Marriage is what brings us together… forever. 🙂 Don’t you just love The Princess Bride? They love loyally, fight steadfastly, and endure wholeheartedly… for each other.
Many couples can recount trivial challenges such as the other spouse not replacing the lid on the toothpaste or constantly forgetting to put the toilet lid down. But what about when it gets hard? I mean the bone crunching, excruciating, agonizing kind of hardness.
Michael and I have most definitely faced our fair share of intense challenges in our marriage. Seven moves, an unexpected honeymoon baby, birth and delivery, whooping cough (Pertussis), spending 10 1/2 days in Children’s Medical Center of Dallas wondering if our baby, Hudson, was going to make it through, completing a seminary degree, full-time ministry, financial stress, a difficult second pregnancy with Everlynn, potty training (oh yes, I could write a whole blog just about that), five miscarriages, a very tough pregnancy with our little Carson, and trying to balance our time wisely. Wow, I think that is enough to make anyone go intensely insane, right? 😉
Here is just some encouragement to those of you contemplating marriage, engaged, or newly married:
1. Pray together daily: Michael and I pray together daily, and not only is it a time of praise and thanksgiving for what God has done, it is also a time where we exercise our faith in believing Him for what He is going to do in our lives. This also includes corporate worship through song (unless sickness is present of course). There are few things I enjoy as much as singing praise songs to the Lord on a Sunday morning by my husband’s side.
2. Live sacrificially: It seems like some couples seem to think it is always the wife who is supposed to give up everything when she gets married, has kids, etc. However, Michael and I believe this is a two way street. If the husband comes home from work and the house is STILL a mess, the toddler is wreaking havoc, the baby is running around in a dirty diaper, and the wife is laying on the couch feeling sick and exhausted, it is not for the husband to berate her about all the “failings” that day. Instead it might be time for him to change that diaper, get her a drink of water, and put his arms around her. But this also goes both ways. If your husband is stressed over a work or school project, don’t complain about his lack of attention to you on that day or that he is not helping with the children. Take care of the kids, make dinner, rub his neck and tell him you love him. This applies to intimacy as well. 😉
3. Submit one to another: The Bible says the wife is to submit to the husband (see Ephesians 5:22-33). However, the Bible also says that the husband is to love his wife. It is not loving to treat your wife like she is a doormat. Marriage equals mutual respect for each other. This involves discussing important decisions. There are definitely times when Michael says we need to do something that I don’t want to do, but I do it because I trust that he is wise and (since he rarely asks me to do much outside of caring for the house, Hudson, and Everlynn) I do it (though he never asks me to do anything we haven’t talked about). Most men want a partner in life, not a puppy. Guys: please treat your wife as equal in value and significance. This goes for the wife too. Girls: don’t discount the decisions your husband makes. Don’t make him afraid to lead because of what your reaction might be.
4. Never do any name calling: Words are like wounds, they will heal but always leave a scar. Think twice before opening your mouth. Instead, try to say, “I love you.”
5. Do not try to change each other: If there is something you do not like about the person you love before you get married, it isn’t going to magically disappear after the vows and honeymoon are all said and done. You have two options here. Either discuss it before marriage (and be open about your own bad habits and such) and try to encourage change, or you need to accept it after marriage. Things can change, but it is up to God and not you. As a wife, I certainly do not want to be a “leaky faucet” so I try to take it to the Lord when something irritates me, and not “get on” Michael constantly (and vice versa). Have a teachable spirit and take constructive criticism to the Lord in prayer instead of reacting. It’s not my job to be the Holy Spirit in his life.
6. Do not correct or criticize in front of others: Thankfully, Michael has never done this to me, but I have been around people who do this. It really does wound! It can discount a person’s opinion and make them shut off communication because they are afraid they are going to be embarrassed or hurt again. If your spouse says something you consider incorrect, inappropriate, or ignorant, do NOT tell them that in front of others. This is a BIG no-no! This also goes for other people correcting or criticizing your spouse. Nip it in the bud! Men, resist the urge to tell your wife she has put on weight (or anything critical about her appearance). I guarantee that she already knows it and feels self conscious. Instead, hug her and ask how her heart is doing. And women, its probably best not to correct your husband’s grammatical or spelling errors. 😉
7. Keep your communication free and open: Set aside around 30 minutes each evening to sit and discuss your day, feelings, etc. Do not let other things crowd out sharing your hearts with each other. These distractions can come from movies, TV, internet, social media, and yes, even children.
8. Go on weekly dates and keep the romance alive!: Michael and I do not have a lot of spare money for dates, but most of the time (usually Monday evenings) I will make a meal and we will eat it at home with a lit candle and romantic music playing. We talk about life and try to avoid talking about work/church stuff and it helps us to stay connected. 🙂
9. Do not let your children crowd out your relationship with your spouse: It is all too easy to get wrapped up in your child”s cuteness, antics, and milestones that it comes before anything else, most importantly your spouse. Make sure that you aren’t ignoring your husband or wife in favor of your kids. Your kids grow up and eventually leave, but it is “till death do you part” with your spouse. When the kids leave, you want to be able to still have a loving and open relationship with your husband or wife.
10. Give your spouse the freedom to be themselves: Whether this is their hobbies, clothing or hair styles, personality, etc. We don’t have money for me to keep up on a lot of the current clothing fashions and such, but Michael always makes sure to budget enough for me to get my hair cut. Even when I am wearing the same clothes from 2 years ago, a stylish cut keeps me feeling pretty and feminine. Budget needs to be taken into consideration. If one of you knows you don’t have the money for something, don’t buy it. Wait until a special occasion comes along and buy it then (after saving for it).
I am by no means a marriage guru, especially after only having been married 4 1/2 years, but after going through some intense hardship, God has not only kept the two of us together, but has knit us even more tightly than ever before. When a couple has the joy of the Lord and a mutual love for Christ, being continually in His word as a couple and praying together draws you even closer. I love it when my friends tell me that their husband is their best friend and companion. There is nothing better than that. So in closing, marriage is not a challenge to me. It is a life-changing, character-growing,and love-expanding experience. Couples who pray together and find joy in Jesus will find joy in each other.
Remember to keep your priorities straight….
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33 – ESV)