In this fast-food era of pizza delivery and speedy drive-through meals, it’s easy to forgo a sit-down "real silverware" dinner. We often sacrifice nutrition for convenience.

Unfortunately, some of us have transferred this fast-food lifestyle to our marriages.

Our bodies’ immune systems will start to falter if we’re living on junk-food diets. And if we only have drive-through intimacy, our marriages may lose their immunity to worldly "germs." We all need to eat balanced diets and contrary to what the advertisers tell us, super-sized fries are not healthy vegetables. However, I think we can agree that peas are nutritious, so here are three "P"s that will feed your marriage.

Plan

Just as planning is important to the success of a meal, it's also vital to a marriage. Don't let your married life just happen. Plan time to be together. Society tells us that we all need more "me" time, but it's "we" time that will strengthen our marriages. A weekly date night is a great idea but if it's not practical to get away for a whole evening, find a way to meet for lunch or go for a walk after dinner.

My husband, Ron, and I sometimes cuddle on the couch, after our son has gone to bed, and watch old home videos of our lives together. We make a special effort to be alone and enjoy each others company. Try to avoid talk about work, children, or problems when you’re on a date; concentrate on positive personal thoughts and goals.

Planning double dates with other Christian couples can also strengthen your marriage.

Choose a couple whose family is similar to yours—kids, interests, same general income—and you’ll probably find that you have a lot in common. Seeing other couples react to each other and solve their conflicts has helped us work out our own problems.

Praise

After you've had a scrumptious meal in a fine restaurant, it is customary to say, "My compliments to the chef." However, we often forget to send our compliments to the woman who washed the socks or to the man who mowed the lawn. Ron and I have been married for 26 years, and our relationship has hit some emotional speed bumps that forced us to slow down and appreciate each other.

Last year we were devastated as we witnessed our friends' Christian marriage disintegrate. They were critical and unappreciative as they lost sight of what they originally liked about each other. They forgot that "Love doesn't keep score of the sins of others . . . and . . . love always looks for the best" (1 Corinthians 13).

Don't let your love be eroded by criticism. Instead, build each other up with praise. Ron has become my biggest fan and he often tells me that I'm smart, funny or pretty, and those compliments make me want to please him by being even smarter, funnier and prettier. Compliments are like magnets, if you want your mate to be "attracted" to you, be generous with sincere praise.

Pray

Just as a prayer should be offered before each meal, it must be integrated into our daily marriage routine. The spiritual life of a marriage is a great indicator of the health of the whole relationship. Praying together is an intimate activity, and in order for it to be effective, it must be genuine and heartfelt. Ron didn't grow up in a Christian family, so it was hard for him to understand how important prayer was to our relationship, but he has learned that his prayers nourish me, our marriage, and our relationship with God.

When Ron prays for me, I feel as if I’m covered by a velvety blanket of protection. Even though I still face problems and setbacks, his prayers shelter me from the sharpness of the pain. He is strengthened by my prayers too and we both agree that we’re less likely to fight if we’re consistently praying together.

Every marriage has problems and conflicts, but don’t be discouraged. Through prayer, God can give each of us His strength and comfort. He wants to build us up and encourage us as couples. You’ll have the strength to face uncertain times if you both ask for the guidance of your Certain Savior.

There is a recipe for effective prayer, in Luke 11, where the Lord's prayer reminds us to forgive one another, as God has forgiven us. God is merciful to me and I have chosen to be merciful to my husband (except when he's tailgating or speeding).

Now, Get Cookin’!

The Lord intended for your Christian marriage to be a banquet: a lingering, sipping and savoring delight. If you need proof, read the Song of Solomon. So my advice to you, and to myself, is to send the kidlets to grandma's house, light some romantic candles, and get cookin!

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Adapted from Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage
 (Kregel Publications 2004)

Author Nancy C. Anderson (www.NancyCAnderson.com) and her husband, Ron, recently celebrated their twenty-seventh wedding anniversary. Together they conduct couples' retreats and marriage seminars to help others to predict, prevent or pardon infidelity.


Read more articles by author Nancy C. Anderson:

The Warning Signs of Infidelity
"Small Stuff" Can Ruin Our Families
Forgiving the Unforgivable: Adultery
Five Creative Dates for Couples
Have You Lost that Lovin' Feelin'?
Can a Christian Marriage Survive an Affair?
Avoid the 'Greener Grass' Syndrome: Water Your Own Marriage
Is Your Home a Danger Zone for Your Marriage?
The Parable of the Coffee Filter