Happily Married: 3 Great Ways to Nurture Your Marriage Right Now

What’s Inside: Whether newlywed or married for decades, every couple wants a successful, happy marriage. However, healthy marriages do not happen by accident. Here are some great ways how to nurture your marriage and have a lasting relationship that offers comfort, satisfaction, and delight.

An elderly couple holding hands is an example of how to Nurture Your Marriage

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I’ve always loved hearing the stories of couples who have been married for many years and seem happy about it. My grandparents, Ken and Marion, were one such couple. Their sweet love for each other was still evident after over 6 decades of marriage. They weren’t perfect; my Grandma could sometimes be a little nit-picky, and my Grandpa could be maddeningly stubborn. But they adored each other, and I have fond memories of watching them walk hand in hand into church or the grocery store, listening as they told and retold the story of their first meeting at a Sunday School Picnic where they were quickly smitten with each other, and seeing them sitting beside each other in their recliners as my Grandpa read the Bible aloud both morning and night while my Grandma listened with admiration.

Sixty-one years and three days after saying “We do,” they were still deeply in love when death finally parted them, and everyone knew it.

My Grandparents, Ken and Marion, on their wedding day.

What makes a marriage last – and happily at that – for fifty, sixty, seventy years?

It takes commitment, yes. In fact, “lack of commitment” was the number one reason given for divorces in the United States, above infidelity, financial strain, or any other reason. But if a marriage is to endure without being endured, there has to be more to it than just a white-knuckle, grin-and-bear determination to stay married no matter what. If a marriage is to last and be happy, it needs more than commitment – it must have nurture.

My husband, Paul, and I knew a couple who lived well into their nineties and spent 70-plus years as a man and wife. Though they had kept their marriage together for all those years, it was a mystery how. Their relationship was so hostile that I found myself cringing every time I was in the same room as the two of them. I don’t know if this husband and wife were once madly in love, but if my grandparents were an example of an elderly couple who had nurtured a healthy marriage for years, this couple’s example was the opposite of that.

If a marriage is to endure without being endured, there has to be more to it than just a white-knuckle, grin-and-bear determination to stay married no matter what. If a marriage is to last and be happy, it needs more than commitment – it must have nurture.

Each Ordinary Moment

As I write this post, Paul and I have been married for nearly a decade and a half. Though our marriage has not been without challenges (no marriage is), we love being married and delight to be in one another’s company. Still, we realize that we cannot simply put our relationship on autopilot: we must faithfully nurture and strengthen our marriage today if we hope to still be deeply in love, enjoying each other’s company, in another 5 or 6 decades from now. We understand that our choices today – wise or foolish – set the direction for where we will be when we are much farther down the marriage road.

(Note: Some may read this post whose marriages require more than just a little TLC. If your marriage is in crisis, please seek professional, biblical counsel immediately. This article is not intended as a “do these 3 things and fix your very broken marriage” quick fix. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it shows you have the humility and wisdom to know and admit when you need help and that you have enough courage to ask for it).

What does it mean to nurture a relationship?

It means you invest time, energy, and care into helping the relationship thrive. Like any relationship, marriage requires hard work and lots of it. But it is good work, and the fruit it yields is beautiful and worthwhile. Here are some ways you can start today to nurture your marriage (or be encouraged to keep doing the great things you already are doing!).

How to Nurture Your Marriage: 3 Things You Can Do Today

1. Nurture Your Marriage by Keeping Communication Honest, Open, and Kind.

Good communication skills are essential for a healthy marriage. Growing up, I was shy and introverted, with a strong aversion to conflict. I would much rather have remained quiet about something bothering me than broach an uncomfortable topic. But good communication is not the absence of difficult conversations and disagreements but learning how to talk through those things in a healthy and constructive manner.

When we married, I promised God and my husband that if something was important enough to bother me, it would be important enough to talk through. Becoming a good communicator is a skill that we hone over a lifetime, but here are three essential elements that all healthy communication must contain:

  • Honesty: There is no place for deceit in a marriage relationship (or any relationship!) But honesty goes beyond just avoiding outright deception. A healthy marriage also needs honesty in the “small” things.” For instance, if you say something doesn’t matter to you when it truly does, then you are not being honest to say it doesn’t matter.
  • Openness: Being open in your communication means that you are approachable and that your spouse knows you are safe. It implies that you freely and safely share your hopes, dreams, and fears with each other. It also means that you remember that neither you nor your spouse are mind readers – you need to be clear about your expectations and desires.
  • Kindness: As crucial as honesty and openness are, both must be tempered with compassion, or you will destroy the foundation of quality communication in your marriage. Kindness in conversations looks like avoiding accusations (“You always/you never”), belittling (“You are such a fill-in-the-blank”), or sharp words that may be accurate but are spoken with the intent of causing pain (bringing up something from the past that has already been worked through).

Do One Thing to Nurture Communication Right Now: Start by being truthful with yourself: have you been honest, open, and kind in communicating with your spouse? Is there an area that you know needs improvement? Be brave enough to ask your spouse if there is an area of communication they see as a trouble spot in your marriage.

Go the Extra Mile: Even couples with healthy communication skills can fall into a rut of talking about the same things over and over (kids, work issues, politics). Sometimes, we just need some ideas for things to talk about to reconnect in a fun way. Using a book or game with conversation starters can be a great way to spark meaningful conversations that go deeper than the weather or the latest news headline. You may find a resource such as these conversation starters for couples to be a great place to start!

A mug with the word communicate on it reminds us of the importance of nurturing communication in marriage.

Scriptures for further reading:

  • “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26)
  • “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21)
  • “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
  • “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

2. Nurture Your Marriage by Being Quick to Forgive and Quick to Ask Forgiveness.

When Jesus was teaching about forgiveness during what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, he instructed us that if we realize that we have offended someone, then we should stop what we are doing – even if we are in the middle of doing something really good like offering up a sacrifice – and go seek reconciliation (see Matthew 5:21-24).

God’s Word also teaches us that we should offer forgiveness quickly. If we are in the middle of praying and remember that someone has sinned against us, the time to forgive is right then (see Matthew 11:25-26). Here’s the deal: you cannot be right with God if you are harboring unforgiveness towards others, including your spouse.

There may be times in a marriage when a couple has some hard things to work through regarding forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. In that situation, wise counselors may need to help them navigate those situations in a healthy and God-honoring way.

But if we are honest, it’s most often all the little things that cause us to grow irritated with – and irritable towards – our spouse. When left unchecked, those little offenses begin to fester and morph into the poison of bitterness, and over time, they will sabotage a marriage.

If you know that you’ve done something that has hurt your husband or wife, even if you feel like they were also in the wrong, humble yourself and seek forgiveness. If something they have done has hurt you, remember what we learned in nurturing healthy communication: if something is a big enough deal to bother you, then it is a big enough deal to discuss and work through.

There is no perfect marriage because there are no perfect people. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace and grace from each other. In nurtured, happy Christian marriages, forgiveness flows freely and fully. Forgiving someone means we release the offense to God, refusing to hold on to the offense as a weapon to be used against them in the future. It does not mean we pretend that no offense has taken place; rather, it means that we love the other person enough to address the wrong (whether theirs or our own) and do the hard work of repairing what has been damaged.

An elderly couple embracing reminds us of how to nurture your marriage through forgiveness.

Do One Thing to Nurture Forgiveness Right Now: Pray and ask God to show you if there is anything, any offense at all, that you are holding against your spouse. Ask God to give you the humility and courage to ask your spouse if you have done anything that has hurt them, and be willing to work to make things right. This may feel very uncomfortable, especially if you have not been in the habit of being quick to seek and give forgiveness, but the peace and healing that comes from giving and receiving forgiveness is worth it.

Go the Extra Mile: Doing a deep dive Bible study on forgiveness and reconciliation will benefit you individually and as a couple. An online resource like Blue Letter Bible is an excellent tool for Bible study. You can start by simply typing in the word “forgive” and its variations and go from there. Write down what you are learning in a journal or notebook. As you study, ask God to help you understand how much you have been forgiven and enable you to forgive others in the same way.

Scriptures for further reflection:

  • “Charity [self-sacrificial love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
  • “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  • “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (Luke 6:37)
  • “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)

3. Nurture Your Marriage by Making Having Fun Together a Priority

While good communication and a readiness to seek and give forgiveness are foundational to a strong, healthy marriage, having fun together keeps you enjoying one another’s company for decades to come.

My grandparents, Ken and Marion, knew how to have fun together. Whether hunting for deals at the grocery store, playing Chicken Foot (a favorite twist on Dominoes), or setting up camp in an RV park for a few days, they truly enjoyed life together.

My Grandma and Grandpa doing one of their favorite things: camping!

I know how hard it can be to keep the sparkle of fun alive in marriage, especially during the intense, often sleep-deprived years of raising children. My husband and I have four school-age sons with different levels of challenges due to their special needs, disabilities, and medical conditions. Carving out the time to have fun together as a couple is an ongoing growth area for us.

We’ve had to get creative, and we’ve also had to realize that every little bit counts: sure, we can’t manage a weekend getaway in this season of our marriage, but we can put the kids to bed and then pour some hot tea and play a round of pass-and-play Ticket-to-Ride (a favorite of ours). We can share a joke together or reminisce as we walk side by side on a warm evening, pulling the youngest in the wagon while our older boys zoom around on their bikes.

Investing moments of fun in our relationship now, even in this busy season, is like planting tiny seeds for the future. Someday, with continued nurture, those seeds will grow, and we will reap a harvest we can enjoy in time to come, should God give us more years together.

No matter what season of marriage you are in right now – whether before children, smack-dab in the middle of the busy child-raising years, or empty nesters, your marriage is worth treasuring, and one of the best and most enjoyable ways to do that is by having fun together.

Do One Thing to Nurture Fun in Your Marriage Right Now:  Pull out your calendars and schedule a date within the next two weeks. Prioritize it to the same level you prioritize any other significant event in your schedule. If you can hire a sitter, go for it! If that isn’t an option, plan a date night at home. Put the kids to bed a little early if they are young enough for that, or let them do a special activity like watching a favorite movie, and then enjoy some couple time together: dessert and a movie on the couch, a board game, or reading a marriage book together.

Scriptures for Further Reflection:

  • “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” (Proverbs 5:18)
  • “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
  • “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22)
  • “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9)
  • “…This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” (Song of Songs 5:16)
  • “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

Nurturing a Happy Marriage for Life

Marriage between a man and a woman is a beautiful thing, designed by God and meant for both our enjoyment and as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the Church (see Ephesians 5:22-33). While a happy marriage involves more than just great communication, forgiveness, and enjoying each other’s company, it is not less than those three things.

What makes a marriage last and be happy? It takes a commitment to nurturing your marriage “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” And if you are blessed with the number of years that my grandparents Marion and Ken were, may it be evident to all that you loved each other well as long as you both shall live.

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  1. Thank you Cara, I am recuperating in Prince Albert from knee surgery and enjoyed reading your latest Refresh. God has given you a wonderful talent for writing and insight in so many things. I honestly don’t know how you do what you do with the challenges in your life and God gives you such insight in putting things together. I know it through the Lord’s strength. So glad we got to pop in last spring. Oh my, it is coming up on a year. I’m so sorry for the loss in your family recently and trust God will comfort your family. I have loved observing you grow into a wonderful woman of God, wife and mother.
    Love and prayer,
    Sharon Pfaffenroth
    In addition, plus being a pastor’s wife and those responsibilities.

    1. Thank you, Mrs. Pfaffenroth, for your kind words! I appreciate all your prayers and support through the years. I am praying for your speedy and full healing. May God bless and strengthen you each day.

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