This is the second in a series of five articles on going From Survive to Thrive in our lives. The first article had some introductory sections in it. If you haven’t read those yet and would like to – click here – the page will open in a new window so you won’t lose this page.
We’re covering five areas in our lives that need to go from survive to thrive…
This article will cover marriage. Click the links above for the other articles.
Our Marriages Need to Thrive
Oh man – we need to be at work constantly on our marriages. Forget thriving – a lot of marriages are hardly even surviving any more.
But, I truly believe God does not call us to just survive marriage like it is something horrible that we have to endure – He wants our marriages to thrive.
Marriage is the first relationship God created. He created Adam and Eve as life-long partners – one man with one woman for life. And just think – they lived very long lives back in those days. You might think that 60 years of marriage sounds long – yikes, what happens if you live 900+ years. Count your blessings. 😉
We really don’t know anything in this life that lasts as long as a marriage should last. No one keeps a job as long as a marriage should last. No one has children or probably any other relationship as long as a marriage should last. Our pets don’t live as long as a marriage should last. Our cars don’t last as long as a marriage should last. In no other area of our life do we really understand life-long commitment.
So, where else can we experience such a long-lasting and enriching relationship? With God.
In the Bible, our relationships as husband and wife are held up in light of a relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. We are to experience a marital life-long commitment as we prepare for our upcoming eternal nuptials with Christ upon His return. If we can’t handle 60 years with an earthly spouse, eternity with a spiritual spouse probably isn’t sounding so great either is it?
I don’t believe we want to merely live a life of survival with our spouse – I don’t think we intentionally allow our relationships as husband and wife to go from thriving to surviving. Unfortunately though to go from surviving back to thriving we need to be exactly that – we need to be intentional, very intentional. If we are not intentional we drift apart. We never unintentionally drift closer together. Relational drift happens when we are not purposefully committing to regularly sharing and improving our lives together as a couple.
What detracts or takes away from marriage? What keeps us in survival mode?
The immediate answer for me, at this stage in my life, is… work and kids!
Work can absolutely consume us. My boss will not be heartbroken if I put in some extra time every day. He will not discourage it. I could work 80 hours per week if I wanted and there would always be more to do. I can put work ahead of my relationship with my spouse every single day and it is easy to do. I can convince myself that work is so important that my relationship with my wife should take a backseat to it (for now). If that is our attitude, do you know how long “for now” lasts? Way, too long usually. Usually until it is too late.
We allow our kids to keep us in survival mode as well. I am not blaming them, we, as parents allow our children to keep our marriages from thriving. I think it is especially tough when you have babies or toddlers, when they are 100% dependent on you and your time for their survival. I think it gets easier as they get older in some ways, at least with the time constraints, until they get to be teenagers – then they blow the clock right off the wall again with everything they want to go and do.
Why are our marriages not thriving? Because we put other things ahead of them. We put work ahead of our spouse. We put our children ahead of our relationship with our spouse.
We make a grave mistake when we put anything else ahead of our commitment to God, of course – we get that, but for some reason we don’t take that kind of care with our relationship with our spouse. Whether it’s our job or our kids, or whatever else you might think of – nothing should come between you and your spouse. Nothing should take away from the commitment that you made to your spouse, even good things like extra church activities, classes, or even volunteering.
After your commitment to God, your spouse should be your top priority. He or she should not be 3rd place, or 4th place, or “when I have extra time” place.
Our marital relationships need to be nurtured every single day in order to have a marriage that is thriving.
Busy-ness is a major detractor in our marriages and really in life in general…
- Kids’ schedules
- Guys or Girls Night Out
- Classes – educational or spiritual
- Working out
How many of these things listed sound bad? None of them. But, even good things can detract from our commitment to our spouse.
Other things that can detract from marriage…
- Disagreements – along with holding a grudge
- Loss or pain experienced together – loss of a child, loss of a job, loss of <fill in the blank>
- Health concerns
- Ailing parents
- Financial concerns – paying the mortgage, kids, college, retirement
- Maybe we have been holding our spouse up to an unfair expectation
You could probably list off dozens of other things.
So, how can we thrive in our marriages with all these detractors and distractions?
Eliminate the Noise
We need to identify and eliminate distractions and “noise” in our lives to focus on and thrive in our marriages. Different distractions come with different periods or seasons of life. A noise is something (a sound) that is unpleasant or causes a disturbance. Noise drowns out what is pleasant and good.
When you are first married you will have noises related to…
- Work – establishing your careers
- Finishing up schooling
Once kids enter the picture the noise level increases…
- Time is quickly drained
- Energy is no more
- Expenses – making more money to afford “everything”
As your kids age you have different noises…
- Activities – school, sports, scouts, ballet
- Teenagers wanting to drive
- Kids dating
- Stresses of children preparing to leave home and go away to school or move out to LA to become an actor
Kids going away to college and their early adult years, the noises move to…
- Stress of paying for college
- Focus on helping your child figure out who to marry
- Getting to know your spouse again and realizing that they aren’t exactly like you remember them from 20 years earlier
Middle-aged years, the noises change to…
- Parents decline in health – caring for them
- Stresses about retiring and having enough money to retire
Later years, if you can still hear, the noise is more like…
- Continuing to feel like you have a purpose after retirement
- Losing more loved ones, friends and family
- Your own health
At every one of these stages in life we will have “noises” or distractions from our marriage. We need to make sure as much as possible that we keep these things, even the good things from taking priority over our marriage.
Some of these can put us into survival mode – having a new baby can tend to do that. Caring for a loved one, such as a parent can do that. Your own health concerns as you age can put you into a survival mode. But, we need to continue to always put our spouses and our marriage at the very top.
Eliminate the unnecessary noise. There are certainly things we can eliminate. Instead of working overtime to save up for that new car – keep driving the old car longer and spend more time with your wife taking her on dates. Instead of letting each of your kids play two sports and take piano lessons at the same time – do one at a time so you can focus on your marriage more.
What is more important – your kids being “well rounded,” because you let them do everything under the sun that they wanted to or providing them an example of a healthy thriving godly marriage?
Identify and eliminate some of the noise that keeps you from thriving in your marriage.
Add the Positive
We need to identify and eliminate the noise, but at the same time we also need to start adding in some positives to help our marriages survive and move to thrive.
We should be growing closer to God together. We should be praying together, for each other. Strengthen each other’s faith in Christ. Read God’s word together – just 10 minutes before bed.
Remember why you fell in love with your spouse and focus on that. Focus on the positive. Write it down. Look back at your list often. Why did you fall in love with them? Do you even remember? No wonder our marriages are not thriving.
We should also get back to dating our spouses. Why did we stop dating them in the first place? Distractions. Detractors. What happens to us when the dating stops? Emotionally, spiritually, and romantically? Thriving requires dating.
Do encouraging, bonding things together. Write a card as a couple together thanking another couple for their example to you in their marriage. Read books on marriage together. Go to marriage retreats. Show your spouse that you still care about your relationship with them and that it is a priority to you.
Set goals as a husband and wife. Live lives of gratitude together. Start a gratitude / thankfulness journal. Celebrate the small things, daily – be thankful.
Get away from the noise from time to time and reconnect. Visit a bed and breakfast somewhere close to home. Eliminate the noise and focus on each other.
Open Up – Communicate!
In order to have a thriving marriage we need to be intimate and honest with our spouses. That involves a lot of communication – talking!
We need to communicate – we need to take time to listen to each other – face to face. Texting has saved my marriage, guaranteed. What used to be a five minute call can be handled most of the time in a two line text. That technology is a gift from God for marriage. But, we still need to talk to our spouses. To listen to our spouses. I still remember when I couldn’t get enough of talking to my wife. Why did that change?
Donald Miller, in his book Scary Close says, “Unless we’re honest with each other, we can’t connect. We can’t be intimate. Honesty is the soil intimacy grows in. How else will we connect with people unless we let them know us?”
We want that intimacy. We need that intimacy for our marriages to thrive. We must be open and honest with our spouses – we need to communicate daily in order to thrive!
We need to understand what is detracting from our marriages. We need to identify these distractions, this noise, and eliminate what we can. And we need to add in the positives – there is so much good that we can do together as a couple that will help draw us closer together every single day.
Marriage is too important to just let it happen. We must work hard at moving our marriages back from survive to thrive. You are worth it and your spouse is worth it.