[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
In December my husband Rest and I were invited to be guest speakers at the wedding of one of our family members in Port Elizabeth. She said to us that she is asking us as a young married couple who are happy in marriage. We were humbled by her observation as we know that all that we are is because of His grace.
Unfortunately we all know that many marriages these days do not last. The divorce rate is high both inside and outside the church. Divorce is freely available to couples and if people go through problems (as we all do) they opt to go through divorce. On our fifth wedding anniversary my husband was told by one of his colleagues that if we make it past seven years we would be one of those marriages that last because most marriages these days do not make it past the seventh year. What has happened to this generation? How did we get here where a seventh wedding anniversary is considered remarkable? Our parents stayed in marriages where they were married 25; 30; 40 and 50 years and here we are making a huge issue of even five years.
With our experience in marriage ministry over the past 10 years we have identified 12 areas that require focus in a marriage relationship in order to reduce the risk of ending up in a divorce court.
- Make God the foundation!
Marriage is a God idea. When we try to be married outside of God we are opening ourselves and our marriage to unnecessary challenges that would be so easily dealt with if we chose and committed to do things God’s way. Before one builds they have to put the foundation. A strong foundation is necessary to build a house that will stand against many weather situations. God is a necessary foundation for any marriage if it is to withstand the storms, the rain and the winds of life! Each spouse must have a solid relationship with the Father to be guided how to be a good wife or husband!
One of our wedding gifts was a voucher to attend a marriage seminar. At the seminar they spoke about oneness in marriage. That was the theme for the seminar and was the one thing that kept on reccurring in all the teachings. Something was ignited in us as we pondered on the life changing concept that is “Oneness”. We made a vow to always have this concept as the guiding value of our marriage. Discuss, debate issues but always know that you are in the same team. You are one. When you have looked at a problem from all angles decide a way together. Know that you are both building a future together.
- Forgive each other.
No one is perfect. Your spouse will say something that will irritate you. Your partner will do something that seems to be unforgiveable. His or her unthoughtful actions might make you question you love for each other. Remember that we all need grace. As much as you think that your spouse is the one who must change because s/he has wronged you, forgive them for the hurtful words. Forgive your spouse for the uncaring action and move on to building your relationship!
- Laugh together! Be mates! Don’t take yourself too seriously!
Something happens when one gets married. The titles of husband and wife seem to change many people. Your spouse married you knowing that you are a certain kind of person. If they married this happy, laughing and joyful person and marriage turns you into a sour, snappy, always moody somebody your spouse will feel cheated. There is this expectation in the black society that when you are married you must carry yourself with dignity and seriousness now because you are “a married woman”. Society forgets that this woman is still in her twenties and it is unfair to expect her to conduct herself as a 55 year old.
People tend to fight over stupid things sometimes. Honestly if they were to look at some of the things they are angry at each other for they will realise that they are wasting precious energy and it would be far easier if they learnt to just laugh and not take themselves sooo seriously!
- Have Fun activities together
We have noticed that when people get married they tend to stop doing the fun things they used to do before getting married. Granted, life can wear you down, especially if you have to work one or two jobs to provide for your family. Bbut if your working is making your spouse feel neglected it is time to re-evaluate your options and current realities so you spend time together. Make it a priority to schedule time away together. So many people immediately think of expensive getaways to lodges or out of town places. When I say time together it might be something inexpensive as taking a walk around the neighbourhood together. Walking to your local restaurant and getting ice cream. There are many activities that you can do that will not break the bank and make a dent in your pocket; you just have to think what would your spouse love to do!
- Don’t lose you! (Dead woman walking)
Many women when they get married they tend to sacrifice so much of who they are for the sake of the marriage. They put aside their dreams for the sake of the marriage. Beloved you and I are called by God to fulfil every bit of Kingdom assignment that He has called us to carry out. You will stand in front of Almighty God one day and give an account for your life. What are you doing with the talents that He has given you? Are you living out your purpose? Are you carrying out God’s assignment for your life? Don’t lose you!. You are you for a reason and you have unique gifts to give to the world. Live out your uniqueness and destiny even in marriage. That could be the very thing that connected the two of you.
- Neglecting your responsibilities!
Do not neglect your responsibilities! Everything that happens in your house should be of concern to you. As a husband you cannot expect a male neighbour to come and oversee the cutting of grass in your yard. As a wife you cannot expect another woman to oversee the affairs of your household. Proverbs 31:27 clearly says that the virtuous wife watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread od idleness. There will be many things that need your attention. Do not neglect them. Many spouses have been “replaced” by the very women or men who took care of the household responsibilities.
- Listen to each other
It is one thing to do something or say something without knowing if your spouse will be hurt or angered by it. It is something else entirely to say something or do something knowing full well that your spouse does not like it. They have told you many times to please stop doing a or b but you still keep doing it. Listening to your spouse is one of the many ways that you can show your love and commitment. Pride has broken so many marriages as spouses do not want to listen to each other. You cannot afford to want to continue living a life of a bachelor or bachelorette once you are married. You live with someone else. You share a life with someone else and they deserve to be heard.
- Leave the past in the past.
None of us are perfect. We have all said and done things that we are not proud of. We all have a past. By society’s standards some people’s past might be more “colourful” than others! In marriage we would do well to adopt the scripture “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead (Philippians 3:13) ” When you are fighting with your spouse be mindful not to dig up the past. Whatever they did; whoever they did it with remains in the past. If somehow the past affects the present and future i.e. they have a child with someone else, deal with the issue together. Thae past cannot be a missile you shoot at your spouse when you are fighting. Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
- Unmet expectations! Love language.
Dr Gary Chapman in his popular book The 5 Love Languages outlines five ways we love and receive love. We speak many thousands of different languages but there are only five love languages that all of us speak. When it comes to love each individual gives and receives love in one of these different love languages: gifts, touch, words of affection, acts of service or time spent. People who speak and receive love through touch they love to hug and to be hugged. They communicate their love through their touch.
Those who speak and receive love through time spent love to be with their loved ones! A typical spouse whose love language is time spent will complain and say “You hardly ever spend time with me”. Some love giving and receiving gifts. It is not necessarily the price of the gift but the gesture of giving. Others love to hear words of affirmation. You literally have to tell them that you love them; that they are doing great. Finally others give and receive love through acts of service. When you do something for them it communicates your love for them. Make sure that you know your spouse’s love language so you speak to their heart.
- Competing with friends.
One of THE things that we have observed, with young couples especially, is their need to impress. Their need to be seen to be progressing in their life together. They do not want to be left behind as their friends are buying the latest furniture, buying the latest car model, staying in a certain neighbourhood, sending their children to particular schools, progressing in their careers. If your pocket is not as deep as your friends’ do not bring stress and debt into your marriage by constantly wanting what your neighbour has.
- Third parties – friends, parents, career and hobbies
Be aware of third parties that might come between you and your spouse. When the two of you get married the Bible says the two shall become one (Ephesians 5:31). Be intentional in eliminating or reducing anything that is a potential third party in your marriage whether it is work, hobbies or friends. If you want THE third party who if you involve Him will take your marriage to greater heights it is God. The One who formed you in your mother’s womb, who knows everything there is to know about you, knows what your marriage needs. When you spend more time with Him He will pour out more and more love between you and your spouse.
As we start this year I pray that all of us take these points and apply them. Let us be mindful to be a blessing to our spouses and truly LOVE them. As we do, the Bible promises us that love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13: 8)