Recently my husband and I had the sweet opportunity to share a message of hope for married couples.

I could talk for days about what we’ve learned in our twenty years of marriage, but since I was fairly certain my audience didn’t want to listen to me talk for days, I narrowed it down to these four key ways to have greater intimacy in your marriage…

1. Accept Each Other

One of the most difficult aspects of marriage is that two people, who are vastly different, are attempting to do life together.

Ironically, it is often our differences that initially attracted us to our spouse. But somewhere along the way, we begin to wish they were more like us.

Our greatest strength is in our willingness to accept our spouse for who he or she is. That means accepting my mate’s strengths, weaknesses, and struggles.

2. Forgive Each Other

You may have heard the saying “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” This is so true.

In my marriage counseling, I work with couples who have been overwhelmed with bitterness and resentment.

Each spouse has held onto a list of offenses and wounds. A successful relationship requires two people who are willing to keep short accounts, confront with love, and show grace to one another.

Forgiveness is not a natural response for many of us because we want to hold onto our right to be upset or angry. In my own marriage, we practice verbalizing apologies, but we go a step further and ask each other for forgiveness.

My husband will say “I’m sorry,” but he doesn’t stop there. He asks for action on my part when he says, “will you forgive me?” This simple act keeps us moving forward in grace.

3. Be Vulnerable with Each Other

Becoming vulnerable demonstrates a level of trust with our mate that we don’t show with the average acquaintance. Being vulnerable can be scary. But when practiced, being vulnerable builds courage.

Intimacy really means being fully known.

In order to be fully known and, therefore, intimate with our mate, we have to be vulnerable. That requires digging down deep to share the thoughts, feelings and words we’d rather keep to ourselves.

We have to reject the feelings of fear of being known or found out and allow our spouse into the deepest spaces of our heart.

4. Encourage One Another

To encourage someone literally means to put courage into them.

We have the ability to put courage into the ones we love by speaking affirming words to them, noticing their pain, and showing up in the good – but especially the hard – moments in life.

We were made for community, and we need each other. Resist the urge to isolate and instead, show up in the struggle of your spouse, meet them where they are, and speak life over them with your words. Be a courage-giver.

Relationships are hard. Unity and love must be fought for because they don’t come easily or naturally.

I’ve learned that our areas of greatest struggle can become our areas of greatest growth when we (in our vulnerability) accept, forgive, and encourage one another.

Best of all, it’s never too late to start.

If you are in need of marriage counseling, please don’t hesitate to reach out!