When Ashley and I got married thirteen years ago, we were young and in love, but we were also pretty clueless (me especially)! Along the way, we've had so many people share wise advice and life experiences with us, which has helped guide our family through good times and hard times.
Through the years, I've been collecting some of the best marriage advice others have shared with us (and some I had to learn through my own mistakes). If you apply these twenty-three principles below to your relationship, it could make a life-changing difference in your marriage.
1. Choose to love each other, even in those moments when you struggle to like each other. Love is a commitment, not a feeling.
2. Always answer the phone when your husband/wife is calling. When possible, try to keep your phone off when you're together with your spouse.
3. Make time together a priority. Budget for a consistent date night. Time is the "currency of relationships," so consistently invest time into your marriage.
4. Surround yourself with friends who will strengthen your marriage. Remove yourself from people who may tempt you to compromise your character.
5. Make laughter the soundtrack of your marriage. Share moments of joy. And even in the hard times, find reasons to laugh.
6. In every argument, remember that there won't be a "winner" and a "loser." You're partners in everything so you'll either win together or lose together. Work together to find a solution.
7. Realize that a strong marriage rarely has two strong people at the same time. It's usually a husband and wife taking turns being strong for each other in the moments when the other feels weak.
8. Prioritize what happens in the bedroom. It takes more than sex to build a strong marriage, but it's nearly impossible to build a strong marriage without it.
9. Remember that marriage isn't 50/50— divorce is 50/50. Marriage has to be 100/100. It's not splitting everything in half, but both partners giving everything they've got.
10. Give your best to each other, not your leftovers after you've given your best to everyone else.
11. Learn from other people, but don't feel the need to compare your life or your marriage to anyone else's. God's plan for your life is masterfully unique.
12. Don't put your marriage on hold while you're raising your kids or else you'll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage.
13. Never keep secrets from each other. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy.
14. Never lie to each other. Lies break trust and trust is the foundation of a strong marriage.
15. When you've made a mistake, admit it and humbly seek forgiveness. You should be quick to say, "I was wrong. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
16. When your husband/wife breaks your trust, give them your forgiveness instantly. This will promote healing and create the opportunity for trust to be rebuilt. You should be quick to say, "I love you. I forgive you. Let's move forward."
17. Be patient with each other. Your spouse is always more important than your schedule.
18. Model the kind of marriage that will make your sons want to grow up to be good husbands, and your daughters want to grow up to be good wives.
19. Be your spouse's biggest encourager, not his/her biggest critic. Be the one who wipes away their tears, not the one who causes them.
20. Never talk badly about your spouse to other people or vent about them online. Protect your spouse at all times and in all places.
21. Always wear your wedding ring. It will remind you that you're always connected to your spouse and will remind the rest of the world that you're off limits.
22. When you have to choose between saying nothing or saying something mean to your spouse, say nothing every time.
23. Never consider divorce as an option. Remember that a "perfect marriage" is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.