You might be wondering why I’m writing about Valentine’s Day right after Valentine’s Day. Usually all things Valentine are mentioned prior to or on February 14, right?
But this isn’t a mistake or an oversight; I’m actually right on time. It’s just a slightly different way to look at our annual celebration of love, based on what I’ve learned in 38 years of marriage. This is it in a nutshell: Do you want to have a great Valentine’s Day with your spouse in 2020? Then simply make the 365 days leading up to it “Good Marriage Days.” If you’re making sure you love your spouse well all the rest of the year, Valentine’s Day will be a piece of cake. (Or a box of candy.)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
But exactly HOW do you love your spouse well? Here are six ways my wife and I have landed on in our marriage.
1. Say the hard words
I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I forgive you. Ruth and Billy Graham were married 64 years. Describing a strong Christian marriage, Ruth once said, “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers.” I would add: and two apologizers, as well as two people simply willing to admit when they are wrong. If you can’t say those hard words, you’re in trouble.
2. Find and do a common activity
My wife and I love to hike, all year round. We also love to visit new restaurants as well as our old favorites. You and your spouse might like gardening, cross country skiing (or some other sport), cooking, going to plays or concerts, playing board games, reading books together, etc. The list of possibilities is endless, but it is very important to find something and then do it regularly. Sharing enjoyable experiences will help cement your relationship. And make it more fun!
3. Pray for your spouse daily, and also pray together daily
It doesn’t have to be on your knees, or for an hour at a time, but if you’re a Christian and you’re not praying for and with your spouse regularly…well, it’s time to get started!
4. Express appreciation for and to your spouse
And it doesn’t have to always be to their face—although that is highly recommended. Just before last Valentine’s Day my wife was shopping and there was a man in line behind her with a bouquet of flowers. Someone asked him, “Who’s the lucky person—your wife?” And he replied, “Yes, they’re for my wife. But I’m the lucky one.” His wife wasn’t there with him, so he wasn’t just trying to win brownie points. But he was stirring up the love in his heart by expressing his appreciation of her. Tell your spouse, and tell others too!
5. Do things for them they don’t like to do
Before I retired one of the things I hated about winter was being at work and watching the snow come down. I knew that after I got home and ate dinner with my family, I had a few cold, dark hours of clearing the driveway and the sidewalks waiting for me. But sometimes I’d come home and find out that my wife had carved out the time in her schedule, fired up the snow blower, and cleared the driveway for me. My first thought was, “What a wonderful woman!” And when I stepped inside the house, those were also my first words! When you do something for your spouse that you know they don’t like to do, you are expressing your love to them in a loud and practical way.
6. Set aside regular time to really talk and really listen to each other
Two-way communication is still the best way to get closer to each other. When you listen to your spouse (putting down your phone or other device, turning off the TV, setting aside the book or magazine, making eye contact), and when you honestly tell your spouse how your day went, what you’re thinking and feeling, what your plans and hopes are, you are literally strengthening the bonds of love between you. And if that’s not happening often enough, schedule it in advance and do not postpone it!
Love can thrive outside of February 14!
You’re probably thinking of some other ways to love your spouse, regular practices that have become a part of your marriage. Great—add them to the list! Instead of doing just these six, do eight or ten. Or more! The more ways you show love to each other on a regular basis, the more your love will grow and strengthen.
Then next year on Valentine’s Day you won’t have to try and convince your spouse you love them, or break the bank trying to prove it, or use the day to make up for your failures in the previous 12 months, because you will have been demonstrating it all year long! So on February 14 you can relax and actually celebrate your love! You want a great Valentine’s Day next year?
One last thought—think bigger than just your marriage. A healthy Christian marriage provides a great example and it’s naturally evangelistic. Consider this chain reaction: healthy marriages make healthy families, healthy families make a healthy society, healthy societies make a healthier world. You want to change the world? Start by strengthening your marriage. And let God take it from there.
Change the World—One Marriage at a Time.
About the author
Mike Anderson majored in Bible at the University of Northwestern and has been a student of the Bible his whole adult life. He is newly retired and still learning the ropes. At First Evangelical Free Church he teaches 5th grade Sunday school and co-leads a small group. He enjoys biking, reading, writing, and hiking. Mike and his wife Debbie make their home in Lake Elmo and enjoy having all of their kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.