I’ve learned a few things about marriage over the past 38 years. I’ve learned that when it’s good, the rest of your life is good – And when it’s bad, the rest of your life is even worse. Nobody ever says “I do,” thinking someday “I won’t.”
I’ve been married for a collective 36 years and I’ve counseled literally hundreds of couples seeking a better marriage. This I know – Every marriage can be better and marriage was never designed to be “hard work.” I’ve heard preachers and counselors speak of how you have to work at your marriage. I simply don’t think that when we value our best friend for life, we won’t find it to be work at all. Marriage is, however, a fragile and sensitive bond that is only sustained with these four (and probably more) critical elements of a loving, healthy marriage.
WAIT! Before I start showering you with a few nuggets of assumed wisdom, let me state for the record that I DO NOT GET THESE RIGHT – OFTEN!
- Trust: We trust who we love, when who we love is sensitive to the trust that we require. When I love Jenny fully and completely, she is my numero uno accountability partner. Here’s a good litmus test. If your spouse picks up your phone, do you cringe at what they might see? Here’s another one; Can you share your location on the Find a Friend app on your phone so that they know where you are and can you share your calendar so they know who you are with – at all times? If you just got defensive, you might have just failed your trust exam. People in love find it easy to be mutually accountable.
- Graciousness: It might be an old-fashioned concept, but when we love our spouse well, we treat them graciously. We want to serve them (oddly Biblical, right?). When we are gracious with our spouse, we are inviting them into to security and peace of our adoration. Never stop saying thank you. Never, ever stop speaking in the sweet tones of kindness. By the way, if you just checked out on me – You just lost the opportunity to experience the most awesome intimacy in your marriage. Intimacy is far deeper than sex. It is found in the undertones of grace, the hope discovered in joy and the peace unearthed in sincere desire. If you cannot be a bit more gracious with your spouse, you might need a good counselor.
- Exclusivity: I’ve heard every excuse about why spouses cheat on their partner. I’ve never heard a legitimate one. Men seem to be especially susceptible to this selfish, deeply wounding activity. Many men see sex as an event as if they had purchased a ticket to a ball game. Don’t let your stupid out in public, dude. And do not offer some lame and assinine excuse like, “do you know how long it’s been?” Ladies, you don’t get a pass on this either. More and more couples find their way to my sofa because of unfaithful females. Come on, folks! It is never “just sex.” It is never just a friendly chat. It is never just an emotional connection. You said, “I do.” Keep your buttons buttoned and your zippers up for EVERYBODY but your one and only lover. If you think it’s just a lunch or just an innocent chat, grow up! Allowing your insecurities to fuel someone else’s insecurities by involving someone else in your mind, heart, emotions, chats or bed is going to leave you owing a debt that you cannot pay.
- Fun: Jenny is so great at this! She surprises me with cool plans all the time. Most of them don’t cost a bunch of money, but they are fun. I love the fact that in my overweight, hypertensive state, she still treats me like the stud I thought I once was. It causes me to think about the same thing. Every spouse on the planet wants to be pursued by their sweetheart til death do they part…and beyond. We eat at weird places, try goofy stuff, and play a lot of card games. By the way – she’s a terrible winner! It doesn’t take money to laugh. It takes love. It doesn’t take money to watch the planes take off at PDK, or go check out a park. I love the fact that Jenny likes for us to have fun. Nothing brings me more happiness than seeing her happy. Choose to have fun and laughter play a huge part of your marriage.
There you go! I’ve thought of 10 more while writing these. Let’s revisit this in a few weeks. Now, do a little marital reflection and see what part of these four that you can up your game on.