Today my husband and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. As I’ve considered the years and the journey we’ve been on together, I realize that it’s only by God’s continuous grace and mercy that we are not only still together, but also continuing to grow in our marriage.
I recently have met some younger couples on their own treks through building lives together and in our conversations as I’ve sought to offer wise counsel, a few themes recur. Perhaps your marriage is on a mountaintop, but maybe it’s in a dark desert season. I hope you’ll be encouraged by the lessons I’ve learned and the reminders I offer myself during both.
Remember the Purpose of marriage. We live in a culture that is focused on what makes us happy, not living purposefully to reflect Christ as we grow together in His purposes. There is a reason Satan loves to attack marriages. Great work for the gospel and the kingdom is accomplished when a husband and wife are working together for His glory.
When things are tough, dig into His Word and refocus on the purpose. No man can make us happy. We will always be let down when we place that pressure on another person. I am by no means saying that anyone should endure abuse or destructive sin patterns. Biblical centeredness means that we will always have a “we” mentality rather than a “me” focus.
Let Your Man Lead. Yes really. The Bible teaches us that wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This might make you flaming mad. Arguably, if that’s so, you’ve likely never witnessed a true model of Biblical marriage (submission/respect AND love). When we are able to experience the fruit that is produced in a marriage where both parties are growing in respect and love, deep joy is truly possible.
As a mom of four boys, it is overwhelmingly clear that in an effort to elevate women (a good thing), we have demonized masculinity. Women are capable of so much and I have single mom friends who most certainly wear the hats of four people. This is not about the capability of women. Rather, a constant message that we don’t need men. God made men and women uniquely and with specific purposes. We are different.
As wives, it’s important that we allow and encourage our husbands to grow into the spiritual and family leaders that God designed them to be. If we are constantly stifling, controlling, nit picking, blaming, or belittling then that will absolutely not happen. When we don’t feel well loved, is it possible that we also are not respecting? Are we encouraging?
On this note, encourage meaningful relationships with other wise and responsible men/husbands. It is VERY difficult for men to find strong role models and friends that they connect with on a below-surface level. When the opportunity presents, encourage him to pursue those friendships with men who help him grow in his roles as Christ follower, husband and father.
Pray Together. Praying out loud together is not something my husband and I have always done. In fact, neither of us had ever prayed out loud outside of blessing food…. Ever. Years ago our pastor encouraged spouses to pray together even if it just meant holding hands and praying silently. That’s a perfect place to start. Prayer is powerful. Praying spouses grow stronger in faith and in perseverance in life. We grow closer together as we grow closer to Him. We glorify Him in our posture of surrender.
What if in our disagreements, offenses, and difficult moments we simply stopped to pray? If your husband is not a believer or not willing to pray together, then pray for him. Ask him if you can pray for him. If it makes him uncomfortable to pray out loud then place your hand on his shoulder or hold his hand as you pray. God is capable of anything.
Make sure your kids know that God comes first, your husband comes second, and they come third. We live in a very child-centered world. Our kids are incredible blessings and they absolutely demand and require incredible investment. That said, too often, we sacrifice our relationship with our husband to prioritize the kids. There will be short seasons when our marriages must be put on the back burner (think new baby), but we must not prioritize our kids’ activities, whims and desires over our spouse.
As women, it can be very difficult to always remember this, but it’s incredibly important. As an example, if my husband and I are in conversation and a child interrupts, they do not get my attention unless it’s an emergency. They know that our adult conversation should be respected.
Carve out pockets of time. Date nights are incredibly important, but we can’t date every day during the years of raising kids. Little deposits of time matter. Think of a quick lunch time phone call, five minutes of coffee together in the morning, an impromptu fast food lunch date, taking a walk after the kids go to bed, a text during a busy work day to say “I’m thinking of you”.
Physical Intimacy. The “little years” might require creativity around how you and your spouse can get together without being incredibly exhausted. Be intentional and invest in a good door lock if needed. Put it on the calendar. Sure things might not be as spontaneous as they used to be, but that’s not the most important thing. In fact, having a set aside bedroom date to look forward to can be really great for our relationships. Spontaneity is fun but not imperative.
Keep Laughing. Keep Making Eye Contact. Keep Dreaming. Keep Talking. Keep Reminiscing.