Married People Tip #1

Find things to do together. Find things to do apart.

Either of these extremes can be detrimental to a marriage and the balance will no doubt differ between marriages but typically i imagine there are some things you will find that you love to do together [for us that includes boardgames, weekend walks, certain series, challenging conversations, dressing up crazy to meet people at airports] and other things that you prefer to do by yourself [Val’s sushi to my hockey, Val’s pilates to my improv, Val’s ‘How to get away with Murder’ and ‘Mad Men’ to my ‘Fargo’ and ‘Grimm’]…

Some couples do absolutely everything together all the time to the extent that they cannot ever be apart and i’m not sure that’s the healthiest thing.

Some couples never see each other cos of being so busy with work, kids, separate hobbies and so on and i’m pretty sure that’s not healthy.

What makes sense to me is to find some things you do well together [if boardgames make you hate each other afterwards, find a better hobby – this was something we had to work on early marriage as two super-competitive heads collided] and some things you do well on your own and try strike up a balance that feels healthy to both of you.

What do you think of this one? Would love to hear how it plays out in your marriage and if you think differently at all… what are some of your shared things?


Married People Tip #2

Find friends to do together. Find friends to do apart.

This is similar to yesterday’s tip but felt like it deserved its own mention.

There is a different dynamic that occurs when people are in groups of friends together and when you are in a one-on-one with someone. Both of those can add life to a marriage and it feels healthy to be able to cultivate both.

Typically [depending how long people have known each other before getting married] you will enter a relationship or marriage with your own friends and as you spend time together you will start to make friends as a couple.

i value time spent with Duncan playing hockey, with Reegs watching movies, and with Dreadlock Mike doing all-night melted chocolate and Nachtmusiek Playstation laugh fests… Val is friends with all of them and sometimes we hang together but there is something special that exists when it just them and me.

Likewise, Val has a number of friends who i value her spending time with alone because of how much life it gives her and because of the shared history they have.

Then together we have a whole host of us friends – dinner, daughters and Wolfenstein with the Mashuas, games nights with Ashley and Helene or Mike and Simone, wine and conversation with the Davidses and so on…

There are some friends we predominantly hang together with and some friends we individually spend more time with and then some that fall into both categories. The balance feels like it adds a healthy element to our marriage.

i definitely think that there might be something missing if you only ever spend time together as a couple in social situations. The same if you only ever hang out with people separately. There may be exceptions to this, but i would suggest that if you feel like as a couple you tend towards the one extreme at the expense of the other, to try and be more intentional for the next three months in the direction of the one you don’t do.

Jani Smith: Totally agree with this! To add on to the things to do separately is spend time with friends connecting meaningfully. So many times (and it’s not wrong per se) people only socialize as a couple and they miss out on that one on one time with a friend. Community and building into that as a couple as well as an individual will not only enrich yourself but brings healthy balance into your marriage.

Crystal WarrenThis is also important to maintain individual friendships. When my father died my mother didn’t have any real friends of her own, they were all “couple friends”. So she had no real support base of her own. I have seen so many of my friends make the same mistake and really struggle when the relationship ends.

What do you think of this one? Would love to hear how it plays out in your marriage and if you think differently at all… which of the two do you tend more towards?


Married People Tip #3

Counselling saves marriages. And enhances them. It is a sign of strength to seek counselling, not weakness.

One of the weirdest things to me [and i think it might be specifically in christian circles, not sure] is that you typically get a bunch of marriage counselling BEFORE you get married and then you get married and Good Luck, you’re on your own.

That feels super backward but again a Both/And approach is going to be more helpful than an Either/Or – Marriage preparation counselling before the event can be super helpful to prepare you [it’s in the title] for what lies ahead and i would encourage this for anyone getting married – it might be that in extreme cases during that time you realise you are not a good fit to be married cos of strongly differing values as one example and then deciding to go your separate ways then is an absolute win, not a fail!

But once you get married, having people [whether informal as in an older couple you respect who you can meet with together and can encourage and speak life and create spaces for hard conversations to take place – or formal as in paid for professional counselling] to be able to speak to and maybe more importantly speak in front of, can be life and marriage saving.

i get that not everyone can afford official marriage counselling and there is definitely a class piece to that puzzle but hopefully each of us can find those people who will champion our marriage and set aside time for us to meet with them.

But for anyone who is able to afford it [and what an amazing Christmas or birthday or just-because gift to give to another couple you know would benefit from it!] i would recommend it [and if you’re in Cape Town we totally know a person who has been incredibly helpful to us] and NOT JUST when it feels like you need it. Val and i went to see Nicky when we were in semi-crisis, but since then have benefited from seeing her when things are good and being able to put strategies in place to make sure we don’t veer off to the bad place again.

A lot of this is about finding the right person/people though and so spend some time on getting that one right – rely on those you trust to recommend and try get some feedback about the person before you try. But the idea of spending money and time and energy on something that is one of the hugest parts of your life [if you’re married] makes so much sense and it seems a little reckless if you don’t do so.

Valerie Anderson: An idea for those with friends who are getting married and already have the household stuff, why not club together as friends and buy 6 months of counselling (one session a month goes a long way!) as a wedding present.

Shana Kreusch: I couldn’t agree more! Counselling was the best decision we ever made, other than to marry each other. We also started going in a period of crisis, but man do I wish there had been less stigma around counselling being ONLY for those in crisis in their marriage, and that we’d have gone much, much sooner than we did. Once we’d figured stuff out and got to a good space we decided to keep going once a month. Because when two flawed people (not me though, obvi) are living in the same space, sharing life, there will ALWAYS be something to improve on. If you’re married, do yourselves a favour and go for counselling! If you think you won’t benefit from it, you’re fooling yourself – go to counselling. If you think marriage is going well, it can be even better – go to counselling. If marriage is hard, welcome to humankind – go to counselling. 

What do you think of this one? Have you ever had marriage counselling? Did you find it helpful? Would you recommend it to others and why did you find it particularly helpful for you?


Marriage Tip #4

Date night.

Life can be busy and more so if you have children and it can be quite easy to get caught up in the busyness and ongoingness of life. Setting aside time for the two of you to actively date each other can be huge.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive thing. If you do have the funds to go and eat out or do something a little bit special then you can do that, but it can also be about making a special dinner at home or going out for a coffee or a walk or visiting a museum or whatever your fun thing is to do.

i would discourage going to a movie together if that is all you do because ideally you want some time to be able to chat and catch up and just find each other in the midst of crazy life.

When we were working and living at the Simple Way in America and really in quite a difficult context for a fairly newly married couple, we were given an incredible gift – some friends of ours in America sent us money once a month to go on a date night. That really helped keep us sane and on the same team and gave us the freedom to spend money we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

One of the main benefits of a date night for me is this idea of stopping. Interrupting the rush and letting your person know you see them. It shouldn’t be the time when you try and solve your issues and fight but remember what it is that you love about each other and celebrate that.

But how it is and what it looks like can really be up to both of you and what will work best for you. Main thing is being intentional about setting aside specific time for each other.

Is this something you do in your marriage? What is an example of a date night that feels life-giving to you? Any tips on how to make it work best?


Marriage Tip #5

Find out what your partner’s love languages are and major in them.

There is a super helpful book by Gary Chapman called ‘The Five Love Languages’ in which it speaks about five different ways that we give or receive love: Gift Giving, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation.

If you’ve never read this book it might be helpful to grab a copy and read it with your person.

i am not a huge fan of personality tests [and not just cos i score middle middle on pretty much all of them!] because people tend to view the results as absolutes and i find that can be unhelpful and restrictive. Same with these if you see them as extremes.

But as something to be aware of, they really can be a helpful tool to help you connect in a meaningful way with the person you love.

The secret is that you won’t necessarily have the same predominant love language as your person and so if like me gift-giving is a language that helps you receive love and for Val it’s not her primary one it can lead to me giving lots of gifts feeling like i am expressing love, but she just wants me to sort out the hedge that is taking over our back garden [done – tick!] and so she won’t be feeling massively loved and may even feel neglected and can you see the huge disconnect that can happen.

If words of affirmation is how i receive love and you are all over me with physical touch but rarely say anything uplifting to me or encourage me, then similarly i may feel unloved and you may feel completely confused.

So you can start by just taking those five categories and sitting with your person and trying to identify your own and each other’s and have a conversation about it and see if you know your person or can maybe learn something. Or you can get hold of the book and explore it a little more deeply.

But once we can identify what feels like the most love for us to receive [and let our partner know] and once we can identify what feels most like love for our partner to receive, then we may still do all of the other things [it is also unlikely to just be one but maybe two of the five are stronger] but we will make special effort to do the things we know bring love and love to our person.

Is this something you’ve heard or explored before? What would you identify as your two strongest love languages? And do you know what your partners are? Do you take this into account at all in the way you live together? Share some stories below!


[To continue to the next five tips, click here]

[Also, here is an opportunity to check out some of these marriage stories from different people who have celebrated between 1 and 45 years of marriage]