Monday, April 21, 2014

Eleven Steps to a Stronger, Happier Marriage

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it:
 if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."
Song of Solomon 8:7
(KJV)

Love is just that powerful!

To live life...to walk through it...with one special person by your side...
is a beautiful thing.
To build a life together,
to share the ups and downs, the smiles and tears...to endure and outlast the hard places,
to weather the storms...clinging to each other with all your might,
to create a history....one that you can both look back upon and remember having lived through together.....
is a treasure more valuable than gold.


Kevin and I have some precious memories.
All glory be to God for every moment He has given to us.
It is all because of Him and His great love and mercy.
We have been through a lot.
Some of it is personal....unspeakable...just between us.
That is the way it should be.
Whether it is meant to be shared...or not....it is all intimately ours.
Just like your love story is uniquely and privately yours.

Love is a steadfast and powerful force.

If I were sitting down with newlyweds or with those who are contemplating marriage today,
and if they happened to ask my favorite secrets to a happy marriage...
these are the eleven tips I would share.


#1.  Marriage takes three.
Put God first.
Let Him be the hub of the wheel.
Seriously.
This is the most important thing of all.
Make up your mind that you will make no decision without first consulting Him and seeking His will.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33
Make God your number one mutual priority, and everything else will follow.
Your needs will be met.
Your life together will be fulfilled and purposeful.
You will be happy.


#2.  Pray together...regularly.
I know we all need our one-on-one time with God every day.
Nothing should substitute for that.
But, in addition to our private time with Him,
we should make it a point to pray with each other.
I am not saying this has to be an hour-long thing.
Sometimes, we have the pre-conceived notion that if we can't do something in a big way,
we shouldn't even try to do it at all.
Any together-prayer time is better than none at all.
Even if it is for 30 seconds, as you both head out the door,
seize it. 
Take that 30 seconds.
Hold each other tight....
or kneel side by side....
or hold hands.
The position is not important.
Just bow your heads....together....and talk to God.
In your own way.
Always in Jesus' name.
Do this, and watch the transformation.
"The family that prays together, stays together".


#3.  Read God's Word...together.
Again, this doesn't have to be a lengthy thing.
The longer the better, but we all know life is going on.
It is happening.
Time seems to be so short...and limited.
So do what you can.
If all you can manage is one verse....
read it....together.
Talk about that one verse.
Share your individual perspectives.
Shared revelation is double the blessing.
Who better to share it with than the one you love most?


#4.  Never stop dating.
Remember how exciting that time was in your relationship?
When all you could think about all day long was getting out of school or work
and being together?
It didn't matter what you were planning to do.
Keep the thrill alive.
Schedule dates....for just the two of you.
It doesn't have to be expensive.
Be creative.
Find a sitter, stay home, and eat by candlelight.
Take a blanket outside, sit side by side, and stare at the stars.
Could anything be more romantic?
It's the simple, little things that mean the most.
The best things in life are always free.
I know this sounds crazy, but some of our favorite "dates" are spent walking around our yard.
Kevin loves for me to come outside and walk with him.
He shows me things I wouldn't notice on my own.
He holds my hand as he opens up to me.
He takes a lot of pride in keeping our yard neat and well-maintained.
It seems to mean the world to him to hear me notice and compliment his hard work.
The other day, he was getting ready to leave for work, 
after already having done a full day's work in our yard.
"Will you walk outside with me, so I can show you the yard?" he asked.
I thought of how we were running short on time, and I still hadn't packed his lunch.
My first impulse was to gently tell him I didn't have time.
But there was a longing in his voice.
 I recognized it right away, I decided there was no way I was going to deny his request.
So, I called Zach in to the kitchen, asked him to pack his Daddy's lunch,
and Kevin and I headed outside.
It was the sweetest time.
He pulled me close as we walked, and he showed me little things....
how he had weed-eaten around the pool....
how he had tightened the cables on our clothes line, so the laundry won't sag so much when I hang it out,
how he had tilled part of the garden,
how he had trimmed and pruned the peach trees out back,
how he had leveled the ground beneath our back steps.
Can I tell you how much I appreciate all he does?
I told him.
Over and over.
It was all he needed.
It made it all worthwhile.
Our spouse needs to feel appreciated.
We should never take for granted that they just know.
They need to be told.
What better time to tell them than on one of your "dates"?
Initiate the date.
Don't be afraid to ask.
Don't let life get in the way of your alone-together time.
 Some of Kevin's and my sweetest "dates" haven't cost one, thin dime.


#5.  Communicate.
I can't stress this one enough.
You have to talk.
You need to talk.
It is imperative that you know what is going on with each other.
Don't lose touch.
It sounds absurd to think that two people can live together under the same roof,
yet never connect, but it is absolutely true...and possible...and likely...
if you don't put forth the effort to prevent it.
Spill your heart to each other.
Be each other's confidante.
Communication is a two-way street.
Don't expect the other person to pour out their heart to you,
if you put up guarded walls and never open up to them.
And don't expect them to be transparent about their feelings 
if you have a tendency of making them feel small....or even stupid or inadequate...
while downplaying their words when they do open up to you.
Don't criticize each other's feelings.
Don't minimize opinions, even if they are opposite your own.
Don't act uninterested.
Don't laugh at one another....ever...unless the other person is laughing, too.  :~)
Acknowledge that what the other person feels is real.
Validate it.
Don't close yourself off from each other.
Be available.
Make your feelings known...in a kind way.
Keep a perpetual conversation going.
Don't ever shut it down or close each other out.
Don't allow anything to build a wall between you.
Do what you have to do to keep an open dialog.
Remember, "I love you" will always be one of the most important things you could ever say to each other.
Truly, you can't say it enough...or too much.


#6.  Intimacy matters.
Make time for it.
Don't avoid it.
Don't treat closeness like it is the thing that will happen only after everything else is tended to.
If you allow it to be at the bottom of your list of priorities, chances are, it will get the shaft and never happen.
And it needs to.
Keep the passion between the two of you alive and strong.
It provides a safeguard against temptation.
Channel physical energy towards each other.
This avoids the lure of allowing it to stray elsewhere.


#7.  Only have eyes for each other.
Our world is full of lustful enticements.
Have you ever seen such wild, vulgar magazines in the checkout line?
Can I tell you how many times I have turned them around to keep Zach from seeing them?
I know I have very little control over things like this, and I can't shield him from everything, 
but I make the most of the opportunities I have.
I was standing in the photo department at CVS the other night,
when I turned to look for the nearby cashier for assistance.
What I saw right there...blazing....right in front of her register...
in plain view of small children or whoever else may walk by....
was enough to make my Papaw, (man of God that he was), blush 20 shades of red.
Three very-nearly-naked women...wearing only thongs, as I recall....
 standing side by side,
hands on each other,
on the front of a magazine.
The sight sent waves of shock through me.
But, should I even be shocked anymore?
How long before they are totally naked...right there...in the open...
for our little boys and husbands to see and have to deal with the residual lust incited by their nudity?
Remember when those types of pictures were sold sneakily?
When they were hidden somewhere in the store?
No wonder Jeremiah 6:15 says, 
"Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? 
No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush."
Do you ever see anyone blush anymore?
While sitting and watching filthy scenes in living rooms,
it has all become very commonplace and acceptable.
The shock-value has completely worn off.
We have become a world obsessed with sensuality, and in the process,
we have become completely desensitized to sin.
Everywhere you look, there are distractions.
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, they are there.
In. Your. Face.
So, it is up to each one of us to reel in our thoughts.
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..."
2 Corinthian 10:5
Don't give place to lust.
God has sufficient grace, no matter how severely we are bombarded.
Don't allow your thoughts to wander to what it would be like to be with someone else.
Don't even go there.
Not a good idea.
Even if it happens, only in your mind, it's as well as a done deal.
I know that is cutting it close, but those aren't my words.
Jesus said, 
"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully 
has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Matthew 5:28
(NIV)
The grass may look greener until you get there and find out it isn't, 
 then remorsefully realize what you gave up to get there.
Don't read books that make you long for someone other than the person you are married to.
Don't allow your eyes to watch or look at things 
that cause your mind to wander into places it should never go.
Don't put yourself in compromising positions that encourage extra-marital affairs.
Stay off temptation's ground, as much as possible.
Turn your affections and desires upon your spouse...and leave them there.
Period.
Reasoning with and toying with temptation usually ends up going farther than mere temptation.
A happy marriage is worth the effort it takes
 to have eyes only for your spouse.
Make it happen.
If we are going to have strong, healthy marriages that last for life,
it is going to take continual, persistent, strong effort in the face of the overwhelming challenges
and the shameless blatancy of sin that is unique to this age of time.
Keep the faith, and keep faithful....even in your thoughts.
Be as intensely dedicated to your spouse as you yearn for your spouse to be devoted to you.


#8.  Never...ever...take each other for granted.
Life is short...and extremely uncertain.
Don't assume it will go on like it is forever.
We aren't promised another day...or moment.
Never lose that initial respect and appreciation for each other.
Think of how lonely life would be if you were walking it alone.
Don't fail to say thank you...for every, single, little thing.
Make it a point and commitment to say three nice things to each other every day.
Not all at one time, but scattered throughout the day.
A compliment.
A positive affirmation.
A word of comfort.
An encouraging thought.
Be creative.
Text each other if you are apart.
Shoot a short email message.
Being nice breaks the ice, tears down walls, and restores faith.
Say the things you long to hear...
even if you are the one who always says them first.
Just. Do. It.
Swallow stubborn pride and never forget how foolish and futile it is.


#9.  Never underestimate the power of the human touch.
Sometimes that is all it takes.
Just a pat on the shoulder,
a squeeze of the hand,
a peck on the cheek,
a genuine hug.
There are times that is all that is needed.
Aren't there times you wish for this?
Bestow it with the same fervency and sincerity you wish for it to be shown to you.
A soft, gentle, compassionate touch works miracles.
Don't ever underestimate it or feel that it is not enough.
It just might be.



#10.  Seek each other's happiness,
before you seek your own.
The old saying about joy is true...
Jesus first
Others second
Yourself last
Treat your spouse the way you long to be treated.
Speak to each other in the tone you wish to be spoken to.
Show affection to the degree you yearn to receive it.
If you are caring for others, make sure you care for each other first.
Don't neglect one another or shove each other's needs to the end of your priority list.


#11.  Forgive quickly.
Assume the best of each other, even when your feelings are hurt.
Don't automatically think the worst of each other.
Apply grace...and mercy...and understanding...lavishly and unbegrudgingly...at all times.
Leave room for mistakes and character flaws.
Don't expect perfection.
You aren't perfect either.
You need tolerance.
So does your spouse.
Don't throw up past offenses.
That isn't fair.
Once forgiveness has been granted, don't take it back...
no matter what happens after that point.
Don't accumulate points against each other, then lower the boom when you get your fill.
Go ahead...forgive....as soon as you need to.
The longer you hold on to your grudge and allow bitter feelings to fester,
the bigger your problem will become.
Just let it go and move forward.
Chances are, you are going to make more mistakes of your own before life is over.
You are going to need forgiveness and long for it.
Apply and grant forgiveness in the way and to the extreme that you want to be forgiven.

Life is short.
Enjoy the journey!
And always remember this...
there are a lot of people who would give anything they own to trade places...
with you...yes, you...right where you are, whoever you are.


31 comments:

  1. This is excellent, Cheryl! Very good points, and spoken with such truth and love. I've been needing to work on communication more lately. I have a tendency to go around doing my stuff quietly, and not talking specifically to my man. It's been really good for me to make the extra effort.

    Also, the point of not taking my spouse for granted really rings true with me, especially now that we're getting older. How did those 30 years go by so quickly? Time flashes by before we know it, and one day we may find ourselves alone. Until then, I want to appreciate every moment I have.

    God bless!

    Lisa

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    1. Oh, Lisa! Thank you ever so much for stopping by and leaving encouragement behind! It was such a blessing to me today. I know what you mean...the years go by so quickly, and I just wonder how we got from there to here...so fast! Life is like a vapor, here for just a while, then vanishing away. May God bless you and your husband with many, many more happy years together. Love, Cheryl

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  2. Thank you for this wisdom, Cheryl! And I am glad to know I'm not the only one who turns the magazines around in the checkout aisle! God bless you & keep on sharing!

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Jennifer! Yes, thank God, there are more than one of us out there who care about these things. I never thought I'd see the day that sin would be so blatant, but it is good news, because it is just one more sign that Jesus is coming soon!!!! God bless you. :)

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    2. I do this as well, even when I am alone. I don't want any little boy or grown man seeing such filth.

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    3. I do this as well, even when I am alone. I don't want any little boy or grown man seeing such filth.

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    4. I do this as well, even when I am alone. I don't want any little boy or grown man seeing such filth.

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  3. I enjoyed your list of encouragements! I appreciate the wisdom and the practical strength of your words!

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    1. Thank you so very much! Your encouragement is so appreciated. :) God bless you.

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  4. Hi, Cheryl! Thank you for this well written post! So much valuable instruction! Seeking my husbands happiness before my own is a challenge. So important to race each other to the cross even if I"m the one who gets there first....again! :) Blessings to you!

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement, Kaylene! So happy you stopped by. I love what you said about racing each other to the cross! Oh, how precious! God bless you in a special way. :)

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  5. Cheryl, I can't tell you how happy I was to be your neighbor over at Naomi's place today! This is a fantastic post! Our marriages are so sacred and special, and they are treated with such lack of care in today's society. I'll be sharing this post.

    Heart Hugs, Shelly <3

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    1. Thank you SO much, Shelly! What a blessing to receive your sweet, encouraging comments. ;) So thankful to have met you and getting ready to hop over to your place. God bless you!

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  6. Excellent points! Marriage must be intentional for it to work and these are great suggestions to make sure it stays intentional. Thanks for linking up today.

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    1. Thank you, Kate! And thanks for the weekly link-up. You are such a blessing!

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  7. This is an awesome study on how to live a happy married life - - you have hit on some interesting points all eleven of them. Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story."

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    1. Thank you so much, Hazel! So happy you stopped by and for your kind comments. God bless you!!

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  8. I love what you've written here. I'm taking notes, in fact. Even after 17 years of marriage, I still need to work on a few of these. I also want to be intentional about teaching my daughters how to have a strong, healthy marriage. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Tarissa! I so appreciated your kind comments. God bless you!

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  9. Hi Cheryl. this is a great post with a wonderful list. I am adding it to my list of favourites so that I can find it easily as a reminder. Thank you too for adding it to the Winsome Wednesday bloghop. Look forward to seeing you there again next week :)
    God bless
    Tracy

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    1. Thank you so very much for stopping by here, Tracy. I always look forward to your link-up every week and thank you for hosting! I am so grateful you enjoyed this post. God bless you!

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  10. Cheryl....excellent encouragement here! A reminder that we have to be intentional....like how you put aside your agenda to walk with your husband and see his work in the yard.....be selfless and love with purpose. So glad you linked this post at WJIM's Monday's Musings. I will be pinning and tweeting with others. Have a blessed week.

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    1. Thank you ever so much, Naomi! I love coming to your place each week for the link-up. :) So happy you stopped by today! Thank you for sharing this post. God bless you with a great week, also.

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  11. All 11 are so right! Great post.

    I hope you can stop by and visit:

    http://collettaskitchensink.blogspot.com/2014/04/wholehearted-weigh-in-wednesday-43014.html

    Colletta

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    1. Thanks so much, Coletta! So happy you came by...hopping over to your place right away. :)

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  12. Thank you for your words- I need to work on several of these points, so it is motivating and encouraging for me to read these.

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    1. Thank you so much, Lynne. So very thankful you stopped by today!!!

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  13. I just love every single one of these and I know I need to work on every single one of these. I'm going to be bookmarking this post for future reference and to read on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing!

    waitingforbabybird.com

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    1. Thank you so much, sweet friend. It is a constant, ongoing effort, but one that is so worth the making! So thankful for you!!

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  14. These are such good points to remember in our marriages. It is so true that some things are private,special between the married couple. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Judith! So thankful you stopped by today. :) Lots of love to you.

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