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As my husband and I head toward our sixth anniversary this summer, we are amazed at how little we knew about what marriage really meant when we committed our lives to each other on that hot July day. We went through premarital counseling, talked to other married people, read books and Bible verses about marriage, and discussed every topic we could think of before we were married. I think we both went into it pretty confident that we were prepared.
But there’s a funny thing about life and human tendencies, however. In my experience, no matter how much I work to be prepared (and believe me, I LOVE to be prepared), there are just some things I have to do to understand the experts, books, and lists.
I’m fully convinced that knowing and understanding are two different things.
This girl had a lot to learn about understanding and wisely applying these principles. Five and a half years later, I can look back and see how much God has blessed our marriage when we started swallowing our pride and expectations while doing our best to live out these things. It’s funny. As I asked my man for his list of ideas before starting this post, he listed almost exactly the same things.
1. It’s really not your job to change/improve each other. Regardless of how many times you hear trite phrases that insist you need to train the man to eat or dress how you want him to, do whatever list of chores you want, or say what you want him to say, do not buy into it! Perhaps you have a far more serious agenda for your man, but even then, you can’t make him be something he doesn’t want to be. It won’t be genuine, and if it doesn’t show up immediately, you can guarantee that your efforts will eventually lead to a resentful backlash.
My husband and I both had a list of expectations for each other that only led us to frustration. The tool that helped me start to gain a healthy perspective was the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. This was when the light bulb went off in my head that helped me see how to pray for my husband without ulterior motives. It also took a ton of pressure off me to make everything work by myself. (The link below is my affiliate link. Click here to see my disclosure.)
2. Communicate with honesty and in love. This was one that both my husband and I agreed was a game changer in our marriage. We struggled early in our marriage in the area of communication because we had two very different approaches, both of which had flaws the other couldn’t stand. Over time and with a ton of prayer, we’ve come to a place where we understand how important it is to go into a conversation with the mindset of putting the other first, baring our hurt feelings or concerns with honesty, but most importantly determining to resolve our problem without trying to prove ourselves to be right while pointing fingers at each other. We’ve both learned and have grown more comfortable with staying silent until we’re both ready to communicate in this way.
3. Minister together. This one was something that my husband asked I include in my list, and I love him for seeing it as the valuable asset to our marriage that it is. I know that our marriage is better for the ways we’ve combined our efforts and passions to reach out to others. We are not at all the same in our approach and execution of activities, but we’ve both become more well-rounded and aware of other perspectives by working together to serve others.
We also have separate ministries, but it’s because we’ve made it a priority to work together on at least one ministry, we both find ourselves sharing our separate ministries with each other. This post (and many others) would not be the same without his input!
4. Don’t stop dating! Regardless of where you are in your marriage, this will be a challenge if you don’t determine to make it a priority. Jobs, ministry, chores, friends, kids – they all vie for our attention. Meanwhile, as your interests and priorities change throughout life, it can be scary for your marriage if you put off dating your spouse until you find time or money to do it like you used to. The fact is, it’s never going to be the same, but that’s not a bad thing!
It’s unbelievable what a difference a date makes in changing our moods and perspective for the better. Never let anything be an excuse to stop dating. There are tons of idea resources if you need to plan cheap date nights at home. Here‘s one that has some ideas I’ve used (You need to scroll down to see the list of date night ideas.)
There are so many things that have enriched our marriage, but when I look at each of them, they contain common themes of dying to self, working hard, and choosing unconditional love and forgiveness. I know that every relationship is different, and you wise women reading this have some great ideas for maintaining a happy marriage. Would you care to share them in the comments? I’d love to hear them, and chances are, someone else would, too!
I was inspired to share this post because I’ve had the privilege this month of participating in the 31 Days to Pray for Your Spouse Challenge. Won’t you take a minute and pray for your spouse today?