While it seems longer, only a couple weeks have passed since the day of my daughter’s wedding. I was privileged to watch my beautiful Laura take her father’s arm and walk the aisle adorned in pearls and lace to be greeted by Matthew, a man of true tenderness and strength. I truly can’t describe the feelings that swept over a proud mother as the young couple joined hands and through their commitment before God, began a new life together.
While I can’t spread my mothering protective heart over their new union and guarantee them a lifetime of candlelight, beautiful flowers, romance, and the joyful anticipation that accompanied their wedding day, I can bring them a little advice that may bring stability and understanding to the days that are filled with more clouds than sun and more thorns than roses.
Today, I’m sharing the advice I gave to Laura and a few insights that could strengthen any relationship.
Begin with the end in mind.
A stranger once advised me not to make decisions about your family and life based on today (when you are just starting out), but how you want it to be when you are older. So do some real thinking (and praying) right now… what are your priorities, desires, hopes and dreams for the future? Whatever your goals are, begin to plan together toward them at the outset of your relationship. Be sure the direction you are going will actually take you where you want to go.
Ground yourself in the truth of God’s Word.
Remember that your worth, value and sense of belonging isn’t ultimately found in each other, but in what God has declared about you in His Word. When you’re well rooted in His truths, only then can you expect to weather life’s inevitable disappointments without internalizing them.
See everything is an adventure.
Plans change. Things don’t turn out like you hoped. Instead of lamenting over what you missed, embrace where you are. Remember that ‘joy’ is a fruit of the Spirit and with the proper mindset, you can experience it regardless of your circumstances.
Attitude is everything.
You don’t always get a choice in what happens to you, but you always have the power to choose how you think about it. Make sure you dwell on only those things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8) If your thoughts with regard to your spouse, marriage, children or life don’t fall in to one of those categories, change them. Remember you can always find something to be grateful for if you try hard enough.
Offenses in a marriage are like excess mortar that piles up at the bottom of a brick wall as its being laid. If you let the mortar drop to the ground and solidify without clearing it away, it will build up, harden in place and over time, be difficult or impossible to clear away completely. The same goes for the ‘junk’ that collects as a life together is built, and failing to regularly ‘clear the floor’ may ultimately compromise the strength of your union. Take Paul’s command very literally and “don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Eph. 4:26)
Remember to H.A.L.T.
As a pastor I know says… don’t make decisions when you are “too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely or too Tired.” Apply this to your marriage and realize that in these (and other) heightened emotional states, you’re less able to make good assessments of your spouse’s motives, intentions and words. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt and choose to set aside the tendency to draw negative conclusions until you can think more clearly.
Light it up!
Don’t save the “nice” candles and “good” china for special occasions; Celebrate in the normal routine. Make a special meal because it’s Tuesday or wear your best clothes because the flowers are in bloom. Make a big deal about the small stuff and celebrate (even a little) as often as you can!
Keep your guard up!
You have a spiritual adversary who has a bull’s eye on your marriage because a union that operates according to biblical standards is a reflection of Christ and His church. That means Satan will come against you when you least expect it. Awareness of his tactics and a commitment to join forces together and stand against him in the name of Jesus will be your strongest defense. (Eph. 6:10-11)
Hold hands often.
The daily responsibilities of living can be tedious and exhausting and sometimes make you forget why you got married in the first place. So, be deliberate about choosing to sit close and hold hands even when it’s the last thing you want to do. Physical proximity will help dissolve the emotional distance that tends to increase when you disagree.
Don’t keep them from your spouse; keep secrets with him! Camaraderie and deep friendship are built when you develop your own language of love. So make up pet names, personal stories and inside jokes to help establish your relationship as unique and personal. These playful terms support, encourage and strengthen your bond, erect boundaries that signify to others that your relationship is exclusive, and create a verbal memory of your romantic history.
Learn to be content.
The whole world will tell you that you need something other than what you have, but remember that contentment doesn’t come from having ‘more’ or ‘better’. It comes from valuing what you have. While we always need to embrace change as it comes, find joy and satisfaction with the way things are right now too.
If I could only tell you one thing, I’d say learn to talk and listen to God. It’s the most important marriage tool you have. You are not wise enough, strong enough and don’t have enough insight to figure out what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. But the good news is that through His Holy Spirit, Jesus is living on the inside of you, and He knows everything! You’ll be surprised at what He will tell you if you just ask… and choose to wait for His answer. So pray FOR each other, pray WITH each other, and pray OVER each other, and ask God to make your marriage an instrument for His glory … and if you do that, you’ll thrive no matter what comes your way.