FILE - Figurines of a bride and a groom sit atop a wedding cake in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday May 8, 2012. A study of more than 3.5 million Americans finds that married people are less likely than singles, divorced or widowed folks to suffer any type of heart or blood vessel problem. The results were released Friday, March 28, 2014. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett)

This past June, my bride and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. This past weekend, that same bride and I got the heck outta town (and outta state) to a secluded mountain cabin in the woods. Sitting here in my office, if I close my eyes I can still smell the fireplace. What. A. Weekend.

I’m writing today because I’m tired of watching marriages lapse into milk-toast mediocrity. I won’t go into the mounds of evidence I could lay out, but I suspect I might be the most happily married man you’d ever meet. I also get it that mounds of men might say the same. But then again, another mound of men would roll their eyes at me. Whichever mound you’re in, hear me out.

I’m no marriage expert. Heck, I’m no marriage anything. But I do think I have something to share in regards to this most sacred of unions. So take it, leave it, dismiss it, or refute it. Just read it.

To the men reading, I give this first piece of advice: Love your wife. I mean REALLY love your wife. Not the kind of love that’s like, “I let her heat up my Hungry Man every night–what more does she want?!?” I’m talking about the kind of love that makes her say, “What has gotten into you?!?” Believe me, I know we all have different versions of love and we all have our own “love languages” but I wonder how many husbands think they’re speaking their love loud and clear when in fact that love is getting lost in translation? So guys, think about this: How can you RIGHT NOW identify how you are CLEARLY communicating love to your wife in no uncertain terms? What are/can you do IMMEDIATELY that erases every doubt in her mind that she is the sole object of your affection? And don’t think I think love is anything but a decision and declaration we make every day. Sure there are emotions, but if you’re sitting there not loving your wife right now, let me give you some pretty simple, clear instructions which come right out of scripture: Love your wife. (Does she really know you’d lay down your life for her?)

Now let me say that I completely understand that not every day of your marriage is meant to look like the cover of a Fabio romance novel. Come to think of it, none of them should. Ew. But what I am saying is that if romance is going to be kindled, its going to take a deliberate plan (maybe one of the most seemingly unromantic words in the human language) to make it happen. So, what’s your next romantic move?

Next I want you to focus on listening. I’m talking especially to the men in the room. Guys, its no surprise that women generally use more words in a given day than men, and some have even argued that they need to. Its something hardwired into their DNA or something. I don’t know. What I DO know is that when my wife is talking, anything other than full attention isn’t going to cut it. As you listen, be sure to actually listen. I mean as in listening. Like hearing sounds, but more than that. You know, listening. Now here’s the trick. Have a response but don’t practice your response in your head while she’s talking and you’re….listening. Phone down, screen off, noise muted, the whole works–all of your attention on her gorgeous lips. And just to be fair to the men, ladies remember that your man might be a man of few words, but those few words deserve to be heard and received by you.

Now to sex. Sex isn’t just a thermometer for your relationship, telling you if things are hot or cold. Its also a thermostat. You may be blushing right now (I’m sure my mom is) but I believe sex in a marriage is a powerful salve that often gets overlooked. I’m not saying we should completely overlook our amorous moods (or lack thereof), but I am saying that sexual intimacy has an entirely powerful ability to draw two people close; as close as two humans can be. So if you’re feeling far from your spouse right now, let me give you this advice: Call or text them right now, tell them you love them desperately, and then remove every obstacle that’s between you, your spouse, and your bedroom.

Like I said, I’m not an expert. I’m just a happily married man with a wife that seems equally as happy. I hope you can take something from this and put it into practice right away.