Chris and I were married in 1974 and, fairly early in married life, we were fortunate to attend a marriage workshop that provided some excellent advice to this young pastoral couple. I have long since forgotten who led that session, but I have taken four points from that and used them in countless wedding ceremonies I have conducted since then. I have been privileged to speak at my daughter’s weddings, and they both requested I share these same points with them as well. (I guess it is a bit of a tradition.) They not only give focus to my own marriage, but have been helping many others since then. With that in mind, I share them now with you.
First, A little reality…
Many people say that marriages are made in heaven. And, as lovely as that sounds, I disagree. Marriages may be PICKED in heaven, but they must be made in the places where we live and work every day. They are MADE on earth. With that in mind, here are four things which, if diligently embraced, will produce a marriage that is filled with love and joy, right here on earth.
Different cultures have different rules about a husband and wife displaying affection. But, in every culture, there are little expressions of love which mean a great deal. In our culture, one of those little gestures is holding hands.
Holding hands displays a connectedness beyond what is visible. It portrays an awareness of the other, a connectedness with them, a joy at being together and a sense of real affection. Little gestures do that. It might be a wink across the room, the quick smile of acknowledgment, the squeeze under the table that says, “I’m thinking of you.” Keep committed to expressing your love and relationship in the little ways. There is something special when you see a couple who has been together for many years and they still pay attention to the little things. Be that couple.
There is a tendency to make up for the slow loss of affection by seeking to make periodic grand gestures of love. Those can be helpful, but you will need less of them if you concentrate on the smaller things. Walk hand in hand.
Talk face to face
Emotions are real and may not always be helpful. Sometimes, when emotions are stirred, we may find it easier to avoid speaking with each other; to act like everything is fine when we know in our souls, that they are not. Remember, there are very few secrets in a marriage, only things we don’t talk about. We each know, but we don’t say.
It is also possible with technology to have discussions while never seeing the person we are speaking to. We text, send email, leave voice mails – and don’t really speak. Even when we are together, we may each face our own side of the bed and speak to the wall when we say goodnight. We can argue across the rooms and even across the globe. This can create real and possibly lasting damage.
When an important conversation must happen, limit the distractions, cut off the technology and talk face to face. Look into those eyes you fell in love with. Make it a commitment to have important discussions only when you can see the face, hear the voice and watch the impact of your words. Talk face to face.
See eye to eye
There are many things in life to disagree about, and there hasn’t been a couple yet who has agreed on everything. That’s a good thing. It’s even a good thing when you disagree about issues that really matter to you.
But when you don’t agree, you should make that disagreement a temporary resting place, not a permanent residence. (Of course I am speaking mainly of things that matter, not daily matters of taste.)
While we are working towards agreement, we respect our partners and their perspective, but we make an agreement to keep working toward agreement. That might take minutes, days or even years, but agreement is our goal. We want to see eye to eye
Kneel side by side
Marriages are spiritual things. They require spiritual realities and spiritual graces in order to succeed. They require things like forgiveness, patience, willingness to be wrong or wronged, placing other’s wishes and needs ahead of our own and showing love when tired or in pain. These are spiritual realities that can best be found through a relationship with God. Our spiritual lives matter in our marriages.
The best gift you can give your spouse is a spiritually vibrant you! And cultivating that vitality together is invaluable. However you and your spouse find it most helpful, you must keep your spiritual lives strong and growing together. Kneel side by side.
These four things, when practiced, will guarantee a marriage that isn’t just being endured but is being enjoyed. It will make your life overflow with love and joy in ways that will make others want to come and sit at your table just to be splashed with your love. In short, it will not only make your marriage a blessing to you, but will enable your marriage to be a blessing to God and His kingdom as well.
Walk hand in hand.
Talk face to face.
See eye to eye.
Kneel side by side.