The rules of the road keep traffic moving and cut down on accidents. Limits on sugar and screen time keep our kids’ energy and imagination alive. Systems and standards at work and school boost the potential for success. A life with no structure or restraints would be chaotic and miserable.
In our marriage we’ve built closeness and trust by setting guidelines for how we treat each other. These eight “rules” protect our relationship from conflict, hurt feelings, and growing apart.
1) It takes two. Teamwork is where it’s at. We value each other’s perspective enough to avoid making major decisions alone. It’s understood we’ll talk before buying an expensive item, signing up the kids for a new activity, or making social plans that impact our routine. The courtesy of asking for input makes us both feel respected and heard.
2) Never say the “D” word. Throwing “divorce” into our fights or conversations kicks our vows to the curb. It sends the message that we have an exit option. Or a plan B. And a point of no return. One careless word can state, My love for you is conditional. Security and hope for tomorrow is seriously damaged.
3) No TV in the bedroom. This is tough today, since screens are in our pockets wherever we go. But our room is the one place we claim just for us. Nowhere else offers the same privacy, quiet, and space to unwind. After a full day of listening to all the voices and noise, we need a space to give undivided attention to each other. A screen-free bedroom allows for rest and intimacy we won’t find anywhere else.
4) Keep each other’s secrets. As best friends we offer a safe place to share our fears, disappointments, and insecurities. We hold one another’s personal hopes and dreams with care. Trust is built when we’re open and vulnerable, knowing our conversations stay between us. This trust allows us to share everything and carry each other’s burdens.
5) My one and only. Common sense shapes our interactions with the opposite sex. Work events, carpooling, and socializing happen in a group instead of one on one. Porn is not an option. We keep our thoughts and eyes on each other alone. Neither of us feels insecure about an outside relationship or attraction drawing our hearts away from one another.
6) Your family is my family. Blending two lives with completely different backgrounds takes work! A wedding doesn’t just join a couple, it creates a complex set of new relationships as well. We choose to support each other’s closeness to extended family and old friends. While we commit to allegiance to each other, we aim for respectful communication and peace with our in-laws. One of the best ways to honor our loved one is to respect attachments to others in our lives.
7) Watch my mouth. Boundaries are in place that keep us from shredding each other with our words. Insults and profanity? No. Name calling? Not even. Complaining or making fun of our spouse to others? Off limits. The same goes with lying and rude non-verbal looks and gestures. On the flip side, giving the cold silent treatment is a painful form of rejection. Hurtful speech can leave scars that last for years. Our heart’s desire is to build each other up and express love with what we say.
8) Forgive and forget. In over 25 years together we’ve each blown it, big time. Every failure presents a choice: forgive and move forward or get mad and hold a grudge. The Bible challenges us to love like Jesus, who teaches what true love looks like—
“Love is patient, love is kind…
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We don’t pile up past mistakes to hold over each other the next time we’re offended. Payback, guilt trips, and “I told you so” are silenced. As God gives us strength, we lay down our rights and give grace like He gives to us.
It’s comforting to wake up each morning knowing we can count on each other. Fears are relieved by consistent kindness and respect. Affection thrives. Intimacy deepens and friendship grows. Even when we fail and let each other down (which we do—we’re not perfect!), forgiveness lets us start again. What are some unwritten rules keeping your relationship strong today?