None of us need convincing that healthy habits are a good thing to pursue. But if it were easy to build and maintain healthy habits across important areas of our lives, then we’d be practically perfect. And not one of us is that.
Occasionally, my style of attempting to make healthy habits goes something like: Just do everything better.
After spending several hours making goals for 2022, my husband asked, “What’s taking so long?” When I told him I made goals for eight key areas of my life, he said, “That’s too many.” Three weeks into the New Year and I’m starting to agree. Just be better at everything doesn’t work very well.
Healthy habits of marriage
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still make choices, day by day, that lead us toward the things we desire: health, wholeness, connection, intimacy.
So here are seven healthy habits to put your marriage on the path toward a greater relationship.
1. Put your phones down, close your computers, turn off the TV.
Like any other addiction, phone addiction is the enemy of true connection. You may scoff at the use of the word addiction. But chances are, at some point during the day, your eyes and attention are on a screen when your spouse (not to mention kids) wishes they were on them. Make sure your family knows they are more important to you than your screens.
2. Schedule time for connection.
If you’re newly married, this may sound unromantic or unnecessary, but life gets busy. Even if you both work from home and see each other all day, you’ve got to know that does not equal connection. Morning coffee together, regular date nights, even 20 minutes of catching up and checking in with each other before you turn on Netflix. Put it on the calendar. Set a reminder (then switch your phone to do not disturb!).
3. Find ways to have fun together.
Laughter and joy are powerful. “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22) and medical science agrees. Play or listen to music together, exercise, play a game, have a tickle fight—whatever you can both smile about.
4. Don’t settle for stagnant.
Stagnancy in marriage is a myth. If you’re not taking steps toward each other, there is “natural drift” toward isolation in marriage at play. Some seasons leave very little capacity to pursue each other in marriage. Just remember: little steps in each other’s direction add up. Snail-speed progress is better than backward progress any day.
5. Integrate prayer.
Prayer leads to change. Not necessarily for your desired outcomes, though He does use our prayers as means to accomplish His will. Prayer changes us. Is there a time you can pray together—before bed, in the car, over morning coffee? Or can you link praying for your spouse to something you already do—making coffee, doing dishes, commuting to work? Periodically, let them know how you’re praying for them and ask if there’s anything else for which they’d like prayer.
6. Be respectful.
This is low-hanging fruit that ought to be the bare minimum of healthy habits in marriage. We can go beyond simply avoiding extremely disrespectful behaviors like interrupting, eye rolling, sarcasm, or bad-mouthing. How can you communicate that you see your spouse and appreciate them? That you hear what they say and take it into account?
Is there a certain surface your spouse likes to keep clean? Make a habit of keeping it clean. Does your spouse worry when you’re running late? Shoot them a text to let them know what’s up. Find ways, big and little, to show them consideration and respect.
7. Remember your vows.
When I married my husband, I vowed “to do him good and not harm all the days of my life.” In sickness, in poverty, in worse—we vowed to choose to love our spouses. Will we fulfill our vows perfectly? Nope. But when I remember the beautiful vision of that kind of love—the love I receive from Jesus—it helps put things in perspective. It reminds me of God’s heart for my spouse: to do them good, to love them unconditionally.
And it reminds me a vow isn’t something I can do in my own power. I need God’s help to do my spouse good when I am tired, weak, angry, overcome by my own sin of selfishness or pride.
In Habits of the Household, Justin Whitmel Earley says, “One of the most significant things about any household is what is considered to be normal. Moments aggregate, and they become memories and tradition. Our routines become who we are, become the story and culture of our families.”
You dream, like I do, of healthy marriages and households—or you wouldn’t be here. Healthiness doesn’t just happen. It starts with habits. And habits start, like Anna in Frozen II says, by simply doing the next right thing. Which habit will you try first?
Copyright © 2022 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Laura Way serves with FamilyLife as a writer and lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Aubrey, and their two vibrant young daughters. She and Aubrey lived in East Asia for seven years until relocating a few years ago. She enjoys writing about becoming more fully human while sojourning through different places, seasons of life, and terrains of mental and spiritual health at hopeforthesojourn.com.