4 habits of a happy marriage

The April snow here in Wisconsin is just about over (we pray!). That means wedding season is just around the corner.

A few times each year, I have the honor of standing next to choked-up grooms and blushing brides as they join hands and exchange their vows. And despite all of their differences, they have one thing in common:

They want a happy marriage.

If you’re in a relationship, I bet you want the same thing. Or if you have friends or kids or grandkids who are sending out Save the Dates, I suspect you want the same thing for them.

You want a happy marriage.

I do too. That’s why I’m so glad that early in my marriage I stumbled across a pastor who suggested four habits of happy couples. While these four things are not direct commands from God (thus just a few Bible passages in this blog post), I have found them a huge benefit to keeping me and Kim happy about our decision to hold hands in front of God and take our vows.

Ready for them? Here goes:

1. Pray Every Day—Every day take time to pray out loud together. Not separately. Not silently. But out loud together.

Earlier today I suggested this habit to a husband from our church. I told him that if you are silently praying to be a more selfless husband, your wife will not be moved (unless she’s a mind reader!). But if you take her hand and pray, “God, I really want to love my wife more. Help me do that today,” it will rock her world. Knowing that you talk to your heavenly Father about better loving one of his daughters will make her feel safe. And safe is one of the sexiest things to a woman.

James says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful” (James 5:16). It’s especially powerful when overheard by a righteous woman who shares that righteous man’s last name.

2. Date Every Week—Pick a day, any day, and a time, any time, and go on a weekly date.

In my marriage, nothing has made a bigger difference than this. Even busy weeks where Kim and I pass like two Jet Skis in the night can be redeemed by a good date night. That simple act of reconnecting, sharing stories, and laughing together works wonders with our love.

It doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. But do something. Plan and protect that time to truly talk and connect. Your kids might wail when you walk out the door, but they will be blessed by parents who still flirt into their 40s and beyond.

3. Get Away Every Quarter—Plan an overnight, out-of-town date every 90 days.

Okay, this one is tough for me. Thinking of travel-worthy places within a few hours of home and budgeting for a hotel stay sometimes intimidates me from taking this step, but we’ve discovered that the anticipation of something special can keep our hearts focused on one another. This habit feels like work, but whenever I do it, I find that the work is worth it.

4. Vacation Every Year—Do something every 12 months that’s worthy of its own scrapbook.

Kim and I don’t have cable. We've never bought a new car. We rarely buy clothes unless something rips, tears, or wears out. We live in a modest-sized house. Because, as one of our family values states, we adore experiences.

Looking back on the past 16 years, I thank God for that value. When we share memories of vacations and page through old pictures in Kim’s amazing photo books, I can’t imagine that a fancier car or the random cable shows would have provided 10% of the joy that those vacations gave us. The trips themselves bonded us together, but even the planning beforehand and the reflections afterward (like our Top 5 Meals or Top 7 Moments) cause us to love one another even more.

Those are the four habits that God has used to make us a really happy couple. They aren’t divinely designed, but they have blessed our bond and helped us to keep our vows to love and respect one another just as Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

So, what habit might you add this year? Or which one might you encourage that soon-to-be-wed couple to adopt?

For you happily married couples out there (or widows/widowers who were blessed in marriage), I’d love to hear what regular habits made you the happiest over the years.

Happy wedding season!

Pastor Mike

Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 in Madison and, most recently, at The CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as the lead speaker for Time of Grace, where he shares the good news about Jesus through television, print, and online platforms. Mike loves seeing people grasp the depth of God’s amazing grace and unstoppable mercy. His wife continues to love him (despite plenty of reasons not to), and his two daughters open his eyes to the love of God for every Christian. When not talking about Jesus or dating his wife/girls, Mike loves playing soccer, running, and reading.

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