After 23 years of marriage, it is still a mystery.
As my wife and I journey through life together, we learn about the power of the Lord and the weakness of ourselves. Anything valuable must be invested in, otherwise it devalues. Marriage is a personal investment. Like many of us, we want a “quick fix” to our problems; we just want to live “happily ever after.”
The truth is marriage is an onward, intentional journey of grace and truth; losses and gains teach us to know the Lord better.
Our concepts before marriage can be based on a fairy-tale image of each other, almost blind to each other’s imperfections and the troubles that lie ahead. As we step through the door of commitment, the blinders come off and we are confronted with the mystery of marriage.
Motivation to serve each other can often be driven by seeking fulfillment or what we believe we deserve. In Christ, the ultimate purpose in marriage is that we are both being conformed into the image of God. We become more and more like Christ toward each other, and as we serve each other, we grow together.
Identifying the stages of marriage
As the seasons change, so do we; being married to one, may feel like we married many different people. Life changes us. We are not who we use to be. Do things get better with age? Yes, they can if we build correctly.
Stages where we evolve are:
- Honeymoon – All is bliss.
- Building a life – Housing, career and mission. Adjustments and discoveries.
- Kids – We realize how much we are like our parents. Our lives are not our own anymore. Sacrifice on new levels.
- Grandkids – Enjoying the next generation. Spoil them, learning to be a good coach to your kids.
- Senior living – Legacy-focused. Limitations and learning how to navigate healthcare.
Discovering each other in each of these stages will deepen your marriage and deepen your love. We learn flexibility, make mistakes and are reminded that love isn’t a feeling; it is a choice we make every day.
Changing marital dynamics
As time goes on, relationships can change. Fading or drifting away from passion can be swallowed up in the details of life. Neglecting each other in the little things can lead to disinterest and boredom. What brought wonder is now all too familiar. This can spread like a cancer in a relationship. Distractions of a busy life can make time fly and before you know, you may have lost months or even years.
Satan wants to circumvent and change the divine design of the man and women’s roles in the relationship. He loves to usurp one another’s roles by causing the man to stop leading and initiating and having the woman stop responding to her man in a healthy way. Selfishness is the enemy to intimacy; if it is all about ourselves, we will ultimately be alone in the marriage or we won’t have a marriage.
Some examples of an unhealthy relationship look like this:
- Father-Daughter relationship. Control and instruction are prominent rather than sharing and learning from each other.
- Mother-Son relationship. Can develop where the wife takes care of her husband and the husband is passive and lazy.
- Dictator-Slave. “My way or the highway” attitude. They are a possession to use rather than an individual to be cherished.
- Roommate environment. May develop where the passion has died and now it is about keeping house and staying together for the kids.
There may be seasons where we experience one or more of these, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Keep working at it and the value will increase.
Get your marriage back
When talking about romance and “wooing” our spouse, often we are clueless. This journey is a step-by-step and moment-by-moment process. Often the complaint is “all he wants is sex” or “all she wants to do is talk”; these are just a few statements of many. It has been said that women will have sex to have a relationship where a man will have a relationship to have sex. The needs of each spouse are different, and we must start somewhere and realize that small things are big things.
We are all seeking meaningful connections; to be known and accepted. The dynamics of this process is in a place of vulnerability. To the measure we let people in is to the measure we will experience meaningful connections. This can be a scary place because we always want to show our “best side” and hide our flaws. But in a real, loving relationship, love ministers life in every condition.
How do we keep our marriage strong?
Intimacy grows the marriage. Intimacy is a beautiful closeness that is developed through intentional initiations of love. This accumulation has a return on investment.
Here are six areas in which to grow intimacy:
- Emotional Intimacy– Sharing our soul with one another. Hear each other fears and success and learn to celebrate them together.
- Physical Intimacy – Sharing our body with one another. Bless your spouse and your needs will be cared for.
- Intellectual Intimacy – Sharing our mind with one another. Learn what interests your spouse has and learn to value them.
- Recreational Intimacy – Sharing our activity with one another. Change the scenery to change the mood.
- Social Intimacy – Sharing our social circles with one another. Identify healthy couples to invite over and widen your circle.
- Spiritual Intimacy – Sharing our “spiritual heart” with one another. Fellowship and ask questions that stimulate spiritual dialogue. This intimacy is the engine to all others.
Start small and identify what brings you together. This will build momentum. A good place of discovery is to ask yourselves, “What makes you and your spouse come alive?” Let that be your starting point. Find a starting point to date your spouse again. No spouse wants to tell the other how they should be loved; this is the mystery and the thrill of the chase!