The best insight I have been given about marriage came from my mother. She told me, “There are times you will love your husband more than anyone else in the entire world and there are times you’ll hate him more than anyone in the world.” I’m not sure she remembers saying this, or that she was trying to be profound; but those words stuck with me.

My husband and I have battled through 16 years of marriage. Some years were amazingly full of love and joy and some were heart achingly difficult. All of them have been blessed because of our devotion to each other and to our family. There were times wedding rings were thrown at each other and bags were packed. Yet, in the end we always choose to stay. And each time we have made the choice to stay, we have grown a little stronger and fallen a little more in love.

Along the way there are a few key things that we have come to know work for our relationship. First, take the idea of divorce or separation off the table. If it’s even an option, it can be considered. And if divorce or separation is being considered on any level, you can not be putting 100% of yourself into making your relationship right.

Second, love is a verb. Most of us think of love as an emotion; it is that too. But first and foremost, it is a verb. Love is a choice. Even when you are not feeling very loving toward your spouse, you can choose to act in a loving way. Leave a quick love note in their coat pocket, make a favorite meal, smile, give them a hug, invite them on a date. So what if it feels forced or out of character in the beginning? Step out of your comfort zone. Your marriage is worth it.

Third, make time for each other. Children are like adorable little parasites. They will suck every last particle of love and energy out of you if you let them.  Don’t let them. As much as you need a solid, supportive, loving marriage; your children need that stability too. So, making time for date nights in lieu of their activities is not selfish. Shift your paradigm. If you can’t afford the sitter and the night out, you can still have a date night in. Put the kids to bed and watch a movie or play a game. But if you can… get dressed up for each other and get out of the house. The investment in each other will reconnect you and reap large rewards.

Finally, buy a copy of  The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts

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. If your spouse isn’t interested in reading it: you read it. Reading this book and figuring out our love languages was more valuable to my marriage then the thousands of dollars we have spent on therapy over the years. I promise you, you will never be the same.

Moreover remember: marriage is hard work. It is a labor of love, emphasis on the labor part. Yet, anything worth having is worth working for. When you are going through hell, just keep going. You’ll come out on the other side.