Many couples find the marriage journey tougher than expected; some, barely a few months into their relationship. I know I did. For others, just sharing the same personal space with another adult is tasking. More so when we’re talking about two people with different temperament types, behavioral patterns, character traits, habits and weaknesses. There’s bound to be friction and times when you may very well take a look at your spouse and wonder, “What on earth was I thinking?” Been there, done that.
But I believe that if we dig deeper, past the idiosyncrasies and character differences, we’ll find that making our marriage work does not have to be an uphill task.
So how do you build a strong healthy relationship with your spouse? How do you enjoy and not endure being with the same person day in, day out without losing interest in the relationship?
Here are five principles which in my opinion, I think can help you build a marriage that will stand the test of time and weather any vicissitudes that come with the territory.

1. Friendship.  Friendship is the deepest most secure type of love. It nurtures trust and intimacy. The closer your friendship, the tighter the marriage bond becomes. Don’t just be friends…be open, honest friends…there should be no lies or secrets between you.  Be your spouse’s best friend and confidante; the first person he/she always turns to when in need…be it an emotional or physical need. Make your spouse’s business your business and vice-versa.  Friends are there for each other through thick and thin, whether it is convenient or not.  Never allow anything or anyone get in the way of your friendship with each other.

2. Respect. Respect the fact that you both are different people with different interests and lifestyles. Respect the things that concern each other; whether it’s your spouse’s life goals, career achievements, business plans etc. Don’t ridicule things about your spouse just because you don’t like or understand them. Respect your spouse’s opinions and beliefs: that he/she is married to you does not mean they should think like you. Recognize that being different isn’t a negative; differences can work to your advantage as a couple. This is where compromise comes into play. If your spouse picks up a new hobby or interest, don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t appeal to you.

3. Intimacy. Prioritize intimacy and be intentional about spending quality time together.   Never get too busy with work, the kids or other things that you begin to neglect each other. Make the effort to do those things that add spark and spice to your relationship.  Remember that intimacy isn’t just about bedroom matters…it encompasses everything you do to keep the flames ablaze as a couple. Be sure to have marriage time at least once a week. Whether you spend this day at the beach, picnicking at the park, or just taking a walk around the neighborhood, the important thing is that you use this time to connect afresh with your spouse. Family time should never replace marriage time…so no! Don’t bring the baby along. Make arrangements for a nanny or someone to babysit for two hours. Your marriage will not wait for your kids to grow.

4. Communication. Talk and listen to each other every day. Again, be intentional about this process. In the past months, my husband and I don’t end the day without asking each other, “How was your day?” This has really helped keep openness in our marriage. Your spouse will not know anything unless you communicate it to them.  And don’t limit your conversations to what happened at work, what expenses are needed for the home or what happened with the kids at school. You should be able to talk about everything…even your greatest fears, with your spouse. Speak words that empower, build up and motivate your mate. Remember to listen to each other. Listening is a very essential component of effective communication.

5. Dating. You see all the lovey-dovey, romantic (maybe even cheesy) stuff you did while you two were courting? Don’t stop doing them after you’ve jumped the broom. Continue to do those things you did to capture your spouse’s attention and keep them interested in you when you were dating. Don’t stop wooing each other when you get married. If you paid attention to how you dressed when you were both out together, keep doing that. If you were expressly romantic towards him, don’t cool it off now that you’re husband and wife.  If you opened doors for her, or sent her romantic messages every day back then, continue to do so now. Being married doesn’t mean the fire should quench.

One major fact we should bear in mind as we desire to have strong healthy marriages is that a marriage is not a magic show…a wave of a wand and an “abracadabra” won’t make it what you want. You have to put in the work, you must constantly and deliberately nourish and nurture your relationship so that it not only grows but blossoms.