In a few months my son will get married. Just like his older brother, the Lord has brought him a beautiful bride. In these months before a wedding, attention is given to a myriad of details and after the big day comes a huge sigh of relief. Then the happily ever after. Right? It may seem like the primary task is done, but for many couples, after the wedding is when the hard work begins! It’s helpful – no matter how long we’ve been wed – to view our marriage not as an arrival but as a training ground. Marriage is a continuous covenant, for life is not our own exclusively. Our life is God’s and our spouse’s. Both husband and wife are being shaped and conformed to who He wants us to be and that’s an investment that is precious to God. He will faithfully keep growing us up and put us with those who will help nurture us.
Here are three ways to actively participate in this investment making marriage not just good, but great:
- To love is to listen. Many people think they’re excellent listeners, but the truth is – most of us are not. People like to talk because it’s easier, but listening takes effort and often we don’t make the effort. Listening is a “holy activity” says Cari Jackson, a minister who writes about this very precious skill. When we make time to listen to those we love, it pays more dividends in your relationship than you might realize. Listening well sends the message that our spouse is important, loved, and valued. I love my husband, so of course I want him to feel important and valued. This means when he has something to say, I need to consciously put down my phone or turn from my computer screen. In turn, when I need to talk, I appreciate it when he turns off not just the volume, but the TV.
- Ask, ’what can I do for you today?’ Even though I live with a perpetually sweet husband – and I should see it coming by now – it still stuns me when I hear him ask if there’s anything he can do for me that day. He works a lot of hours and has many responsibilities so when he asks how he can prioritize me in his day, I’m touched. One of the reasons he asks this is because he knows my love language is acts of service. Since his love language is words of encouragement, the best answer is to tell him how much he already does for me and just how much I appreciate him already. Most often, it ends up where he does a task for me that I can’t do on my own and I tell him how grateful I am for his selflessness.
- Are you fun to live with? I get it… having a job, house, kids, soccer, volunteering at church…there’s so much we must do each week. Just keeping up with deadlines and demands are enough to suck the fun out of life. Those who lean more towards the serious side may not remember their last laugh, but relationships thrive when our hearts are light so look for moments where the mood can be lightened. I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed sometimes to live with two pun-masters. When I was cooking recently my son interrupted me with, “Mom, you’ve heard of Murphy’s law, right?” Of course I had. “How about Cole’s law?” I admit I had not. “It’s a side dish made from shredded cabbage…” at this point I threw my dish towel at him. He’s always popping up with puns or horrible jokes that are cringe-worthy but they sure lighten any mood. What’s best is his goofy grin and chuckle that tells us he’s quite pleased with himself. He learned this from his father.
When I’m at school, I find it’s easy to be light-hearted with my students, but at home, I can be all business (ironic, I know). But my two guys have taught me that laughing – and looking for times to laugh – is valuable in relationships. When people laugh, life is just sweeter. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is he’s so funny. I’m glad he remains a light-hearted guy who is looking to continuously enjoy life.
It’s been almost 29 years since I said “I do” to this lovely man and together we’ve grown much. I’ve come to appreciate that my life is being shaped by my actions and attitudes as a wife. These actions and attitudes have consequences and I want mine to bless my husband. I want to surrender to the ways God uses me to strengthen and support him all the while, those two are doing the same for me. As a young bride I would not have foreseen this but now, I see the ripple effects of consciously loving by listening, serving and laughing.