Marriage Matters Part 1

Jarryd and I have been married over 3 years now and are more in love today than we ever have been. From day one we committed to work on our marriage and always fight to pursue one another passionately. Our approach to our marriage from the beginning has been a proactive one that strives to strengthen our relationship and make it a priority in our busy every day lives. 

We by no means have it all figured out and have our fair share of trials but I want to share some things that we do to keep our relationship healthy! I am starting this series on Marriage Matters to encourage other couples and to challenge them to actively work on their marriage and to daily pursue one another. 

As a counselor, I noticed some common themes in all the couples that have come to me on the brink of divorce. 

1.) They came too late. By the time they reach my office their hearts were already made up and ready to just quit. They had let their marriage go so far into despair that apart from a divine miracle there is not much I can do. Once divorce becomes a real possibility in the mind of a spouse it is very hard to shift their mindset from giving up, to putting up the hardest fight of their lives to save their marriage.

2.) Early on in their marriage or as soon as children entered the picture, they stopped pursuing one another. They no longer dated each other nor actively strived to continue the process of learning about the other, with the naive mindset that they had their spouse all figured out. I believe that one of the reasons our culture today is so anti-marriage is because so many of us have examples of marriages in our lives that don't seem to have any fun or romance in them. 

If marriage is a death sentence for dating and romance... WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO GET MARRIED?!? 

3.) Something or someone (i.e. children) was put before their marriage. The most common being that their lives revolved around their children. Now I am a new mom and I can see how easily this can happen; however, any time you put ANYTHING above your marriage you are setting it up for failure. Think about it... when you are on a plane, the instructions that are given by the flight attendant before takeoff should the oxygen masks drop are that you should first put your mask on and then help your child with theirs. Why? Because you can't be much help to your child if you are passed out!! This same idea should be applied to your marriage. It is in the BEST interest of your children to make your marriage a priority. 

This is how Jarryd and I fight these destructive themes in our own marriage:

Jarryd and I decided early on that we were never going to be so naive as to think that our marriage could never have problems or could never end in the "D" word, as we call it! Some of the best advice we got as an engaged couple was to REMOVE the word "divorce" from our vocabulary. Literally delete it! So many couples in a heated argument will throw out the suggestion of divorce, not because they want one but rather because they just want to hurt their spouse out of anger. However, even though they don't mean it, what begins to happen with every time divorce is mentioned is you begin to become desensitized to how preposterous that idea would be and a small seed gets planted in your heart which has the potential to grow into reality.  

Jarryd and I ask for help when we need it. After our second miscarriage, knowing how multiple miscarriages has been shown to be detrimental to the health of a marriage, we sought out counseling of our own to help us process our grief and to strengthen our relationship. I already mentioned how so many couples that I see, start coming to counseling when its too late. So we decided... why not go to counseling as a preventative measure!? Let's not even allow the potential for trouble in our marriage and let's learn some great skills from a couple who has been doing this "marriage thing" a lot longer than we have. It would make me laugh when people would ask us if we were having marriage trouble because we were going to counseling... that couldn't have been further from the truth. We LOVED going to counseling and the couple we worked with taught us so much and helped us grieve through our losses in a healthy way. We have not been in a long time but we both have been dying to go back because of how much we loved learning how to make our marriage even better! That's the way counseling should be!! 

Also we try and attend at least one marriage conference a year. Again, a common misconception that we get when we go to these conferences is that we must be going because our marriage is weak. This is so not true. In grad school, one of my favorite professors taught my marriage counseling class and he and his wife had attended a marriage conference for every one of the 3o something years they had been married. I would call him the expert on marriage and even he was actively refreshing his skills on it. When Jarryd and I go, we don't typically learn anything that we didn't already know; however, it is so powerful to be constantly taught and reminded of how to have a healthy marriage. 

Now onto the dating... Jarryd and I don't just desire to "stay" together forever, we desire to fall more in love with each other with every passing year and to make our marriage full of passion and joy. We want our marriage to glorify God and for others to look on it and see such a beautiful picture of God's love in us that they desire a marriage too. In the Christian community I think it is so common to see marriages that have lasted many many years but that are devoid of any joy. Truly the only reason they stay together is "for the kids" or "because Scripture is clear that divorce is a sin" or "because they are too afraid of what others would think if they got a divorce." So they just become functional roommates who have this little thing called a marriage license. 

I have a news flash for you... THAT IS JUST AS SINFUL AS DIVORCE!! 

God never intended us to just "stay together" He desires us to love, pursue, and respect one another in marriage with an unconditional self-sacrificing love. Marriage is hard! It is a constant reminder of how selfish our hearts truly are. However, that is the beauty of marriage. That as I deny my own selfish flesh and put Jarryd's needs and desires above my own, I am being sanctified and molded into the image of Christ. This results in true joy! 

This is how Jarryd and I continue to pursue one another:

Date Night!!! At least once a week... that's right... I said EVERY WEEK! Our date nights are usually on Fridays and they are sacred to us. We turn our phones off, and plan a fun night either out on the town or in our home. Since the arrival of our daughter these definitely have gotten harder and we do tend to have more dates at home but we love a challenge. Now that Liv is on a good schedule we start our date the second she goes down for bed at night. Every week is different but we love to use our creativity (especially on a budget) when planning our date nights and they have become something that we absolutely look forward to every week! We have honestly kept this tradition every week of our marriage and plan on never stopping! 

Daily love notes on our mirror! This is something that we started after the birth of our daughter. Since becoming parents we have had to learn new ways to pursue one another through all the sleep deprivation and less time together. Since February we have used a dry erase marker to leave a sweet message to one another every day. On the top part of each side of our bathroom mirrors we wrote: "Today I love you because..." and then change the message below it. This idea is a spinoff of a pin I saw on pinterest but it has truly been my new favorite thing that we do. 

 Jarryd's side

My side

Weekly Questions!!! This is also something we started only just this year but we have found it to be sooooooo fruitful! Once a week we sit down face to face and ask each other the following questions: 

1. How did you feel loved this past week?
2. What does your upcoming week look like? 
3. How would you feel most loved and encouraged in the days ahead? 
4. How would you best feel pursued in sex/intimacy this week?
5. On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate the health of our marriage?
6. How can I pray for you this week? 

I saw this idea on another amazing blog (Today's Letters) and then added to the questions to better fit us! It has significantly strengthened our communication and it is one of my favorite times with Jarryd. 

I am so passionate about healthy marriages! I hope that you have found some of these ideas helpful to you and can maybe apply some of them to your own marriage. It is never too late to start a good thing! Check back soon for more posts on marriage! 

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  1. My wife showed me your blog and i want to say thank you that was the most inspirational advice I have received.

  2. Thanks Jessica! I'm going to shoot for the date night and adapt your weekly Q's to fit my marriage. Your blog is refreshing and helpful. Keep it up

  3. Love your blog! With a 3 year old and 4 month old my husband and I have fallen into the rut of forgetting about our marriage. I will strive to incorporate date night and love notes back into our lives. Great advice!