My grandparents ran a bakery in their basement. I loved visiting them and waking up to the smells of fresh bread, cookies and cakes. To this day, the best part of their fresh baked goods is the added bonus of a Baker's Dozen - the example of their love and respect for each other, and their almost 52 years of marriage until Grandpa's death.
Here's a Baker's Dozen to strengthen your marriage. These apply to both spouses and, if you have children, to all family members.
1. Think positive thoughts
Whenever I catch myself thinking negative thoughts about my husband, I remind myself why I married him. These points remind me to think positive, and positive thinking helps me feel closer to him. Negative thoughts changed to positive thoughts increase one's love for the person.
2. Verbally express appreciation
Along with positive thoughts, expression of those thoughts is important. Telling your spouse or family how much you appreciate them increases your love for them and strengthens your relationship. They are also more likely to express thanks for the things you do. Express appreciation daily.
3. Show love through service.
Stories and passages in the scriptures remind us that Jesus showed his love to his disciples and the people through service. Helping your spouse with chores or other needs through service increases your love for him, his love for you and strengthens your relationship. Do at least one act of service daily.
4. Pray for your partner
Show your love daily through hugs, kisses and prayers. Your love will be stronger, and you'll feel closer to your spouse and those you pray for.
5. Listen to your partner
Listen to, and share your feelings with your spouse. Remember to keep your comments positive and uplifting. Sharing is important. It prevents worry and assumptions that could damage instead of strengthen your relationship.
6. Spend time together
Whenever possible, help each other with chores and family routines. Don't sit back and assume it's not your responsibility or your job. You'll both appreciate the time spent together supporting one of the most important parts of your lives - your marriage and your family.
7. Understand and help
You may be tired, but so is your spouse. Give your spouse a break and take over. This follows along with service, and you'll find you're glad you did. You'll learn more about your spouse's responsibilities, trials and daily routine, and they'll appreciate your efforts.
Be available when you're called, or get back as soon as you can. Also, be sympathetic with your spouse's challenges. Sometimes all that is needed is a listening, understanding ear.
8. Extend courtesy
Show kindness, keep your temper and treat your spouse with kindness. Control your temper, thoughts and words. Often we extend greater care with a stranger than with those we love. To strengthen your marriage and relationship, show your loved ones the same courtesy you would a stranger.
9. Forgive your partner and yourself
Forgive your spouse. Forgive yourself. The lack of forgiveness makes it hard to love the unforgiven and weakens relationships. For more information about forgiveness read "Free at last: I forgive you."
10. Remember, you're partners
A marriage only works when each partner considers the other's point of view. I've found great wisdom in my husband's input as we've discussed marriage and family matters. Counsel as true partners.
11. Search, ponder and pray
Search the scriptures together. Ponder what you find together. Pray about the principles, doctrines and commandments together. Through your study, God will strengthen your marriage and in turn, your family.
12. Pray for needs
Prayer helps you get closer to, and keeps you close to God. According to the 2006 National Survey of Religion and Family Life by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, prayer gives strength and satisfaction to your marriage.
13. Continue to date
Weekly dates are important, but don't plan dinner and/or a movie every week. Be creative. Some of our best dates took place on our porch, short walks in the neighborhood and with friends playing games at their dinner table.
This Baker's Dozen is more likely to keep smiles on your faces long past their use. Incorporating any or all of these principles will strengthen your marriage and your family. They sure have been a blessing in ours.