Daily Checklist for a Joyful Marriage

Marriage is awesome!
At least it's supposed to be amazing and comforting and confidence-building
and supportive and sexy and rewarding and challenging and (insert more positive adjectives here).

Sometimes relationships become strained, and sometimes marriage is frustrating. Spouses get annoyed with each other and arguments happen too frequently. Unhealthy patterns can unravel a marriage, so it's vital to nurture loving habits with your spouse. A joyful marriage will have healthy habits supporting its core. Day to day interactions will be supportive and uplifting, while tense moments will be few and far between.

Does your marriage need a check-up? Do you feel fulfilled? Does your spouse?
Check out which behaviors need to become part of your daily routine:

The Joyful Marriage Daily Checklist

1. Express appreciation for each other
Say "thank you," and explain something you are grateful the other person did every day. Every day! The most common complaint I hear from my clients is not feeling appreciated in the marriage. Tell your spouse you appreciate the meal, the folded laundry, the text messages, the diaper changes, the hugs, the well-serviced vehicle, the financial earnings, etc. Couples in joyful marriages don't seek out the bad. They see the good, and they express gratitude freely for little things.
There is power in gratitude, and there is power in frequently saying, "I love you." Every day.

2. Disconnect from technology, and connect with your spouse
With technology managing so many aspects of our lives these days, it's too easy to get stuck in a rut of staring at screens over faces. Instead, take some time to talk face-to-face. Turn off Netflix and listen about each other's day. Go for a walk. Discuss hopes and dreams together. Pillow talk rather than fall asleep to the television. In my opinion, televisions do not belong in bedrooms, and really, any device that keeps you aloof from your spouse needs to disappear around bedtime. It's too easy to waste that last hour of the day playing Solitaire or checking Facebook or watching YouTube until you start sleepily blinking. Tune into your spouse at nighttime, not the TV.

3. Accomplish tasks together
Couples in joyful marriages work together to finish tasks and projects. Either by "dividing and conquering" or completing everything together, these couples support each other through service. This balance looks different in each household, but when balanced appropriately both spouses feel appreciated and valued. It's not about the number of chores, it's about the management of the home.

4. Listen to understand and ask questions
To often people listen only long enough to respond. If your brain is formulating your next response while your spouse talks, then you are not truly listening. Both husbands and wives need to feel heard and listened to, and in a joyful marriage, that habit shows up every day. Listen to how the day went, what frustrations were felt, and which moments were exciting. Just listen. Every day.

5. Touch each other
Humans need physical touch to thrive. Babies that don't receive physical touch suffer, and marriages without loving touch suffer as well. Whether it's a hug, a kiss goodnight, a pat on the back, or cuddling on the couch, spouses need physical contact every day. Talk together about your individual needs for touch. Learn what you each prefer and dislike when it comes to physical contact. Then, make it a daily habit to reassure each other through loving touch. 

6. Make each other part of your daily routine
Form routines around each other; doing so highlights the importance of each spouse. Make your spouse feel worth your while! This could be a habit to share a kiss before leaving for work, or chatting during your commutes, or sending a quick text at lunchtime. Leave time for each other in your daily busy-ness, and make time for each other every day.

Bonus Points:
Go to bed at the same time as often as possible
Ending the day together builds the idea that your spouse is a source of comfort, relaxation, and peace. Sometimes work deadlines or sick kids will keep one spouse awake in another room, but try to make those nights rare. Crawling in bed together allows for extra quiet time. Pillow talk and cuddling nurtures emotional and physical bonding in a marriage. Plus, by choosing to end your day together, you show each other's importance over Hulu, work e-mails, or the X-Box.

Fulfilling marriages don't just happen, they are developed.
Something about the common phrase "marriages are hard work" rubs me the wrong way. It feels so burdensome. I also cringe when I hear teenagers say similar phrases about their future marriages, like, "It'll be hard but worth it." Having a relationship is not hard, but overcoming selfishness is hard. Marriage isn't hard work; continual self-improvement and altruism is hard work. The skills that build joyful marriages are the same skills that encourage a person to be kind, selfless, service-minded, encouraging, and listen deeply.

I hope this checklist helps you nurture a more joyful marriage. As both spouses work towards that goal, with open hearts, you will re-discover that magic that brought you together. Plus, you'll have the strength to continue down a fulfilling and joyful road.

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