What does it take?

Friendships take nourishment…and most of us give them the due diligence they deserve. We call each other, hang out and write to one another (email or snail mail – both work). Perhaps we even communicate via facebook. Whatever the avenue, friendships must be maintained. And maintenance takes work.

Why is it, then, that the majority of marriages don’t seem to garner the same amount of attention that other relationships do? 

How often do we agree to help a friend move…but find it horribly offensive that our spouse asked us to help with dinner? We make it a priority to talk/listen to our girlfriends and allowing them to vent…but correct our husbands when they are simply venting about their day.  Some husbands make time to hang out with their buddies and have a good time…but many find it a hassle to make plans for a date night with their wives.

It is so easy to become complacent in our marital relationships — and that is NOT a good thing. Think of marriage like a muscle. If you use your muscle and work on it, the muscle can become stronger, bigger…and able to handle more stress. If you refuse to use it, then your muscle will atrophy. 

 If we don’t work to strengthen our marriage, then it will atrophy, too.

What then, does it take to strengthen our marriage?  The number one way to strengthen your marriage is to love one another as Christ loves us all. Period. Laying down our lives…ourselves…for one another. Wow. What a concept. Too often, we only do that when their is nothing else to lose – except for ourselves. But sometimes, if we wait that long, we have waited TOO long.

Here are some practical tips for strenghtening your marriage:

  • Pray for one another and WITH one another…and more than just at the dinner table. Make a habit of praying for your spouse before you even get out of bed and before you go to sleep. Whenever they enter your mind – pray for them. 
  • Make time for the “little” things. Offer to make your spouse his or her favorite meal. Do something for them that is usually “their” job (but don’t make a big deal out of it. Allow them to discover it and DON’T do it so they’ll do something for you in return!)
  • Play. Rediscover the joy of just having fun and interacting with your spouse. Go bowling. Play Trivial Pursuit. Go hiking, fishing or swimming. (do something other than going to a movie…unless, of course, that is something you both really enjoy and don’t get to do very often.) Plant a garden together if it makes you happy. Just do it!
  • Initiate conversation – but don’t monopolize it. Listen — and actually pay attention. Throwing in a few comments/questions to let them know you are listening will go a long way. (for instance: “How did you handle that?” or “wow!” or “I’m not sure I got that. What do you mean?”  you get the idea…)
  • Kiss. Yes, kiss. And just kiss. 🙂 When you get up in the morning. When you get home from work.  Throughout the day. Before bed at night. Yes – this will sometimes will lead to more intimacy (which is a FANASTIC thing for marriage, too — and an activity I highly recommend!) …but sometimes it’s just a kiss to say, “I love you and love being around you.” It’s amazing how important “just a kiss” can be to both men AND women.
  • Learn to say “I’m sorry”…and mean it. Don’t play the victim and apologize just for the sake of getting argument over. Take responsibility for your actions – and be willing to admit them.
  • Learn to forgive…without being asked. Whether or not your spouse asks for forgiveness for some horrible thing (perhaps your hubby has left up the toilet seat in the middle of the night OR your wife left your best screwdriver out in the rain…) – you need to forgive them.
  • Set realistic boundaries – and be willing to work with them. if you need more info – here are a few books and websites that talk further about that issue: http://store.cloudtownsendstore.com/11boinmapagu.html and http://www.loveandrespect.com/. And for a website on the more humorous side of marriage: http://www.laughyourway.com/
  • “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).”
  • And for the complete run down of what it takes to keep a marriage healthy and strong?  

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
   Love doesn’t strut,
   Doesn’t have a swelled head,
   Doesn’t force itself on others,
   Isn’t always “me first,”
   Doesn’t fly off the handle,
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinithians 13: 4-7

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