Thank you to everyone who responded to my first post on marriage. All of your comments were so encouraging and it makes me excited to continue to write about ways that you can enrich your marriage and make it everything God intended it to be.
If you haven't had a chance to read the first post check it out here:
Jarryd and I have recently been doing a lot of premarital counseling together... which I absolutely love! Getting to work with a couple at such a sweet time in their life is so refreshing to me. A time where they are usually so drunk with love and completely naive to any notion that the road before them will EVER be a bumpy one. Whenever Jarryd and I leave a session we are always blown away by how much we grow in our own marriage through helping and teaching others to prepare for their own.
The inspiration for this post came from the idea that I believe we can learn so much from couples who are in the beginning stages of their relationship, in addition to, couples who have been married for a longer period of time. Both can offer valuable insight into how we can love each other deeper in marriage.
What can we learn from couples with the least amount of experience about marriage you ask?
Well I'll tell ya...
We can be reminded of how important it is to pursue one another, to have fun, to not sweat the small stuff, to be more forgiving, to be less critical, to laugh, and to dream. It is so important to remember what it was that you fell in love with in the first place. Being around new love from couples in the honeymoon phase can inspire and encourage those of us who have been together longer to never lose the desire to be passionate about our relationship.
Almost every couple goes through the "honeymoon" stage at the beginning of their relationship. I used to think that it was possible to stay in this stage if you worked at it, but now I know this is not the case. However, the stages that follow have the potential to be EVEN BETTER! In the honeymoon stage, the newness of everything is the most intoxicating part. It only makes sense that once someone becomes familiar, they lose the "newness" feeling. It is when this newness fades that I believe is when the real work begins. The payoff to this work is a healthy relationship that is filled with depth, intimacy, comfort, trust, and great joy.
With that being said, I think it is still so important to work to keep your marriage fun and exciting. It will not always be new, but it CAN be a relationship that never gets old. As people grow in life they go through changes and develop new interests. This is why I think it is so important to continue to learn about your spouse throughout your marriage. Only 3.5 years in, and Jarryd and I already have new hobbies and passions that were not there in the beginning of our relationship. It is our job to continue to learn and support one another in who we become.
On the day of your wedding, you are not just committing to love who that person is on that day but you are also committing to love that person in who they become in the future.
In addition to learning to love and grow with your spouse, it is also important to continue to invest in the passions that were already there in the beginning of your relationship. My amazing husband introduced me to the world of golf on our very first date. I remember thinking it was the most boring sport in the world... but it was such a big part of his life that I was more than eager to learn to love it. I went with him constantly to the golf course, dedicated to learn all there was to know about the game. All for love... right? (:
I remember hearing all the older married guys talk about how their wives used to come out to the golf course with them too but now they avoid it like the plague. I don't want to be that kind of wife. I want to always show an interest in the things that my husband is passionate about. While golf is very much his passion and not mine, I want to be a part of it because it is a part of who he is.
I can understand why this idea is easier in the beginning of a relationship but I think it is important that we actively show our love for our spouse in this way. It demonstrates an unconditional and sacrificial kind of love that the Lord desires to see in our marriage. Unfortunately in the world we live in, this is not the love that we typically see in marriages anymore.
Now onto some wisdom that can be learned from more experience in marriage...
What I tell couples in premarital counseling is that they are entering into a covenant and NOT a contract. In my opinion, our world today views marriage as a contract:
"I'll love and stay with you in this marriage... as long as... fill in the blank."
As soon as one or both people in the marriage begin to fail in holding up their end of the deal, the relationship is ended and they begin the search for a new business partner... I mean spouse.
It sounds silly right?
I have never been to a wedding where the vows exchanged between the couple were conditional. "I vow to love, honor, and respect you... IF you always pursue me and make me feel beautiful." "I vow to love, cherish, and honor you... IF you are always willing to have sex."
If you've been to a wedding where this has happened, I would hope that you had the guts to stand up and boldly object to this potentially devastating life choice.
A moment of humiliation is way better than a possible lifetime of conditional love!
Chances are though... this is not what takes place at weddings. The vows exchanged are UNCONDITIONAL and that is the fundamental difference between a contract and a covenant. In a marriage covenant, you vow to love the other person in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, through good times and bad. It is NOT conditional on the other person's actions.
*Side note* While divorce is never the best option and taking every attempt to reconcile a marriage is so important, the Bible does imply that it may be permissible in situations where there is sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32) or dessertion by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:15). As a biblical counselor, in any instances of unrepentant and repeated abuse, I will encourage IMMEDIATE separation to protect my client and my client's children. If the abuser is not willing to repent of this sin after being confronted by the Gospel, it is safe to say they are an unbelieving spouse and divorce is allowed on the basis of spiritual desertion caused by the abuse. God never desires for His children to be in abusive relationships. Your safety and the safety of your children is a top priority.
Please seek help if you are in an abusive relationship!
I challenge you to look at the vows that you made to your spouse. Often couples read these vows and forget what they actually vowed to do the second they step off the altar. Something Jarryd and I do and will continue to do, is we re-read our vows to each other every anniversary as a way to refresh and reaffirm our commitment to one another. If you don't have your vows written down or don't remember what they were, I would encourage you to write new ones and to have them out somewhere in your home where you can regularly reference them and be reminded of your commitment. Ours are framed in our living room.
Here are the vows that Jarryd and I wrote for each other:
Sadly enough, so many people today take these precious words of devotion too lightly. Maybe they don't fully understand the magnitude of responsibility and work that must go into loving a sinner for the rest of their lives.
Are you going through a hard time in your marriage today? I challenge you to ask yourself if you are being faithful to your vows that you made on your wedding day? Fight the thought that immediately just came to you that it is the other person in your marriage that needs to change. That might be true... but you can't change them... you can only change yourself. Is it possible that you need to change too?
One of the biggest mistakes couples make is that they are so focused on what the other person is doing wrong that they fail to examine their own role in the declining health of their marriage.
We must fight to understand and not to be understood.
Here are some questions I want you to ask yourself this week:
Challenge for this week:
*Men if you want a tip for a romantic date night, surprise your wife by having your vows printed off to read together during or after dinner.