On July 27, 2012 I will have been married to my best friend for 10 years. I’m not trying to earn brownie points or a ‘get out of the doghouse free card’ (would LOVE to have a few of those… where you can buy them?) – just stating a fact. As any Christian in a great marriage can attest, there are two things worth seeking with all your heart – Christ and the right mate. They both offer unconditional love, both wrap you up in the arms of acceptance, peace, safety, fellowship – allowing you to go out into that wide world full of endless dangers and possibilities knowing you have an anchor as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, a warm fire that can warm you anywhere, anytime. Maybe that’s why marriage is God’s plan, God’s type of Christ and the Church. God wants us to see, to KNOW though physical means that, much as the love of our mate wows us to the Nth degree, God loves us even more. How cool is that?
Maybe that’s why marriage is under such attack in today’s wicked society. Redefine marriage, minimize it, broaden it, put some sand under that rock, and maybe it will shift, maybe it will eventually roll away. Attack the family first, and society will fall. But that’s another blog entirely.
While Kim and I have certainly had our ups and downs, we’ve always been proud of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of our marriage. Why ‘nuts and bolts?’ …because marriage is something you build, from the ground up. When we first got married, in fact while we were dating, we made a commitment to never stop working, to never stop building on our marriage. Marriage is a lot like our relationship with God. In marriage, like in our faith, if you aren’t moving forward you are moving backward. The middle ground in marriage is called ‘apathy’ and it’s defined in the ‘marriage manual’ (didn’t you get one of those when you got married??) as moving backward. In fact, apathy is worse than moving back because when it explodes you don’t see it coming. Apathy happens to couples all the time, and the results are devastating. Don’t go there. Always be ‘working’ on your marriage. Unless you’re both sitting in a nursing home holding hands, you aren’t ‘there’ yet, and if you think you are, something is bound to jump out and surprise you.
For us, ten years in, sure we like what we’ve built so far, but we’re not satisfied, we aren’t ‘there’ – and that’s the way it should be. I did a post on contentment a few weeks ago. I am more than content with my wife, but I am not content with my marriage – never will be, and that’s a good thing!
Please don’t interpret any part of this post as pride. It really should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that we struggle with a lot of the same things other couples struggle with. We’ve had our share of arguments late into the night. We’ve had our heartaches and our tears, our annoying habits and frustrations with each other. Every couple does. But that building, that learning process is one of the things that makes our marriage (and that of others who practice it) special. We learn from each setback, pick it up and examine it to see where we went wrong, then put it on the ground and use it as a stepping stone, a building block to the grand cathedral we want our marriage to be when God wills it to end (yep, that would be when one of us dies).
Here are five things (there are certainly many more!) we have found to be keys to our marriage. We hope they are keys to yours as well!
1.) Communicate! Unless you’ve been living in a cave your whole life you probably know that men aren’t really good at this and women can be TOO good (ouch!). That’s just the way we are. When I come home from work and Kim asks me about my day my inclination is to say ‘good, what’s for dinner?’ Kim wants to tell me every detail about every conversation she had, what she ate for lunch and how she liked it, what she did at every hour of the day – (cue Peanuts ‘adult’ voice)… OK maybe that’s an exaggeration, but to me it SEEMS like she is telling me all that (not that I’m always listening as I should…). The point is, make time, specific, set-apart time, for communication. Tell each other about your day. Go over plans for tomorrow, issues with the kids, finances, etc. etc. Don’t leave each other in the dark and fewer things will go ‘bump’ in the night.
2.) Put each other first. Above your kids. Above your parents. Above your dog and even your cat (for your cat lovers) – your spouse comes FIRST.
3.) Fight, but fight fair. Every marriage has arguments. Yes, you can argue too much, but if you never argue at all, you are either clones of each other (can anyone say boring!) or perilously close to apathy (if not already there). Don’t be afraid to air out your differences. It means you care! But when you do argue, avoid absolutes like always and never. No name calling. No insults. Keep it issue-related, never ‘attacking’ your spouse. Most of all, validate the position of your spouse. Show your spouse you understand where he/she is coming from. You won’t always agree, but validation can pave many a rocky road.
4.) Be best friends. You don’t have to do your nails and get pedicures together. You don’t even have to take up golf or paintball (bonus points if you do!). What you do should do is find common ground and make a routine practice of doing ‘stuff’ you both enjoy, together. In our marriage we have learned that there are some things we just won’t have in common. She’ll never be as interested in history or politics, or watching football, as me. I’ll never like sewing or making silly shapes with some contraption called a ‘Cricket.’ But we do like and do enough things together to make being best friends a real blast. If you can get involved in your spouse’s interests, by all means do so – but be sure to allow space for each of you to be an individual. Remember, you aren’t clones. The idea is to complement, not copy.
5.) Stay committed, no matter what. Don’t even entertain the idea that splitting up is an option, not for a second. Not only were your vows to each other, but to God as well. They are honorable, timeless, sacred. If/when things get rocky, don’t question the relationship, ever. Question your spouse. Question yourself. Question the way you, he/she, or both of you are doing things. But never, ever, under any circumstances question the validity of your marriage.
BONUS – Remember, love is a CHOICE. To quote Gary Chapman, “love is a verb,” an action you choose to take. Always choose to love your mate, no matter what you ‘feel’ at the moment. Feelings come and go like the weather, but if you both make the choice to love and, consequently, practice loving actions toward your spouse, your marriage will be the towering edifice of peace and safety, the blessing God intended it to be.
PS – On a totally unrelated note – we just created a facebook page for our blog and are trying to build it up (see box on upper right hand of this page). If you enjoyed this post or any of our other ones, please consider checking it out and clicking ‘like.’