I was recently blessed to renew a friendship from 40 years ago. Some of my most hilarious moments were with this person, but over the years we had lost touch with bits of news from mutual friends. I was looking forward to connecting personally, but I needed to see a pic on social media to recognize them. I called their name, and even then, I wasn’t sure it was them. I looked at them, searching for the face, eyes or smile I knew so well decades earlier. Not even a glimmer! I was listening for anything that reminded me of the sound of their voice and laughter. Were their likes and dislikes the same? Had their taste in music and entertainment changed? I wondered if they were thinking the same thoughts about me… surely not! LOL
As the seasons and leaves change, so do we. It’s common to hear, “I don’t even know them anymore; they’ve changed, and I barely recognize them.”The people we are in our twenties change as we move between the decades. We have similarities, but parenting, work, finances, life experiences and health change us physically and mentally. So how do we maintain marital satisfaction if we’re not the people we married? How do we grow together through the stages of life? Fun, kindness, patience and long conversations were natural early on but must become intentional later on; you must be proactive. The good news is that marital satisfaction depends on factors and skills couples can do something about in any season or stage of life. Ted Cunningham, MACE recommends:
Decide what you believe about marriage
How will we make our decisions?
Before deciding what you believe, you must determine how you’ll choose. We all have an US bus. Imagine seats on a bus. You have the driver, the front seat passenger; you have seats that make up your experiences, a seat for your emotions, your traditions, your reasoning and the Scriptures. So what’s going to drive the bus? The driver determines where the bus goes. Our experience only determines some things on the bus. It’s essential, but not the authority. Most couples have emotions driving the bus.
An example would be “destination addiction.” The idea is that I can’t enjoy my marriage and life at this church or this town, but it awaits me at the next place or with the next person. The Scriptures tell us that our hearts will deceive us, so we have to allow the Scriptures to drive the bus, not our feelings.
What does the Scripture say about marriage?
Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” Matthew 19: 4-6 states that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, “for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” So, what are the parameters according to the Scripture? The first is the marriage bed is kept pure. In other words, it’s exclusive. Matthew states that we are made male and female, and marriage is designed for a union between the opposite sex.
Decide what you believe about each other
Once we decide to allow the Scriptures to be the driver, we can choose what we believe about each other. As an image bearer of God, we should be honored and esteemed. Honor recognizes worth; it doesn’t determine it. Create an honors list of all the reasons your spouse is highly valuable. This can serve as a reminder on the more challenging days. You could make a long list in the early days, but this can be difficult as our seasons and stages change. No matter our feelings, our spouse is worthy of honor if for no other reason than they are God’s image bearer and creation. Please list at least three things that make your spouse honorable. Add to it at least once weekly as you see and experience their words and deeds. We naturally lean toward the negative, so look for the positive.
Avoid a kid centered home
Prioritize your marriage over the children. Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason, a MAN will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Note that MAN is capitalized. Prolonged adolescence, too much privilege and not enough responsibility delay manhood. One of the best parenting strategies is a mom and dad who love one another.
Make quality time a priority
According to Cunningham, every marriage needs a daily delay, a weekly withdrawal, and an annual abandon. A daily delay can be 15-20 minutes focused on one another only in a focused kid-free zone. Live the Life’s Daily Temperature Reading is the perfect tool for this. A weekly withdrawal can be a date night without the kids. The annual abandon should be an out-of-town or in-town, out-of-the-house weekend. Plan your time and anticipate your togetherness. Making quality couple time a priority tells family and friends that your marriage is important.
Lean in and LISTEN!
How well do you listen? Are you distracted or entirely focused? Listening means you matter. Healthy people are open to hearing other people’s thoughts and opinions. Listen for understanding. Ask questions, but give them less of your mouth and more of your ear. Being heard by most is almost indistinguishable from being loved.
Recruit backup singers
Every marriage duet needs backup singers who advocate for the couple, not just the spouse. Who do you need to turn up? Who do you need to turn down? Who do you need to turn off? You should make a list with the answers to the above questions. Combine the list and decide who are your positive marriage influencers and who aren’t.
A love that laughs
Couples who laugh together manage stress and work through difficult conversations more easily. Humor opens us to truth, helps us cope, relieves pain, makes us more attractive, bonds us, diffuses tension and makes us more relatable. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
There’s abundant research indicating that couples that remain and maintain their lifelong commitment to one another are happier, healthier, wealthier and have better sex lives than those choosing differently. Live the Life exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education. If we can do anything to come alongside, please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]
Live the Life South Florida exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education, beginning in middle school through senior adults. We are educators, coaches and pastoral counselors. If you’re looking for a clinical counselor or therapist, we are blessed to have many in the South Florida community. We’d be honored to provide you a list of highly qualified and reputable individuals. Visit livethelifesoflo.org