By Lori Freeland, Crosswalk.com
Valentine’s Day. When you’re single, you dread it. When you’re dating, you look forward to it. When you’re married, you may not even celebrate it.
My 17-year-old daughter and her boyfriend were talking the other day, and he had a strong opinion about Valentine’s Day. He told her, “If you care about someone, you should show that person how you feel every day not just on one specific day.”
Sometimes teenagers are wise. But please don’t tell them I said that.
I’m taking his advice to heart. Starting in February, I’m committing to love my husband in a new way each month. The idea is to form new habits that deepen and strengthen my marriage. Maybe you’d like to join me? Feel free to run with my ideas or tweak them to work for you. You know your husband better than anyone else. And if you’ve let that slide along the way, this is a great time to invest in getting to know him better.
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1. February: Prioritize Him
To make the rest of the list work, we should start here. I don’t know what you have going on in your life—a demanding job, a high-strung cat, kids maxed out on sports, parents you take care of—but grab a time-out to write down what gets priority in your day. Not sure where to begin? How do you spend your time? What do you wake up and go to bed thinking about? Those are your priorities, whether you want them to be or not.
Wherever your husband falls on the list—no judgement if you need to scratch his name in there now—go ahead and shuffle him up a few spaces. Keep shuffling. Good job. A little higher. Yep. Put him right there under “God” in your number two spot. No judgement if you went back and wrote “God” either. Life is hard. I get it.
This month be intentional when it comes to your husband. Notice him—whether you’re staring at his cute . . . ahem . . . ears and wondering how you got so lucky, or you’re watching him take the garbage out and finally realizing how much he actually does do around the house. I know you’re busy. And tired. And maybe even disappointed in some failed expectations of your marriage. But you might be surprised at the difference a few minutes of daily deliberate focus can make in your relationship. The great thing here is that it’s not about the quantity of time you focus on your husband, it’s about the quality.
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2. March: Speak His Love Language Instead of Yours
People tend to express love the way they feel loved. My husband picks up the kitchen for me when he’s trying to make me feel cared for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful, but a tidy kitchen doesn’t mean as much to me as when he holds my hand. Just like me holding his hand doesn’t mean as much to him as if I’d have tidied up the kitchen.
If you want your husband to feel loved, you have to love him the way he needs to be loved. Pay attention to the things you do that make him relax or smile. If he’s hard to read, it’s okay to ask him. But when you do, really listen. Then, for an entire month, speak his love language rather than your own.
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3. April: Up with the Right. Down with the Wrong. Words—That Is.
What you say to your husband can make or break your relationship. Remember when you first became a couple and you tempered . . . well, your temper. Maybe you bit back harsh comments or always made sure to point out the parts about him you loved.
This month watch your mouth. Pause before you let the words out. Swallow the negative. Speak the positive. There was a time where I had to ask God to set off an alarm in my head every time I was tempted to tear into my husband. Once I mastered that, I asked God to give me His words of encouragement to say instead. It wasn’t easy, but it was monumental in my marriage. And those changes carried in me carried over into the words I use and don’t use with my kids and my friends too.
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4. May: Do “The Thing”
Most of us can think of at least one thing we always say no to that our husbands have asked us to do. I’m not talking about cleaning out the garage while he watches football. I’m talking about that thing he loves . . . that you don’t. The thing he wants you to do with him. For me, it’s listening to talk radio in the car. Watching sitcoms to unwind. And if we’re really digging, the dreaded camping trip. I’ll be honest. We’re not there yet. But I’m trying.
This month do the thing. The thing you don’t want to do. While you’re at it, pick several things that top his list but don’t make yours. Find something to do with him that makes him happy. And do it with a smile.
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5. June: Plan His Perfect Date
Flowers and dinner and chocolates and chick flicks might be your idea of a perfect date, but are they his? If yes, know that you’re exceedingly lucky.
This month spend time thinking about what your husband likes to do when he goes out with you. It could be as simple as giving up Saturday-night sushi for a sports-bar burger and several flat screens or as involved as planning a get-away weekend that requires you to purchase a pair of boots. Not cute boots. Functional boots. Like for camping. I challenge you this month to go above and beyond and plan one date a week that’s just for him.
6. July: Listen and Act
My husband’s very laidback. He will eat at restaurants I pick. Watch movies I like. Hang out with friends I choose. He’s so flexible that if I’m not careful, I miss what matters to him. Like milk. He’ll drink the $2-a-gallon brand if I buy it, but he really wants the $5-a-carton choice that’s organic, grass-fed, and a bunch of other things I couldn’t care less about. It kills me to spend twice as much, but I do it. Because that’s the milk he wants. It’s silly, but sometimes it really is about the little things.
This month discover what’s important to him, and then do it. If your husband is not flexible, this will look more like a compromise. Tell him what’s important to you, then go from there. Maybe he will agree to stop coming home late, and you’ll agree to give him the first ten minutes of your time when he walks through the door. Compromise is a huge part of making your relationship work. And showing your man you love him.
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7. August: Let Him Be . . . Him
You married him for a reason. Yes, our men can be challenging. But so can we. Everyone has annoying habits. Remember when he used to kick off his shoes in the middle of the floor when you were dating, and you smiled and carefully moved them out of the way? Somewhere between now and then, that careful movement became an angry punt.
My point for this month is to pick your issues. If it’s not that important, let it go. Step over his shoes. Be grateful he comes home every night to kick them off. Before you perfect your punt, close your eyes to his imperfection and instead remind yourself of something he does right.
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8. September: Talk the Talk
When women get together, they tend to vent. That’s okay. We need friends to talk to about our lives. But sometimes those venting sessions spiral into a husband hate-fest. Be careful what you say about your husband behind his back. Would you want him to reciprocate when he’s with his friends?
This month make a promise to speak highly of your husband. There’s a difference between asking a friend to pray for your marriage and ranting about your husband’s irritating habits. Some issues are big, and you need help. In cases like that, find a good marriage counselor to mediate. What I’m talking about here are the little things that make you crazy. You might be surprised at the change in your attitude toward your husband that goes along with building him up rather than tearing him down.
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9. October: Be His Safe Place
There’s one place I want my husband to go when he’s had a bad day, when life is hard, when he’s not sure how he’s going to wake up tomorrow. That one place is in my arms. I want to be his person. The one who understands him and loves him more than anyone else.
This month soften your arms. Make them feel like home. Give him a safe place to go without criticism and judgment. Be his “us against them” and his “one and only.”
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10. November: Trust Him
I’ll be the first wife to admit this one is hard. I’m a tad bit of a control freak. I want everything done my way and in my time. It got so bad, I ended up with serious anxiety issues. So, it’s actually a little selfish that I’ve given over some of the things I used to be in charge of. But my husband wants to do them. He might not follow my formula, but his way works too.
This month trust him. I’m not going to lie. If you have trust issues or if you feel he’s proven untrustworthy in the past, this is going to be painful. Been there. Done that. Cried an ocean or two. But here’s the thing. When you trust him, you respect him, and that makes him feel loved by the person he wants to take care of most—you.
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11. December: Cover Him in Prayer
Many times, I don’t know what to do or say to meet my husband’s needs. Other times, the way our marriage is going, I don’t want to. Sometimes I honestly have nothing left to give. This is when I pray the hardest. I pray for God to take care of him, bless him, protect our marriage, and to show both of us what He wants us to know and love about each other.
This month give your husband the gift of prayer. I’ve seen miracles happen, attitudes change, hearts soften. God wants your marriage to succeed. He wants you to love your husband the way He loves you. He wants your husband to love you that way too. For me, it’s a relief to know God’s on our team because I’m not sure I can do this marriage thing alone.
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12. January: Practice Makes Perfect
The more you do something, the better you get at doing it and the easier it becomes.
This month look back on all the new ways you’ve learned to love your husband. Hopefully, some of these ideas have become a habit. Don’t stop. Commit yourself to continue to love your husband and let him know what he means to you every day instead of just on one specific day.
Lori Freeland is a freelance author from Dallas, Texas with a passion to share her experiences in hopes of connecting with other women tackling the same issues. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a full-time homeschool mom. You can find Lori at lafreeland.com.
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