So, this last week has been one for the record books when it comes to dysfunctional marriage….not my personal marriage, but two marriages we are closely connected to, and I’m saddened at the brokenness of it all.
Here’s the thing about marriage, it takes work, real work, and it’s not always easy. But I laid in bed with my husband of 16 years the other night and thought “I really do actually love him more than I did the day we were married”. I don’t think I expected that to happen, in fact, I’m almost certain I expected quite the opposite. Not that I got married expecting it to fail, but I expected love to grow dim and faded, like an old t-shirt…comfortable, but not with the same luster it once had. And I’m not sure at what point I began to feel this way, but sometime in the last 10 years my outlook on our relationship changed. Sometime in the last 10 years, I realized we could actually be (and I plan to be) married for life. Like literally, I’m at the point where I think one of us will have to go to be with the Lord for this marriage to end. I was not certain of that fact the first 5 years or so of our marriage.
So what changed it? Well, I think I’ve narrowed it down to a few things that I know have made our marriage succeed.
1. God. Praise the LORD that I am married to a man who loves the Lord and knows Jesus as his personal Savior. He is a man of faith and a man of conviction.
2. We’ve never stopped dating. We have NEVER given up on our monthly date nights. We never allowed $ or time to take this away from us. There were months early in our marriage when it was maybe only a picnic in the back yard or a movie rental and ice cream after the kids were in bed (like seriously, we were poor ok!), but a monthly date night where we spent at least 2 hours together ALONE—without kids—(because, let’s be honest, otherwise it’s not a date) has been priority.
3. We have always been strict about a bedtime, even in summer. Our kids may be able to stay up late, but it’s in their rooms. My teenager still has an “in room time.” Of course we make exceptions for sleepovers and family movie nights, etc, but most nights of the week kids are in their rooms at least two hours before we go to bed. Kids need to have their own time too, you know. My kids enjoy watching a show on the tablet in bed (yes, we are those parents that allow such sin to take place right under our roof), reading a book, or just playing with toys. This ensures nightly mom and dad face to face time. Sometimes we just veg and watch a show kid-free, often we talk about the many things we need to discuss, but it is always time for just the two of us.
4. We don’t keep secrets from each other. Matt and I are best friends. No, really, we are! We are involved in every aspect of each others’ lives. I don’t mean that I watch football or play golf, or that he goes shopping with me. We’re SO not those people…I just mean there are no private bank accounts, computers, tablets, emails, facebooks, etc. We have each other’s passwords to everything and often are on each others’ phones, not because we are suspicious of each other, but because it’s just not that big of a deal. If I need to make a call and Matt’s phone is closer, I use his. If a text comes in on my phone and he is closest to it, he reads it.
5. Early on we learned how to love each other well. I am a big fan of Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect. The concepts have worked for us. This is the number one book I would recommend in marriage counseling ever. So to put it in Eggerichs’ words, I learned to respect and honor my husband, he learned to love and esteem me. We both learned to remember that we believe the other to be a person of good will, and this has changed everything.
6. This one is going to be uncomfortable for many, but it must be said. Sex. We have made our love-life a priority. Honestly, sex is God’s way of connecting us. It is His plan. We both have to bend to entice each other sexually. For example, sometimes my husband has to become a romantic, but it’s not always that way either. Matt and I both know that when we are at each other’s throats and on each other’s nerves, that this is a puzzle piece that must be put into place. Sometimes it is as simple as that. Sorry ladies, but it’s not always about feelings. Sex…our marriage would not and could not survive without it.
One more recommendation for the road, Great Parents Lousy Lovers by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham.