Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Things That Strengthen Our Marriage

Marriage is no joke.  Having a God-honoring, healthy, and joyful marriage is just plain hard work.  Lots of people nowadays just give up and live with the kind of marriage that is far less than God offers or end the marriage all together.  Both are tragedies.

Chad and I certainly don't have a perfect marriage, but we are intentional about pursuing what I described above . . . a marriage that gives the world a picture of how Christ loves the Church, a marriage that is full of selfless love and infectious joy, and a marriage that is worth all the hard work we put into it.

As I've thought about our marriage this week, I thought I'd share five things that we are intentional about doing in order to strengthen our marriage.  Take it or leave it . . . I'm just praying it will encourage someone to keep at the hard work or will give someone a new idea to breathe new life into their marriage!

1.  High Interaction

We are so blessed.  As a pastor, Chad's days are flexible enough to allow us to interact during the day.  He comes home for lunch most days.  We also text, call, and email during the day.  Now don't start thinking we are freaks that have to speak every two minutes . . . we certainly don't go overboard!  But staying connected even throughout the day has helped us stay connected in general.  A text with a word of encouragement, a voicemail letting him know how I'm praying for him, an email thanking me for something, a few minutes over lunch to catch up and laugh together . . . all of these keep our hearts connected.  I realize that most people don't have the luxury of lunches together, but a few emails and texts can go a long way!

One thing we also recently started is "Couch Time."  8:30 pm on as many nights as possible will find us face to face on our couch.  We found that the nights were getting away from us so quickly . . . dinner, play time, bath time, bed time, getting a few things done . . . before we knew it we were ready to pass out and hadn't even stopped to really connect.  We now aim to have the kids in bed for 7:30, take an hour to read or work on a few things, and then no matter what still needs to be done, we stop from 8:30 to 9 to just talk. I look forward to this time all day!

2.  Same Page

"Intentional" has been my buzzword for the past 6 months.  With life being so busy and full, I was feeling the need to have some way to be extremely intentional about our life.  Then I read this post by my friend Shauna Pilgreen where she shared about their family 'playbook" and knew I had found the answer! 

Chad and I have spent the last two months talking through and writing out our family playbook.  We discussed our values and God's call on our lives.  The problem is that often our values aren't actually reflected in our calendars . . . they can fill up with good things and leave no room for the great things.  Our playbook has become sort of our filter . . . if an opportunity arises, but doesn't fit into our main values during this season of life, then we feel the confidence and freedom to say no.  Boundaries are so beautiful! :)  

Being on the same page with our values, what we want to spend our time doing, and the vision that God has given us during this season has been so refreshing and exciting for us.  We are being far more intentional in the things that matter than we were before!

3.  Guarding Our Mouths/Speaking Life

Again, we certainly aren't perfect in this area, but we do realize the gravity of how what comes out of our mouths effects our marriage and family. {Matt. 12:33-36}

We are learning to be very intentional about what we say . . . 

About each other . . . We do not tear the other down when we are talking with any one else.  Even when being authentic with close friends about our marriage{because it isn't perfect!}, we speak with humility and grace and always towards reconciliation because we realize that we aren't perfect either.

About other people . . . Gossip and negativity about others just brings death into a conversation and a marriage.  If what I say isn't bringing grace to the person listening, then I shouldn't say it {Eph. 4:29}.  Harping on the negative and venting just ends up getting us both worked up and usually worse off than when the conversation began.  We can be honest about hard relationships or frustrations, but it needs to be done with discretion and grace and the response needs to be one that points in the direction of forgiveness rather than condemnation.  {Easier said than done, I know!}  We also don't speak in inappropriate ways about others . . . whether it be comparing each other to someone else or flattery, especially of the opposite sex {the enemy will use that in a heartbeat}.

To each other . . . When I talk to Chad, I literally have the choice to speak words of Life or words of death, love or hate, truth or lies, grace or condemnation.  I have to be intentional about speaking words that build him up, point him to Christ, and counter what the enemy and the world may be saying to him.  This is hard work, but is one of the greatest ways I can love him.

4.  Getaways

I don't know any married couple who would argue with me here!  Having a getaway . . . no work, school, kids, distractions . . . can breathe such life into a frazzled, disconnected, or stressed relationship.  

Our goal is to have a two-night getaway at least once a year.  How wonderful if it could be more, but for most people that just isn't possible.  But most of our getaways are much simpler than a mini-vacation.  We have lunch dates, coffee dates, a walk in the park, a once a month date night.  These aren't usually fancy at all, but even just a few hours of uninterrupted time together does wonders to keep us connected and to deepen our love.  I never thought dates would be a tough sell, but when you have kids and a busy schedule they can easily get left behind.  Don't let it happen! 

5.  Talking About God

Thank you Captain Obvious, right?!  You'd think that for followers of Christ this would be a no-brainer and not something we have to work at, but you'd be wrong.  When you don't have a lot of time each day to actually talk, it is amazing what can fill up that time.

Last year some time, Chad was reading Ephesians 5 and asked me what he could do to love me better.  I gave it some real thought and realized that I wanted us to be more intentional about sharing what God was speaking to us.  I'm a verbal processor so if I'm learning something, I'm probably going to tell Chad about it just as a way to continue working it out in my heart and mind {this is why Chad gets up waaaay before me so that he can have time with Jesus in peace!}.  

Chad isn't this way.  He writes in his journal and he processes and then doesn't feel the need to talk it out.  It's okay that we are different in this, but it left me feeling like I didn't know what he was learning or how he was growing in the Lord.  I heard his sermons, but didn't know beyond that what God was dealing with in his heart.  

I asked Chad to try to be intentional about sharing and he immediately began to love me in this way.  Such a blessing!  We have grown closer simply because we are more intentional about sharing heart things when we have a few minutes to talk.  And incidentally this also helps with the whole guarding your mouth issue because there isn't time to vent or gossip when you're talking about what you read in the Bible that morning!

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So there it is.  We obviously do more than this to pursue a God-honoring marriage, but these are the five that have been on my mind this week!

What are you intentionally doing to strengthen your marriage?