Neil and I have been married for just over 4 years (March 2, 2013). In some ways that feels like a long time and in other’s I know we are just beginning. We’ve known each other almost 7 years and in that time we’ve grown in so many ways. As a couple, as individuals, as parents, friends, partners in crime, the list goes on and on. He’s my other half, my “soulmate” if you believe in that sort of thing, my Husband. I still love calling him that… my husband. It’s got a nice ring to it.

When we were dating, just getting to know each other, things were fun and mostly easy. Just two kids in love, holding hands and dreaming of a life together. We broke up for a short time, but two months later we were back together and got engaged just a month or two after that! Things haven’t always been easy. Between job losses, money being tight, pregnancy hormones, stressful family situations and well… being human, things have gotten tough now and then, but we pull through and I’d like to believe we come out stronger on the other side every time.

We both come from families of divorce which can make life interesting. With broken backgrounds and unhealthy relationships to look up to, it’s hard to find the ‘right’ path or steps to take to make sure we stay together. Not only stay together but stay loving each other! So we work at it. We work on our marriage constantly. I don’t know about you, but putting a ring on it and taking the honeymoon was the easy part, from then on things got REAL.

Here are 2 ways we keep our marriage strong and healthy.

1. Sweet and Suck

Every night when we are heading to bed one of us will ask the other “what is your sweet and suck?” This is one of my favorite things we’ve implemented in our marriage. Basically, we mean what was the highlight of your day, and the lowest point of your day?  It keeps us in each other’s space, continually learning what makes the other person happy and what we can do to help out more.

Sweets- When it’s been a few days/weeks since the other person was our sweet of the day, we know something needs to be done. Maybe we just need to spend time together or maybe we need a real date night soon. Since Zoe came into the world a LOT of our sweets are around her, whether it was her laugh or her falling or her cuteness overload… it’s easy to find her as the highlight of the day. And while that’s great, it’s not good if it happens too many days in a row. We need to keep each other in sight and put each other before Zoe so we can be healthy and happy as a couple.

Having sweets also helps us remember things through the day and laugh together about things the other missed or be thankful for something new etc.

Sucks- Sometimes our suck of the day is something as trivial as “I forgot to do laundry” and that’s okay (man I hate doing laundry)! I mean, if that’s the worst thing that happened all day we are doing pretty good I think. But sometimes it is a deeper issue that needs to be talked about, and having this time of the day gives us an open space to talk about things without it being an argument.

For example, Neils “suck” the other night was that I keep leaving garbage around the house. He’s asked me a few times to stop, just take the time to throw it out, and yet for whatever reason, I keep doing it. And for good reason, it is driving him nuts. This is an easy fix, I simply need to throw out my garbage. But when he was telling me, I could tell it didn’t just bother him a little, it NEEDS to change. And we talked about it right then and there. It wasn’t a fight, he simply told me how it made him feel, I apologized for how inconsiderate it is of me (really, how hard is it to throw out your mess Julia, c’mon), and we moved on. We didn’t stay angry or fight over it (I think 4 years ago we probably would have haha!) we simply talked about it and moved on.

That’s a pretty easy example. Sometimes we bring up something that’s been bothering us for a while and it needs to be a bigger conversation at another time (if we are too tired then) but at least it gives us space to bring it up and let the other person know it’s on our mind.

I LOVE THIS TIME.

If you don’t have space where you can open up to your partner like this, I suggest you find the time. When we were dating (all but 8 weeks of our dating was long distance) we both wrote in journals every day. When we got together for the weekend we took the time to go out for coffee and read through each other’s weeks. This helped us see into the others lives, the process they go through when dealing with issues and also gave us the space to talk freely to one another. Whatever season of relationship you are in, it is WORTH IT to communicate well.

2. Pray together and for each other

We do this at night, right after our “Sweet and Sucks” time. Some nights we play fight over who HAS to pray as if it’s such a chore. But we are getting better I promise! What an honor to come before our King and bring him praise and requests.  I love prayer.  I especially love prayer when it’s just God and Me. I am really comfortable in that place, probably because I spend more time there than I do praying with other people (maybe that needs to change?) but taking time with your partner is incredibly important.

Together we take the time to pray for those we’ve said we’d pray for (family and friends who’ve asked for prayer) as well as praying for our family. It’s powerful to hear the person you love most in the world pray over you! Whether it is for peace, clarity, direction or just a good sleep that night! To know they are lifting you up before the Heavenly Father is a beautiful thing. I can’t get enough.

In the last few months, we have become very intentional with our prayer life. Not that we are amazing or perfect at it, but when we say we will pray for you, we are making a point of doing so. We share with each other who told us what, and together we keep a mental list of what to pray for. I think it would be cool to make a little prayer board in our room, sticking up prayer requests we get and having a place to put answered prayers. War Room anyone?? Man, there’s a good movie. Haven’t seen it? WATCH IT.

Why is it important we continue with this?

Because we want to stay together for the long haul. Because it’s important to us that Zoe and Little Bean are raised with parents who love each other and fight for each other and not with each other. Because we love doing these things and it makes us better together. Because this is how we keep our marriage strong.

Maybe one day we will find other ways that are better than this, but for now, it’s what is working for us! What do YOU and your partner do that keep you moving forward together and not in separate directions? I’d love to hear in the comments how you keep your marriage / relationship strong and healthy.

You are loved!

XO.

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