Make it Monday: A Strong Marriage

12:26 PMHeather

Yep, that's me and my beloved.  Eighteen years ago today, to be exact.  January 7, 1995.  I have the big bangs to prove the era of our wedding.  We dated for more than four years before our wedding.  Yet, even after twenty-two years together, I won't begin to pretend that we have it all figured out.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  We both recognize that we are sinful beings with a selfish nature who are trying to build a God honoring marriage.  

But, I think in our years together, we've stumbled on some things that work, and obviously, made our fair share of mistakes that we try to learn from.  So, today, on this first Make it Monday of the new year, I'm going to offer some of our insight to you--for whatever it might be worth.

1.  Never, ever, ever dishonor one another.   We learned this important principle early in our dating years, thanks to a great couples Bible study we took during our Baylor years.  What does this mean?  It means never ever say anything in or outside of your beloved's presence that would dishonor them, disrespect them, or tear them down.  Let your words and opinions of your significant other only be those that build up.  So, don't join in any male bashing, ladies, by adding stories of your loved one's failures.  Men--don't bash your wife's cooking or nagging or any other annoying habits to others.  Don't give life to those weaknesses by making fun of them either TO your spouse's face or behind their backs.   Be your beloved's biggest cheerleader instead of biggest critic.  And by the way--you can address those areas of weakness with a constructive positive safe approach in a private setting.

2.  Don't hide things from each other.   We don't keep secrets from each other.  We've always been blessed with a great friendship from the very beginning.  And in the context of that relationship, we don't hide things from each other.  We simply don't keep secrets.  Secret keeping is the equivalent of distrusting your spouse.  Honesty begats trust.  Trust begats intimacy and a safe place for a marriage to thrive.  No financial infidelity by hiding purchases or spending.  Abiding by relationship rules with opposite sex friends (see next point) and never hiding these interactions.  Admitting your biggest failures and pouring grace when your beloved shares his or hers.  Make your marriage a safe place to fall.  Because that is what it should be.

3.  Have set rules of behavior with opposite sex friends.   This is not born from a problem, but born from a proactive wisdom.  We learned this early on in our marriage from the great advice of other married couples.  We have set rules, such as no riding alone in a car with a friend of the opposite sex.  No going to meals alone with a member of the opposite sex (although yes, sometimes our careers have called for some leniency here).  No confiding in members in the opposite sex with information we haven't shared with our spouse.  Guarding ourselves emotionally and physically.  Because no marriage is safe from the enemy's attack, and intimacy with any member of the opposite sex who is NOT your spouse is dangerous.  Plain and simple.

4.  Pray together.   My man has been the leader here from day one.  Praying together builds spiritual intimacy and keeps your marriage focused on the Creator who gave this gift to you.  When our conflicts have pulled us apart, pray refocuses us on the fact that we are on the same team and our enemy is not each other, but the deceiver.  When our circumstances have overwhelmed us, praying together brings us to the One who holds our future.  When our pain and loss and hurt has slain us, crying out to God together has woven our hearts together.  Prayer.  About our children.  About our day.  About our future.  About the tiniest things (like security at the airport on a busy travel day).  Or about the biggest things, like which house to buy or job to apply for.  And now, with our children, when we are smart enough to grab our children together in a little prayer circle during a stressful moment, prayer turns the tide.  

5.  Fight fair.  Important rules of engagement here.  Never fight in the bedroom.  It should be the safest,most sacred place for your marriage.  Avoid words like "always" and "never."  Instead, use these types of phrases, "when you (fill in the blank), then I feel (fill in the blank).  Avoid "you" statements that point the finger.  Express your anger calmly and be solution oriented.  Look towards resolution.  Ask for forgiveness and grant it.  Don't hold grudges or bring back up things that have already been forgiven.  Never throw around the threat of divorce.  Be in it for long haul, and thus, be resolution and big picture oriented.  Look for win/wins.  If you need a break in the conflict before you can calmly work toward resolution, then let that be known and give yourselves cool off time.  And don't fight in front of the children.  Once you spout off wounding words, the damage is done.  Remember that God gave you your spouse as a gift.  Be a wise steward of that gift.

6.  Don't lose sight of the purpose for marriage.  Marriage, in fact, is not designed for your happiness or pleasure.  Nope.  Sorry.  News flash.  In fact, marriage is designed to bring honor and glory to God.  It's designed to be the building block for family and His kingdom. It's to be a picture of the Bridegroom and His Bride.  We are to love one another as Christ loves the church.  Sacrificially.  Patiently.  Gently.   It's to our credit to overlook offenses.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  They will know we are His by our love.  No stronger picture of that than within a marriage relationship.   So, don't lose sight of the fact that your marriage is not about you.  It's about HIM.

7.  Walk with the wise.  Be mindful of the company you keep.  Surround yourself with couples and individual friends are are wise and like minded about the commitment and sanctity of marriage.  Early on, we found ourselves spending time with other married couples who fought and bickered and bashed one another.  No thanks.  This did not feed our ability to be a good spouse.  Look for older married couples who can act as mentors.  Carefully choose friends who are supportive of your marriage and your spouse.  Also, if you keep to rule number one about never dishonoring your spouse, then you've helped your cause on this seventh point.  Imagine---if you have bashed your spouse to your mother or your best friend, then you have not set yourself up for success with being surrounded by others who can be your biggest marriage advocates.  When you need advice or support, yes, seek out the wisdom and help of others.  But, be careful about that first rule and do not villianize your spouse.

8.  Be aware of your spouse's needs and meet them.  Men need respect.  (among other things).  Meet this need.  Ask him what you do that makes him feel respected.  Or disrespected.  And take note and then action.  Wives need to feel lovedMen aren't mind readers.  Let your man know what he does that makes you feel loved and cherished and then go out of your way to give huge kudos when he succeeds.  I learned a long time ago that sometimes when I talk to my husband, I just want to be heard.  Other times, I want him to chew on a problem with me for a solution.  I learned the hard way not to expect him to read my mind.  So, before I launch into a long dialogue about some issue with the kids or such, I say, "I just need you to listen and empathize.  Can you help me feel heard?"  Or, I let him know before I speak, "I have a problem that I need you to help fix.  So, please help me problem solve."  Oh, the conflict we've avoided since I learned to let my needs be known clearly.  Be aware of whatever your spouse's needs are.  And if you can't meet them right then, let them know that you hear them and tell them when you can meet them.  As in, "I can't listen right now--I don't have much time.  But, it's important to me, so can we take time to discuss this after the kids go to bed?"  Or, wives, if you aren't up to meeting your husband's other needs (as in physical intimacy), let him know you hear him and give him a time when you WILL meet his needs.  Soon.  

As much as my OCD would love to round this out to a perfect ten, I'm afraid the flu that I'm battling is taking over now.  I hope against hope that I've been as coherant and articulate as I intended?  I don't trust myself right now.   But, more than anything, I hope that I have offered some insight that makes a difference or strikes a nerve with you, bloggy friends.  

Now, go and express your undying love to your spouse even if it's not your anniversary.  Let them know you are so glad they chose you, and you are grateful to have them.  Remind them that they are a gift in your life that you appreciate.    And, thank God for the marriage that he's given you.  All for His glory.

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