Recently my wife Amy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. When the big day was arriving we were working with a missionary team in St. Petersburg Russia, and then stopped off in Paris on the way home to mark the anniversary in grand style. (By the way,to the men out there, this is a sure-fire way to make up some well-needed points on the marriage score-sheet!)
Truly, I am so thankful for Amy. She has been an incredible wife, mother, partner and friend on this journey and I can’t imagine who I would be today without her in my life. In Paris we had many opportunities to look back over the years and remember all the events, milestones, hard times and mountaintops that we have experienced together. When we arrived back home, I was met with some news of some other couples that were not celebrating, but were separating, and what had started out as a hopeful future for them was turning into a really dark chapter that was ending in ash.
Marriage is crucial on so many fronts, especially if you are in leadership. Your marriage is a reflection about what you believe to be true about God. It is a reflection about the values you hold. When people look at our marriages they learn a lot about us don’t they?
* How we treat the people we love
* Whether or not we elevate the ones we love
* Can we be trusted to hold shattered emotions
* Whether you are a person worthy to follow or one to avoid
* Will you protect and fight for the ones you love
Yes, our relationships are a big revelation one way or the other about who we are in the core of our soul. If you long to have a marriage that does more than simply exist you must get the magic ingredient of effort and use it liberally because great marriages don’t just happen, they are co-created.Here are four more positive ingredients for you to consider in co-creating a marriage that lasts.
1. Time. In my book Sacred Space I make the following observation:
“Go online or browse any bookstore today and you will find that there are numerous books and articles encouraging couples to spend more time talking intimately with each other. I recently read one article that stated that a marriage could drastically improve if the couple agreed to soend te minutes a day in conversation. I thought, wow, only ten minutes! We are in worse shape than I imagined.”
Time together is crucial for a healthy marriage. There are so many demands upon our time today that it has become easier to give up on co-creating a great marriage, and instead acquiesce to the tyranny of the urget. We put the kids, work, reality TV and even Facebook ahead of marriage and then when things go south we wonder why. As a non-scientific experience this week take note of how much time you spend online and infront of the TVand then weigh that against how much direct one on one time you are investing in your spouse.
Making a priority of investing time into your marriage will pay huge dividends from your spouse feeling like they are the most important thing in your life to actually reigniting the connection that might be laying dormant.
If you have been good at regularly scheduling date nights, long walks, and time to enjoy each others presence, keep on doing it!
2. Study. In todays culture we hear the term “life-long-learner” a lot. A life-long-learner is someone who is committed to expanding their knowledge, understanding and experience through educational and experiential pursuits.
If you would like to co-create an incredible marriage you need to become a life-long-learner or a student of your spouse. Your wedding day did not end your need to understand who your spouse is, in fact your wedding day is actually entrance into the first semester of a sacred life-long-learning adventure.
Obviously this will take a commitment to the first ingredient of time, but here are some other ideas for you:
- Keep asking questions. Ask questions about dreams, hopes, likes and dislikes. Ask questions about struggles and pleasures Ask question that go deeper than, “What’s for dinner?” Ask how he/she would rate your marriage on a scale from 1-10. If it’s not a 10 ask what it would take to get there, then do it! Become observant of habits, desires, disappointments and learn their love language, or what makes them feel most loved. This exercise alone will expand your connection and you will soon realize that you don’t know each other as well as you thought , and that’s a good thing! If you knew it all you’d have no more questions or curiosity.
- Get a book. There are literally thousands of great books to help you grow in your marriage. Get one and read a chapter a week, and then discuss what you read on a date. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and share what you learned and ask each other the questions it raised for you. Here are just a few of my favorite books on marriage:
- Take A Marriage Seminar.
- Join a marriage small group.
There are so many more ideas I’d love to put down, but I think you get my point…make it your gaol to have the best possible marriage and then study to get there..
3. Safeguards. What are you doing to fight for and protect your marriage? There are forces out there that are doing everything they can to drive a wedge in the sanctity of marriage and most people are oblivious it would seem. There are choices, decision and boundary issues that you need to determine in order to safeguard the most important human relationship you have.
- Pray daily for your spouse and for your marriage intimacy.
- Avoid compromising situations with someone of the other sex.
- Choose not to flirt with co-workers or other people of the opposite sex.
Ask yourself how you would feel if your spouse exhibited the same behaviors towards others that you do. Some other revealing questions to ask yourself might be:
- Do I find myself texting or emailing someone of the opposite sex more than I do my spouse, why?
- Do I find myself thinking about someone other than my spouse a lot?
- Do I send mixed messages in the way I interact with people of the opposite sex?
If you have fallen into some of the marriage killing traps there is still good news! You can choose to establish safeguards and change the way you interact. This will create a sense of security and safety in your marriage and eliminate many of the potential land mines out there.
4. Support. I believe that your primary responsibility as a married person is to make sure that your spouse becomes the man or woman that God created them to be. This will take Time, Study, and Safeguarding. It also means that you have to become the champion of your spouse.
So instead of nagging your spouse or nagging about them you choose to brag on your spouse and about them. Wives, one of the most life-giving things you can do to build up and support your husband is to say good, nice and positive things about them in front of others! It’s like an adrenalin shot to a mans soul. And men, the same go for your wives. No more sarcastic jokes about cooking, driving or any of the other stereotypical putdowns that get a little laugh yet wound a soul.
Notice and comment on your spouses accomplishments, qualities, successes, and reaffirm over and over again your love and commitment. Not only will you be co-creating an incredible love story, you will be warding off the attacks that could lead to adultery and divorce.
While there is so much more to say, I’ll end here for now as this is only Marriage Matters #1, look for Marriage Matters #2 soon!
Grace and Peace,