We’ve come up with some practical ways to help strengthen your marriage and take your relationship to new heights. Check back regularly to see our new ideas! And if you have any marriage tips of your own to share, we would love to hear from you!

Email your tips to: info@Family.ie

Take your spouse to work
If possible, take your spouse to your office so he or she can meet your co – workers and see what you do every day. This can help your spouse understand more about your job duties, especially when you come home and talk about your day.

Make fast food romantic
The next time you and your spouse dine under the golden arches, bring a tablecloth and a candle (may have to be battery operated for health & safety!:)). This bold move shows off your creativity and adds an element of fun and romance to your otherwise ordinary date.

Create a gratitude journal
Buy a lined notebook or journal and place it somewhere central, such as your kitchen table. Every day, take turns writing down a reason (or two, or 10) that you’re thankful for your spouse.

Verbalize your thanks
Thank your spouse regularly. Expressing your thanks doesn’t just make your spouse feel loved, appreciated and wanted, but it also helps to remind you of their positive qualities. When showing your gratitude, focus on the person and not the action or object. For example, say “You’re an amazing cook” instead of “Thanks for making lunch.”

Give your spouse a break
If you have children, take them on a field trip to give your spouse a moment of solitude. Example trips for an afternoon include ice cream parlours, park playgrounds, museums – many which have free or discount admission days – and zoos. It can work as a great bonding time for you with your kids, while also allowing your spouse to relax, unwind and not have to worry about taking care of anyone.

Acknowledge change
People constantly change, but married couples sometimes begin to take each other for granted and stop seeing these changes. This can make each spouse feel ignored, unnoticed or – even worse – unwanted. Take a moment every day to verbally acknowledge a new thing in your spouse. This can be something as simple as complimenting a new shirt, or deeper issues like discussing a new view of a Bible verse. Regularly doing this can help show your spouse that you’re aware of them and engaged in their personal development.

Write it down
In the heat of a situation, your anger can make it difficult and counterproductive to discuss your disagreements with your spouse. Instead of verbally expressing yourself, try writing down your thoughts. Wait a few hours and revisit your note when you’ve had time to calm down. This can help you separate your emotions from the true problems so you can both work together to smooth over any potential issues.

Do the chores
Surprise your spouse by doing a household chore or task that is typically their duty. For example, make dinner or clean the bathroom. This gesture helps to demonstrate your awareness and thankfulness for your spouse’s contributions to your home and relationship.

Use nonverbal signs
Half of a conversation is nonverbal, reports psychology studies. Use physical signs to show your spouse that you’re listening intently. For example, give their hand a gentle squeeze. Also, face them when they speak and lean forward slightly; these are signs that you’re interested and receptive to what they’re saying.

Talking with the in-laws
Letting your spouse know that you’re eager to have “your turn” on the phone with his or her parents is sure to score you bonus points. Keep a list of news near the phone so you’ll be ready to keep the conversation flowing when “ Mum” and “Dad” call.

Write notes of thankfulness
On a sticky note or sheet of paper, thank your spouse for something that he or she did recently, whether it was making dinner, fixing a leaky pipe or simply listening to your tales of an awful day. Slip the note into a place where they’ll find it unexpectedly during their day. Simple expressions of gratitude like these can do a lot to brighten their day.

Seize the moment
Date nights with your spouse can be rare when you’re managing a busy household. But with practice, you can learn to snatch opportunities to connect on a deeper level. Move to another room while the kids are watching TV or playing, and simply ask each other, “What’s on your mind today?”

Sweet reunions
Whether you’re a newlywed or have been married for years, spending quality time with your spouse and spending time away is healthy for your marriage. Without outside friendships and interests, you might find yourself with less to talk about with your spouse, especially if you and they have dissimilar hobbies. To keep your marriage well-balanced, call up a friend today! Your time away will all the more sweeten your reunion with your love when you come back together to share about your day and new discoveries.

Open ears and open hearts
Most of us don’t like being wrong, so we often shut off our ears and keep arguing without hearing our spouse’s point of view. Instead, try listening first to avoid jumping to conclusions and really consider what your mate is saying. It’ll take some humility and self-control, but doing so will help your spouse feel loved and understood if you take the time to really hear them out.

 Make no mistake 
If you’re married, it’s time to stop wondering if you made the right decision when you chose your spouse. It’s time to start doing everything you can to make that the right decision.

Spousal servanthood
Just as Christ did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28), try serving your spouse today instead of expecting to be served. Often, our own wants and desires get in the way of blessing our husband or wife. When you see them stressed, frazzled or doing their everyday tasks, ask how you can help or pick up the slack when you see it. Adopting an attitude of servanthood can help a marriage go a long way!

Log in your eye
Remember when you and your spouse first started dating and it seemed as they though could do no wrong? Remember when you got to know them better and some of their habits started to irritate you? Now that you’re married, you may find that some of their habits are more intolerable than others. Before letting these annoyances become bigger than they should be, remember to look at your own bad habits, too. Nobody’s perfect!

Checking in
When day-to-day life is filled with so much busyness, it can be easy for couples to lose track of each other. Try setting aside a time where the two of you can find out how the other is really doing, either once a day or a few times a week. It’s an intentional but simple way you can connect and make sure your marriage is always at the forefront of your weekly routine!

Marriage essentials
Before leaving for work, while on the phone or before bed, try praying for and with your spouse. Building your relationship with God is the cornerstone of your marriage.

Five days of Valentines
Instead of giving your spouse their annual treat on Valentine’s, why not spoil them for the five days leading up to the romantic day? Each day, plan out something small to give or do for your love. Ideas include: love notes or emails, brownies with red and white icing, heart-shaped biscuits – you name it! Your mate will love all the special treatment!

Prayers for the new year 
As the new year begins, why not put your marriage on your resolutions list? Start with discussing with your spouse three things about your marriage you are thankful for, and three major tendencies that most negatively affect your marriage. Then, pray for each other, using the list as a reminder of these prayer requests throughout the year. On the following New Year’s Day, return to your list to see how God has been answering your prayers.

Keep the compliments coming
When life gets busy, it’s often hard to take a moment to say what you admire about your spouse. Keep the spark alive by remembering to tell your love how beautiful or handsome they are, or letting them know you noticed how good they look in today’s outfit. Small words of admiration can make a big difference in your relationship!

Too hungry to think straight?
Does being hungry make you or your spouse easily irritable? When at home or out and about, try stocking your cupboard or handbag with wholesome snacks like fruit, nuts or granola bars to help calm the hunger-cranks. You’ll be surprised how an apple can help deter those too-hungry-to-think-straight conflicts.

An advent devotional
Why not start the Advent season by committing to daily advent readings with your spouse? The hustle and bustle of the holidays can distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. Begin with reading the Christmas story Scriptures together. You’ll refresh your hearts – and marriage – by immersing yourselves in the Saviour’s story!

Fox hunting
Solomon wisely observed that little foxes ruin the vineyard. Even if your marriage is great, you likely have small habits that annoy your spouse. As an expression of love, regularly hold a personal “fox hunt,” and determine to eliminate habits that steal some of the joy from your spouse’s day.

Private matters
When talking to friends about your marriage, how good are you about keeping private matters private? If you’re not sure, next time you’re with friends, be mindful of how your spouse would feel about you sharing certain details about your relationship. And on the other end of things, if there are items you don’t want your spouse to share with her friends, be sure to say, “Please keep this between us,” just to be clear.

Long-distance love
Show your spouse you are thinking of them, even when you are travelling far from home. Prepare for your trip by hiding small, wrapped gifts around the house with a thoughtful note attached to each one. Phone your spouse every few days, and guide them to a hidden gift.

De-stress St.Stephen’s day dinner

Hosting a St.Stephen’s day dinner can be a lot of work. Even between husband and wife, cooking a turkey and all the rest for family or friends is no easy task. If both of you aren’t used to working together in the kitchen, alleviate some of the dinner stress by going over expectations and prep duties together before the big night. For example, list the tasks that need to be done, and distribute them according to each of your strengths and giftings. For example, if your spouse does not excel at cooking, perhaps they can help chop foods, prepare drinks, set the table, entertain the guests and/or help with post-dinner cleanup. This way, each of you can make use of the different gifts God has given you, and share the load to better enjoy St.Stephen’s day.

Romance – rain or shine
Don’t let bad weather disrupt your plans for a weekend getaway. Blustery gales create a perfect setting for a romantic retreat. Plan a trip to a thundering ocean beach, or stormwatch on a high plateau where you can marvel at lightning-laced cumulous clouds sweeping across the landscape.

If only he were like . . . 
For many women, curling up with a romantic movie or book is an ideal pastime. Love and relationships make for great fiction, but it’s all too easy to let unrealistic portrayals of love and “perfect” characters direct how we view our marriage. Whether you fancy the straight-laced Mr. Darcy or the rebellious James Dean type, comparing your husband with idealised characters sets him up against impossible expectations – and could leave you less satisfied with your marriage. If your imagination is affecting your perspective, perhaps it’s time to turn off the TV or put down that book, and get totally carried away with your real-life hero.

Tractor beam
Do you wish your spouse would help out around the house more often? When you catch them doing a small chore, such as chopping veggies, surprise them with a hug from behind and murmur, “Mmm, magnetic attraction!” They’ll soon be looking for other ways to earn an appreciative snuggle.

Poor reception
Accused of neglecting a task, a husband once responded to his wife with a grin, “I don’t remember you telling me to do that – you shouldn’t talk to me when I’m not listening.” Sharing information is a shared responsibility: be sure your spouse is “tuned-in” before making an important announcement or request.

Love letter
Shake up humdrum conversations with your spouse by writing love letters to him or her. On a regular basis, write your love a letter to express your appreciation of them, what you love about them – or anything you want to say that will make your mate feel loved. Even if you don’t feel like it or have trouble thinking of anything, the more you practice, the more positive thoughts about your spouse you’ll remember for your next letters. Email will work, too, but giving your spouse a hand-written note to read at work or at home can become special keepsakes they’ll want to keep!

Discordant love triangles
Demanding children can be skilled at pitting one parent against another in subtle ways. Don’t play the blame game with your spouse. No one can win, and it only deflects energy away from the real issues. Make unity as a couple your priority, then dealing with the rest will be easier.

Room service!
Let’s face it. Getting up in the morning – especially weekdays – can be a real challenge. On a middle-of-the-week kind of day like Wednesday, surprise your mate with a special breakfast in bed. Try serving chopped fruit, granola and yogurt, or eggs and pancakes, while your spouse is still in their PJs. Nothing says “I love you” more on a weekday morning than a special breakfast served in bed!

Hearing vs. listening
The first thing you need to know about love, you learned in kindergarten . . . and that’s to simply pay attention. Don’t let “tuning out” become a habit – acknowledge every comment from your spouse. If you tend to share your every thought, reduce the chatter so meaningful comments aren’t missed.

Sweet tunes
If your spouse has a long commute to work, give them a great start to their day by giving them a mixed CD or loaded MP3 player to listen to on their drive without saying what’s on it. Start by picking their favourite tunes and, as a special surprise, record messages between songs telling your mate how much you love them, a word of encouragement or a funny story.

Homestead cafe
Treat your spouse to a personal chef – you! Present a handwritten menu including two or three of their favourite entrees, seat your spouse at the table with his or her favourite beverage and soft music, then take their order and chat as you cook. Don’t allow them to help; they must enjoy the treat! Sit down and eat together, and even do the dishes yourself.

Motivation to make up
Do you have trouble reconciling with your spouse after an argument? Before you retire for the night, try using a statement like this: “I’m so thankful I have you to disagree with! What would I do without you?”

Public display of praise
What do you say about your spouse in front of others? If you sing nothing but the praises of your husband or wife, great! But if you’re prone to complain, insult or speak negatively about your spouse in public, you not only dishonour your mate, but yourself as well. After all, when you married each other, you became one! And spreading your complaints about your loved one does nothing but hurt your spouse and your own regard for them. The best thing for your marriage is to show everyone – you and your spouse included – how much you value the person you married with words of affirmation and sincere appreciation.

First-date nostalgia
Recreate your first date! Whether visiting the restaurant where you first shared a meal, renting the DVD of the movie you saw, or simply reminiscing about your special evening, enjoy the memories by reflecting on those first-date thoughts and emotions.

Divide and conquer…and affirm
Do you often need to divide tasks and errands between yourself and your spouse just to “get it all done”? Ensure these tasks are assigned via negotiation rather than delegation. Working through conflicting priorities reassures your spouse that their needs are important, too.

Not being your spouse’s parent
In your marriage, do you often confuse your role as a parent and as a spouse? After a while, it’s easy to get used to telling your kids what to do and how to do it; however, these modes of communication are reserved for your children and not your spouse. Likely, you won’t get very far with your spouse by speaking to him as one of the kids. Instead, be aware of your tone of voice, body language and the fact that your spouse has a specific role in the family with a say in how things could be done.

Game on! 

Couples often find there’s simply no more time for playing favourite board games together once baby arrives. If this sounds like you, don’t give up this important and inexpensive relationship builder! Instead, search online for ideas for shorter games you can enjoy together in 30 minutes or less.

Spiritual disciplines
Too busy to pray, or find it difficult to establish spiritual intimacy in your marriage? One of the best marriage-building exercises is to have a regular prayer and Bible study time with your spouse. With a busy schedule, start by committing just half an hour each week to study a Scripture passage together, discuss its meaning and explore what it is telling you about Jesus. Then, discuss how it applies to your life and marriage. Praying together also opens up communication and fosters openness in your relationship when struggles and praises are shared. It may seem difficult to commit to this at first, but by nurturing your relationship with God in marriage, you’ll likely find yourselves greatly enriched and coming back for more!

Fattening, but flattering
When your colleagues make or buy treats and make them available in the workplace, don’t be bashful about picking up one or two for your spouse. Your small gift says, “I thought of you during my work day.”

What’s not to love?
On a sheet of paper, list 10 reasons why you love your spouse. Keep it in your wallet, and add to it regularly. Review it if you’re travelling for business, or whenever you’ve had an argument.

Romance in the little things
To make your spouse feel even more special this Valentine’s Day, hijack their to-do list for the day and complete some of those tasks to give them an easier, hassle-free day. If your spouse usually takes care of arranging the babysitting, grocery shopping, walking the dog or making lunch for the kids, take on a few of these to alleviate your mate’s workload. They may only be chores, but freeing up your mate’s busy schedule can help your spouse feel loved and to relax during your special night out.

Sleeping beauty
Show your love in a practical way by disrupting your spouse’s sleep as little as possible. This might mean skipping the ensuite and showering in another part of the house, choosing clothing the night before!

A new year, a clean house?
If one of your consistent sources of marital conflict comes from disagreements about chores, then try this: Sit down with your spouse to prepare a list of all the household duties that need to be done, and divide them up. Now that you have your list, resist the temptation to use it as a way to catch your spouse for not doing their chores. Instead, the list should be a visual way to help remind each of you what chores need to be done and by whom. Often, conflicts about chores arise because neither has an accurate idea of how much work the other is doing or one spouse fails to match the expectations of the other. Posted on the fridge or some other visible area, “the list” can show where the housework stands each week. Of course, you may need to adjust the list according to trial and error, but remember: things will never be perfect, and you will need to give each other continued grace as you work through your clashes in cleanliness.

Good deeds for the day 
Be on the lookout for small tasks you can do to make your spouse’s day a little brighter. Thoughtful ideas include recharging their mobile phone, scraping the ice off their windscreen, or putting their towel in the tumble dryer so it’s cosy when they step out of the shower.

The lights of Christmas
During the busyness of the Christmas season, carve out quality time with your spouse to enjoy your city or town’s special holiday lights. Grab a cup of hot cocoa while you “ooh and ah” through town. If you’d rather stay warm, hop in your car for a slow drive through decorated estates, and discuss your favourites.