The Best Tips I Can Give You for a REALLY, REALLY Great Marriage

marriage tips
(Photo by our amazing photographer, Rachel Thurston)

So, at this point, because of our combined experiences, Danny & I happen to know a lot about what makes for a good marriage. ðŸ™‚  We think marriage is one of the greatest blessings anyone can have & we really do feel grateful for it every single day.  But we also know that a lot of people have ebbs & flows in their marriage & that it can be a difficult experience for many.  So here are our best tips.  These are all specific things that we do, so we know firsthand they work like a charm :)….

• Speak REALLY kindly to each other.  Always!  Do not speak with a negative tone (ever).  It’s possible to do this folks, if you want to.  Just sayin’.
• Make SERVING each other your highest priority. And make serving others your second highest priority.

[There is nothing more attractive and endearing than a charitable person.]  
• Speak highly of your spouse to others and then later, tell your spouse how fun it was to share what you did!  (Danny does this all-the-time when he is sharing our story with coworkers or people he meets throughout the day.  It is the sweetest thing in the world to me & makes me feel like a million bucks.)
• Do not EVER speak negatively about your spouse or complain about them to others.  Ever, ever, ever.  Just don’t bring that kind of negativity into your marriage.
• Exercise & stay fit!  Makes for a positive outlook, healthy body, and great sexy time. 🙂  Speaking of…
• Have SEX AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE  ðŸ™‚ 🙂 🙂  Make that a major, major priority!  Just start thinking about your spouse (naked) often.  And pretty soon you won’t have to “make” anything happen.  It just will happen.  And maybe lots of you are saying, “Yeah, sure…you don’t have kids….”  But on those nights that sex just simply may not be happening due to late nights or kids or work schedules or whatever…. well, I think that being intimate in ANY way counts for something.  So, make sure to always do SOMETHING each day……..i.e.  let’s see… crawling into bed naked or taking a shower together.  That would do it. ðŸ™‚
• Say thanks to each other – a bunch – for all the little things your spouse does for you.
• Learn how to handle trials in a healthy way.  All the little ones…AND the big ones.  When you learn how to do this, you don’t drag your spouse and family into your drama/dysfunction.
• Forgive for everything.  EVERYTHING.  I know this may take another post on what forgiveness is and how to do that, but no matter what, you’ve got to find a way to let go and remove anger, pain, and grudges from your heart.
• Praise your spouse often.  

• Do not blame ANYONE for your unhappiness, especially your spouse of all people!  Make sure your peace and happiness is not based on your spouse.  Tricky to think that way… But it is the greatest advice I could give you.  It allows you to love your spouse/kids better when you do this.
• Pray together… EVERY DAY! When done sincerely and lovingly, it is the most beautiful thing to do together!!!!!  This can feel as intimate as sex.  hahaha.  I am telling you……..DO IT and see what I am talking about!  You don’t want to miss out on this!!!!!!!!!  Even if you are not religious, meditate together, share some meaningful words of gratitude & hope.
• Stay committed to God or to whatever gives you the greatest strength.  When you do this, your daily life will be aligned with good things and everything else above falls into to place so easily.

Does anyone have any other ideas to add here?  We would be so happy to hear them!  I am sure other people would, too.
With Love,


p.s.  Here is a short little video about marriage that I think is so sweet.  I think I had a teeny tear when I saw this.

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  1. Laurie October 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    great post. I am going to print off the list, because after 18 1/2 years of marriage and 7 kiddos, sometimes i forget the little things. Love your suggestions, they are spot on!

    • Anonymous April 26, 2012 at 3:23 am - Reply

      The tips are SO true! My husband and I have been married almost 18years ( we have one child); we always say nice things about each other to other people, express our gratitude to each other, praise and pray together, AND make time for love making. These tips are indeed crucial ingredients for a long and happy marriage!

  2. K.C. + Sherry Layton October 5, 2011 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Mara- this is a great list and SO. VERY. true. kc and i have always tried to make our marriage something special. we are truly happy and its because we work at things every. day. one thing i would add is to have little "special occasion" on an ordinary day. use fancy wine glasses for dinner with a fancy drink. in other words. make life with your love FUN!! however you want to do that.
    you are a sweet inspiration and i am thrilled that you are a happy gal! ps. love the new fall line. it is beauty. and so is your model! i would love to do her hair. it is perfect!

  3. Mara Kofoed October 5, 2011 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Sherry! I LOVE your idea about using fancy wine glasses & making the ordinary a little more special. Even though it's just the two of us, when we can we like to have meals sitting down with a "set" table. It just makes meal time more set apart from the rest of our busy days and makes it feel like we are "dining" (aka no laptops, no cell phones, and great conversation :).

  4. Sarah F. October 6, 2011 at 5:26 am - Reply

    Mara, my friend. I love you to death. I imagine I'll be saying this after each post. Thank you for your inspiring words 🙂 I look forward to being able to apply them one day 😉

  5. Amanda Blair October 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Aw, reading your blog just puts a smile on my face. it's so nice to read about people who are so positive and view marriage, not as a chore, but as blessing.

  6. Mara Kofoed October 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Amanda & Sarah & Laurie – you made my day.

    And yes, Amanda, I agree! I think it's super important to not view marriage as a chore. Even the difficult parts of it can be blessings to us…cause ALL of it is for one great purpose –progression.

  7. Wahzat Gayle October 8, 2011 at 1:52 am - Reply

    Awesome tips!

  8. Iren October 8, 2011 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I like your tips, thanks!
    After 15 years of being together (7 of it married) and having three little kids I would like to add the HUMOR to your list. We take things often with humor and laugh about our selves and about stupid situations instead of getting upset. I love our humor in our love-ship very much and couldn't live without it. Laughing together is like praying together…

  9. Mara Kofoed October 9, 2011 at 2:09 am - Reply

    Iren – – THANKS for that addition! How did we forget that? That one definitely needs to be on there…So thanks for adding it. 🙂

  10. droitetgauche October 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Mara, I found your post through Design Mom and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it! I read it on Friday and thought, "Pah. Newlyweds! And their insufferable optimism!" I spent the following day with my husband and his family for his sisters wedding. I can't believe how rude my husband and I were being to each other the whole day and I was getting so frustrated! What horrible timing! As I watched my sister-in-law and her husband at their reception, and their insufferable optimism, I remembered this post and realized that I had been doing the opposite of all of these things practically the whole day. So I went over to my husband to apologize. Before I could say anything he apologized first and we kind of turned into crybabies about our bad behavior. So I've been trying to remember your suggestions today, and I think you're right. It's hard work, but you're right 🙂 Congratulations for being such a smart newlywed! Also, cute blog!

  11. danny October 10, 2011 at 2:04 am - Reply

    droitetgauche – Thanks for the great comment! And, I must admit I'd totally agree with you about the "insufferable newlywed" comment if it weren't for the fact that Mara and I have some major experience prior to this oh so fortunate union!

    We may be newlywed to each other, but Mara and I have 7 and 4 years of prior marriage experience. The lessons above are things we knew and tried to do long before our former spouses went their separate ways. After our divorces, both of us were committed to finding someone who viewed marriage in exactly the terms mentioned above because we already knew it was the secret to success.

    Maybe you've already noticed by some of the emails we've posted…but we started to figure our pretty early on that we each felt the exact same way about how to conduct ourselves and treat each other.

    And though it may start out as "hard work", if you make these things the pattern, and do each of them very deliberately instead of waiting for everything to fall into place, well then it really doesn't become work at all…it's the norm. We don't do these things or speak this way BECAUSE we're newlyweds, we do this because we KNOW it is the key to a truly happy marriage and beautiful partnership!

  12. droitetgauche October 10, 2011 at 2:58 am - Reply

    Oh yeah, I'm totally wrong about you guys being newlyweds! I just read more of the blog and you two have earned the right to give anyone marriage tips, anytime! I think this is a really brave thing you two are doing to share so much, in such an honest way. I really admire it!

    Also, it's a lot of fun to read your e-mails, is that creepy? My husband and I began our relationship in a semi-similar way and it's fun to remember, vicariously, those chills and thrills 🙂

  13. Julie October 10, 2011 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Love it, love it, love it! One of the BEST marriage advice articles I've ever read. (I've been married almost 20 years now.) 🙂

  14. Anonymous October 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    You have no idea what you are talking about you are too newly married -been there for 24 years and would never marry again, obviously i made the wrong choice but the majority of my friends are divorced or getting one. *Native New Yorker

  15. tjppnw October 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    Very sweet, I found your link through DesignMom. I also thought, newlyweds, however, so much of it is true and simple…if we treated each other like this, even most days (vs. occassionally), the little things would not get to be big things. Also, for the kids, watching a happy marriage, kindness to each other, raises their bar for a spouse someday and how they should treat someone they love. Good thoughts. I have been married for 13.5 years, my husband is my best friend, we have each others back and care deeply and can still laugh, but on a day to day, we could be kinder, in the way we speak, in the way we act, forgive more, be closer and pray. Thanks for the reminder!

  16. Mara Kofoed October 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Dear Anonymous – Thank you so much for writing! I realize this post does not make it clear that we actually have quite a history with marriage. Danny was married for 4 1/2 years prior. I was married for 7 years prior. (Danny writes some more details in his comment, above.) I know marriage can be difficult for many. But having gone through it before, we learned some really powerful lessons about trials, how to overcome them, and ultimately how to be happy, regardless of circumstance (& that includes being happy in marriage, too – – even when things don't work out.) We just hope to send a positive message about life and marriage out there to give people hope, as we believe everyone out there deserves it and can have it for themselves. Thanks, again. Best to you, Mara

  17. mara2 October 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    tjppnw – – THX for writing such an honest & great comment! I love what you said about "the little things [not becoming] big things". So true! I think the key is to guard all the little stuff and pay attention to it – – if something goes wrong in a "little" way, it's so much easier to turn it around, forgive, and get right back on track. When this becomes your way of life, the "big" things almost never come around.

    By the way, for everyone reading, in most cases I think it's possible to inspire your spouse to follow your lead as you apply this stuff! I wish all the best to you all!

  18. Stephanie October 16, 2011 at 3:52 am - Reply

    Great tips Mara…I love that you wrote these together. My husband actually sent me this link this week, having no idea I'd already read it. It was meant to be 🙂

    Gorgeous photo…I'm happy that you two found each other!

  19. Mara Kofoed October 19, 2011 at 1:40 am - Reply

    Stephanie- hooray for husbands reading these marriage tips!! That is AWESOME and so sweet.

  20. Mara Kofoed October 19, 2011 at 1:45 am - Reply

    I thought of one more tip that is SUPER EASY yet goes a long way….. SMILE BIG when you see each other or when you are saying good bye or whenever you can fit it in. Danny and I have never talked about this, but we totally do it…. And having someone genuinely giving you the biggest smile is just one of the best feelings in the world. You can't help but react positively.

  21. One Happy Family October 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Love it!! I think it's silly when people use the "oh- newlyweds" comment. Because don't we all want to still feel like we're newlyweds?! And if we treated each other the way we did when we were newlyweds, well- just maybe we would be just as happy as we were then. And besides everyone wants to live happily EVER AFTER! This life IS the honeymoon- we have all of eternity to be married. Thanks for the awesome insights!! 🙂

  22. Marriage's Biggest Fan November 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    I don't think 7 years or 4 years is a long time to be married. But you know what, sometimes you don't need 30 years of experience to be an expert. The list is spot on. If you remember why you married the person in the first place, and if you try your best to be the person they married, maybe you'll still want to be together once the years set in. Who better than those who are still in the new to remind you how to make your marriage feel new again?

    Perhaps there are those who don't want to read between the lines, and walk away with the thought of "Hey, exercise so your spouse isn't checking out someone else," or "If you had kept yourself in check, maybe he/she wouldn't have left you for someone else."

    Do I get a pass? I was fat when I got married anyway. 🙂

  23. Ariane December 3, 2011 at 5:50 am - Reply

    Hi there! A friend of mine posted your blog on her facebook page and I have really enjoyed reading your lovestory and of the wisdom you have learned along the way.
    I am having a little trouble following the order from beginning to end. I have gotten to the part right before yall met and then I can't find the rest, its like I am at a cliffhanger here and not seeing the rest of the guishy details(haha)!
    I love that you two are good examples of trusting the Lord and seeking 'the best gifts' even in the darkest moments. You two are pretty amazing! I have been married to my husband for 8 years and our love for each other strenthens me and really helps me to feel the love of the Lord on a new level through the love and support we give eachother. I feel blessed and inspired, thank you!

  24. ~Christine~ December 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Stumbled onto your blog from somewhere…..truly what I needed! Thanks so much for the marriage tips and wisdom. We are both remarried. These tips are exactly what I needed to be reminded of. The one book I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for any kind of relationship is "The five love languages" by Gary Chapman! Great book and when a person figures out their spouse's love language and implements it things definitely go smoother.
    Thanks again. This list is worthy of printing off and implementing into my life!

  25. Kellie December 9, 2011 at 5:11 am - Reply

    I read the tips before I read the history or the blog, "Newlyweds" isnt the first thing that came to mind, my immiate thought was, grab a pen, and take notes. My (ex) husband and I were together for 4 years before we married, and then divorced after only two. After my experiences, I firmly believe in the whole "soulmate" thing, after another 2 years of being divorced, somehow we found our way back to eachother, and it's hard work
    to say the least. I read this just when I needed… So I don't care if you two have been married to 6 months or 55 years, your experiences may save someone else's relationship. Thank you!

  26. snaphappee December 12, 2011 at 1:48 am - Reply

    Great post! When my husband and I got married over 23 years ago we determined follow your first point, and it has served us very well over the years. We NEVER say anything negative to or about each other, even in jest. We also both praise each other in private and in public. Talking nice makes some of the other suggestions easier (praying, sex, not laying blame).

    Thank you for this post – I'm going to share it!

  27. Anonymous December 14, 2011 at 1:32 am - Reply

    thanks for your positive take on this subject. it's a great reminder for those of us that have been working at it for awhile. my daughter is getting married soon and i had her read this. next time my future sil is over i'm having him read it too. thanks again.

  28. Danielle December 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Mara, my friend Steph, your coursin or was it sister- told me about your blog and you know what, this is awesome, i love it! i love reading a blog soley focused on creating a joyful and loving marriage. My hubby -whose name is also Danny- and I just celebrated our 7 year anniversary and i blogged seven tips that have kept our marriage filled with love and happines. Please feel free to check it out at my lil famliy blog
    Happy Blogging and thank you!
    PS i love the post about prayer, its a good reminder to how we should be doing our companionship prayer-we all fall off the band wagon sometimes

  29. KShonk Designs January 22, 2012 at 2:48 am - Reply

    I sat next to you at the second day lunch and loved your outfit:) I had to come check out your blog and I love this post and will be printing it out and posting it on our fridge when I get home. Can t wait to explore the whole blog!

  30. Ella January 27, 2012 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Just found your blog…love it. Brings both tears and smiles to me. Thank you for sharing.

  31. studio wellspring February 4, 2012 at 4:42 am - Reply

    amazing list ~ so inspiring & so helpful! in fact everything i've read on this blog could be described that way. i'm so glad i found you. and thank you both for what you're doing here. this is what so many, many people need and your wisdom, optimism & kindness are awesome. adoration overflowing. . . .

  32. Brinestone February 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Great list! The only one I have a (minor) quibble with is not saying anything negative about your spouse to others. In general, it's great advice. But in cases of abuse or just a really really bad marriage, I think it's dangerous to say "never say anything bad about your spouse" when talking about it and getting help might be the very best thing the person in the bad situation could do. But if things are generally going well-ish, even if you're kind of butting heads at the moment, keeping the marriage between the two of you is best, if only to make sure you do keep talking to each other instead of just whining ABOUT each other to your other friends. It helps you to feel like you're on the same team, solving problems together.

  33. Saskia February 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    It would kill my significant other to have sex every day. So we cuddle in bed – in pyjamas – to get that intimate vibe anyway. Not everyone has a high sex drive 🙂

  34. Sarah Ward February 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    There are couples I know who call each other names in jest but we don't even cross that line. There's an amazing book that I may start giving as a wedding gift to every wedding I go to that is called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It's amazing!

    Cable Car Couture

  35. The Harper Family February 20, 2012 at 5:39 am - Reply

    This is such an awesome post, I had to share it on Facebook. I LOVE the tips you posted. It is easy to become selfish in marriage without even realizing you have become such. You start to focus on what your spouse isn't doing "for you" and that gets you down. Instead, follow your tips and focus on your spouse. 🙂 Love it! Thanks!

  36. millionaire dating February 23, 2012 at 1:36 am - Reply

    For me, communication is really important.You need to understand each other. Anything else follows.

  37. Anonymous February 27, 2012 at 7:39 am - Reply

    But if u really only praise and never talk badly or complain, it may mean a great marriage but with one spouse being extremely frustrated. Sometimes you need to complain to others about your spouse to get rid of negative feelings or frustrations.

    • danny February 28, 2012 at 1:03 am - Reply

      Thanks Anon – you raise a valid question. One important distinction – there is a difference between seeking advice and complaining. If you go to good friends seeking honest advice for how YOU can help your spouse or how YOU can respond better to negative feelings or frustrations, then I would say you'd probably be okay. But the second what you say turns into complaining, bashing, demeaning, making fun of, or belittling your spouse…I personally think you've now stepped over bounds. There is no love in that, and therefore there is no goodness that can truly be gained (sure it might feel good for a while, but all you're doing is catering to your ego and lowering other's opinions of your spouse…that's a lose lose scenario).

      I feel so strongly about this, that even in my first marriage, when my wife came and told me about some very difficult things that were potentially ruinous for our marriage, I didn't tell any friends or family for 3 months. When she moved out, I told only my parents about the details, and didn't tell my siblings anything except that she moved out and was working things out on her own. Even after the divorce I didn't speak of specifics. I try not to speak poorly of anyone, even if it is factual.

      If I can keep quite and not complain about my wife in the middle of a divorce (and instead of complain, defend and express sympathy and encourage support and understanding), then I think it's fair to ask people to not complain about their spouse to whom they are reasonably happily married. The way you speak affects how you think, and the more negatively you speak of another, the more justified you will feel in your own head of mistreating them or saying unkind words directly to them.

      The only obvious exception I can think of is in the case of abuse of any kind, where you or others are in danger of some sort (physical or mental). Speak to someone, maybe a friend or family if that's as much as you can muster. I would strongly suggest you should speak to a professional.

  38. Bec February 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing. Even if you are still newlyweds, if you keep your own advice, you'll be acting like "newlyweds" 40 years from now. We all could be. Which is why I think they're so great. Someone called me a newlywed after we'd been married several years and I took it as a compliment.

    I am particularly loving your tips right now because I have recently found myself in a marriage in which my husband has been unfaithful. To say I was shocked to find out doesn't even begin to describe my feelings. We are working through it, and going back to these most basic things that we let slip over the past 8 years, gradually.

    My main question for you is – do you have any articulate advice about how to forgive? I obviously know that I need to and I want to, but I am still not sure how I can completely just let go of the hurt and betrayal I feel at times. I love my husband and I want to be able to look him in the eye and say "I forgive you" and mean it without question. Any tips or advice?

  39. April March 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    I will add one that my mom taught me before I was ever married. No matter what happens between you, no matter what he does to upset you, whether it's big or small, don't tell your family the details. There are things you can forgive, that you two will work out, but that your family will never get over, and that will hurt all the relationships. If your family doesn't like your husband because you have been sharing every detail of every spat, that will strain your relationship with your husband even more. Of course this doesn't include things like abuse, because you need to tell someone and GET OUT. I'm talking about hurt feelings, arguments, he didn't take out the trash, etc. Even if your mom is your best friend, you are still her baby, and that mama bear will hold a grudge, your brother will want to take him out behind the wood shed, your dad will want to have a talk with him, and your sister will start making passive aggressive remarks. Keep it between you, work it out between you, and work to be kinder to each other.

    • danny March 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      Agreed. I feel very strongly about this. When you complain to others (especially family) in a moment of haste or frustration, you lower their opinion of your spouse, possibly forever. It may be easy for you to forgive, but it can be much more difficult for family. Frustrations that may only last a day or a week in your heart, may live on forever in the hearts of your family and dearest friends. That's a dangerous place for the harmony of your family.

      And you are correct, this rule doesn't apply to those suffering abuse. Please, confide in someone and get help.

  40. clever little casa March 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    I stumbled across your blog and I want to say thank you for this post! Thank you for pointing out that just because you have not been married long or do not yet have kids you can still offer valuable insight on how to maintain a happy marriage. Often when my husband and I are having an "off" day or week I ask myself, "what would my newly-wed self have done in this situation?" I quickly recall that my newly-wed self was much more selfless, thoughtful, and FUN than I am currently being. Newly-weds often seem so happy not because of some magic force but because of their daily dedication to make their spouse happy rather than waiting around for their spouse to make them happy.

    • danny March 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Great point! I don't necessarily think that the things Mara and I speak of come from being a newly-wed, they come from life lessons learned in divorce and other trials that taught us how we wanted to treat not only each other, but all people.

      That being said, I totally agree, the selflessness of early love, the willingness to see your spouse in their very best light, the desire to serve and love and bring joy to another, are the very principles that we need to continue to develop long into our marriages and form the base for the best of relationships.

  41. Britta March 7, 2012 at 3:19 am - Reply

    Very beautiful- thanks!

  42. ShellyRae March 7, 2012 at 3:53 am - Reply

    One seemingly small thing is that we sit together at church. I mean next to each other. Even with little kids we always sat next to each other rather than sticking the kids between us. My kids are older now but notice it and mention that it is something they plan to do in their marriages.

  43. Anonymous March 7, 2012 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Can I just tell you the one thing I struggle with? My husband is a human tornado. He can make a disaster faster than any human being I have ever seen. We have 6 kids under 5 (yes we have multiples), and I am a SAHM mom to them. So I spend the whole day cleaning up after them and cooking all of our meals (I mean real food, nothing from a box or can). All I want is for him to pick up his own stuff. Every day he leaves his towel on my side of the bed. I honestly find that so disrespectful and hurtful. Tonight I tripped on his shoes that he left in front of our bathroom door and almost broke my nose. I just started crying. Why can't he, if not put the shoes away, at least not leave them where I have (many times) tripped on them? With that many little kids, the house is booby trapped as it is. He leaves his shirts on the couch and his clothes all over the bathroom. By the end of the weekend the house is such a mess (after being pretty picked up all week with the kids and I home all day during the day – they're not in school yet), that my Monday is spent cleaning up the aftermath. He doesn't do his dishes after meals, he doesn't put ANYTHING away. It makes me crazy. I have begged, pleaded, cried. he says he'll do better, but 5 minutes later make a huge mess making cookies and leave it. When I start to clean it up, he tells me to stop, he'll do it. Maybe in a week he'll do it. He wants to wait until the house is a complete horror and then spend an entire day cleaning. I'd rather keep it clean all the time. So much easier and more pleasant. Am I really asking too much? I know he works hard at work. So do I. I don't go to his office and throw his papers around and delete his spreadsheets and tear up his reports. Am I just supposed to suck it up and find time to clean up after him too? With a smile? Because I don't have any free time already, and I don't do anything fun. I am working all. day. long. I don't have time to do all the things I'm already supposed to do. Sorry. I'm so frustrated. He's a wonderful, amazing man, husband and father. I just want help with this one thing. He doesn't get it. I'm not sure how to make him.

    • danny March 7, 2012 at 5:06 am - Reply

      Anon – First, I want you to know I can understand why you might be frustrated. It's clear that a clean home is important to you, and also a pretty serious task given all those little kids. You want some help, that's certainly understandable.

      My reply isn't about whether what you're asking is reasonable, I don't think many would argue with you about that. Over and over you'll hear on this blog that the only thing you truly have control over is you and your reactions. That's it. You don't really get to decide whether or not your husband starts picking up after himself or not. I don't know that there's such a thing as "making him get it". That's up for him to do. It's clear so far that no amount of begging, pleading, or crying is going to change anything.

      So…if it never ever ever changes, or if it happened to be impossible for you to ever do/say anything to make him change… my question to you is what will you do about it then? If you knew now that this particular issue was NEVER going to get better, what would you do going forward? Would knowing right now it will never change make you reflect any differently on your begging, pleading, crying? Is there a better way to use your energy? Would you feel less exhausted if you found a way to embrace a different kind of energy while cleaning his messes? Is there a different perspective you can enjoy? And if there is, then does it really matter whether he changes or not?

      Some of our readers have shared a few stories with us about their husband's pornography use. Obviously a totally different issue, and yet many of the emotions you described characterize their early reactions as well. The one's most at peace and making the most progress seem to have reached a point where they're focused more on the fact that their husband truly is a "wonderful, amazing man, husband and father" who "works hard at work". They've stopped taking it as personally as they were initially inclined to do, they've developed a habit of being more positive, supportive, and forgiving….and they say it is those things that have made all the difference. It hasn't resulted in a husband free from the damaging issue (which like you they have no control over whether or not he'll change). They've realized they can't change him. Giving up the need to change him has been freeing to them, and has helped them focus on the only thing they CAN do…work on how they react and respond. This realization has often helped them enter into a better kind of partnership with their spouse as they tackle the issue.

      I realize that's not the same as what you are dealing with, but it might be instructive regarding the power of choosing how we react (I imagine they'd trade problems with you btw).

      Again, I'm not trying to minimize your reasonable desire that you want to be respected. I hope for your sake that he does start cleaning up. But since you can't control that, you might want to consider what things you can control…you and only you. You might find that you still ask him for help, but you no longer plead, beg, or cry. It's possible that changing the way you react to it will make him more likely to help…or not. Again, that's for him and him alone. My experience is that changing the way I respond to things always makes me happier, regardless of whether or not someone else changes a dang thing.

      Good Luck!!!

    • Anonymous March 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      I know. In the grand scheme of things, my problem is not a big one. He's kind, generous, affectionate, loving, loyal, a great dad. The begging, pleading and crying only happens occasionally when I feel so overwhelmed with all that I have on my plate, and then I trip on his shoes (again)or find his dishes in the family room after I've cleaned everything up, or walk out to my trashed car on Monday (bc that's what we drive as a family all weekend). So I guess I should just find more time and clean up after him too and stop complaining (even on the inside). After 11 years of marriage I should just accept that he's not going to change. His mother did EVERYTHING for him, and that's all he knows. At this point I'm not ready to find joy in being the maid, but maybe that will come with time.

    • danny March 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Anon, thanks for replying. I hope that the sentiment I was aiming for wasn't misunderstood. I'm truly not trying to say "quit whining about it and do what's required of you without a thought for your self." If anything, I'm trying to highlight the thought process I try to go through when I catch myself in something negative, as you seem to have caught yourself too. I think of another circumstance, even if it's not a direct parallel, and wonder if in that different scenario I'd still expect the same thing or approve of the same reaction or feelings or whatever.

      That your husband should be more considerate in this scenario is largely a given. The options you have from there are 1) He somehow starts cleaning up (least likely at this point), 2) You continue cleaning up and either feel okay with that or don't feel okay with that, 3) You lower your expectations on how clean a house needs to be and either feel okay with that or bothered by that, or 4) you jointly decide that one way to both improve feelings and keep cleanliness is to hire a maid once or twice a week. This may represent a cash outflow you normally wouldn't be okay with, but is a trade off.

      I'm sure there are other options…my hope is that no matter which one happens, you're able to feel more valued by him, more sanity in the home, and a reduce any anger or bitterness or animosity that can come up as a result of his lack of help.

      I've noticed that though feelings like that are justifiable, they rarely if ever do me any good whatsoever. Once I decide I'm no longer going to take those feelings into account, I generally am able to think more clearly about the answers that actually would make a difference and would bring both results and improved feelings. I truly do hope you find that, no matter what.

      Personally, I'd see if option #4 can be arranged 🙂

    • Anonymous March 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Option 4 sounds nice, but wouldn't work with my ideals. I didn't grow up in a family with money to spare, and we just did what needs to be done. We didn't hire it out. I also don't want my kids to see that cleaning up is someone else's job. I get all 6 of my kids (well, not the baby) helping. It's a battle, but it's getting better. I'm determined that they will help clean up and have the skills to do laundry, keep a home clean, cook real meals, do their part, be good spouses, friends and employees. My husband had a maid growing up, and his mom did the rest. That didn't turn out too well. He looks at messes and thinks, "Someone ought to clean that up." I really don't think my standards are that high. I'm not going for immaculate, just presentable. We have 6 kids. The house is lived in, and it is not realistic or pleasant to make it look like it's not. I just want to not be embarrassed to open the door and not to trip on things when I'm walking.

      I think option #2 is where I'm at. I'm in a funk this week and it's bothering me more than usual. I read your list and the comments and suggestions there and thought, "I need to just clean up after him and think of it as a loving service." But I'm not there yet. Especially not this week. I hope I will get there. I'm frustrated with a lot of things in my life right now, and I think I'm channeling it in this direction currently. Thanks for the answers and the encouragement. I will keep working on my attitude and focus on gratitude for all of his other wonderful traits.

    • Anonymous May 17, 2012 at 4:22 am - Reply

      I have no idea if anyone will look here after so long, but something I do when I am desperate for help in cleaning up after my family is assigning baskets. Sounds super simple, and it is! It is mostly a way to keep my sanity, but help my kids, and sometimes my wonderful spouse, to clean up after themselves.
      Everyone has a basket, and during the day or evening when I am doing general pick ups throughout the house if I find shoes, homework, papers, special toys, or even dishes or garbage *gasp* that someone forgot to put in the kitchen or garbage when they were through with it, I put them in their basket. Then before breakfast, I just ask them each to take two minutes to put away the stuff in their baskets. And it is something super quick they can do on their own. Even my 19 month old does it when he sees daddy doing it.
      My hubs is actually super clean, so anything he forgets easily fits into a basket. If your husband is a tornado then maybe start with little things, like shoes and clothing, and leave little notes where he leaves things most often. A sweet little post it note at his eye level saying "Please don't leave shoes here" or something silly "My toes would love you forever if there weren't any shoes left here" could go a long way. It does depend on the person, but those two things help me. And it keeps me from getting discouraged or upset because even though I am the one picking it up and putting it in a basket, they realize they are responsible for putting it away, and the more they put away before it gets into their basket, the sooner they get breakfast. Good luck!

    • Sabrina DaSilva July 12, 2012 at 1:20 am - Reply

      Interesting that no one has suggested that if one spouse is really that disrespectful of the other, that perhaps the marriage itself is in jeopardy…

  44. Jane March 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    I just happened to see the beginning of Danny's comment on the "Recent Comments" on the sidebar. It made me curious so I came to read.

    I am one of the women Danny described. My husband is addicted to pornography and I have begged,pleaded and cried with my husband, and with God. I did that for months, years.

    With the help of good people and my Savior I am at a place where I can feel peace, love and gratitude even if pornography addiction is a part of my life forever.

    I hesitate to say that I wish we could trade problems, because this issue has transformed my heart and I'm thankful for that. But the hurt I've endured because of my husband's addiction was severe, likely more severe than the frustration you describe.

    I hate it when people say "Well at least I'm not THAT bad" to justify their behavior, so I don't mean to imply that just because your husband isn't an addict he is perfect. But I know that you are capable of forgiving him, accepting him and handling his weaknesses with a new perspective, as Danny said.

    As a side note, since my "letting go" and since I quit the begging, pleading and crying and started showing love and confidence in my husband he is doing much better. I am wary of even mentioning it, because it is not the proper reason to change. When I decided I was going to be happy no matter what choices he made, I meant it. No strings attached, no ulterior motives, no expectations of how it would effect him.

    Best of luck! Especially with those kiddos, I have four 6 & under myself. 🙂

  45. Camille March 8, 2012 at 3:36 am - Reply

    So this post is blowing up Pinterest lately, with great reason, and it really caught my eye! What an amazing list! I sat nodding and smiling as I read. I too am a divorced after 4 years of marriage gal who was absolutely devastated, but no I am remarried to the world's most amazing man and experiencing absolute bliss as a newlywed. My husband I celebrate our first anniversary this weekend. Marriage is the most wonderful institution when your and your spouse's attitudes align and you serve and love each other.
    I would add one more. I must admit, I am biased somewhat as we run a dating blog encouraging love and marital bliss, but I would add go on dates often! Weekly if possible! The difference between happily married and not so happily married couples is often the fact that they don't have time for each other and don't make dating and fun memory building a priority. I know there are a million excuses, but stopping those and saying I care about us, and I care about happiness, and I care that we have quality time together really makes the difference!
    I'm so grateful I stumbled on your blog today! I wish I was in the same state so we could double and talk about similar life experiences! You two are amazing, and doing amazing things!
    – Camille

  46. Kathy March 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Date night- Make it a priority every week. Hire a babysitter and schedule it in!!!

  47. Stacy March 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks Danny and Mara for your fabulous blog that I just discovered yesterday. I loved your serving each other suggestion. After being married for 10 years, my husband was unexpectedly laid off of his job. We were blessed that he was able to quickly find a new job, however, with the economy he was being paid much less. We had just purchased our first home and we needed to keep it in order to provide our four children some stability in their lives. I had also been offered a part time job at a place where I had occassionally filled in previously. Through much prayer, we finally decided that this was our best option. At this point I should tell you that my husband, while a fabulous person, never made our bed. I just always did. If one some rare occassion I didn't make it,it just didn't get done. However, he very well knows that making the bed is really important to me, I might be a little OCD about it. 🙂 Anyway, the morning I started back to work was crazy. Getting four kids, a mom and a dad out the door on time is insane sometimes. I left a few minutes before he and the kids left. The morning was so crazy that I didn't get the bed made. Imagine my complete surprise when I got home and the bed was made! I was shocked! So surprised, that I sent him a quick text thanking him for making it. Three years later, he still make the bed every morning. I get teary eyed still when I think about that one little thing, that lots of people would think was silly, that he does for me each day.

    One thing I would add to your list, especially for those with children. Go on a "date" at least once a week. It will make your marriage so much better. We have been doing this consistently now for three years and I think we are happier than we have ever been. It's the perfect time to just be together without any little people or other distractions getting in the way. We don't have tons of money, you don't have to spend money to do this. We have had time when we just go to the park for a while to have time to connect and be together. I don't think relationships can last if we don't make time together top priority. Thanks again for your get blog.

  48. Robyn April 2, 2012 at 7:51 am - Reply

    a wonderful list

  49. A Work In Progress April 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    You are THE greatest writer! That's a very helpful list. i bookmarked this page 😀

  50. essay example April 17, 2012 at 7:26 am - Reply

    This is a motivation for the couple who believes in love, i am sad because there are couples who are contented to live together and disregard the idea of marriage. If they can read this, I know they will be enlighten and consider the importance of marriage.

  51. Anonymous May 15, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    hello. this is so made me cry…thank u fro sharing…

    thank you~ a reminder not to fall out in love.

    hope u dont mind if I post this and share to my friends.

    Its me ~Leigh

  52. Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I loved the list, it was a great reminder about things I should be doing. My only problem, and I have it with all of those marriage blog is the sex thing. I have 4 boys and my life is crazy not to mention that pregnancy has completley screwed up my body and hormones. I feel like the constant pressure about having sex be the most important thing in a marriage is really hard for me. I try everyday to be the best mother, wife, housekeeper and lover that I can but sometimes I hate the pressure I feel from society to do everything. It is overwhelming and I feel like that is why so many of my friends are on antidepressents. I dont mean to say that it isnt important but it always seems like the biggest emphasise on a good marriage and it is hard for me to beleive that sex is the most important thing to having a good marriage. I may be wrong, but I think I couldn't survive life if I didn't think my husband loved me for more than that. I know that it will get better as the kids get older(hopefully) but right now I am just surviving. Thanks for letting me vent, and I really do think the list is great.

    • Sabrina DaSilva July 12, 2012 at 1:23 am - Reply

      Perhaps not sex, specifically, but any form of physical affection. Touch is so, so important. Just touch each other in loving ways, and it makes you feel so good. Sex is strenuous activity, and just not always possible. Putting your hand on his shoulders, stroking his face, putting your arms around him – those things are always doable.

  53. Ange June 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    I read this list when you first posted and had to come back today and write them down. Thank you for the ecouragement to love and live with grace and beauty. As I have put some of these truths into practice, I have seen A LOT of great things happen in my marriage, and myself. I wanted to write them down and post them somewhere that I will see regularly because I need some serious practice speaking REALLY kindly, and forgiving for Everything. Great reminder that it is a choice.

  54. Anonymous July 11, 2012 at 4:38 am - Reply

    I love these! One other thing that I do is take some quiet time for myself frequently. I use this time to go somewhere alone (sometimes not at home so that I'm not tempted to clean) and renew my relationship with God. I ponder/meditate, process fears and sorrows, read God's words and most of all renew my commitment to faith. This helps me be more at peace with whatever I'm facing at the time and also helps me to go back a better wife and mother.

  55. Anonymous September 10, 2012 at 1:39 am - Reply

    I love your list and I want to share my experience with love. I was married to my first husband for nearly 11 1/2 years. In that time we had 4 kids, we farmed and worked side by side everyday. Life was challenging and many times I didn't feel I needed to do my part and often I would get mad at having to do chores ( we milked cows)there were times I felt more like the hired help instead of the wife and mother. Don't get me wrong for the most part we had a good marriage, till one day when life completely changed my husband was killed instantly in a farming accident. My life as I knew it really changed, I was know a single mother of 2 10 year olds, an 8 year old and an 18month old. The most important thing that I learned was not to take each day and each other for granted that was 20 years ago. My biggest fear was that nobody would want me and my kids, I have been blest to meet a wonderful, caring , compassionate man and he loves my kids unconditionally. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary. We were never able to have kids together but it doesn't matter he loves mine just like they were his. our 3 daughters recently have gotten married and when they walked down the isle they walked half way with there father in heaven and the other with their father on earth, so in other words both their fathers gave them away. This man is truly my best friend , we always give each other a hug and kiss good bye and we look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day. We love spending time with each other and it doesn't matter what it is we do. We seldom and I mean seldom argue. We respect each other and we give each other space when we need it. We have the ability to finish each others thoughts and we both care deeply about each other .I truly believe my first husband had a big hand in my falling in love with my 2nd husband , I can honestly say life is short and we will never know when our time will come.I thank God everyday for blessing me with love the second time . If you truly are in love you don't need guide lines because it just comes naturally, I know at the end of the day I can count on my love to be the one who knows my heart and there is nothing more I could possibly ask for. My advice is don't take life for granted because tomorrow it may be over, and those arms may not be there to hug and those lips may be the last time you feel them on yours. Don't be afraid to love your spouse unconditionally , because you married for a reason and hopefully that reason is that person is your best friend and the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.

  56. Anonymous September 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    What a helpful post! I agree with most of this, but I don't agree about never speaking negatively about one's spouse. Sure, you shouldn't routinely bash your spouse to anyone. You shouldn't rant excessively. You should channel your energy into fixing things with your partner and working on yourself rather than gossiping about your spouse with friends or family. BUT it's unrealistic and impossible to never speak negatively, and I'm not sure it's even healthy. EVERY relationship (with spouses, friends, co-workers, etc) has things that drive each person crazy. It can be little things or big things… different parenting styles, he doesn't clean enough, he leaves the toilet seat up, she yells too much, whatever. It's healthy to have an outlet – a vent if you will – other than one's partner. It's healthy to bounce ideas off of trusted sources. It's healthy to get different perspectives on how to deal with life's challenges.

    And it's healthy for the entire world for everyone to see that relationships aren't perfect. How harmful it would be if everyone gave the outside world the impression that their relationship was perfect bliss. Some of the most difficult divorces I've dealt with from friends and family have been those relationships that seemed "perfect." Of course, later we learn that they were far from perfect but they just did a good job making a fake veneer of perfection. Everyone in society needs realistic, healthy relationship modeled for them. In real, healthy relationships, the people drive each other crazy a little. And that's okay – hopefully they find ways to work around that. But taking to others about your spouses negative traits is good for you (if done in moderation and appropriately) and good for the world to see that perfection doesn't exist and that all relationships take work.

  57. Jaxon Peterson October 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    I personally look at it this way: do I want my family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances to see this side of my spouse? Personally, no, no I do not. I want them to see my spouse as they truly are; amazing.

    Are we all human? Yes! Do we all make mistakes and have quirks? Absolutely! Does that mean we have to dump negative energy into those things by venting about them to another soul? NO!

    Think of it this way – when we 'vent' we are dumping our negative energy onto another person. They walk away feeling negative, heavy, upset etc. Then, due to the energy they just absorbed, they have the opportunity to take it out on another individual. The cycle continues. Rather than 'vent' to an individual about spousal shortcomings/frustrations, take it out on a tree, steering wheel, dishes, shower etc. Pass your energy into something that won't be hurt by the energy and won't be able to pass that energy along.

    As far as needing to seek advice … most people don't truly need advice on what to do. I have found most people know what to do, but don't want to do it; they just want someone to complain to, someone who will give a sympathetic ear. When *choosing* to be happy, sympathy is rarely if ever needed. If advice is truly needed, why not seek the advice from a Higher Power?

    Danny & Mara, thank you for another beautiful blog post! Truly insightful and inspiring. I look forward to applying the principles when I am married.

  58. goodwifetales November 21, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Wow! These are great tips. I read some of the comments and if its true that you wrote these as a newly wed I'm even more impressed. I'm a veteran spouse, married 16+ years and I believe it takes a lot of wisdom to acknowledge and execute your tips in marriage. Congrats to you and your husband. With a start like this you are bound to have a happy, healthy future. Much success to you.

  59. Marina Ratmansky October 24, 2013 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Great Tips,
    These Great tips help us to make your loving relationship possible .We can make our married life more beautiful, just need to little changes in our nature .With the help of these tips you can easily remove the difference in your relationship with your husband

  60. thomas morrison March 19, 2014 at 10:50 am - Reply

    This is one of the most important blogs that I have seen, keep it up!
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  61. Anonymous January 29, 2015 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Not sure if you'll see this comment. This post is old. But it's insightful. I look for guidance in mending a very broken marriage. I know these tips, if followed, could make for an incredible marriage experience. But they are hard to follow– when it feels one sided. If I smile whenever I see him but rarely get to see that brilliant smile flashed back, it's frustrating. If I praise and thank but rarely feel the same returned, it's defeating. I know. Let go of ego. Do not base my happiness on his actions. But all the same it can be discouraging. How do you go about following these tips alone? Is it possible? Can one side alone repair a marriage? I guess, if the example is followed. But what if it's not?

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