Dr. Brent Bounds is a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City where he has a private psychology practice working with individuals, couples, and families. Brent grew up in Texas, and he attended Wheaton College for his undergraduate degree in Psychology. He went to Dallas Theological Seminary for his M.A. in Biblical Studies and Biblical Counseling. And completed his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Fordham University in New York City. Brent served on the staff of Redeemer Presbyterian Church as a counselor and Director of Family Ministries for 13 years and continues to teach marriage and parenting courses on a part-time basis with the church. Brent is married to Jenni and they have three sons, Griffin and Wyatt and Sawyer.
10 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage
Keeping a marriage fresh, vibrant, fun and exciting doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality, work, and commitment. Our fallen nature doesn’t set us up well to continually serve one another and put the other first in our marriage. So with God’s grace, we have to work against the inertia of complacency. Many couples have sat in my office or contacted me saying that they are stuck and have no idea what to do. They are bored and apathetic with no vision for what their marriage can be. And they feel paralyzed as to what to do next. The following suggestions are simple and practical ways to create connection and turn up the warmth in your marriage.
- Just look into each other’s eyes for 10 seconds. The amazing phenomenon of marriage is that we get to be truly seen and known by someone. We all desire that. And yet, let’s be honest, in the busyness of our lives sometimes we can do days without really looking at each other and seeing each other. Something powerful happens when just look at each other. No words….just looking into their eyes.
- Secretly do something for the other that they won’t find out about right away. Doing things for each other can become routine especially when we typically do them in response to being asked. Think of an act of service you can do or take care of for your spouse that they haven’t necessarily asked you to or that they won’t find out about until a bit later. Maybe it’s taking care of travel arrangements for a trip in the future. Maybe it’s noticing when they are low on a certain product they use and replenishing it secretly.
- Take a class together in something you both don’t’ know anything about. An important aspect of marriage is deepening and strengthening the friendship and companionship in our relationship. One way to do this is to find and cultivate shared interests. Typically one spouse will take on the interest of the other and join them in it, which is good and important. But maybe find an activity or interest that neither one of you have any experience in and learn about it together.
- Let your spouse overhear you saying something affirming of them to someone else. This doesn’t apply only if your spouse’s love language is words of affirmation. We all love to hear affirmations, particularly when it is unsolicited and not directly to us. If you are with friends or family, take the opportunity to tell something great about your spouse….some accomplishment he or she had recently or even a quality that you love about him or her.
- If you are parents, go out to dinner and make a rule that you are not allowed to talk about your kids. This a great challenge for many parents, as a majority of daily interaction can center around children, logistics, etc. Spending time together where you can’t even mention your children helps remind you that the two of you existed before these other amazing people came into being. It helps focus the interaction on the marriage and relationship and not merely the partnership of parenting.
- Pray together. Praying together is a very intimate act. It creates and cultivates a spiritual connection when a couple comes before God together. Even in times of conflict, stopping and praying together can often reset the tone of the conflict and help the couple move toward one another.
- Six-second kiss. John and Julie Gottman, experts in marriage relationships assert the power of the six-second kiss. They say that most couples only give a quick peck and miss the power of a longer, more focused connection. The Gottman’s say that something magical happens when a kiss lasts up to six seconds. Try it out for yourself!
- Work on your ability to talk about sex. For many couples, communicating about sex feels awkward and difficult. It may be hard to talk about your needs and desires. But learning to communicate well about sex is incredibly important in developing a more connected physical intimacy. Set aside time to discuss expectations, needs and wants.
- Say “I Love You.” Make sure to say “I Love You” at least once every day. Even a text or email of those three powerful words reminds your spouse that you are thinking of him or her, desire him or her and affirms your commitment to him or her.
- Give grace. Tim Kimmel says that the biggest missing ingredient in a marriage is not love….it’s grace. Being quick to forgive, to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, to think the best and not the worst of them, to love and serve them anyway. Grace will heat up a marriage like nothing else.
The key to strengthening your marriage is intentionality.
The key to strengthening your marriage is intentionality. Start small. Grand plans are typically futile and frustrating. So, pick one small change that you can feasibly make. Be intentional. And watch the temperature of your marriage rise.