10 Tips for having a grace-filled marriage
I’m not a graceful person. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I watched in awe as middle schoolers jumped hurdles during a track meet. I trip over my own two feet and can’t imagine I’d fare well trying to run and jump over a hurdle. I have given up hope on being graceful. But I continue to strive to be a grace-filled person. That affects my relationship with myself, my children and my husband. I want to have a grace-filled family life and a grace-filled marriage. I want my husband and me to be an example to our children as we live out God’s grace to each other daily.
After just over 22 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned a lot about what a grace-filled marriage looks like. We are not at all perfect. We’ve had our fair share of mess-ups, and we still do. But, we have grown and changed together through the years. God has worked in our lives and in our relationship to bring us closer together. He has given us grace so freely that we work to give it to each other as well. I’ve found that often the smallest things can make the biggest difference.
1. Ban negative talk.
This doesn’t mean you pretend everything is great when it isn’t. Instead this means, banning any talk that is harmful to your spouse. Name-calling, belittling or angry outbursts aren’t conducive to building a grace-filled marriage. In fact, a grace-filled marriage includes letting go of some of our own selfish desires like revenge and hurt!
Neither my husband nor I are yellers. We haven’t struggled with calling each other names either. But we have struggled with negative talk in other ways. Early on in our marriage, we realized that even if we were with friends or family who were joking about shortcomings of our spouse, it hurt the other for us to join in. In fact, we learned to shut it down nicely and change the subject.
We have also dealt with passive-aggressiveness. We make it a point to say what we mean. For example, if I’m irritated with my husband for not helping with something, instead of making snide comments or slamming kitchen cabinets as I work, I am direct with him.
Negative talk hurts your relationship and each other. It can make you feel bad about yourself or your spouse (or both!). None of that is good for your relationship.
2. Look at each other’s point-of-view.
Sometimes we think about looking at our spouse’s point-of-view when we’re having a disagreement and trying to compromise. But the more we often we look at his or her point-of-view, the more likely we are to have a grace-filled marriage. I’ve learned through the years that the more I can see my husband’s side of things, the fewer hard feelings I have and the less angry I feel. I understand him more than am irritated by him.
For example, my husband and I are very different when our vehicle is low on gas. He doesn’t mind driving until there is only a few miles’ worth left in the tank. I start getting antsy around 1/4 tank of gas. Once the light comes on, I MUST fill up right away! A couple of years ago, this was an issue when I had to borrow my husband’s car. I stopped myself from getting irritated with him as I realized he hadn’t expected me to drive it and the gas light being on wasn’t worrisome to him. He wasn’t intentionally making my life difficult. In other words, I gave him grace for being who he is.
Stopping ourselves and thinking about where our spouses are coming from allows us to have more grace for them.
3. Find ways to connect with each other.
In the busyness of life, it’s easy to miss connecting with our spouses. My husband and I share a home office, and we still don’t get to connect without being intentional. We do different work and are often in our own worlds as we go through the day. Being intentional about connecting with your spouse is important. Find time to talk after the kids go to bed. Schedule a lunch out once a month. Figure out a hobby you can do together. (My husband and I enjoy gaming together!)
Feeling connected to our spouse helps remind us why we love them so much. We end up naturally giving them more grace as a result.
4. Laugh with each other.
Laughing together is a great way to help make sure you have a grace-filled marriage. We bond with other people through laughter. Just having fun together is good for any relationship and makes it easier to feel more like giving grace to each other.
Find ways and reasons to laugh together. We watch funny shows or movies. Sometimes we even laugh ironically together at the craziness of life going on around us. We definitely laugh with our children as well. And, of course, laugh together not at each other in a harmful way.
5. Listen to each other.
In order to understand someone else, we have to listen to them. As the old saying goes, God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason. This is true in marriage as well. Listening is a big part of communication, and we all want to have good communication in our marriages.
We can’t possible understand where our spouse is coming from or how they’re feeling without listening to what they are saying. Listening to your husband makes it easier to give him grace when he is cranky after a really bad day at work. Or listening to your wife can help you give her grace when she snaps at you after being up half the night with the kids.
Of course we should always treat our spouses well, but we are also all human and sometimes we need grace. In order to give that grace to our spouses, we must listen to what they tell us.
6. Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Another key to having a grace-filled marriage is to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. For example, when they do something that causes extra work on you, don’t assume they’ve done it on purpose. Making that attitude shift really is helpful. It can move you from thinking your spouse left the glob of toothpaste in the sink because he doesn’t care how hard you have to work to clean it to realizing he was in a hurry and just didn’t see it himself.
In a healthy marriage, you do well to give each other the benefit of the doubt and give grace for shortcomings. Chances are super high your spouse isn’t really trying to irk you or make your life more difficult!
7. Connect with God together and individually.
From the beginning of our relationship, back when my husband and I were very young high school sweethearts, we have been honest about our faith and relationship with God. In fact, it’s something that drew the two of us together even then.
Now, so many years later, our faith is still something that draws us together. Having time with God together is important. That can look different for different couples, but find a way to connect with God together. Maybe you pray together at bedtime or maybe you read a devotion book together. Perhaps you simply go to church together or participate in a small group together.
You also need your own time with God to connect with Him. I get strength outside of myself to give my husband grace from God. Each morning I pray to be the wife my husband needs that day. I want to see my husband like God sees him as much as possible. Because God made this really awesome guy whose insights on faith and God often blow me away. When I see him in that light, it makes giving him grace all that much easier and leads to a more grace-filled marriage.
8. Talk about problems instead of ignoring them.
Confronting someone goes against my nature. If you go by Myers-Briggs personality types, I’m an INFJ, and none of us like confrontation. I don’t like conflict and am inclined to just ignore it. But I’ve learned when I try ignoring a problem, it not only doesn’t go away but usually gets bigger and bigger. This is true in my marriage as well.
While we don’t want or need to nitpick our spouses’ every behavior, we do need to talk with them when there’s an issue to resolve. When problems are ignored and “shoved under the rug,” then they grow and fester. We end up taking those feelings out on our spouses in other ways like getting short with them and ending up with quite the opposite of a grace-filled marriage.
9. Ask your spouse for help.
I’m a happier person and wife who is more inclined to give grace to her family when she’s not overworked and exhausted. My husband is the same way. So sometimes that means we ask each other for help. It really is OK to let go and ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are somehow failing. It just means you’re human!
If you need another reason to ask for help, then ask for help because it will help you have a more grace-filled marriage! And don’t be afraid to kindly ask for help with things you think your spouse ought to know need done anyway. Go back to tip number 6 and recognize that maybe your spouse truly didn’t notice the sink full of dishes, the dryer of clothes to be folded or the bathroom trashcan overflowing. Instead of doing all the tasks in a huff, ask for help.
10. Be each other’s biggest support.
One of the most harmful things in a marriage is dwelling on the negative attributes of your spouse. Once you start doing that and grousing in your head and/or to others about them constantly, then you start seeing only the negative in your spouse. It can be hard to act gracefully toward them.
Instead, focus on their positive attributes and be their biggest cheerleader. I don’t think there’s anything with technology my husband can’t do or figure out. He’s so incredibly great at it. He doesn’t think there are any words I don’t know how to spell. When I’m having a moment of being hard on myself — something I excel at — he cheers me on and reminds me of the things I’m good at and doing right.
Being focused on the positive attributes of your spouse allows a lot more room for you to give them grace. You won’t be thinking about all the ways they come up short, but instead you’ll be thinking about all the things they’re awesome at. In turn, that will make it even easier to give them grace during a difficult moment.