1. Love God more than your spouse: God is love and He has shown us how to love by giving his son for us. When we love God in return, he enables us to love supernaturally and our desire to please Him gives us strength we need to love our spouse even in difficult times.
2. Love your spouse: Love is sacrifice, hard work, commitment, intentionality, not just emotion. Love with your hands and feet. Your emotions will follow.
3. Laugh: Laugh often and much, don't take yourself too seriously or be easily offended.
4. Forgive: living and loving in marriage comes with greater opportunity for hurt as well. Forgive easily and often. Keep no record of wrongs.
5. Ask forgiveness: admitting where you went wrong is an exercise in humility and repentance. Say "I'm sorry" without defending yourself.
6. Commit: Commitment starts on day one, when marriage vows are taken and the phrase "til death do us part" is wholeheartedly embraced with no "exit sign" in your mind for the rest of your life.
7. Initiate Intimacy: Sex is cement, bonding us emotionally, physically, and beautifully together. Make it a habit to not turn down your partner for sex. There is maintenance sex, and gourmet sex. Both are needed. If you need to turn down your partner, make it your aim to be the initiator the next time, and preferably within the next few days.
8. Spend less than you make: Money issues are one of the top reasons for divorce and can be the biggest stress in marriage. Live frugally and within your means.
9. Communicate: This takes carving out adequate time. Communicate every day, but spend additional time weekly to share feelings and thoughts more intentionally and intimately.
10. Extend simple courtesy: rudeness or lack of simple courtesy devalues and harms your spouse. Simple courtesy builds appreciation and love.
11. Time away together: take a vacation together yearly even if just one night away from the kids. Make this time for just the two of you a priority.
12. Multiply: embrace the Biblical view of children as a blessing from God and seek his blessing. Children add tremendous joy, excitement, and opportunity for stretching and growth for parents. Multiplication also happens when couples intentionally invest together in the lives of others.
13. Honor your spouse in public: make it a practice to never criticize or put down your spouse in front of others. If you feel the need to do so, these are private issues you should make time to discuss carefully with your spouse.
14. Fellowship with believers: Church involvement and fellowship with other believers provides needed accountability and encouragement in marriage.
15. Encourage your spouse's individuality: respect differences and give your spouse freedom and encouragement to pursue their God-given gifts and callings.
16. Guard your heart: your heart belongs to your spouse. Where the mind dwells, the emotions with follow. Don't give your heart away to a job, a "friend", or a fantasy.
17. Speak the truth in love: learn to phrase your words well and exercise a kind tone of voice when speaking truths that are hard.
18. Don't compare: don't compare your spouse to another or your marriage to another. Be content with your spouse.
19. Pick one thing: when the going gets rough, and if you've gotten on a negative path with a view towards your spouse, pick one thing. Find just one thing about them that you admire and appreciate. Focus and dwell on that one thing, thanking and appreciating them for it. Over time, your list will grow.
20. There is Grace: In this fallen world, we are all broken in need of grace. It is only by His grace that we are forgiven, and hearts are healed and empowered to live for more than ourselves. It is by his grace, that marriages last. Even if you've been broken and hurt by divorce, he will not abandon you. His graces reaches out to you offering hope, healing, love and compassion.
Happy 20th Anniversary to the love of my life, Mr. Tom Graney! Thank you for 20 adventure-filled years!