I’ve been to 2 weddings in 2 weeks. And all 4 people involved have been through and have come out of the student ministry I’ve been leading for nearly 7 years. As a student ministry pastor, its a joyous thing to watch teenagers transform into young adults and step into the next part of their lives that God has prepared for them. And these 2 weddings were especially sweet to attend because all 4 students were also in my weekly small group Bible study. As I watched them at their respective altars; vowing before God, each other, and those watching to serve, love, honor, and cherish each other–I had memories of discussions, questions, prayers, conversations, outings, and laughter with all of them running through my mind. And I can’t lie: I cried too.
Whenever I attend a wedding, I also flash back to my own wedding. At the ripe young age of 21, I and my bride stood before God and made the covenant commitment to one another and to Him that we’d seek Him and serve each other above all else. And if you know me at all, you know that that decision is second only to my decision to follow Christ as the greatest decision I’ve ever made. Truly, my wife is an non-stop picture of God’s grace: getting what I absolutely do not deserve, but have because of the lavish love of my Heavenly Father. I look at her everyday and see the goodness of the Lord wrapped up in a package that I affectionately refer to as “The Hotness”. (She hates that name.)
And because of that truth, I’d hope that if you know me, you know me as one of the most happily married men you’ve come across. More than that, I’d hope that that’s how my wife sees me. And I suppose my daily life is quite wrapped up in showing that to anyone who cares to notice. I once heard this piece of advice in how to affair-proof your marriage: “Make your marriage so amazing that your spouse would have to be crazy to look anywhere else.” Sounds nice, right? But how? Is there a formula to follow? Well, I don’t think formula is the right word but I do think and have seen that there are some pretty obvious principles anyone can follow to strengthen the marriage they’ve got. And at the risk of repeating age-old advice, I’d like to toss a few out there.
1. I can’t think of any better preventive medicine for a successful marriage than successful communication.
Non-verbal: We’re told by sociologists that the majority of our communication is actually non-verbal. So, things like a smile when your spouse enters the room, an out-of-the blue wink at an unexpected moment, a simple “I love you” note left in an inconspicuous spot, a for-no-reason-whatsoever hug, or a loving pat on their behind as you walk by–any and all of these can clearly communicate your thoughts without saying a word. And they are peppered throughout my everyday.
Verbal: Problems arise from things like under-communication, hurtful communication, and miscommunication. Like most guys, I’m most often guilty of under-communication. There’s a terrible feeling in my stomach when I hear the words from my wife, “I didn’t know about that.” Again, studies show that women use far more words on a daily basis than men do. In short, women usually need to hear more words than men do. No secret there. But knowing something and making necessary changes to address it are two different things, right guys? Case in point: a very common occurrence is for my wife to ask me, “how did your day at work go?” My common response is “It was good.” I just gave her a 3-word answer when she’s probably looking for a 3,000-word answer. I answer the question with a summation of my day overall, when she wants to know about every conversation with every person I talked to, what we talked about, how I felt about it, what I did as a result, what I ate for lunch, if I liked it, and how many times I went to the bathroom. Instead, I give her, “It was good.” Guys, I’m not saying to act like a woman (that’d be a pretty big turn-off for your wife), but I am saying that we should recognize the need your wife has for more than she’s typically given. If she asked for you to get her a drink of iced tea, you’d be an idiot to bring her an empty glass, right? I mean it’s a good start but it’s only a start. And believe me, I’m typing these words while looking in the mirror, if you know what I mean.
2. You and your spouse need consistent rest to stay fresh in your marriage.
Our culture is set against us on this one, but we also often give up too much ground in this area as we try and fit in with social norms and expectations; to the detriment of our marriage and intimacy. Look around at the jam-packed schedules we subject ourselves to. On top of our work schedule, we’ve got kids, helping with their homework, their interests and the schedules that come along with them, our own hobbies, and other things that vie for your time and attention. This can all leave us running from one thing to the next with only enough energy at the end of the day to say “goodnight” to the person laying next to us (if they’re there at all).
Reversing schedule decisions is a difficult thing to do, especially if they’ve been around long enough to become the norm. But there’s no way to sugarcoat it: if you’re serious about having sacred space in your marriage and time to give each other attention, then you very well may have to pull out of things you’d previously given yourselves too. You’ve got to be honest when schedules start to reek havoc on your closeness as a husband and wife. Many might say “But what about the kids? They’d be devastated not to be on swim team, dance troupe, baseball, chess squad, and student government.” But what good is any of that if they have parents who barely know each other? The concept of existing for your kids might sound right to some, but its anything but. The greatest gift you can give your kids is the reality of a rock-solid marriage, and that takes a commitment to the time it takes to cultivate it. And that will pay dividends to your family that no state championship can or will.
I’ll stop here and pick this up later, but I’d love to hear your responses. And even if I’ve said something you completely disagree with or struggle with, feel free to share your thoughts.