My wife and I have been married 8 years (almost 9) and so by no means am I a marriage guru. I do not work for Focus on the Family and I am not a professional counselor. With that said, in reflecting on some things that have helped our marriage I realized some surprising helps. Of course the core stuff that you always hear about are essential: good communication, resolving conflict in a healthy manner, quality time, never demeaning and abusing one another. All the things I'm about to mention will not help much if you're not doing these basics. But here are three kind-of-different ways to have a healthy marriage.
1. Travel Together
I am a firm believer that "getting away" periodically is essential. It's very easy for life (and a relationship) to get stuck in a rut. Traveling is a simple way to break the daily routine. Some people have more money than others, but just about anyone can find simple ways to get a change of scenery. You can travel with your kids, but I do think one couple trip per year is vital.
* Side Note--As a a pastor, I spend a lot of time with the elderly in hospitals and nursing homes. One thing they have taught me over and over again is to not waste my mobility. Do not wait until it's too late to travel and see things...one day you will not have that ability.
2. Support Each Other
This may seem kind of obvious and not so different, but I rarely see true support in most marriages. By "support" I do not mean tolerate, endure, or just get by. I mean being intentional in encouraging and complimenting one another. I mean being there for one another and sacrificing to help your spouse achieve their goals. Stay away from manipulation and competition with your spouse. Instead, "take delight in honoring one another."
3. Live for Something Big
As a couple, pursue a lifestyle that helps those in need. Live for something bigger than your own relationship. I think Jesus would like this and it's a great example for your own kids. Mission trips, adoption, and foster care has brought us closer in a variety of ways. Of course, we do not serve in order to have a healthy marriage; but looking back it has had that affect. The scriptures are correct: "It is more blessed to give, than to receive."
* Side Note--Please do not read this and think I have the perfect marriage. We have faults and weaknesses like any other couple. We are a work-in-progress, but I love this journey together.