I’m sure you know how it goes.
You feel like you just don’t have the time or energy to work on your marriage, let alone do some kind of marriage exercises.
Maybe you’re just so preoccupied with taking care of the kids, your job, and getting everything else done that you feel that kind of time is a luxury you simply don’t have.
I’m going to prove to you that you can do it more easily (and fun) than you think, by sharing a few marriage exercises from our book, 15-Minute Marriage Makeover, which is full of activities that can transform your relationship.
Did you know that if you do anything consistently for just 15 minutes per day, you’ll become a master of it?
That’s really just 1% of your time!
Imagine if you carved out one tiny percent of your time to take care of your relationship.
Here are some quick marriage exercises you can start doing in just a couple minutes while you spend time with your spouse.
Picture this…you’re a husband and you hear your wife come home at the end of the day. The garage door comes down, you hear her slam the door behind her as she comes inside.
Then she sighs as the air leaves the room. You’re probably thinking, “Oh boy, this is going to be a fun night!”
Now, let’s say you ask her, “Honey what’s wrong?”
So she tells you. “My boss is being a jerk, I had a super-stressful day, and every time I try to…”
As she goes on with the story, what’s your first instinct? Is it to start offering advice to make it better and fix things?
If you’re like many people (especially most men) you want to start prescribing advice, like “Well, you should do this, tell your boss that,” and so on.
You have the best of intentions but also you’re also not allowing her to get it all out.
Here’s something to try instead. The first of our simple marriage exercises is called Reflective Listening.
Instead of rushing in to give advice, let her talk.
Take a deep breath. Don’t respond right away. Let her speak about what happened and how she’s feeling. And when she stops, wait a second!
Make sure wasn’t just taking a breath before you respond.
Eventually, she’ll have let it all out. That’s when you say, “Here is what I heard you say,” and repeat back to her (succinctly) what you heard, what happened, and how she felt.
Finally, confirm it. “Do I have that right?”
If you do this, she is going to feel heard. She’ll feel listened to and understood, and that is such a powerful thing.
It will work wonders.
And it’s so simple! Just a tiny little break in the pattern I’m sure you’ve seen over and over in your relationship…talking over each other, trying to be helpful, trying to give advice.
You didn’t intend to be negative all those times, but what happens is your spouse doesn’t feel heard or appreciated.
After reading all this, are you still wondering how the actual problem she’s describing is going to get solved? That’s fine. We’ll get to that.
Just make sure you practice Reflective Listening first, if nothing else. Notice that she’s talking, take a breath, truly listen, and reflect what you think you heard back to her.
If you do this first, then one of two things will happen:
1) She never really needed your input and will solve the problem on her own. The odds are she won’t ask, and that’s fine. You don’t HAVE to give advice. But you do have to be there for her.
2) At some point, she will pause and ask you, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?” That’s your opportunity to try and fix the problem.
Over the years when we’ve suggested people do this, they have told us later, “We tried this and had the best date night, the best sex, and we don’t even know why! I wasn’t even being romantic – all I did was not cut her off when she spoke.”
It’s a very simple thing, but it’s not so obvious for many of us!
It’s just one of a few short marriage exercises that takes very little time to do (seriously, like two minutes!) and can make such a big difference in your marriage.
The second of the marriage exercises we want to0 share can apply to many things like intimacy and money, but let’s apply it right now to your date night.
Say you’re the woman in the relationship. Text your husband and tell him, “I’m really looking forward to tonight. I’ve got a little something special for you.”
Trust me, it’s going to pique his interest! He’s going to feel excited and appreciated.
Now this “something special” doesn’t need to mean anything fancy. It doesn’t require money, or a babysitter, or a lot of planning.
All you have to do is this…When the kids go to bed, simply say:
“Look, I don’t have anything big planned, but this is really important to me. We have such a blessed life, and often we don’t take the time to celebrate that.”
“We don’t take time just for each other and celebrate the little things. So tonight I just wanted to spend an evening together when our kids are in bed.”
“I’ve got a bottle of wine, I’ve got our wedding album, and I want to spend some time with you just hanging out and being a couple.”
I guarantee that will leave an impact. It will take you 30 seconds to send that text and a few minutes to prepare once the kids are in bed. And of course this works both ways. Either spouse can do it.
Doing this takes the lead. It shows that you care enough to show some initiative.
Just the small act of taking the lead is going to re-spark your romance. And they’ll reciprocate!
Then you will, and so on. Over time, you’ll develop this healthy pattern and enjoy more date nights and quality time together.
The last of the three marriage exercises is called Three Little Things Today. Bethany and I started doing this years ago.
It will take 5-10 minutes, tops.
What we do is this…at the end of the day when we’re laying in bed, I tell her two small things she did that made my day better.
What kinds of things are these? One example is when she made some coffee for me this morning while I was running out the door.
Or, tell her “Thank you so much for volunteering to pick up the kids from school so I didn’t have to rush after my doctor’s appointment.”
It might be some small thing like putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush for you, or giving you a kiss on the cheek at an unexpected time. The littler the better.
Doing this has two benefits. It makes you more aware of the good things that your spouse is doing for you, which will have a positive effect on your life.
And, when you verbalize what you noticed, it makes them feel good!
Everyone loves knowing that they’re valued and cherished. It’s an awesome feeling, but we rarely take the time to do it.
So those were two little things from today. The third can either be A) something larger or B) something from the past.
You could say, “Hey, when you wore that blue dress today, it got me thinking about that time we had dinner in Cancun and man, what a night that was. Do you remember that?”
Or maybe it was some family event you had with your kids. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Just bring it up!
What matters is that you’re regularly pulling back some great memories from the past, the same way Facebook does when it shows you memories from several years ago.
Doing this helps you to focus on the positive. It will warm your heart and theirs, too. Your husband or wife is going to love reliving those best memories with you.
You could do all three of these marriage exercises in just 15 minutes each day. Maybe while lying in bed, maybe while cleaning the kitchen, maybe during a drive.
You don’t have to do them every day, but imagine what a difference it would make if you did it consistently!
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.