Marriage is a tricky gig. It takes work. Some days are good and all you can do is smile. Some days not-so-good, when it takes everything in you to smile. Whether you have been married six months or 60 years, the union of marriage humbles us (daily, sometimes hourly, because…we are human) and makes us put another’s needs in front of ours. Marriage reminds us that life isn’t all about us. Marriage brings two broken souls together, to tackle their brokenness together. Marriage is a gift, yet at times, can feel like a curse. Marriage is partnership- in all things financial, parenting, and household chores. Marriage is about compromise. Marriage is agreeing to disagree at times. Marriage is “don’t go to bed angry.” Marriage brings opposite personalities together, because they attract right? Marriage is getting a few text conversations in. Marriage is talking until the wee hours of the morning. Marriage is friendship. Marriage is honoring your spouse. Marriage is about respect. Marriage is about love. Marriage is about listening, with the TV off. Marriage is holding your wife’s hair while she’s spilling her guts. Marriage is all hugs and kisses some days. Marriage is hardly a kiss for the week.
Once we say, “I do” and “For better, for worse, in sickness and in health,” does this mean this is a one and done deal? You sign the marriage license and BOOM, you’re married. You could be two kids that come back from the honeymoon thinking, “Now what?” Maybe you were like me. Eric and I only dated a couple months before finding ourselves pregnant. We chose to get married when I was five and a half months along. We lived together before marriage. We got married at a little chapel in Lake Tahoe. What was pre-marital counseling? We didn’t know. I had never even heard of it. Perhaps you had parents that didn’t have the best marriage, or your mom or dad didn’t sit you down, eye to eye, and let you know about all the haps in marriage. The good, the bad, the ugly. I’m totally raising my hand, right now? You too?
Eric and I had to learn the hard way how to navigate our brokenness. We didn’t know the proper way to communicate. We fought with elevated voices and crying in the bathroom. Mostly me. We were married for what feels like two minutes before our children came. And that’s a whole different crazy. I can look back and see that we were probably just going through the motions for years. We let the kids dictate our lives. I am sure there were days or moments of unhappiness. We thought we were doing great because we never mentioned the “D” word in arguments. You know, divorce. Things never got to a point that we would have to separate. Yet, in those first 10 years, we felt rather robotic. Surely, this was not how God pictured marriage when he created this gift.
“Marriage is an ongoing, vivid illustration of what it costs to love an imperfect person unconditionally. The same way Christ has loved us.”
It wasn’t until Eric and I started growing in our faith journey, about 15 years into marriage, when we saw what the unity of marriage really is and what it represents. It wasn’t until we were in a small group, studying Ephesians 5:22-33, that we learned our identity as husband and wife. Marriage is about loving your partner and giving yourself up for him/her, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. Now, when you read this last sentence, does this mirror your marriage? Once Eric and I started investing in our marriage, not settling for “good,” that our marriage improved. Is it all roses? Nope. Sometimes it’s trampled-on flowers. The thing is, after you and your spouse say “I do,” or maybe even when you decide that you are meant to be together forever, start investing in your relationship right then. Eric and I broke the mold of our family origins and made an agreement to be intentional in our marriage. We did this through small groups, Bible studies, conferences, and retreats.
We learned through God’s Word, books, articles, and from other couples’ stories. Now, Eric isn’t much of a reader. Okay, he’s not a reader, but I am. I dig reading and learning. I would read some good books and then share what I learned with Eric (I know, lucky him). We strive to always do the homework or assignments in couples’ Bible studies. We did the silly activities like kissing for 2 whole minutes at a marriage conference. Uh, yeah. That actually happened.
“You don’t fall into love. You commit to it. Love is saying I will be there no matter what.”
I have a heart for marriages. For couples struggling. For husbands and wives that don’t know how to just have a conversation that doesn’t involve the calendar, schedule, or the kids. I feel for couples that aren’t able to get those “date nights.” I have a passion for marriages that think the fun is over or that think things can’t get any better. So, I wanted to share some resources with you that helped me and Eric over the past 27 years. I encourage you to check them out. Read a book together or get the audible version and listen to it on your next road trip. Or wives, read it and then share what you learned with the hubby (they will love it). Have a conversation with your spouse, even if it starts with, “Something seems amiss” or “Something feels stagnant in our marriage” or when you want to put the ‘zazz back in Pizazz. It happens. Some couples camp out on Stagnant Island for years, doing their own thing, often ending up in separate bedrooms by the time they’re 60 years old. I don’t want this for my marriage. I want to be active and to actually “do life” with my husband. I want to dream with him. Make plans with him. I want to work out our differences in loving and respectful manners. And friends, I’d love for you to learn to do that too.
Take your marriage from “Good to Great” with these resources:
Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs – Eric and I love this! We have been blessed to attend two conferences and to do this in a couples small group. Dr. Eggerichs helps couples get through the Crazy Cycle around wives wanting to be loved and husbands wanting to be respected. If a man doesn’t feel respected, he has a hard time loving his wife. If a wife doesn’t feel loved, she has a hard to giving respect to her husband (see Ephesians 5:33). This. Game Changer.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas – What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? Sacred Marriage shows us how marriage teaches us to love God and others well, how it exposes sin and makes us more aware of God’s presence, how good marriages foster good prayer, how married sex feeds the spiritual life, and more. Gary Thomas’ blog is so helpful too. If you happen to find that he will be at a church near you, I recommend getting your ticket and making the commitment to go. You will not be disappointed.
Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage by Mark Gungor – Get your married friends together for a night of belly laughs, fun, and truth. By using his unique blend of humor and tell-it-like-it-is honesty, Mark Gungor helps couples get along and have fun doing it.
What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp – Everyone’s marriage turns into something they didn’t intend it to be. Sometimes you need something a little sturdier than romance. You need something deeper than common interests and mutual attraction. You need different expectations and most of all, grace. I have heard Paul Tripp teach through a couple marriage studies and, I mean, wow.
How will you take your marriage from “Good to Great”?
I pray that maybe one of these resources improves your marriage and brings your relationship as husband and wife to a whole new level. These are just a few that came to mind. If you’d like to like to learn about something specific for your marriage, such as conflict resolution, communication, sex, and/or money, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s chat!
Hugging you so tight,