We spend billions each year on our appearance. Gym memberships, dieting programs that may or may not work, new clothes and more. Don’t get me wrong, we should care how we look. But, what do our marriages look like? More importantly, where does our marital health rank on the list of To-Do’s? Instead of our bodies and physical appearance being top priorities, what if we put that focus on our marriages instead?
The hardest part of parenting, that no one seems to want to warn you about, is the strain children have on your marriage. Children can come between you and your spouse. For us, it’s quite literal. I can’t seem to hug my wife without my 4-year-old butting in between us to make a “sandwich.”
As the years go by, the children naturally become our focus, making it easy to lose sight of each other. We don’t take the time or energy necessary to stay connected.
But, this trend can be stopped if you give your marriage a “check up.” I believe there are seven words that, if applied to our marriages, have the power to make this year the best year we have ever experienced as a couple.
1. Initiate. Remember the courtship? Make an effort to woo your spouse all over again. So many marriages fall apart because people just stop trying.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).
2. Prioritize. What is your top priority? It’s where you devote the majority of your time or energy. Turn off the television and put down your iPhone. Your email and updating your Facebook status can wait.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
3. Communicate. In a successful marriage, you have to fight the urge to sweep things under the rug. Don’t allow things to fester. Instead, keep an open line of communication. When we have “sounding boards” who aren’t our spouses, sure, we might feel a little better, but we are doing nothing to actually resolve situations or improve our relationship.
“From a wise mind comes careful and persuasive speech” (Proverbs 16:23).
4. Listen. The most important part of communicating doesn’t involve speaking; it’s listening. Your spouse wants to be heard. How can you know what he or she is feeling if you don’t take the time to listen. All too often, many of us are too quick to interject before the person is even finished speaking.
“…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
5. Forgive. Don’t hold onto things. You only harm yourself. When your spouse does something, refer to #3 and #4. Then, let it go. Forgive them and move on.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts … and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).
6. Love. Without love, there is no marriage. And, that’s why we must keep the spark alive. This year, set aside more time to date your spouse. And, when you are out, try your best to make sure the kids or grandkids aren’t the primary topic of conversation.
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
7. Pray. It has been said that a successful marriage consists of three people: husband, wife and God. Involve Him more, even in the so-called “little things.”
“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (I Chronicles 16:11)
Let’s resolve together to focus on our relationships more than ourselves this year, and watch how God will bless the efforts. What words would you add to this list?
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Publication date: February 17, 2014