This question has been asked over and over in a variety of different ways over the years on this blog.

So in light of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, let’s talk about something we could all work on no matter how great our relationships are:

How to put our husbands first. (I’m hoping people will add their own ideas in the comments so we can all be better prepared to show our love tomorrow…and always).

I kind of compare our marriage and putting each other first to learning to speak Romanian so many years ago. (I lived in Romania for eighteen months while serving as a missionary for my church.)

When I arrived in that beautiful country I thought I knew that language. After all, I had studied it intensively for two whole months (ha!!) and could carry on a basic conversation with my companion. But as soon as I emerged from the airport I was completely lost.

I was left to wonder if that mumbo jumbo those Romanians were spilling out trying to communicate with me was even the same language I had been studying!

But gradually, I did learn that language. Oh, I didn’t master it, but I learned to get around with it pretty darn well.

I learned it by speaking it all the time. I learned it by waking up early every morning to study the verb conjugations and I packed around my little Romanian/English dictionary wherever I went. It was important to me, so I put it as a first priority.

When I got married I did a similar jump into the unknown.

Don’t we all?

I mean, how in the world do we even make a choice like who to marry???

I love this painting by Brian Kershisnik depicting how we’re essentially “choosing everything” when we choose our spouse:

Yikes, right??

Sure, just like I thought I knew Romanian, I thought I knew exactly how marriage would work. After all, I had seen marriages function all my life.

But once I “arrived” in one myself I think we both realized that a man and a woman are much different creatures than I had thought.

Yikes again.

So we worked.

Worked on those “verb conjugations” tirelessly.

Through thick and thin.

I used to punch Dave in the shoulder when I’d be hoping mad at him. I have pealed out of our driveway before with him running after me. There have been nights when I would lay in my bed with quiet tears streaming down my cheeks forming puddles in my ears wondering if he would ever understand me.

But I think the tough times make it all real. And actually better, because they are the mortar that holds the bricks together. I think the kinks in the road make our relationship stronger. Because as we work through them we learn more about each other and how to be a better fit in the puzzle that makes up the story us… two different people coming together to make one better whole.

I do believe that when you put that spouse of yours first, you start to “speak the same language,” especially if you are patient and willing to put some work into it.

Here are some ways that work for us:

Go to bed at the same time. (I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it makes a world of difference for us.)

If you go to bed at the same time, you get to have “pillow talk” which leads to belly laughs, which make me happy. (I feel so much more connected to Dave when we make time to really talk about how our day went and what’s coming up the next day.)

Find at least a few of the same things to be interested in together. (We’re always working on that one because we are so different, but I think it’s so important.)

Learn what his “love language” is from this book (I know this may sound cheesy, but seriously, it is a pretty cool concept).

Never underestimate the power of touch. Even just a touch on the shoulder or a on his knee at dinner.

Tell your kids how excited you are to go on a date together with stars in your eyes.

Hug in front of your kids.

Tell your kids what you love about their dad.

All the time.

Say you’re sorry before he does.

Continue “dating” regularly forever, even if it’s an “at-home date” after the kids are in bed.

Drop everything you’re trying to juggle some evenings and just snuggle on the couch.

Watch a show you like together while sitting in front of him on the floor…he rubs your back while you rub his feet. (or visa-versa)

Text him love-notes in the middle of the day.

Tuck love-notes in his suitcase when he goes on a business trip.

Make dinner for him.

Dave and I decided right when we got married to keep any complaints or things we were bugged about between us. We promised each other that we would discuss those things and work them out just the two of us, not with our friends or neighbors. We figured it would make us stronger to work through things together and to keep that relationship sacred.

And we were right.

That’s one of the best things about our marriage as far as I’m concerned.

Make an effort to give him a sincere compliment before you go to bed each night…something you noticed during the day. Be looking for the good instead of for opportunities to nag.

Talk about your budget often and make sure you’re on the same page with how you spend.

If you’re not on the same page with how you spend, re-evaluate. And give-in a little. Make compromises. Finances are one of the biggest stress-inducing things in marriages.

Forgive. And then Forget. Don’t hold on to grudges.

If something is important to him, make it important to you. No matter how silly it may seem in your view at first. (That’s my favorite one from my Mom and I think about it ALL THE TIME.)

Laugh. A lot. Keep a sense of humor.

Just to keep it real, some things not to do:

Cough all night long with allergies (mine are the WORST right now!)

Back into your in-law’s car.

Forget to warn him about five different conflicts you have in one night early enough that he can brace himself for it.

Text when you’re on a date.


But oh boy, I’m sure working to be better every day.

Just like learning Romanian, I’ll always have work to do to learn and grow in marriage.

Strong marriages make strong families but take work.

But we’re here for it, right?

Please add your ideas in honor of Valentine’s Day…I know there are so many great ways to show love out there whether they’re just ideas or things that are tried and true.

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  1. Love languages are NOT cheesy! The concept is important for lots of relationships, not just romantic ones. Understanding that someone else shows respect and care in different ways than you is super important to developing empathy and respect for others yourself. It is something everyone should learn about friendship and collegial relationships at work, families, etc!!

    Happy Valentine’s Day 71 Toes and readers 🙂

  2. I love all this.
    – It helps us a lot to remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I know my husband is well-intentioned, and when I remember that, it takes the sting out of whatever I’m upset about and gives me better perspective.
    – We remember that “message sent” and “message received” are often different, so we say things like “I heard you say…” to clarify.
    – We have a lunch date every week, with packed lunches at his office and we each share one thing we would like to be acknowledged for and one thing we’d like the other person to know about us right now.
    – We’ve also set boundaries around other dates or evenings in the past (we don’t discuss kids or finances that night, for example.)
    – when we disagree about something, we will often assign it a number of importance. Often it’s high for one person (an 8) and low for another person (2-3), in which case we just have the more invested person make the decision. Or it’s low for both of us and we drop it! Haha.

    I also want to second the decision to not ever speak negatively about your spouse to others.

    (For anyone interested in doing some deliberate marriage improving… my favorite resource has been the Wife Savers course. It didn’t require my husband to change at all, or get on board. It was all about me and how I perceive my husband and myself and I found it incredibly helpful. )

    1. Oh thank you so much for sharing all these ideas, I love them. What a great idea to rank how important things are to each to get a better idea of what to worry and push on. I also love the clarification thing. Such a good communication tool I need to remember!

      Excited to check out Wife Savers!

  3. Compliment your partner in front of other people. (it’s SO easy to be snarky and sarcastic as a form of “humor” for me, so this take a deliberate effort!).

  4. I know this is a wife post for wives, and I love these thoughts and the comments. I think these things can apply to husbands too. I have five kids and a husband with a lot of things going on and sometimes I feel like I don’t even have a chance to breathe myself, let alone have time to “become.” I often think we all need more “marriaging” classes in the world… we really are so different, one from the next. Marriage & family is a great workshop.

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