This post is now also found on NURTURINGMARRIAGE.ORG which is an inspiring place full of awesome ideas to help improve your marriage!
Don't worry... you don't need to do all 50 :). And some of these ideas won't apply to your situation in life. But, I hope this list inspires you to just try ONE and re-focus on the person you love! I think it's so easy, with the stresses of parenting or working or life, to neglect giving daily love and attention to our most important relationship on earth. In marriage, we are completely known for who we are and our spouses get our best and our very worst. Luckily we can continually learn and grow as a person and a couple. Being married to my very best friend is the biggest blessing in life!!
If you ever feel that your marriage could be stronger or you feel your relationship needs a re-charge (which is always does), pick one that works for you and have fun!! I so believe that discovering ways to show love in YOUR SPOUSE'S LANGUAGE and re-discovering your FRIENDSHIP over and over again is what builds a strong marriage! So I hope one idea may help...
1. Choose to act, not re-act.Isn't it so natural to react to others, to become offended when someone is offensive?! To mentally blow up your spouse's faults to justify your "better," standing? To reflect shortness to someone's being short or irritable? You cannot ever change others, but you have the power to choose how you act and how you love.
2. Be the first to change.
My husband and I once heard the advice to look into a “mirror,” when there’s any particular marriage issue…definitely NOT in an effort to blame yourself, but to ask yourself, “How can I change or make things better?” Or, “What can I do differently?” Really, you are the only thing you can control, and your efforts can and may inspire your spouse.
3. Flirt with each other.
It's funny how we totally flirt while dating, but once we're married we can easily forget to be fun with each other! Just because you've snagged him or her, don't stop flirting. Try to bring it back :).
4. Laugh more.
Remember when you were dating and you laughed about everything? We all can get into a rut and forget to have fun, but we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to not be so serious all the time. The other night, my husband and I were bantering and laughing, and I caught a glimpse of my son’s wide eyes and sheepish smile. Children secretly light up inside when they see their parents laugh and connect!
5. Text each other.
Surprise him with a spontaneous, flirty text, or a sentence about why you are so grateful for her. Finding small ways to connect during the day makes a difference.
6. Initiate intimacy.
Through extensive research and experience in married couples therapy, Dr. Willard Harley discussed the top 10 marital needs in his book "His Needs. Her Needs." The needs that women rated as their top 5 were typically men's bottom 5, and vice versa. Harley explains that the marital need of "sexual fulfillment" doesn't necessarily mean just quantity, but even more - quality. Interestingly, men feel most fulfilled and loved only when they feel their spouse is also desiring and also fulfilled. Dr. Harley counsels wives in therapy to discover how they personally can enjoy intimacy more and more, prepare for it, and especially choose to initiate.
7. Offer praise and show appreciation.When your husband or wife works hard, or does something for you, let him or her know you appreciate them! Everyone desires to feel understood and valued. In a moment where you could become frustrated, first think of something you could be grateful for in your spouse. Interestingly, researchers have found that "praise and appreciation" are actually one of men’s top five needs in marriage.
8. Drop everything.
Try putting aside your eternal to-do lists just for a moment, and give your husband or wife your sincere, undivided attention.
9. Start a hobby together.
With our babies asleep at home one night, we decided to write a “bucket list” of fun things we wanted to do together. We love rock-climbing, so we've started buying the gear. Find something you both would enjoy!
10. Read a book together.
11. Plan a date night.
Even if it is in your own home, when the kiddos are asleep (but I love it when we actually leave the house!). If you need some fun date night ideas, click here. It’s so important to have that time to fall in love all over again - just the two of you. Find what works for you, and maybe even officially ask each other out!
12. True love is never about you.
I love the article "Marriage Isn't for You" where we learn "you marry to make someone else happy." How can you build, and serve, and add to the happiness and well-being of your spouse?
13. Feel beautiful.
Trying to oversee that four people get their teeth brushed, clothes on, hair done, and tummies fed means it’s easy for me to get last pickings on personal time. One day with all my little buddies finally strapped in car seats, we made it all the way to the store before I realized I forgot my own shoes! However, I have made it my New Year’s resolution wife-goal to somehow find a way to feel more beautiful for my husband, because it seriously makes such a difference to me.
14. Remember the "real" golden rule.
In marriage, it’s not just treating your spouse the way you want to be treated, but meeting their needs in the way they want. This takes lots of time, practice, trying and understanding - over and over again.
15. Make a surprise breakfast.
16. Say you are sorry (sincerely).
Say you are sorry even before your spouse does, and irregardless of whether he/she gives an apology, too. I love the quote by Ruth Bell Graham, "A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers."
17. Remember the power of touch.
Spontaneously decide to dedicate an entire day to as many random acts of physical touch as possible… back scratches, hugging while talking, touches in passing, etc.
18. Write a fun love note.
Maybe a "Top 10 Things I Love about My Wife," on the bathroom mirror, or post-it notes or a letter thrown in his car, or on the bedroom door.
19. Light candles and give each other massages.
20. Grab a kiss while you wait.
Kiss your husband or wife while you're waiting at the stoplight, or in the food drive-through, or at the grocery store...just because.
21. Remember the power of exits and entrances.
As you and your spouse say goodbye's and reunite again after a long day, be aware of how you show love during these important cross roads.
22. Take interest in each other's interests.
Doesn’t it make you feel close to someone when they take a keen interest in what you love?! If it matters to your spouse, then it should matter to you because you love them.
23. Dance together.
Dance in the kitchen, in the parking lot, under the stars, in your home, anywhere... as long as you both would enjoy that.
24. Verbally show appreciation for your spouse in front of your family and friends.
When with his family, for example, share real sincere appreciation for what your husband does or who he is. When you are around her friends, mention something specific you love about her.
25. Buy or make a surprise gift.
Surprise her with a fun gift that she would really enjoy. Or save the money and don't buy anything, if that's his love language!
26. Find some sanity at home.
No matter how much we all work together on cleaning and organizing our house, it usually feels so overwhelming. I do care about the environment of our home because it does affect everyone, especially me and my ability to focus more on relationships. I've also found that cleaning together as a couple can also be a good time to chat.
27. Encourage his hobbies.
It will make a huge difference, and help him to feel more balanced, and to be his best self. I sure need this, and I know he does too.
28. Take a hike or walk, while holding hands.
29. Eat an ice cream cone together.
Buy one large cone and eat it together at the same time.
30. Pray together each night.
Recently I attended a wedding ceremony where I heard some of the best marriage advice, it was this, "As you are praying together, express 1) something you love/appreciate about your spouse and 2) what you personally want to work on (to improve yourself)." If you're not a praying couple, you could just verbalize this to each other.
31. Have a wrestling match.
32. Exercise together.
One time, while doing a P90x workout, my husband caught me drinking milk during a "water break"... and dunking Oreos.
33. Cuddle while watching a movie.
34. Make his favorite treat.
35. Play a game together.
I kind of pride myself on being undefeated in Settler's...
36. Look in her eyes.
Try looking your wife straight in the eyes when she talks to you, to show her that she is your number one at that moment. Walking over to her and being close helps you be more focused on her, and helps to show you care.
37. Stick to the budget the two of you have worked out.
38. Let her sleep in.
Your wife probably seems to be the one who is always getting up with the kids, or getting up before you do. Let her sleep in from time to time. She will love you for it.
Sometimes we are so bombarded with what we are doing we forget to smile. When your spouse is around or walks in the room, try smiling more.
40. Cook her favorite meal.
Even if you don't know how to cook very well. Do a little research, call your mom, and surprise her with a special meal. It will mean a lot to her.
41. Say, "I love you," in creative ways.
It's easy to say the words "I love you," but it is way more fun to leave those words for your spouse to find in creative ways. Spell it out with cereal, with lipstick on the bathroom mirror, or little game pieces while you're playing a board game.
42. Offer to help.
Your husband or wife has a kajillion things going on and it never hurts to take him or her by the shoulders and just say, "What can I do to help?"
(#43-#45 come from the book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by Dr. John Gottman, who has revolutionized the study of marriage.)
43. Soften your startup.
John Gottman wrote "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," and hisresearch shows that “discussions invariably end on the same note they begin. … If you start an argument harshly – meaning you attack your spouse verbally – you’ll end up with at least as much tension as you began. But if you use a softened startup – meaning you complain but don’t criticize or otherwise attack your spouse – the discussion is likely to be productive."
44. Enhance your "love map."
Dr. Gottman describes how couples need a "richly detailed love map," which means continually seeking to understand your spouse's current needs, stresses, worries, friends, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. We need to better understand how our spouses really perceive love. Here's the link to take the 5 Love Languages Quiz. It also goes deeper and more personalized than that, so keep exploring what helps you feel most connected and loved!
45. Nurture your fondness & admiration.
Every now and then, stop yourself and just dwell on all the things you spouse does do, and all the little things you do admire about him/her. As you do this, your tender appreciation grows, and these inner feelings affect how you interact and treat your spouse. Just as people choose to dwell on their frustrations, "nurturing fondness," is also a choice.
46. Sometimes just go to bed!
We don’t always believe in the adage to "never go to bed angry." Our kids sure struggle when they are overtired, and so do we. In a moment of frustration, when tired and cranky, sometimes it is best just to go to bed. You'll likely wake up in the morning with a renewed perspective!
47. Turn towards each other rather than away.
48. Inspire the best in each other.
49. Hold your wife close.
Sometimes just hold your wife close, let her cry to you, let you unload all her feelings, tell her that your love for her and your relationship is more important than any problem to be solved. If you spouse is inwardly hurt and being hurtful, sometime hold him and show an outpouring of love.
50. See your spouse as a person.
Sometimes we can view those closest to us as objects to blame or criticize. Remember that your spouse is a person, a part of you, that has real concerns and needs just as legitimate and important as your own!
I hope we all can be filled with hope and charity and seek to just make ONE small step and change for the better!