Some people say that the three most beautiful words in the English language are I love you. The four most heartbreaking, in my opinion, are I want a divorce. While divorce statistics fluctuate, about a third to a half of all marriages will end with these four words. Just like that, a lifetime commitment is broken.
We all want to live happily ever after. So how can we prevent our marriages from becoming another divorce statistic? It's not easy, of course. But here are seven strategies to strengthen your marriage:
Reaffirm your commitment.
Matthew 19:6 tells us, "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Remove the word divorce from your vocabulary. Make a decision to stay married and do whatever it takes to build your marriage.
Invest in your spouse.
Show him or her how valuable he or she is to you. How? Sacrifice for your spouse. Acknowledge his or her special traits or virtues. Learn what makes him or her feel adored and appreciated. Ask about your spouse's goals, passions and dreams, and help him or her pursue them.
Invest in your marriage.
Pray together or share a devotional together. Go on dates. Take up a shared hobby. Have sex often and in a way that you both like. Be a healthy individual.
It's not enough to invest in your spouse and your relationship. You have to take care of yourself, too. Deal with your personal baggage.
Fill yourself with God's love.
(You can't give what you don't have.) Make sure to take time to do things that you enjoy, but also remember to relax and recover your strength.
Practice healthy conflict.
Don't sweep problems under the rug or avoid conflict. Deal with issues.
Surround yourselves with couples who have strong marriages.
Be deliberate about forging friendships with husbands and wives who live out their commitment.
Counseling isn't just for emergencies — it can be preventative, too. If formal counseling isn't your thing, join a support group where you can find instruction, encouragement and accountability.Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.
Do you know of a marriage in crisis? Learn more about Focus on the Family’s marriage intensives by visiting HopeRestored.com.