He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord~ Proverbs 18:22 NIV
I have been married for more years than most millennials have been alive. My husband and I were barely into our twenties when we got married and like all couples who marry young, we more-or-less grew-up together.
I would love to tell you that every moment of our marriage has been a blissful one. Like all married people we have had good and bad times, however, at this point in our relationship I can honestly say that I would not trade even a minute of any of it for anything this world has to offer. There is simply no sweeter or more effective way to learn about life, love, God’s grace and what it really means to forgive and be forgiven than in marriage.
I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about marriage, even after all these years I am still learning. However, through the years we have made some mistakes, done some things right and in general have learned a thing or two about the art of keeping love alive. Today I want to share six practical things I have learned (mostly the hard way) about the art of keeping a marriage healthy.
It starts with:
Learning to let go-
I am convinced that most divorces aren’t caused by big problems that cannot be solved. Divorces are the result of little irritations we refuse to let go of that eventually morph into bad habits we form to escape the misery we feel over the little things we can’t let go of. I learned this a few years into our marriage when I observed that my sweet husband had what I concluded were some vexing personal habits. Most notably my Alan is a “piler”. He piles things neatly and continues to pile them until he is ready to deal with the mess or the pile outgrows the space available. This habit came to my attention via an enormous heap of clothing in the corner of our bedroom. I decided to see how big it would get before he did something about it. It took longer than I liked, and my outrage grew in direct proportion to the size of the pile. Three weeks in, I was done with keeping the peace and spent the better part of a day formulating an impressive lecture on the merits of tidiness and importance of respecting shared spaces. I was prepared to nail him with it, and then I had one of those gut-wrenching moments that are painful to experience but are totally necessary sometimes. It hit me that the pile of laundry was going to be the beginning of the end my marriage if I didn’t let go of my need to have it my way all the time. I promptly quashed my “righteous” indignation and vowed to stop letting that particular habit get the best of me.
Connect without having sex-
It’s easy to get carried away by the busyness of life and fall into the trap of living like roommates rather than two people who have made a life-long romantic commitment to one another. The key to changing that reality once it takes root is intentional connection. It’s important (especially for women) to connect in ways other than having sex. Get in the habit of making time to do the things you did while you were dating. Go places together, set-aside time just to talk, text each other, do the chores together and hold hands in public places. Those things are one of the reasons you were happier when you were dating.
Find a pattern that works for both of you and have sex on a regular basis. Sex keeps the roommate vibe at bay and makes it easier (especially for men) to connect relationally outside of the bedroom.
Stop dropping the D-bomb-
Screaming you want a divorce in the middle of a stupid squabble is the emotional equivalent of choosing the nuclear option. There is absolutely nowhere productive the conversation can go from there. Divorce is not a word that should be uttered casually, in anger, or ever, if you care anything at all about staying married.
Don’t let your marriage become entirely kid-centric-
Little kids can suck-up all of our physical and emotional energy and sometimes it feels like they will always be a part of your daily routine. But I can assure that the little nippers do grow-up and move on with their lives. When they leave, you and your spouse will be stuck with whatever relationship you built while they were growing-up. Make it a good one.
Become a student of your spouse-
Learn everything you can about the likes and dislikes of your spouse for the sole purpose of bringing joy into their life. I promise it will bring joy into yours as well.
Divorce is a heartbreak on every level, morally spiritually and relationally; our culture’s causal attitude towards marriage has devastated millions and generated incalculable social chaos. The Christian divorce epidemic is a big part of the reason the church has lost its moral authority in the culture. But most importantly divorce is a tragedy because even when every other alternative has been exhausted and divorce is deemed the only option (due to chronic infidelity or abuse) divorce is agonizing. Every divorce statistic represents two hurting and broken humans who had their dreams of a blissful, enduring union crushed and a large share of their personal history made null and void by a single legal decree.
Prevention really is the only cure.