Marriage is talked about as though it’s a marathon. Marriage is about work! Marriage is about effort! About communication and romantic gestures! It’s about discipline and listening to your body! About staying hydrated!
All these things make marriage sound not fun. But marriage is fun. Is it true that happy marriages do involve a great deal of effort and a ton of communication? Yeah, but it’s also about the little things. Ask any long-term couple, and they’ll tell you that marriage is a series of small things that build up over time that either make or break a relationship. That’s why we spoke to a variety of husbands about the small things they do to keep their marriages strong and healthy.
1. I make a point to prioritize date nights.
For couples with kids, it’s really hard to find time to get away. But it’s seriously important to take the focus off the children and put the focus on each other. Damon Nailer says he and his wife go to a movie every single weekend — no matter what’s in theaters. “We constantly go out on dates. On dates, we get to spend undivided, quality time with each other — away from the kids.” Even when they don’t have time to get away for hours at a time, they try to go get coffee alone. A bit of time without the kids where they can feel like adults is the real priority for them.
2. I remember the little things she mentions
“We have an Asian supermarket nearby, and there’s a particular kind of Asian candy that she likes,” says John Ordover, who has been married for more than 20 years and lives in Brooklyn with his special needs child and his wife. “When I go there, I always snag her some.” But for John, it’s about the big and the small things. “Once, when she was on bedrest during her pregnancy, for her birthday, I brought some violinists into the house, which was quite a surprise for her.”
3. I revisit places we used to love when we were first dating.
Shlomo Slatkin, a certified Imago relationship therapist from Baltimore, and his wife operate a marriage advice program, so they know a lot about keeping long-term relationships alive. He says that he likes to plan trips to old haunts, as they remind him and his wife about the early days of their relationship. “Revisiting a physical place where we have fond memories is another way to return back to the time where we once felt the spark in our relationship,” he says. “By returning to that place and remembering those positive experiences, we can actually relive in our mind and heart what happened.”
4. I learned my wife’s love language.
“I realized a long time ago that I have control in making my wife happy, once I learned what actually makes her happy,” says Harrison Rogers, a father of four. He and his wife took a love language test together and found that his language is verbal while hers is actions. “This,” he says, “taught me that my wife is way more impressed with me taking the time to finish building storage sheds she’s been asking for, than my successful business ventures. In turn, she would verbally express her gratitude for me more often.”
5. I use surprise romantic gestures.
“I take her places we’ve never been, and she doesn’t know when or where we’re going,” says Bill Fuller, a father of two. When he plans these surprise trips, he also takes care of all of the logistics of the date: the babysitters, the reservations, the planning. If he and his at a venue for a band they both planned to see, sometimes he’ll talk to someone in the band and ask them to play a song or two that she likes. “It’s thoughtful and the surprises can be big or small, as long as they’re surprises.”
6. I court her once a month.
“I think the basic things that a husband should not forget is to court his partner at least once a month,” says Ulysis Calabrian, who has been married for 14 years. “It’ll take her back in time when you where the relationship was still new. I use Post-It notes and quickly write a love note and stick it on her car’s dashboard or in the refrigerator. That message will be the first words that will stick to her brain that day.”
7. I just compliment her.
“It sounds a bit trite,” says Mark Wildes, who has been with his wife for more more than 20 years, “but telling your wife how great she looks and expressing gratitude for even small things goes a long way. My wife goes out of her way for the kids and me all the time, so I show my gratitude verbally and physically, maybe with small gifts here and there. I think it makes her feel appreciated.”