Do You Have a Great Marriage – Or is it Just Good Enough?
If you’re like most couples, you launched into marriage as if it were a magic carpet ride to paradise. You were deeply in love and your wedding was a dream come true. Then came the dreamy, steamy honeymoon that you wished would never end! And when you moved into your first place together, you brought the honeymoon with you, right? You couldn’t keep your hands off each other!
But then, like most couples, that ecstasy started to fade. Now, we’re not saying that the honeymoon couple you used to be has mutated into a couple who never has any fun. But you’ve got to admit that, as the miles have rolled up on the odometer of your marriage, some of the chrome has lost its shine and the engine coughs now and then. Whereas your married life came off the starting line with the excitement of a sports car accelerating through hairpin turns, you have more or less settled into a freeway existence on cruise control.In reality, the intensity and ecstasy of the honeymoon never lasts for any of us. It wasn’t meant to. But that doesn’t mean you have to remain the victim of the status quo, or that you have to settle for a relationship that’s good enough – but not as good as it could be. Don’t we all want a great marriage?
Cruise control may be alright for your car, but it’s not alright for your marriage. Cruise control means that you’re simply maintaining, that you have settled into a groove and are just rolling along at a functional, but not very exciting pace. Your marriage may be good, but is it getting better? You may still be going together, but are you growing together? You need to guard your marriage against just being ‘good enough’. And here’s the thing: There is a subtle danger in just cruising through marriage. Unlike a car on cruise control, marriages can’t just maintain a constant speed. If your relationship isn’t growing deeper, it’s growing more vulnerable to relational disconnect, discord and even emotional divorce.
You may say, “Hey, no marriage is perfect,” and you’d be right. But that doesn’t mean your marriage can’t get better and stronger and more fulfilling as the years go by – no matter how many miles you’ve logged together. It takes effort and energy, purpose and planning, time and tenacity. But the first step to a great marriage is deciding not to settle for good enough.
If you’re concerned that your marriage may be stuck, ask yourself these questions:
I n what ways has your marriage relationship slipped into cruise control?
How might you have conveyed to your spouse the attitude that your marriage is ‘good the way it is’?
How many good books on marriage have you read in the last month/year?
What else have you done to grow as a husband or wife?
When was the last time you went away together for a day or two to talk and pray about your marriage, close the loop on any offences between you, set goals for yourselves as a couple, and just have fun together?
There are three major parts to making your marriage great: emotional intimacy, physical intimacy and spiritual intimacy.
We hear from couples who work full-time, go to school, raise kids, serve at church (sometimes even more) and they wonder why they aren’t feeling more connected in their marriage. So many couples aren’t making their marriages a top priority. Instead, their relationship is put on the back burner. Everything else seems more important – careers, kids, hobbies and volunteer work.
We live with the lie we can have it all, we can do it all and we deserve it all. Many couples are so busy that they don’t take time to nurture the foundation of their family – their marriage and their relationship with each other. And when that marriage foundation begins to crumble, everything else comes down with it.
You need to set priorities, and your top priorities must be God, your spouse and your kids – in that order. You’ve got to make time to connect with your spouse and give your kids the security of their parents’ strong marriage.
One way to make your spouse a priority is to intentionally set aside time to connect to each other every day. We suggest you sit down together in a designated place and talk for 20 minutes.
Here’s an example of how we have made this work in our home. When our children were still at home we would eat dinner together as a family. Dinner was the time for our kids to tell us about their day and talk about what was happening in their lives. After dinner, it was our turn to connect with each other and we would sit down in two chairs in our living room to talk. The kids knew they couldn’t disturb us during that time unless it was an emergency. The time we invested by spending a little extra time in conversation each day made our marriage much stronger and will work in yours too.
It’s the understatement of all understatements: Men and women are different! If we tried to get into all the ways in which we’re different, we’d need a lot more space than we have in this article, that’s for sure! So instead, we’re going to focus on one area: Sex.
As you’ve probably discovered, men and women just don’t have the same needs when it comes to sexual intimacy. We’ve found that the problem isn’t that couples don’t know about gender differences. The problem is that even though we recognise the differences – many of us never take the time to study, appreciate and pursue those differences as being good and worthy. Instead, many couples continue to assume that the wife will respond like a husband, and the husband will respond like a wife. If you’ve bought into that line of thinking, let us remind you: That is never going to happen. Period. It’s that simple.
So what should a couple do? Should they resign themselves to experiencing a boring – or nonexistent – sex life? No! We want to encourage you to learn about and appreciate the differences between you and your spouse. The truth is, God made us different, but He also made us to be complementary – to balance each other, to fit together, to make us one.
To meet our needs, we have to meet our spouses’ needs. They are ultimately connected. Of course, that’s not to say that men only want the physical and women only want the emotional. Both need both. It’s just that we are wired to get both by coming at it from two distinct ways.
God wired a man to feel connected to his wife through sexual intimacy. The physical act of sex opens his feelings and allows him to become more vulnerable. Sex gives him a sense of closeness and intimacy. He is better able to concentrate on such things as his emotions. God wired a woman to feel connected to her husband by experiencing an emotional connection. Emotional connection gives her a sense of safety. She is better able to give herself to physical sex.
Make sex an important part of your marriage. God designed this part of marriage to be experienced to the fullest. Men and women may view sex differently but both need the emotional, spiritual and physical closeness that comes through sexual intimacy. And in order to take your sexual intimacy to the next level we suggest you pray over your marriage bed. In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage should be honoured by all and the marriage bed kept pure.” Each morning when I (Barb) make our bed I pray over where Gary sleeps starting with his pillow, asking God to give him a ‘holy delete’ of any images that he has taken in during the day.
I then pray for where his heart lays in the bed, asking God to help him guard his heart and remain faithful. I pray at the place his feet rest asking the Lord to help Gary bring the good news of the Gospel with his feet.
I then go to my side of the bed and pray for my mind, heart and feet as well. Each day this ritual of praying over our marriage bed restores what the enemy has tried to steal and reminds me of the goal of sexual intimacy and spiritual intimacy that is blessed by God.
You may not realise the power spiritual intimacy can have on your relationship with your spouse. We often describe it this way: Emotional and physical intimacy ignite the rocket in your marriage, but spiritual intimacy fires the afterburners and gets you into orbit! Emotional and physical attraction is what drew you together, but the spiritual connection is what keeps you together. Just take a look at some of the benefits of spiritual intimacy in a marriage:
It allows you to connect at the deepest level
It links you with God’s purposes and plans for you
It brings your deepest values and desires into agreement
It opens the door to the deepest levels of communication
It empowers your marriage to survive
It connects you to a supportive body of fellow disciples.
So how can you and your mate begin to grow spiritually as a couple? Here are some of our recommendations:
Read the Bible. Schedule daily times to read God’s Word. Make an appointment with God, and keep it. Do a Bible study or a devotional book together, or work through a study independently and then discuss it together. Our book ‘Renewing Your Love’ is a 30 day devotional designed to help couples study a passage together, reflect on its meaning for their marriages, pray together and practice ways to love each other more deeply
Share the Word. Talk together about what God is teaching you
Pray aloud together. You can’t get any more intimate than praying together as a couple. If you haven’t prayed with your spouse before, start slowly – but start today. Be conversational in your prayers by expressing small and brief prayers one after another just like you would in a regular conversation
Encourage accountability to others. Help each other find an accountability group – men for him, women for her – that will serve as a sounding board and spiritual support. Choose groups that will ultimately strengthen your commitment to each other, not weaken it
Find mentors. Ask a mature Christian couple with a healthy marriage to mentor you as a couple
Speak up. When you see your spouse take steps of spiritual growth, compliment him or her about it. Cheer your spouse on to more of the same
Teach your children to follow God. One of the greatest responsibilities of your shared commitment to Christ is passing on your faith to your children. Strategise together about how to make faith vital for each of them, and act on your plans
Count your blessings. Set aside time to thank God for everything He does.
Work for intimacy
Don’t ever stop working toward building more intimacy together as a couple. One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse is a lifelong commitment to growing closer to him or her through emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy and to not just settle for having a marriage that is ‘good enough’. Make it great!