly wanted in a relationship (you know–the things you wish he would just TELL you for crying out loud) and wrote a book full of these insider tips for women, explained in a way that makes sense to us. Her findings and advice don’t apply to every single, solitary man (because we all know a unicorn or two out there), but it’s a great base to start from when you just want to know what makes him tick. Or why your best efforts don’t seem to be working. I learned that there are several things my husband truly wants from me, so I made the following list loosely based on the book because it’s just that stinking good. Here are six things your husband needs more than you probably think.
This one may or may not be obvious, but your husband needs prayer most of all. God created Eve because it wasn’t good for him to be alone. Eve was created to help Adam, and so we are helpers for our husband. We help our husbands succeed by appealing to God on their behalf and praying them into the men God made them to be. If you have talked your head off, encouraged, coaxed, and flat out confronted your husband on an issue to no avail–it is time to pray through it. God gave us influence over our husbands–not to use to our own advantage, but to nudge him toward his full potential. Eve gave the fruit to Adam and he ate it. You carry the same influence over your husband–why not use it for his benefit? When we pray for our husbands, we approach the throne of God on their behalf. We plead for God to intervene in his life, and the blessings poured out on our husbands will inevitably fall on us and our children. Only God can change hearts. I’ve seen tremendous changes in our marriage since I began praying fervently for my husband. If your husband is insecure in himself, especially as a father, this is your chance to build him up in prayer. Speak what you want to see–it will manifest, especially if you pray Scripture over your husband. God’s Word will not return void.
And let the wife see that she respects her husband… Your husband wants to be admired and respected. This doesn’t mean you need to assume the position of a 1950s Stepford wife. It also doesn’t mean pumping his ego all day long. And, respect means something totally different for your husband as it does for mine. In practical terms, it might mean learning to squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom up instead of the middle just because he cares more than you do. In short, your husband wants to be considered as though he were an actual friend of yours, not just another person that takes up space in your home. Ask what he wants for dinner when you do your weekly meal planning, and add a few of his faves to the list. Give him a few minutes to decompress when he gets home before tossing the kids his way or venting about your stressful day. Answer the phone when he calls, unless you’re elbow deep in something messy. I know this one is hard. I’m totally preaching to myself here. My husband works long hours, 50 miles from home. So, I get it. Again, how you go about this depends completely on your husband and his personality. You’ll need to do some digging to find out he needs.
There is a tendency to wrongly label men as tough and women as emotional. However, men can be extremely emotional. Your man doesn’t want you to see him at his most vulnerable, so he’s not likely going to willingly reveal his secret insecurities. I had to see that, just because my man is stoic (mine is, but yours may not be) doesn’t mean he’s not hurting inside by the stress he deals with at work, plus everything else going on at home. He needs to know that I’m in his corner. He needs me to build him up to feel confident in his efforts at work and home. When I take a moment affirm and express appreciation to my husband, his heart softens and he usually has a much better day.
I could go on and on about this one. I won’t, but I could. I know you’ve heard this one–sex is important to men. But not for the reasons you might think. Sex changes a man’s brain activity, and afterward, he is more prone to open up about that thing you’ve been wanting to talk about. As busy women and mothers, chances are pretty high that sex is not at the forefront of your mind. Sleep is likely to be higher on the list, but sex can help you achieve that. I know it’s not that simple because there is a myriad of things that affect your desire to have sex. However, it’s worth exploring because prioritizing sex with your husband is a gamechanger.
Once upon a time, you met a studly man and he whisked you away into happily ever after. Well, guess what? Even after a few years and a few kids, he still wants to be your hunka burning love as much as you want to be the apple of his eye. Think about what it was like when you were dating. I dressed a whole lot differently when I dated my husband. I listened intently to his every word. I enjoyed the time we spent on fancy dates as much as I enjoyed movie nights. I loved being with him. He misses those days as much as you do. All sorts of things get in the way of romance–work, children, illness, commitments, etc. What can you do to inject a little romance into everyday life? How can you remind him that he’s “still the one?” Don’t sit around and wait for him to plan dates. Take him out! Learn about something he’s passionate about. My husband loves discussing politics, and frankly, I do not. But I try to stay up on current events enough to understand what he’s saying to me. He also likes to listen to audiobooks, so every once in a while I will read one with him, even though I’m into different genres. How can you nurture your friendship?
6) A happy, healthy wife.
Your husband really wants you to take care of yourself. Because when you take care of yourself, you feel better and you’re happier. And while happy people are more enjoyable to be around, that is not the only takeaway here. As a homeschooling mom of four, it’s really easy for me to let myself go by the wayside. I had to work to flip my priorities upside down, but I’m really glad I did. My husband used to come home to a frazzled wife who tried desperately to keep the house clean. I thought that’s what he wanted to come home to–a clean and tidy house. In real life, that’s what I wanted. He wanted to come home to a happy, rested wife who was happy to see him because she didn’t wear herself out all day. 10 times out of 10, my husband would rather sit on the laundry-covered couch to watch a show with me than see me stressed out and exhausted in a spotless house. When I realized this, I gave myself permission to prioritize self-care over housework and enlisted the kids’ help in getting things done around the house so I was able to greet my husband with a grin instead of a grimace. When you’re dealing with deeper issues such as depression, illness, and other things, self-care is especially important. But it can be hard to motivate yourself to take care of your body for your own sake. And if your better half is standing on your very last nerve as you read this, maybe do it for the sake of setting a good example for your kids. Your marriage will reap so many blessings.
40 PROMISING WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE
- Pray over him and for him daily.
- Ask him what he wants for dinner when making your grocery list.
- When he gets home late from work, warm up his plate of food–assuming he hasn’t eaten already.
- Learn about something he is passionate about–enough to hold a basic conversation.
- Take him out on a date, or plan a date night at home for the two of you.
- Create a date night jar if you run out of ideas.
- Come to a mutual agreement on how often you will have sex, and set an alarm if you need to.
- Initiate sex.
- Learn his primary love language, and discover ways to speak it fluently.
- Send him sweet notes and texts during the day.
- Support your family budget by being conscientious with your spending.
- Get yourself some new lingerie and surprise him.
- Pack a piece of lingerie and a note into his luggage before sending him off on the next business trip.
- Treat yourself to some perfume, if he’s into it and not allergic.
- Before he gets home from work, situate the kids and freshen up.
- Tell your husband you’re proud of him, and how proud you are to be his wife.
- Tell him how much you appreciate how hard he works to provide for your family.
- Praise your husband in front of friends and family.
- Defend your husband in front of others.
- Read a book with your husband, if he likes to read.
- Encourage him to pursue his interests, and join him when he invites you.
- Give him a night or day to himself to recharge and hang out with friends.
- Suggest he invite friends over and take the kids to do something.
- Pick him up from the airport wearing a trenchcoat and… a smile.
- Tell him what a great father he is or will be.
- Sit next to him while he watches the game or his favorite show, even if you aren’t into them.
- Touch him spontaneously throughout the day. Give him a hug. Rub his shoulders.
- Laugh at his jokes, even the ones that aren’t so funny.
- Surprise him with breakfast or coffee in bed.
- Get him a gift when you’re out. I often bring home my husband’s favorite snack.
- Make a gratitude list with all of your husband’s best qualities. Refer to it when angry/disappointed.
- Create affirmations for your husband from your gratitude list, and send them or text them to him often.
- Focus on your husband’s positive qualities. No one is perfect.
- Leave space in your schedule–your marriage is a priority over everything else–extracurricular activities and volunteer work included.
- Let him know you need him–ask his opinion or help with something.
- Apologize when you’ve hurt him.
- Give him a chance to wind down when he gets home from work before engaging with him.
- Show your husband respect in front of the kids–don’t nag, demean, argue with, or correct him.
- Be clear and kind about what you want or need–your husband cannot read your mind.
- Flirt with your husband, like the good old days. Your kids need to see Mom and Dad flirt with one another. My kids will say things like, Ew gross they’re kissing, I often catch them smiling when they see my husband and I being affectionate.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NEXT
Ask God to forgive you for any offenses against your husband. Ask Him to forgive you for holding onto pride, anger, bitterness, and selfishness. You’re going to need to vent to someone when your husband makes you mad–why not vent to the Person who can do something about it? Thank Him for your husband and everything you love about him. Ask God for fresh eyes to see your husband the way He does, and ask for insight into how your husband needs to be loved. Start a regular practice of praying specifically for your husband, and over him if he will allow it. If you need ideas for how to pray, these books are fantastic resources:
Schedule daily time to spend with the Lord–doesn’t have to be hours. Start with a few minutes to pray and read a Bible verse, and build up from there. Be honest in your prayers; tell God what you really want and what you need. He already knows, but He wants you to cast your cares on Him and to know how much He cares about every detail of your life. Schedule in time for self-care. Make sure your bucket is full so you can pour into your husband and others.
Have an honest conversation with your husband.
If you need to ask forgiveness, do so. Take this one day at a time. Ask him if there’s anything you can do to help him that day. Find out if there’s anything he needs from you.
Have a look at some of the books that have really made a difference in our marriage:
- Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
- For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
- The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
- The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage by Stormie Omartian
- Prayers of Blessing Over Your Husband by Bruce Wilkinson and Heather Hair
- Kingdom Marriage by Tony Evans
And a few highly-recommend books on my “to read” list:
- Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
- Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband by Gary Thomas
- Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage by Jonathan and Wynter Pitts
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