The more I interact with young married couples, the more clear it becomes that a healthy marriage is an increasingly unnatural and confusing "craft" for most today.
In this light, I recently asked a handful of my favorite married influencers and thinkers for their single best advice for young marrieds today. The level of insight and wisdom that came back to me was overwhelming.
So -- according to the experts -- here are nine ways to make love last.
1. LET LOVE STIMULATE LOVE. -- Gary Chapman, author of 'The 5 Love Languages
Always remember that love stimulates love. And though the objective of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love, it is a fact that when we receive love, we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate and do something our spouse desires.
2. DON'T BUY THE ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL KIND OF MARRIAGE. -- William Paul Young, author of 'The Shack'
There are many who try to hand us a one-size-fits all approach to this very unique relationship with a spouse. After all, we human beings generally are a fearful lot, embedding our drive for certainty in expressions of power rather than in the risk of trust and relationship. We create (dream up) institutional systems and organizations of hierarchical power -- be they religious, social, ideological, political, educational, financial etc. -- in order to extend our desperate need to control.
However, marriage exists to serve you and your spouse. And for it to serve you well, it's best practices and proposed mindsets must be authentic expressions of who you uniquely are -- and they must change as you change.
3. DON'T STEAL MARRIAGE'S MYSTERY. -- Jonathan Jackson, Emmy-winning actor currently on 'Nashville'
Love is not a place we arrive. Marriage is not a thing we achieve and then spend the rest of our lives maintaining. Love is a journey marked by mystery and the continual intention to learn one another. And if you ask me, that's what makes it such an adventure.
4. MARRY ONE ANOTHER A MILLION TIMES OVER. -- Danny Silk, author of 'Keep Your Love On'
Marriage isn't just a choice. It's choosing the same person a million times.
5. DON'T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY. -- Jeremy Cowart, celebrity photographer
I'd highly recommend every marriage having a healthy dose of humor. My wife and I don't take ourselves too seriously. Even when we do get mad at each other, we'll jokingly respond with a threat, similar to a threat that Ron Burgundy would throw out in Anchorman... "I will slap you in public". Then it becomes a contest to see who can out-threat each other. By the end, we're laughing and the original issue and anger has vanished. It sounds crazy but it works.
6. DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET NAKED. -- Christa Black, author of 'God Loves Ugly'
Marriage gives two people the difficult but incredible opportunity to be completely naked in front of each other -- physically, emotionally and spiritually. The problem is, most of us have parts of our lives we're terrified of anyone seeing. But if full exposure isn't allowed, if we're not able to reveal everything about ourselves (good, bad and ugly) within the covenant of marriage, true intimacy can never happen.
Marriage isn't about perfect people finding a perfect mate. It's about two imperfect souls coming together as one, making a covenant to stick around when the ugly parts get exposed, and then loving each other with grace and understanding while helping each other walk into wholeness.
7. TRY CONNECTION BEFORE HANDCUFFS. -- Gary Thomas, author of 'Sacred Marriage'
Men, if you need handcuffs and ropes to make your wife feel the enticement of full surrender, you're probably doing it wrong. Try studying her, getting to know her moods and total body -- not just three parts that we typically focus on, but everything. Try kindness on a daily basis. Try spiritual connection -- make sure she knows she's supported in prayer.
If you can't get her excited in public, fully-clothed, if you need to get her "naked and handcuffed" to feel like things are getting hot, you probably don't know her well enough yet.
8. DON'T BE AFRAID TO LOVE THE MOST. -- Nate Bagley, founder of 'Loveumentary'
I had always been taught that "the person who cares the least always has the most power." We tell ourselves that not caring -- not loving -- means we get to dictate the pace of the relationship and the level of commitment. We believe the person who cares the least worries the least, stresses the least and has the most freedom to do as they please. We say that loving makes you weak and vulnerable. It makes you a captive in your own relationship, subject to the feelings, moods and desires of the one you love.
This one simple sentence by an 80-year-old woman changed a lifetime of belief for me: "Don't be afraid to be the one who loves the most." I suddenly realized that love is not weakness. It's power.
9. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES. -- Jenna McCarthy, author of 'If It Were Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon'
It's scientifically proven that those couples that focus on the positives, rather than the negatives tend to experience a healthier state together. There are, after all, dozens of ways of looking at virtually any situation. Your husband lost his job? Now he finally has time to install that darn ceiling fan you bought three years ago. When he gains a few pounds, instead of pointing out his growing gut or suggesting he go for a run, there's always this option: "Wow, honey, thanks for going out of your way to make me relatively thinner." If you really try, you can put a positive spin on just about anything.
To hear more from these individuals or for additional advice from other leaders,Download "Marriage Hacks: 25 Ways to Make Love Last" for FREE Now!