Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What A Wife Can Do

Someone asked the following question in a comment:

what are some of the things that you do as a wife to make your marriage strong? I am looking for not necessary new ideas, but maybe some better ones to strengthen our marriage, or at least my part. Any thoughts?

I think a strong marriage is the key to a strong family and strong families make great communities. So I thought I would throw my thoughts on this subject out there and invite comments from others on the subject. I think there is a lot to be gained from brainstorming ideas to make any marriage better. So if you have a tip that works for you, leave it in a comment.

First I think for those marriages in serious trouble (like you or your spouse is seriously thinking about ending the relationship), you should go to counseling. If your loved one was sick and dying you would surely take them to a doctor to try to save them. You would do whatever you could to save their life. We ought to think of our "marriage" as a loved one and if it is seriously ill and dying we ought to make every effort possible to save it. Going to a professional "marriage doctor" is one of those things we ought to do. And finding the right therapist is also important. I haven't ever done counseling but I have friends whose marriages have been saved by counseling.

Okay for those whose marriages are not on life support but may be feeling a bit "under the weather" or for those of us whose marriages are quite healthy but would still appreciate any boost to fortify our "immune system," I will share a few tips I find help from the wifely perspective.

I think one tip that helps me is trying to see things from my husbands point of view. This helps me be more understanding of his frustrations with me and helps me be a better "helpmeet" to him. For example, my husband works a lot. Often he puts in 16 hour days. His job is highly stressful. He does all this for us. He needs time when he doesn't have to "work" at his job or at mine. So I try to be understanding and uncomplaining and even supportive of the time he takes out of his day to workout or play the Wii with the kids, or watch some sports thing on TV.

We have talked recently about how important it is to take an interest in things that mean a lot to the other even if we are not interested in it. So I will watch some sport thing with him just to have us doing things and enjoying experiences TOGETHER. He on the other hand has even watched one or two dances on my favorite show with me.

I think it is important to pray earnestly for your spouse both in private and out loud where your spouse can hear.

We also need to be supportive of our husbands in overcoming their weaknesses. This does not mean nagging them. No this means being understanding that they are human with faults just like us. And it means forgiving without the nagging when they screw up. They ALL screw up. Every husband has a fault. Every husband screws up once in a while. If your spouse knows he is screwing up we don't need to harp on it. We need to forgive and help them find tools to be better.

One of the best pieces of advice the man who married us gave us was "it is more important to have peace in the home than to be right." I like being right. Most of the time I am pretty sure that I am right (even if I am wrong). Jon is the same this way. So there are LOTS of times that I let unimportant things go that I KNOW I am right about and he is wrong about. Normally I would prove my point. I am an attorney after all. But in our marriage I often hear that advice in my head and ask myself how important it is for me to prove that I am right. 99% of the time it just isn't that important and I let the subject drop and let Jonathan think he is right.

Little things go a long way in marriage. I try to do little things to "exceed expectations" every once in a while. Sometimes I will do one of the jobs that Jonathan usually does around the house.

The last thing I will put out there is perhaps one of the most important. How shall I put this? Hmm. I am trying to be careful here because I don't know the ages of everyone reading. But I will say that being available to your husband when he needs (or just wants) you physically is probably one of the most effective things a wife can do to help her marriage.

Okay the forum is open for your tips. Sorry this isn't so well put together. I just don't have the editing time I once did. I am looking forward to great tips in the comments:

So You Think You Can Dance Fans who know me well enough to know where I live, come watch the 99th episode tonight with us. We start the show promptly at 9 pm. My sister in law Elizabeth was there for the taping and will be on camera lots since she was right in front of the judges. She said the second half of the show was AMAZING and one number had everyone in the audience in tears by the end. I can't wait!


Lee said...

Treat your spouse better than you would your best friend. Not always easy but I try hard. The suggestions you had were great.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie already said the two things I think are most helpful:
1. pray for your spouse and
2. well the "available" thing. Honestly, trying to be together in that way every day is really what I think is the most useful marital advice i could give. I know it's sounds overwhelming to the wife, but the better you stick to the plan, the more enjoyable it is and the easier it becomes, and the happier and more helpful your husband is in the rest of your life. Of course, there are times when you miss because one of you is sick or out of town or whatever. But, not only is it good for your marriage, but for your health as well! :)

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. I have a great marriage, and I have never understood people who say you really have to work at having a good marriage.

I just really like my husband. He really likes me. It's easy to think of doing things for him--in fact it's more fun to do things for him than to do them for me. For example, I would cook a five-course dinner any day of the week if I know he'll be home to eat it with me, but I wouldn't do that just for myself, and not even for my kids.

What is this "work" thing? It's all attitude. I mean, I CHOSE to marry him, it's what I wanted and it makes me happy!

Anonymous said...

And if you're willing to be "available" pretty much all the time...and your husband NEVER is - what then? I get SO frustrated and I'm tired of asking and being rejected. I think it does more to a woman to be rejected by their spouse literally 99% of the being the more emotional ones and all. It really hurts. And I find that I take everything else out on him more often because of those hurt feelings. So any advice there?

Megan said...

A bishop once shared this quote: "I love you more than anything you do that bugs me. And I will show you that by the way I treat you when you bug me." It's so true and really makes us put those silly "things" in perspective

Anonymous said...

I am with the anonymous commenter whose husband is never "available." Any suggestion?

Sara Hammond said...

In response to those whose are available but their husbands are not: Do what you can to show and express love to him in the way that he receives love. Not everybody receives love in the same way, and maybe it will be out of your comfort zone, but he will appreciate it. When he sees the effort you are putting forth to take care of him, even if he doesn't initiate anything, he will be more open to listening to your concerns, and you can work out a compromise together. It could take days, weeks, or even longer for this to happen, but you love your husband and if this is what you really want, the effort will be worth it in the end.

Anonymous said...

BE GRATEFUL YOU ARE MARRIED! NUFF SAID! Hey, did you see half my head about 90% of the show?!!!! I watched Battlefield and Breast Cancer maybe 10 times.

Jan S said...

Wow...what a wonderful post, Stephanie! (And I'm not even married! ;)

I think the way you framed the "marriage therapy" issue was said so beautifully! You're right- if we go to doctors for physical ailments, why not try and "heal" the most important blessing given in this lifetime: a marriage! (It's one more reason why I feel the "Jon and Kate Plus 8" family situation is so, so sad; to not have even tried marriage counseling. But I digress..)

There were just too many good points to name them all. This is definitely a post I want to "save" for my "when I get married someday" file!! Thanks, Stephanie!

Stephanie said...

Traci, Totally saw your head like every shot! Love the bangs! Jon totally recognized you because of the bangs! Great show tonight. I will be rewatching a few of those myself tomorrow.

As for those commenting on their husband not being available -- I defer to the Sara Hammond's comment. That is not something I have had to deal with but I think often it is a symptom of some other issue. Maybe counseling could help unearth and deal with the underlying issue? At least that is the route I would probably look to if I were in those shoes.


Brittany said...

Really good post. My husband comes home from Iraq in a couple of weeks and then he will be so busy with school and work, so I will really have to try to be a "helpmeet" and let him have his relaxing times. I am really bad with that, I always feel that a mom never gets a break so why should he, but I agree with what you said and will have to work on that A LOT. (I also really loved "Battlefield" and "Breast Cancer")

Liz's Blog said...

Interesting post! Since you opened it up...My husband is in Medical School and our time is limited. With that being said, we have made the time we have together a priority. I think that is the key to any marriage. As long as you and your spouse is on the same page, make goals to spend time together and be flexible and grateful. I think that if both spouses are doing their best, then show your spouse that you appreciate their effort in whatever their love language is (time, service, affection, affirmation). Whatever stage of marriage you are in...I think its a great idea to sit down with your spouse and make sure you are making time for one another, fulfilling each others needs. Marriage can be hard, but its also the most wonderful experience we can have, is our family.

Anonymous said...

Try to be the same person you were when you were first together - that is the person your husband fell in love with and wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Does that make sense? Were you active? Appreciative of him? Motivated? Lots of fun? Happy? Did you laugh a lot (especially at his jokes)? Did you make him feel important and attractive to you? I'm sure your answers are yes. So don't change! Keep being that same sweet, fun, funny, happy person he fell in love with.
Have you heard of that funny quote- "Men get married hoping their bride won't change. Women get married hoping to change their groom." or something like that!

Jen said...

Mysister once told me to make sure you pay enough attention to them. When my husband gets home from work, I try to make sure I am not on the phone or glued to the tv. It's important that I think it's important enough to meet him at the door be happy he is home. And, yes, I work full time and have two kids, but this isn't that hard to do.

Tammy said...

May I suggest a book that has been invaluable to my husband and I. It is called "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. It explains how we all give and receive love in different ways. It has helped me understand that the things I want and need from my husband are not neccesarily the same as he wants or needs. It has helped me learn to speak his love language, so he knows he is loved. We may think we are showing our spouse we love them, but if they speak a different "language" than us, they will not be getting the message. We must learn to speak in their language. Just a sneak peak at the book, the five love languages are words of appreciation, quality time, acts of service, gifts and physical affection. I highly recommend this book. Make sure you get the book that is about spouses. He has written other ones on children and teenagers as well.

Anonymous said...

I tend to over react in certain situations. I have to stop, think of a reasonable reaction and go with it. For instance my husband locked us out of the house the other day. No car keys, no house keys, stranded at 9 o'clock. I was really mad. I started going off and then I stopped, realized it was just an accident and could have been my fault, apologized and we were ok. I think it's important to stop and put things in perspective every once in a while.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of marriages fail when one person choses to be selfish. I try to think of my husband before myself. Luckily, he also tries to think of me before himself. I often ask myself, "What can I do to make his day a little bit better today?" I find myself wanting to do things for him instead of seeing it as a chore.

That being said, I also think it is important to take time for myself as well, and he lets me. If I was to spend all my time and energy on the kids and him then I believe I would get burned out.

The things I do for myself are...take a bath (without the little ones running in and out), have a girls night (about every other month), little craft projects, etc. Nothing grand.

Tina said...

I have enjoyed marriage for 26 years and I love all your comments and they are all very helpful. The one I found most true was not becoming selfish. I think when you start thinking of yourself, and what that person hasn't done to make YOU happy, that is when the trouble starts. I was listening to a tape the other day and the speaker said if we could only get a glimse of our husband in his perfected state, being a priesthood holder etc, we would be in awe to the point of almost worshiping them. When we treat our husbands like the man the Lord see's them as, and not as the man we wish they could, would or should be, they sense that, and it makes for a great relationship.

Theres nothing better than having a happy husband, and knowing you are one of the reasons for his happiness!!

Jeannette said...

I found your blog through an aquaintance and am so glad I did--this was just what I needed! Thank you so much for this post, it was incredibly insightful and inspired. I have been married 3 years July 27th, and we struggle a lot with always having to be right. I LOVED that advice you were given at your wedding, it is so true. I will always remember that now and I know that will help.

My advice would be some that I just recently received from a friend. YOU CANT CHANGE SOMEONE, YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE THE WAY YOU REACT TO THEM, SO IN TURN THEY EVENTUALLY HAVE TO CHANGE BECAUSE OF YOUR CHANGE. I probably worded it weird, but it is so true. I react so much to what my husband says or does and get so frustrated with him at times. But with this advice it made me realize no matter what I say or do, he wont change unless I change myself and react differently.

Thank you again:)

Chels said...

So, does anyone else thing that just talking honestly is the best? When you sit down to TALK about issues, concerns, feelings, etc... NOT SIT DOWN TO NAG, or point out where you think has let you down, but TALK>>> THAT WORKS THE BEST!

Chels said...

I loved so many of these points... so many. I loved a book called "beautiful womanhood" about treating your spouse the way you want to be treated, and eventually they follow suit

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stephanie for those whose husbands aren't "available"...there may be some other issue. A close friend of mine though something was wrong with her (since her hubby showed no interest)..but she later found out he was totally addicted to porn and had a problem with it long before they got married. I'm not saying that is the reason...but it doesn't hurt to do a little checking up on your man.

Anonymous said...

You always have wonderful advice. While I completely agree, that one should be 'available.' To what degree do you take that to mean? Quite candidly, my husband would love me to be available daily, and that is hard for me!
I think also what helps my marraige, is to think and talk highly of him. I do not talk badly about him to others. I try very hard to look at and stress his good points. I have found when I do, he will take care of any weakness he may have.

Cardalls said...

Wake up in the morning with the thought, "How can I make my spouses life better and easier today?"

The physical relationship is so important. Sometimes I feel like it's another chore I have to do, however I always find it to be a Pleasant chore and it bonds me to my husband and is a great thing!

Anonymous said...

Keep things romantic. My husband and I have 5 children so romance could easily go right out the window but we have little things that work for us. When we go grocery shopping we start at different ends of the store to get done quicker. As we see eachother in passing we give flirtatous looks at eachother just for fun. Its good for our kids to see us being loving and it makes shopping fun! We also text each other back and forth even if were in different parts of the house. Its our way of flirting and saying things that we wouldnt find time to say or do. It also keeps our love life spicy even if its few and far between. Lastly, go out on dates, even if its just for a drive and dont talk about the kids!

Puhlman said...

I found your blog through an mutual friend. I love your blog. I love how you write and I am in awe of your strength.

I just got done reading a book by Dr. Laura. The name is The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. I LOVED IT. I could hardly put it down.

I recommend it to all. And I agree that our husbands want to be physical. I am not sure about those wives that have husbands that are not available. I think maybe to sit down and have a heart to heart conversation with them.

In my opinion MOST men want to be close with their woman. We have five kids and I have gained weight since our marriage 13 years ago and my husband still wants to be close.

Go read that book. It is amazing. Actually I got it from the library so check there. It can really help you treat your husbands with respect. Treat them like a hero.

Thanks for your blog. I have a sister that lost her daughter a few hours after birth three years ago on the 12th of this month. Not an easy thing. My prayers go out to you in this difficult time.

Kathy said...

I've been married over 30 years and I can honestly say I don't think there' any magic formula. My husband and I put each other first. Period. Our five daughters know this and accept it as fact. They know that both of us love and adore them, but our home is happier because we focus on each other first. The rest just seeems to work out. Don't sweat the little stuff (and most of it IS little stuff). Keep your eyes on the big picture. I say eyes because if you're both not on the same path you'll end up going in different directions.

Anonymous said...

First let me say, I have read your blog for a few months now. I find you inspiring and so strong. Honestly, when you describe your love for your daughter, it almost always makes me cry. How lucky she is to have you as a mother.

But I just wanted to say, this post, and mostly the comments, feels like we're talking about toddlers instead of grown men.

Mostly I'm floored by how many women agreed about using intimacy as a form of improving things. Honestly, I find it so degrading that a women would ever do that. That a woman would give away her precious body, just because someone else wants it and not because she 100 % feels like it.

We're so powerful, we're so strong, us women. We should demand the same time for ourselves as our husbands get, we should cherish our bodies and give them away carefully and with passion. If we're right about something, we should be allowed to be right, without our husbands always just being allowed to think they're right. I think if my husband found out that I was just letting him be right, and not speaking my mind and standing up for myself, he would be insulted. He expects that from me and I expect total honesty from him, too.

I'm a photographer, I meet so many different families every week. It saddens me to see how unfair most marriages are when it comes to the care of the kids and home. I stay home with my kids and care for our home all day, but when dad comes home from work, we're done being separated. I'm done being the sole caretaker for the kids. There is no catering to just the man, in my house so that he can relax. I have all the needs he has, too. I need all the alone time that he needs, too. And if I don't want to be intimate, my hubby get's over, without tears and a broken heart, and we move on. And thank God my hubby gets that, knows that, and loves that I take care of myself, too.

Women should not only worry about their husbands, we are people with just as many needs. And from my experience, too many men get off easy.

Stephanie said...

To Anon just above who thinks it sounds like we are talking about toddlers not grown men.

I just want to point out that the post was directed on what a WIFE can do. So I purposely did not address husbands. I agree with you that marriages should be equal and men should give women equal "me" time and help with the kids etc... However this post was solely about what a wife can do to improve a marriage.

Each marriage is unique and has its own dynamics. What works for one couple may not work for another. I have learned that just because someone else's marriage doesn't work the same way as mine or seems to me less equal doesn't mean it is not as strong. I certainly am grateful for my husband when I see how other husbands are, but much of that is not because he is a better person than those other husbands but because he is better FOR ME.

The more tips we can learn from each other to strengthen our own marriages the better. But in the end we have to find our own balance of happiness in our marriages and that nearly always requires selfless sacrifices on the part of both husbands and wives. This post just focused on the wife part because that was what the questions asked. What a husband can and ought to do is a whole other post.


Anonymous said...

Stephanie you are so right about how marriages are different and what works for one doesn't always work for another.

I've been married 10 1/2 years and I love him more today than I did the day I married him. We enjoy spending all of our time together - I never feel the need to have a night out without him - but realize that works for some people.

I know his strengths and weaknesses. I spoil him because I love him and he does the same in return. I am a morning person, he is a night person. Every morning I make breakfast for the kids before school so I put whatever I'm cooking on a plate and give it to him in bed where he can wake-up slowly, watch the news, not have to rush - I also hang his clothes in the bathroom (he's color blind and I was always sending him back to change), he hates the cold - I LOVE the cold so I start his car and have it warmed for him. In return for these little things I do to pleasure him I am rewarded 10 times over. He's a nightowl so when one of the kids wakes up sick in the night he lets me sleep and takes care of them, I get back rubs anytime day or night, he does all the yard work without complaint, he's faithful and tells me he loves me and that I'm beautiful 10 times a day, he takes the kids to do things he knows I wouldn't enjoy (I'm not a big movie person), sometimes it's nothing more than a shared look or touch.

I love spoiling him and making him feel that he is the most special person in the world to me - which he is. These little things I do on a daily basis take me less than 5 minutes - throwing food on a plate and taking it upstairs - 1 minute - hanging his clothes in the bathroom - 30 seconds - starting his car on cold mornings - 30 seconds - just a tiny bit of effort to make him feel so special.

Sometimes at night he relaxes with XBox or Wii, but mostly we hang out in bed watching tv, talking, playing games together on the computer - just being with each other - I married him because I wanted to spend my time with him and in 13 years of being together, 10 of them married, that hasn't changed one bit. When he has to go out of town on business we truly miss each other. The best advice I ever received from my Mother who was married to my Dad for almost 50 years:

1. Don't marry the man you can live with, marry the one you can't live without.

2. Take the 5 top annoyances (toothpaste in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor etc) and throw them away - never complain about them - I have done this my entire marriage and it's great. I hear from my husbands boss the wonderful things he says about me -how I never nag him about anything (which isn't true, but mostly is) and I make him laugh.

A happy marriage is not a lot of work for me - just a little effort to let your spouse know how much you love and appreciate him - you know him and know what would really make him feel special - DO IT!!!! I realize how I make my husband feel special wouldn't work for everyone, but there is always something you could do to find what makes your husband feel appreciated and loved.


Anonymous said...

I once heard a Marriage Counselor say that she could sum up having a good Marriage in two words, "BE KIND." ... One more thing, "Avoid Ceaseless pinpricking."

angee said...

The one thing that has literally saved my marriage is putting God first in my marriage. Once that was the focus, everything else has fallen into place over the last couple of years. It not only saved my marriage, but my husband and I have completely and utterly fallen back in love again! Our Savior's Atonement heals all. With God, all things are possible.

MM said...

My husband and I just attended a marriage conference a couple of weekends ago... and knowing the "available" thing is such a big deal... bought a book called Intimate Issues.. Great answers from Christian women..

Anonymous said...

I read the book "the Love Dare" from the movie Fireproof, it is full of great ideas/tips and things a spouse can do to enrich their marriage relationship.

Anonymous said...

My formula for a happy marriage- physically satisfy him and he will emotionally reward you. Most men are pretty simple, we women tend to complicate matters. Read Dr Laura's Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. It's very true, and yet very rare, wisdom.

Anonymous said...

When someone says -pray for your spouse. How would you go about that? What would that include -Good luck at work, be safe driving, bless their health..stuff like that. Or actually pray for some weakness or worry/problem you know the spouse has.. If that is so -how do you pray for them (for couples prayers) that doesn't sound like one is being judgemental or holier than thou, type of sentences.. How do one pray for a spouse?

Stephanie said...

To Anon on How TO pray for your spouse.

First silently pour out your heart for them to your Father.

Second, when praying together aloud -- This depends on how open you are with your spouse about each others weaknesses. Jonathan and I are VERY open about everything with each other. He knows my weaknesses and I know his. He appreciates it when I pray for him to be strong in his weaknesses and I appreciate it when he prays for me similarly.

If you are less open or just don't know how to word this tactfully here are some "sentences" that might be used:

"Help us each to overcome our weaknesses and to be strong in the face of the adversary."

"Help us to be (put something more specific here about what you want to be -- use the positive term. so instead of 'bless my husband to stop yelling at me' you could say 'help us both to use loving tones in how we speak to each other so that we may be blessed with a greater portion of thy spirit in our home.'"

So it kinda depends on the weakness and how open you are for the exact wording. but using "us" and "we" to include your own weaknesses (because we ALL have them) will take away the "holier than thou" worry. And putting things in positive terms will keep your prayers focused on the goals rather than reminding us of all our shortcomings.

Hope that helps,

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, that really helps. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my question.