I celebrate twelve years of marriage this week and, though I’ve come a long way, I still have much to learn! This past summer I had the opportunity to observe a few happily married women who’ve past the three, four, and five (Wow!) decades mark of marriage and are still smiling. I didn’t interview them per se, rather I paid close attention to their interactions. As I observed it, here are five things happily married women do.
1. Practice gratitude.
I want my husband to be grateful for me. I work hard and I want to be appreciated. But, sometimes, I tend to forget that he likely desires the same. We reap what we sow, right?
I observed that my happily married, older female friends were always thanking their man for what he does. A simple “Thank you for taking out the trash” or “Thank you for helping me carry in the groceries” can make a big difference in your attitude towards him and his willingness to help in the future.
My husband once told me to treat him like a dog. Every part of me bristled at this concept, but the longer I’m married the more I realize it’s effective. Throw Scooby snacks his way when he does well. Make a big deal of it and you’ll likely see that positive reinforcement lead to the repetition of that same behavior. It’s not manipulation, it’s just effective gratitude.
2. Keep score of the good.
I’m excellent at keeping score. My natural tendency is to keep a long list of grievances and offenses at the ready—so I can remind him of the woe he’s “caused” should ever we argue and I lack ammunition. This is not the way to stay happily married. Trust me.
Instead, we need to keep record of the good. The Bible says that love keeps no record of wrongs, let’s practice this in our marriages. Instead of remembering his every offense, start a journal (yes, write it down) of what you appreciate about him. whether it’s nice things he’s done for you, thoughtful things he’s said or done, whatever speaks your love language, keep a record of these things. Next time you’re ready to throw the laundry all over his head, go read this list.
3. Affirm him.
Who doesn’t love affirmation? We all seek it, desire it. And, most of the time, the biggest struggle in our marriages is our pride. We want the other to go first. You affirm me, then I’ll affirm you. Honestly, ideally, I’d love for my husband to always lead in this department. But, we all have seasons where we need someone else to lift us up. If it’s more affirmation you seek, take the lead on affirming your husband and then pray God will prompt him to do the same.
4. Act like a trophy.
My husband found me a coffee mug at Cracker Barrel that said, “Aside from the cooking and cleaning, I’m just a trophy wife.” This made me laugh. Our culture bristles at the concept of a wife being a “trophy” but, the Bible speaks of a wife of noble character being the crowning glory of her husband (Proverbs 12:4). I certainly don’t mean trophy in the context of being an object or a prize. Rather, we wives do have the ability to make our husbands look really good (or really bad). I’ve observed that happily married women work at making their husbands look good. They thoughtfully present themselves in a way that brings honor to their men. They understand their value comes from Christ alone, not how they look in a swimsuit, and–no matter what their dress size–they project a confidence that their men find very desirable.
5. Don’t compare.
Want to have a sucky marriage? Compare your marriage to that of everyone else you know. In fact, go ahead and compare it to celebrity marriages, Hallmark movies, and reality show dating scenarios too. This habit will make your marriage suck beyond belief.
No man is going to be as perfect as the fictiouous one scripted by a woman. This includes that female friend of your’s on instagram who’s always posting photos of her perfect hubby and their incredible date nights, likely right after she yelled at him for never being around.
Your marriage is your marriage. As unique as your personal maturation, your marriage will grow, form, and blossom at its own pace. You’ll go through trials that grow you, temptations that test your commitment, and seasons where you wonder how you’ve made it this far. Keep your eyes and heart on your own marriage, and avoid the temptation to compare (i.e. kill) your marriage by standing it up to someone else’s.