Build Your Marriage to Last

6 tips to keep your relationship strong long after the honeymoon's over
Build Your Marriage to Last

Several years ago, my husband, Robert, and I were shopping at Wal-Mart with our three kids. While waiting in the checkout line, my husband spotted an old friend and said hello.

"This is my new wife," his high-school buddy proudly announced, introducing the woman next to him in line. "We just got back from our honeymoon," he added, beaming.

Tell me something I don't know, I thought wryly. Three things gave them away: their tans, their blushes, and their smiles.

For a split second I envied that fresh, romantic phase of marriage. It only took another split second, however, for me to come back to reality. First of all, it's easy to smile at Wal-Mart when you're not chasing kids around. Second—and this is the clincher—I'd gladly trade newlywed blushing for being further along in marriage any day. Those newlyweds were still blissfully unaware blushes and butterflies turn into ritual and routine. In the 16 years Robert and I have been married, I've learned that it's by working through marriage's ups and downs that you develop the skills needed to build a lasting, loving relationship. Here are six tools we've discovered.

1. Refresh Yourself

"Boy!" my husband, Robert, exclaimed when he opened the laundry room door recently and saw piles of neatly folded clothes. "You must've been in the mood to do laundry today!"

Of all the things I'm in the mood to do each day, laundry is never one of them. Rest assured, I quickly set the record straight: I only do the laundry because it has to be done. My family is under the impression I wash underwear and clean toilets because that's what I like to do. The truth is, being a good wife and mom often means living a life of self-denial.

Consequently, I find I sometimes need a time-out from the daily routine to keep myself going. I don't mean having regular quiet times with God—that's a given! But I've found it's also important to do something occasionally for myself outside of caring for my family. Even simple things can give me a boost, such as my private stash of chocolate hidden behind the frozen vegetables, a good cup of coffee, a dinner out once in a while, an annual getaway. On days when I feel ready to resign as a wife and mother, I take a few minutes, hours, or (if possible) days to refresh myself. Find out what rejuvenates you and let your family know when you need to kick back from the daily grind. Everyone needs a pick-me-up once in a while.

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