Most of us recognize that our physical bodies need constant exercise to remain fit and healthy. The United States Army, for example, has developed a series of twelve exercises that each soldier is expected to perform at least twelve times every day. These exercises have become known as the “daily dozen.”
Couples, too, need to work constantly at strengthening their marriages. Here are a dozen things you can do daily to help improve that most vital of relationships—the one you have with your wife. Because I think husbands need frequent and specific reminders, I’ll address these ideas to husbands. But wives can use them, too—and some of the ideas need to be adapted to your specific circumstances.
1. Spend five minutes a day thinking positive thoughts about her. Instead of complaining about things you’d like her to do differently, focus on the good things she is already doing. Think how lucky you are to have her. By thinking positive thoughts about her, you’ll be more likely to feel loving and close.
2. Pay her a genuine compliment every day. Often, important tasks like washing and ironing clothes, fixing meals, or cleaning the house become so routine that they go unnoticed. Tell your wife you appreciate what she’s doing.
3. Do an act of service for her daily. When my wife was recovering from major surgery recently, I found myself doing many of the household chores she normally performs—and I discovered that the more I did for her, the more I loved her and the closer I felt to her. As you do things for your wife, the quality of your love will increase.
4. Give her a gesture of love every day. Don’t be too busy to give her tender touches, hugs, and affectionate kisses.
5. Spend at least ten to fifteen minutes each day sharing feelings with her. If your wife spends most of her time with children, she’ll enjoy some adult conversation at the end of the day. Even if you don’t have children at home, you need to talk with your wife. When we don’t spend the time to share thoughts and feelings, we end up mind-reading—which can lead to incorrect assumptions and unnecessary feelings of alienation. Listening helps lead us to true oneness as husband and wife.
6. Help her when you come home from work every day. Whether your wife has been at home all day or away at work, she is probably as tired as you are when you come home. Don’t unload your problems on her immediately. Allow her time to relax, if possible, and then help her with the kids and dinner. As you do, share your feelings and experiences of the day. Working together like this will help you feel more like a team.
Every mother knows that the hours between dinner and the children’s bedtime is the hardest time of day. What an excellent time for dads to show their sons how to be good fathers and husbands!
7. Be supportive of her throughout the day. It’s important for both of you to know that neither one of you has to carry the burdens of the marriage or family alone. When things go wrong, there is someone to lean on. When the children are driving you crazy, there is someone to take over for a while. When your work or church assignment seems overwhelming, there is an understanding shoulder to cry on—someone who listens and who respects your ideas and values.
8. Be courteous every day to all family members. A good example of courtesy and kindness by you, the priesthood holder, will encourage other family members to love the Lord, your wife, and one another better. Nagging, name-calling, and losing your temper only indicates your own immaturity. A mature person with self-confidence is courteous to others—especially to those he loves the most.
9. Forgive daily. I know a woman who is sure her husband doesn’t love her; five years ago, he was inconsiderate when she really needed him, and she still hasn’t forgiven him. It’s hard to love someone if you’re holding a grudge.
The Lord has commanded us to forgive one another. (See D&C 64:8–10.) There is no place where truly forgiving one another is more important than in marriage. The Lord tells us not only to be forgiving, but also to bear affliction patiently, not to revile against others, and not to seek revenge. (See D&C 31:9.) We must practice this great principle!
10. Give your wife a chance to grow every day. In his great talk “To the Fathers in Israel,” President Ezra Taft Benson reminds husbands to “recognize your wife’s intelligence and her ability to counsel with you as a real partner. … Give her the opportunity to grow intellectually, emotionally, socially as well as spiritually.” (Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 50.)
Make sure your wife has a chance to read, take a class, or be involved in projects of her choosing. Relieve her of some tasks so that she can do these things freely.
11. Study the scriptures together daily. Scripture study creates great unity in marriage. Studying the scriptures means more than just reading them together—it means searching them diligently (see Alma 17:2), pondering them (see Moro. 10:3), and discussing them together. If you are a returned missionary and your wife isn’t, don’t assume that you understand the scriptures better than she does; study together and learn from each other. Allow the Spirit to teach you.
12. Pray together every day. Nephi tells us that if we don’t feel like praying, we are being taught by the evil one. (See 2 Ne. 32:8.) Prayer should be an integral part of your marriage every day. Including Heavenly Father in your relationship can bring a peace that nothing else can duplicate. Even though you have personal and family prayer, you and your wife need to take time to pray together.
In addition to the daily dozen, here are a weekly and a monthly bonus:
Weekly date. Spend one evening a week together, just the two of you. And be creative—don’t make it dinner and a movie every week. Take turns planning something new.
Monthly temple date. Go to the temple together at least monthly. When I was a child, I loved my parents to go to the temple because they were always nicer parents when they returned. There is a unique spirit about people who attend the temple regularly; that spirit can’t help but greatly enhance your marriage.
This daily dozen—plus two—can do wonders. Try them and find out for yourself!