Marriage is hard.

Anyone who has made it through the honeymoon period of marriage realizes, in the words of Tim and Kathy Keller that “you always marry the wrong person.”  There is no such thing as a fairytale marriage. I hate to burst your bubble but someone needed to.

But marriage can be great anyway.

After decades of being married and interacting with a lot of married people, I have found there are two simple (and really hard) steps you can take to have a better marriage.  One is a “start” and one is a “stop” and they are both based on this passage:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3—4)

Step One: Stop doing that thing

You know exactly what that thing is.  It annoys your spouse every single time you do it.  Just stop doing that thing.  Whether it’s passing gas with reckless abandon or always leaving the other gas tank on empty, if it annoys your spouse, don’t do it anymore.  Just stop.

Step Two: Start doing that other thing

You may not know what this thing is, but you should.  It’s whatever makes your spouse feel loved and appreciated.  No matter how unnatural that thing is, start doing it.  Whether it’s emptying the dishwasher, buying flowers, caring about baseball, or any thing that you just don’t get, if your spouse feels loved when you do it, then do it.

That’s it.

It’s hard (really, really hard) but simple.

Oh, and a bonus step for you overachievers out there.  That thing that annoys you about your spouse?  Train yourself to find it endearing.  When your spouse does it, don’t say “ugh,” say, “how cute.”  

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