Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Making Marriage a Priority


We couldn't be more different than night and day, my husband and I.  He is short, I am tall.  He likes warm days, I like cold.  He is stubborn, I am easy going.  But somehow, in all of our differences, here we are... more than 20 years later, stronger than ever.  It hasn't been an easy road, as a matter of fact, many times I almost gave up.

As I came to know Christ better and put Him at the center of my heart over my own selfish desires, love prevailed.  Not the romantic, fluffy, swooning kind of love, but rather, a deep, agape love; devoted in-spite of all logic to the contrary.  

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2 

God's good guidance through verses like this one in 1 Peter became my anchor as well.  It encouraged and strengthened me to honor my husband as I remembered how valued and important it was to God... how my conduct in honoring God could blaze a path straight to His throne for others, especially my husband, to follow.

Years later I keep these concepts close.  I hold tight to all God has taught me (and continues to teach me) for strengthening my marriage and insuring my husband feels loved, respected and cared for.  I have learned to make my marriage my biggest priority.  

This month,  in honor of love and Valentines, I wanted to take some time to talk about the sacred union of marriage, to share some trials and tribulations from the unique circumstances which have come to define my marriage experience. So, with this agenda in mind and today's theme.... how DO you make marriage a priority (even when you and your husband are as different as fire and ice)?

1. Know his love language.
If you haven't heard of this concept, Focus on the Family has a great article here.  There is also a book and other great material by Gary Chapman on the topic.  Knowing your husband's love language can help you find ways to 'speak', without words, specifically to his heart.  I have found it  cuts down on the amount of disagreements we have as well!  Knowing my husband's love language 
I am able to invest my time well on only those things which will be most likely to make him feel loved.

  
2. Be deliberate in spending time together (even if only in small pockets.)
Get up with him when he rises for work and make breakfast or visit with him while he readies for his day.  Go to bed at the same time if possible... or at least spend a few minutes together AT bedtime downloading the day and praying together.  Pause and really listen to him when he gets home from work to hear how his day was... even if you have been texting off and on all day, ask about the drive home.  Monopolize on time together to talk during car rides even when running errands or shuttling kids.  Even (and especially) when you have small children, capturing even a few minutes in conversation or a good hug can help you both feel connected. 

3. Make Date Night a priority.
This was most important when our kids were younger and we had to work harder to make sure we got more than 5 minutes together in the day!  I always scheduled around date night, only the most dire of emergencies could push it off.  We had date night EVERY single Friday evening.

Date night rules:
  • Avoid talking about the kids the whole time.
  • Avoid talking about money problems or other worries.
  • Avoid discussing extended family members or friends. 
So what do you talk about?  LIFE!  Dreams, hopes, ambitions, each other, heart renderings and so on.

Date night doesn't have to be extravagant.  Many times, as our kids were growing up, we couldn't afford a baby sitter or an outing.  Instead, we would play a favorite board or card game together, talk, go for walks and/or drives, or watch a movie after kids were tucked in bed.    However you implement date night, make it regular and solidly positioned into your schedule, refusing other engagements that could threaten it's high priority.

That's right, it IS a "high" priority because your husband IS a high priority.  Some day, in a blink, you're kids will be grown. It will be just you and hubby. Don't wait till then to show him he's important. 

Oh, and one last note on date night: get excited about it even when you're staying in!  Prepare, plot the day, wear an outfit you know he likes to see you in (yes, even if you are staying in), talk with excitement about it, even send him messages during the day, like, "I can't wait to spend time with you tonight".  Build anticipation, even if you have to put it in your feelings wagon and pull it along!  Remember the excitement you had when you were dating... draw on that if necessary.

4. Get those to-dos, ta-done!
One of the biggest mistakes I repeatedly made for many years was not really listening to my husband's heart on things I knew he needed/wanted done.  It may be as simple as making sure he had clean socks or clearing a path through the kid mess so he didn't have to step on toys!  He understood the buzz of life and gave me grace in that... but in all fairness, I didn't always prioritize the things I knew would make our house a home he looked forward to coming back to at the end of a long day.  

Some husbands are more refrained and make little to no requests of wives.  If you have one of those fellas, just ask him, "Are there any to-dos which might bless you if I was to prioritize making sure they were ta-done?"  I learned to listen to all my husband was and wasn't saying in between....
  • Was he complaining that he couldn't find something [because the area it was kept in wasn't as clean or organized as it should be]
  • Was he remarking about the crazy amount of crumbs.
  • Was he asking, "When was the last time you..."
  • Was he commenting, "How come we always/you always/never...."
Too often I would get my feathers ruffled and jump to the defense of myself and my time and the kids.... but once the dust settled from the resulting fights, I realized he wasn't wrong.  Some tasks were  hard during certain seasons of my life... but many to-do list requests were much more possible than I wanted to admit, if I simply prioritized well.  Not all days were (or are) perfect, but I could certainly try my best all days and take comfort in knowing, as long as I had the right attitude in the push, I was serving my husband with all my heart!

5. Know, acknowledge and respond to his needs in love and grace.
This may seem like a redundant theme at the core of all I've already said,  and in some ways it is.  However, I also feel it deserves it's own highlight because the idea of an attitude of love and grace in serving our husbands is so very important and often overlooked. As a matter of fact,  I get a lot of flack on this one from women I counsel.  "But what about my needs?" is the inevitable lament.  Fair enough.  Yet, I am a living testimony to how we truly need to see things rather culturally upside-down in this topic and how deeply we need to trust God to help us persevere.  Christ didn't lumber to the cross and say, "But what about ME."  No, he mustard all his strength, walking the distance and then allowing himself to be sacrificed for us.  If He could, surely I can too.

For years I practiced this type of love on my husband... unreciprocated kind gestures of servanthood.  Good friends told me I was crazy.  But I kept thinking of 1 Peter and pushed on.  The more I doted, the more his eyes opened and one day he began to respond with his own style of love gestures! 

Knowing his needs I could create a positive mental narrative about him and what he desired.
Acknowledging his needs I still strive to show an attitude of love and grace (even when I feel his requests are outlandish!)  I try hard to cut the curtness and foster a spirit of positivity, "I CAN".

Responding to his needs, I follow through.  I don't slam or grunt or hunch, but rather, I allow each movement in the process to pass through the filter of God's grace and love.

He may desire more time alone with me, so, instead of grumbling how the kids constantly need me, I kick into problem-solving mode and look for ways to capture that needed time.  Or perhaps I show love and grace by bringing him coffee in bed when I see he has a hard time waking up in the morning.  Maybe he has asked for some quality family time so I clear a day on everyone's schedule (like date night) when no one is allowed to leave to other activities and we invest together.

Some days I still need to remind myself of the attitude bit! It helps to remember what attitude I always hope he has with me (even when he doesn't! ). More so, I consider what attitude Christ had as he went above and beyond for all mankind. 

6. Never use intimacy as a tool for manipulation.
Intimacy is a beautiful part of marriage.  It is intended not just as a fulfillment of desire but also as a way that couples can connect on a deeper level.  During the formative years of early marriage I read, "The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian, and in her chapter on intimacy she discusses this topic in detail.  The most memorable note she shared was in addressing many women's lament over not being "in the mood".  Stormie suggests: GET in the mood!  

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:5 

When we think of our husband's need for intimacy over our desire to simply say, "Not tonight honey.", we need to continue to have a servant's heart.  1 Corinthians 7 cautions us on how a lack of intimacy for long periods can lead to temptations.  If we love our husbands, we should want to do everything in our power to help him keep his way pure... intimacy with us is part of that process.

So much more could be said on this topic, however, I will wrap up the point by also sharing how using intimacy as a tool to get what you want or 'punish' your husband is not only unBiblical but also destructive to the marriage.  I have learned over the years to separate my frustration with him from my love and desire to meet his needs.  If I am deeply upset, we find time to talk, but we do not use the marriage bed as a bargaining chip.  If anything, it can often help facilitate reconciliation.


7. Pray together.
THE single most important thing a couple should be doing is praying together.  During my husband's secular years, after I became a Christian, I began praying FOR him daily.  I prayed in my heart as he left for work, I prayed throughout the day and, at bedtime, as he drifted off to sleep, I lifted up prayers for his salvation.  It took 10 years, but God did answer!  If your husband is not a believer, make a commitment to pray for him, his well being and, most of all his salvation... daily.

Now that my husband is a Christian we never miss an opportunity to pray together. Every morning I pray with him before he leaves for work. Every evening we pray together at bed time, thanking God for specifics from the day and seeking his intervention for us and those we know.  During the day we may call on each other for a quick prayer together over a specific situation and when wonderful blessings occur, we pray together to thank God for His goodness.

Prayer connects us on a spiritual level, keeps our focus on God, and intertwines all that makes us strongest.  

Final thoughts
I will admit, there is so much more which goes into a marriage then 7 simple points.  However, these 7 points have had such a HUGE impact on the peace and joy we are able to experience as a married couple... even though we are such opposites!  I will also admit I don't get it right as often as I would like, but I keep striving to honor God by honoring my husband better each day.  I am grateful God is writing our love story... it is so much deeper than any I could have penned on my own!

What tips do you have for making marriage a priority?

I pray God guides and blesses your journey as a couple, strengthening you through the hard times to serve your husband with all your heart and keeping your marriage in that top-slot!


Blessings,







Speaking of love and marriage, I have a new Bible Study out this month, "Love Is..." correlating the whole of scripture to the tenets of 1 Corinthians 13.  Have you been longing to learn how to love as Christ calls us to?  You may want to check this study out.  You can find a FREE link on my Instagram profile OR you can subscribe to my newsletter (it is FREE) and receive February's issue with the "Love Is" Bible study and more.  Details are below:



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