I don’t claim to be a marriage or relationship expert. In fact, I’ve probably done more things wrong than right in that department over the years, but I’ve figured out what works for Jerry and me, and it’s this: We treat our marriage like it’s a child.
To be clear: We don’t treat each other like children. We protect and nurture our relationship as we would an energetic toddler.
Here’s how you can treat your marriage like a child:
Always know where it is and what it’s doing. No, I don’t mean you should spy on and track your spouse’s every move, but always know the status of your relationship. Even the strongest of marriages will occasionally face a test. If you aren’t paying attention, those tests will be harder to deal with than they need to be. Just as you wouldn’t let a little one run around unsupervised, keep an eye on your marriage all the time.
Don’t abandon it. You wouldn’t abandon your child, so don’t abandon your marriage. You’ll go through tough times but it’s worth hanging in there.
Teach it skills to be the best it can be. Children need to be taught life skills; spouses need to learn marriage skills. And it’s a lifelong process. It really is possible for your marriage to get better every day, even after decades, if you commit to it.
Spend time with it. Just as it’s important to spend quality time with children, it’s important to spend quality time working on and enjoying your marriage—not just superficially doing things together (although that’s good), but actively enriching your relationship.
Provide quality nourishment. Limit the amount of junk food you feed your marriage. Children are healthier on a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats; marriages are healthier when nourished with mutual affection, respect and positive words and actions.
Supervise it closely when it must handle things that could hurt. You wouldn’t give a toddler a pair of scissors and walk away. When you are dealing with a conflict, a crisis or something else that could harm your marriage—and these things can happen in the best of relationships—give it close care and attention.
Make sure it has a strong foundation of faith. Faith is one of the greatest gifts we give our children, and it’s one of the essential pillars of a durable marriage. Study, serve and grow in faith together as a couple with the same diligence you apply to teaching little ones about God and Jesus.