15 Great Tips for Building a Better, Stronger Marriage

Is it possible to have good marriage?

My husband and I just celebrated eighteen years of wedded togetherness.  He did not take me to the Bahama’s, out to a fancy dinner, or even buy me flowers.  Instead, we went to Subway for our celebratory dinner.

It was my idea to go to Subway. Brian found it humorous because I wanted to go to Subway and not anything fancier. Afterwards, we went shopping and did some other errands.  It was my pleasure to spend the evening in the company of my beloved.

The Very Beginning

Before meeting my husband, I did not have much of a social life.  I never dated much. I guess you could have called me a nerd. I worked full time, attended college, and was substitute teaching. At the time of meeting my husband I was working in a small party store. Party store, for you non-Michigan folks, is a convenience store. We sold guns, fishing and hunting gear, drinks, and snacks.  At that time, Brian worked across the street in an engineering office at a large factory.

My husband would show up at the store while I was working and often brought in Trivial Pursuit, and we would play for hours. Even if I would have wanted Brian to leave my store, I doubt he would have taken the hint.   No, he was not a stalker or even unwanted company…he just did not read clues very well.

Over the course of the next few months before our first official date, Brian and I had the opportunity to get to know each other and we became good friends.  We rode four-wheelers, took long walks, attended Friday night football games, and most importantly talked.

Within a few months of meeting we had our first official date.  However, there was a problem when he showed up at my house for that first time.  It was his vehicle.  The sight of that green beast pulling into my driveway almost made me want to run back into the house.  Needless to say, I was not very impressed with his vehicle, and began to wonder what I was getting myself into.  Was I shallow? Yes, but before you judge me read the rest of the story…..

The Car

He drove a 1969 army green and Bondo-colored Volkswagen Squareback.  I was unsure if the vehicle was even capable of making it to our destination, but I got in and we drove away.  We ended up having pizza and watching a movie at a local theater.  On the way home from our date it started to rain and his windshield wipers did not work. At that point it started to leak inside the vehicle, more specifically on my side and on my lap.

I did not want to give him the wrong idea by leaning too closely to him when I was trying to avoiding getting wet from the rain, nor did I want to get wet by leaning into the door.  Eventually we made it home where I promptly thanked him and quickly scooted out of the car and into the house.  Later on, I found out the poor guy was wondering if I would ever go out with him again.

That date was in November 1998. We graduated from college in May and got engaged a few weeks later. And by September we were married, bought a house, and started our first real adult jobs.  Within a time span of ten months we had dated, gotten engaged, and also gotten married.  We have been rocking life ever since….

The Rest of the Story

Our wedding was a simple affair.  In total we spent $300 on our wedding. I borrowed a dress from a friend and paid for the dry cleaning, which cost $100. So between our pastor who officiated and the cost of the cake, the remaining $200 was spent. Immediately following our wedding we had simple cake and punch reception.  A much larger reception followed at a later date.

Some Pretty Tough Times

During our eighteen years of marriage we have survived many trials and tribulations.  We have endured our fair share of good and bad times, sad and glad times, and downright depressing times.

    • *There have been numerous hospitalizations for ourselves and our children.
    • *When our second daughter was a newborn we were told by a specialist that she may not survive due to a genetic disorder.
    • *Our son David died in my husband’s arms.
    • *We have had our eighteen month old daughter airlifted when the doctors feared for her life.
    • *We watched our oldest son have a seizure and stop breathing.
    • *We have buried a mother, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
    • *There have been job losses.
  • *We have bought two houses and moved twice.
    Despite all the tough times, stress, and losses there has been no shortage of love and laughter. We have so many precious memories to cherish. We have been through it all and  yet have come out on top. As a couple we are stronger than what we were before. This was not due to trial and error, but our faith in the Lord.  By putting our hope in Him and resting on Him as our anchor we have been able to weather many storms.

    The Lessons

    We are no longer fresh-faced as we were on our wedding day, but a bit more wrinkled and all the more wise. If I had to do it all over again, I would as long as it was with my husband. Based upon my own experiences and history there are some things I have learned about marriage. Not just having a successful marriage, but a heavenly marriage.

    Life Lessons for Marriage:

    1. Love is not just a feeling, but also an action. It is a daily, often minute-by-minute conscious decision to choose to love your spouse. It often does not just happen, you have to make it happen. Love is a decision followed by an action.
    2. Learn to love your spouse by applying the fruits of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23 into every aspect of your marriage, even when you do not feel like it.  A marriage will flourish when you are able to love, have joy, be peaceful, be patient, be kind, show goodness, be faithful, have a gentle spirit and exhibit self-control.  
    3. Money: Learn how to talk about it as a couple.  Money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce, but it does not have to be. Have a joint bank account.  Hold each other accountable. Trust each other. In money there should be no his/her’s/mine way of thinking. Set a budget. Determine the categories in the budget. Stick to the budget. Have a budget meeting once a week. Make and set financial goals together. Work on those goals. Dream together. Stay out of debt. Say no to credit cards. Only spend what you have.
    4. (Here is some more reading on the topics of handling money, budgeting, and frugal living. Not the JonesesNew BeginningsContentedness, Dave Ramsey, and Credit score)
    5. Put your spouse’s needs above your own. Learn how to serve one another. Do not let pride get in the way.
    6. Know that you cannot control your spouse’s actions, but you can control your own reactions. Think before you speak. When your spouse is talking stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and listen with your whole self.
    7. Help your spouse. Work along side your spouse. Ask what you can do. Do their least favorite  chore.
    8. Visit the marital bed on a regular basis.  A regular sex life actually has been proven to draw a couple closer together and help keep them in love.
    9. Do little things for each other. Pack his or her lunch with a little love note.  Call, text, or email at one point during the day to say hello. Surprise each other with inexpensive treats.
    10. Be honest.
    11. Be authentic.
    12. Be trustworthy.
    13. Attend church on a regular basis as a family.
    14. Be their biggest cheerleader and supporter.
    15. Pray for your spouse on a regular basis.

    The highlight of the marriage should not be your wedding day. We all age and as beauty fades, the relationship should grow deeper and stronger based upon the common goal of growing, learning, and loving each other. The road may not always be easy, but it is so worth it. You are both worth it. You do not need to stay married for the sake of the children, but stay married for the sake of each other.  Marriage is more than a piece of paper. It takes a lot of work at times. Anything worth keeping is worth fighting for, including your marriage.

    God’s design for marriage is for man and woman not to be alone. A man and woman compliment each other, one is not complete without the other. Because love is a basic need of humanity, every person has a deep desire to be loved. Proverbs 19:22 states that “What a person desires is unfailing love…”  Can you be an example of unfailing love in your marriage?

    Ephesians 4:23

    “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”

    I almost forgot to add the rest of the story regarding our first date and that car.

    We kept that car for many more years and had many more dates in it. At that point almost nineteen years ago I was pretty shallow and now it is embarrassing to admit that. However, I have since gained some depth and experience as taught me that what we drive is not as important as the driver.

38 thoughts on “15 Great Tips for Building a Better, Stronger Marriage

  1. Wow! How inspiring and what a beautiful love story you two share. I am so sorry about your son. Thank you for sharing this and thank you for being a light for God’s glory on how He intended marriage to be.

    1. Thank you for you kind words of support. I would have never been able to go through any of this without the Lord and my husband.

  2. I teared up reading your story. What an amazing love story you and your husband have! To have gone through so much together and come out even stronger is an amazing story. Thank you for the great advice and I plan on reading this to my husband. We will celebrate 11 years in October!

    1. I hope our story is only beginning and can serve as hope for others that even through the tough times, staying married is so worth it.

  3. Isn’t our God so amazing?! I love how you talk abt acting and reacting. It is something I was just thinking about the other day. How we react to others says so much about us. Love indeed is action; its how the Bible describes love and God showed us this through Christ and his sacrifice. May God bless your family and give you many more yrs of marriage. You are stronger in Him!

  4. Stephanie, thank you for sharing your story and tips for marriage. I love your advise of not just settling for a successful marriage but a heavenly marriage, this is such a beautiful prospective. My husband and I attended the Love and Respect conference and my biggest takeaway was “my response is my responsibility,” which you eluded to in this post by saying, “know that you cannot control your spouse’s actions but can control your reactions.” Thank you for the reminder! 🙂

    This post has encouraged my heart as well as challenged me. Congratulations on 18 years of marriage!!!!

    May your marriage continue to encourage others.

  5. “As a couple we are stronger than what we were before. This was not due to trial and error, but our faith in the Lord.” I love to see the testimonies of couples who have stayed together through it all!

  6. I love hearing couples stories and how they tell it! You can absolutely see your love and connection based upon the details you provide. These are great marriage reminders.

  7. Wow, Brian is lucky to have you. You are a truly beautiful person and thankyou for your story. Here’s to many more years ahead together.

  8. 18 years! Congratulations and what a blessing! My husband and I are coming up on our 8th year of marriage and are going through (and have gone through) some of the things you shared from your marriage. Thanks for your openness and the encouragement to keep going!

  9. Wow, what an incredible and moving story. I have never had to deal with anything like this before and don’t know how I would handle it… Congratulations on your wins, you deserve it!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story! It has captured my heart and it reminds me to speak with graceful intention in my marriage<3

  11. I love that you point out that love is a verb. It isn’t just a feeling, it is something that we work at, we work on, we do. Also, the last point, about praying for your spouse…this is soooo important!! And even for those who aren’t married, it is important to pray for your future spouse.

  12. Love it Stephanie . You sure have had your good times but unfortunately your bad . You guys are great couple , meant for one another. Congrats to 18 and many many more.

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