Karen and I have been married 40 years, but the first three years of our marriage were miserable. We thought once we were married, things would be great and we would live happily ever after. Were we ever wrong! And our naïveté almost ended in divorce.
Thankfully, it didn’t. And that’s due in large part to our commitment then—and now—to marriage maintenance. Yes, that’s right: I included now in that equation. Because whether you’re on the brink of divorce or thriving in your partnership, marriage requires continual upkeep. Karen and I learned that the hard way, but hopefully you don’t have to.
Have you checked under the hood of your marriage lately? Here’s a seven-point checklist to keep your marriage well-oiled and running smoothly.
1) How is your relationship with God?
Your spouse can’t meet your deepest needs, and you can’t meet theirs. That may fly in the face of what our culture wants you to believe, but it’s true. When God paired Adam and Eve in the garden, He walked with them in their midst. That’s the picture of how marriage works—with God at the center. When Adam and Eve rebelled, their marriage suffered as they lost the garden God had created for them to share.
When Karen and I married, we were believers but didn’t know how to rely on the Lord daily. Because of that, we tried to get our deepest needs met through each other, which only resulted in frustration and bitterness. We thought we’d made a mistake in marrying each other—but we didn’t. Our mistake was in trying to squeeze God out of each other.
The most important thing Karen and I do for our marriage every day is to start each day with prayer, the Bible and seeking God. That’s where we take our cares, needs, hurts and desires. In that daily prayer time, the Lord heals, fills and empowers us with His incredible love.
Because here’s the truth: Our deepest needs are acceptance, identity, security and purpose. These driving needs motivate us daily whether we realize it or not—and only God can meet those four needs on the deepest level of our lives. When we lack a relationship with Him in which those needs get met, we automatically transfer that expectation to our spouse, thus setting up our marriage and our mate for failure.
The most important issue in your marriage is your personal, daily, dynamic relationship with God. If you’re rusty in this area, you probably need to apologize to your spouse for putting too much pressure on them—and to the Lord for not keeping yourself in well-tuned, daily fellowship with Him. When you’ve been with God, you can love your spouse properly. You’ll find your expectations right, your heart healthy and yourself ready to love out of the overflow of God’s love that’s already in you.
2) How are your marriage disciplines and traditions?
In marriage, it isn’t what you can make happen but what you can keep happening. Many married couples become distracted after a period of time and stop caring for each other’s needs. Then they begin to fight and a big blow-up hides just around the corner. If they work through it, they may go for a second honeymoon or romantic getaway. But once that phase is over, they go right back into the negative cycle of distraction, fighting, making up and so on. The longer this cycle recurs, the more dangerous it becomes and the harder it gets to make up and keep going.
Good marriages prioritize regular disciplines and traditions that ensure the right things keep happening. For example, almost all good marriages include a date night or date day in the weekly or monthly routine. It isn’t in response to a fight or a crisis. It is a proactive discipline in the relationship.
Early in our marriage, Karen and I walked together every morning for an hour and a half. We would pray for 45 minutes and talk for 45 minutes. It was one of the best things we ever did with each other.
Do you have a date night (or day)? Do you prioritize your marriage and protect the time and energy you have together? Don’t wait for a convenient time. Make it happen, and keep it going.
3) Are you emotionally bilingual?
You’re no doubt familiar with the old saying “Marriage is about becoming one.” But maybe you haven’t heard the cynical response: “Yes, but which one?”
In many marriages, a battle is forged to see which language gets spoken in the home—the man’s or the woman’s. But we are different by God’s design, and we have different needs. Men need honor. Women need security. Men need sex. Women need nonsexual touch and affection. Men need to be friends with their wives. Women need open and honest communication. Men need their wives to be domestically centered. Women need their husbands to lead.
The essence of romance is speaking in your spouse’s language as you meet their needs in love. Romance is not a language lesson; it’s a language demonstration, where you enter your spouse’s world and speak love the way they understand it. When a husband and wife both do this, they are in heaven. But many marriages never make it to that point.
For your marriage to succeed, you’ll need to meet needs in your spouse that you don’t have. And they’ll need to do the same for you. The greatest marriage is two servants in love who sacrifice for each other. The worst is two selfish people who demand to be served.
Again, we are different by God’s design, and it is unchangeable. Because of this, one key to a great marriage is becoming emotionally bilingual. Don’t speak love in your own language; speak it in your spouse’s language. As you do, you’ll see them light up and respond.
Are you emotionally bilingual? What’s your spouse’s language? How can you speak it today—and every day?
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SOURCE: Charisma News