What's the Secret to Great Marriage in the New Year?

couple with sparklers

HGTV icons Chip and Joanna Gaines do more than inspire folks to renovate their homes; the way they connect in their marriage is an inspiration to many of the fans of their popular home-improvement reality show called "Fixer Upper."

One article says, "Husband and wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines are more than talented home improvement gurus. They're the definition of relationship goals."

Americans desire not only a great home, but also a marriage much like they envision the Gaineses have. Couples want to know the "secret ingredient." But Chip acknowledges in the article that no such thing exists, that marriage requires hard work. He also dispels any notions of having a perfect marriage.

Chip and Joanna's marriage is admirable. And I'd guess viewers are both encouraged to seek more in their own relationship, but also discouraged that their marriage doesn't look quite so perfect.

We all have to work hard at growing and developing our marriage relationship. Including the Gaineses. As we head into a new year, many people are contemplating their hopes and dreams. Most couples could use a renovation in some area of their relationship. What "room" in your marriage needs a fresh coat of paint, updated plumbing or a simple change of décor? Reflect on your marriage and the part of your relationship you would most like to improve. Here are some places to start:

Handling conflict

Anyone — and I mean anyone — can learn to handle conflict in a healthier way. After marrying Greg, I quickly realized that I had no idea how to fight fair. But 25 years later, I have gained a ton of skills in this area. You can do it, too!

Improving communication skills

Healthy communication is necessary for any marriage to be strong —but that takes time and effort. In our fast-paced society, many couples pass each other in the driveway without talking. Make deep, heart connection a priority this year.

Dreaming together

While dating or during the engagement period, couples spend much time dreaming about their future together; however, when the chaos of life sets in — two careers, children and the responsibilities of running a household — often the couple don't even realize that they have stopped dreaming. Spend time this year dreaming together. Ask the Lord, "What do You want us to do as a couple?"

Enhancing intimacy

Sexual intimacy is a wonderful gift from God in marriage. If this area has been a struggle, spend time talking with your spouse about the underlying cause of the issues. Really focus on changes you both desire and how you can infuse your relationship with vulnerability and increased sexual intimacy.

Prioritizing your relationship

Make time for your marriage. Set a goal of connecting for at least 10 minutes every day, in addition to a weekly date night and an annual adventure.

Join me in the new year "marriage makeover" and connect at a deeper level with your spouse. Your hard work will pay off.

Erin Smalley serves as the strategic spokesperson for Focus on the Family's marriage ministry and develops content for that department. Her most recent book is 10 Things a Husband Needs from His Wife.

Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family's Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you'll love!

© 2017 Focus on the Family.

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