Twenty-five years ago this month I met my husband. I hated Valentine’s Day. Not the day itself, but how it made me feel.
I’d accepted the fact that I wanted only God’s best when it came to a potential husband, but this day . . . when romantic love is most celebrated . . . was painful.
I suspect most people who are single-wanting-to-be-married have felt the same way at some point.
A few days after Valentine’s Day that year, I joined my room mate on a ski trip with her singles group. And this man was among the crew.
We hit it off. We ski-ed together, worshiped together, laughed together. And hope awakened in my heart that maybe . . .
We got to know each other through letters (yes, the kind you actually write out with pen and paper) and long-distance phone calls, because he lived three hours away. Something in that intentional way of communicating drew us close.
We married thirteen months later.
And we learned what it means to love intentionally.
We were both older when we said our, “I Do’s.” Merging two lives, two ways of doing things, two belief systems, two money-belief systems, and two of lots-of-other-things wasn’t easy.
Can I hear an “Amen?”
As we near Valentine’s Day 2020, I’m thinking over eleven practices that helped our marriage grow strong through the trials life tossed our way.
1. Pray with each other. Soon after our wedding, we attended a couple’s retreat where the speakers encouraged us to pray before going to bed each night. For twenty-four years, we’ve maintained this practice. Sometimes, our prayers are brief, other times they’re in-depth. But we hold hands and mingle our hearts before our Father.
2. Pray for each other. Each morning, Hubs and I exchange prayer requests. Knowing my husband’s got my back in prayer, and I’ve got his strengthens me. Some days we’re the only ones who pray for our spouses. What a privilege.
3. Don’t talk smack about our spouse. We’ve been intentional about our words. By doing this, we protect character and how others view our spouses.
4. Give grace. When he’s had a rough day and I pick up on this, it’s easier to let a tone go and give grace, rather than react. He’s an introvert, so time alone refreshes him. I show love when I encourage him to take time.
5. Listen without interrupting. As hard as this can be, especially for us women, when we listen without interrupting our men by finishing their sentence or cutting them off with our thoughts, they feel respected. The same is true when men listen without fixing before they’re heard their other half’s thoughts.
6. Think the best about each other. We rarely set out to make the other person mad. When I become angry about something he does or says, I step back and remember this wasn’t his intention. He loves me and this reflects through many of his other actions.
7. Learn how we receive love. The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman, taught us a ton about loving well. Hubs loves through serving. My doing things for him—like making his lunch—speaks love to my acts-of-service husband.
8. Share hearts. Early in our relationship we had an argument where sarcastic comments zinged me. As I shared how painful those comments were, we established a boundary in our relationship that sarcasm would not be a part of our arguing. He’s become my safe place when I need to work through something on my heart.
8. Encourage each other to pursue passions and callings, within reason. Hubs has a heart to disciple other men. I love to write. We encourage each other and make time for each other to do these things. These activities fill us and prepare us for family- and life-stresses.
10. Respect and Love. I learned early on (the hard way) what spoke disrespect to my husband. I’ve become a student of my man so I can show him respect in our interactions. And he’s learned what speaks love to me.
11. Be intentional in what we say and do. We’ve worked hard to hold each other first above everything else. We’ve each given up certain things to honor the other person. When my husband’s given something up for me, it’s spoken deep love to my heart. And, when I’ve said no to things because he asked me to, that’s honored him.
BONUS: Kiss in front of our children. Yes, we still do this. Yeah, maybe I grin a bit at their “Ewwww!” Beyond that, our sons know our marriage is solid. This gives them some peace about the stability of our family bonds.
I’ve shared a lot. And with each tip, I could have offered at least three stories to illustrate the points. As you prepare to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day—and every day—consider what speaks love to your significant other and do it.
What about you? What tips would you add to my list? What speaks love to you the most deeply?