[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
Recently we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. As always when one celebrates an anniversary there are moments of looking back at your journey as a couple. This milestone was no different for us as we went down memory lane remembering the good and the bad.
We say vows every year and in this year’s vows we committed to doing more of the things that bless our spouse and to working on those areas in which we irritate each other. We can all do with this kind of stocktaking once in a while. I had my own time of reflection as I reflected on the last 15 years.
These are the lessons that I have learnt in the last 15years and principles that have worked in our relationship. I write them to share what you can also implement in your own marriage. Pick the ones that would be applicable to your relationship, keeping in mind that no two marriages are the same. What might have worked with my marriage might not necessarily work for you. Here they are:
1. Keep God at the centre of your relationship. God is the One who should be the foundation of marriage. Marriage is His idea and when He is not at the centre and given complete access you will find that you begin to go amiss. God is the glue that holds a marriage and prevents it from tearing apart. It is not our good looks; how smart we are and how argumentative we are. It is His grace that keeps us constantly drawn to each other. Do not let Him be a stranger in your home. He must be an integral part of your family.
2. Do not despise small beginnings. God has certainly taken us through many challenges and has provided for us through our journey. I remember in our first month of marriage when we had nothing except the kitchen and bedroom gifts we received at our wedding. No furniture; no fridge; no couches and no bed. We truly have many stories to tell our children about our humble beginnings. I have always wanted to marry a man who I would build a life with. I wanted to own each part of the story and not come when things were rosy. We can now laugh at our humble past but there was a time when all we could afford was to buy a loaf of bread. We did not even have money for a taxi. God has certainly blessed us during the years and taught us many lessons in giving and receiving.
3. Have fun together. I noticed while growing up that married couples were far too serious. Because society started calling them Mr and Mrs so-and-so the couple felt the need to live out these labels even with each other. I have seen how outgoing young couples lose their spark and fun element when married. Keep the fun and laughter in your marriage.
4. Fight your battles together, not each other. You will fight many battles in life…other people trying to break you apart; financial troubles; challenges in business and in ministry; health troubles; parenting…the list is endless. Remember that you are a unit; a team and you will accomplish so much more if you approach life together.
5. Do ministry together. There is nothing in your walk with the Lord as fulfilling as knowing that you are walking this path with your spouse. Have a project that you do together that you are both passionate about and see how as you give to others; as you serve the people of God, see how He multiplies love for each other.
Be a united force when parenting
6. Parent together. Children are good observers. They can see who they can easily manipulate and they will play you against each other if you let them. Your children should know that if they get one answer from one parent they don’t need to ask the other because it will be the same. Unnecessary conflicts can happen if you agree to something that your spouse has said no to. Be a united force when parenting.
7. Pray together. It has been said that…families who pray together stay together. We have found this to be true. Yes, each of us has their personal relationship with the Lord but there is something special when we approach the Father together. There is something more special when we cry together to God to intervene. Pray together especially during those challenging times when you do not know what to do. He will carry you through.
8. Make time. Time has become such a precious commodity. In this fast paced world we live in with all its deadlines your marriage can become the sacrificial lamb on the altar of success. Guard against not spending time with your beloved. Do not be one who constantly says: “I just don’t have the time.” You make the time for the important things in your life such as handing in that proposal; working tirelessly on that project. Make time for your spouse. They are the most important gift that Abba has given you second to a relationship with Jesus.
9. Embrace Growth, welcome change. During your marriage you and your spouse will change. You will want many different things. You might find that thing that used to excite them in the past doesn’t anymore. Do not accuse them of changing but welcome the change. It is part of growing older. They are not the same person you married. Years; circumstances and experiences have changed their outlook on life. Celebrate the fact that the two of you are growing older together.
10. Design Your Own Marriage. There will be many people speaking about how to be married. Many will offer advice and discourage you from doing certain things. Even this article offers advice about what can work in your marriage if you apply these principles. In all of this please know though that a marriage is really between two people. Design the kind of marriage that will be fulfilling to both of you.
Support each other’s dreams
11. Support Each Other. Your spouse will want to pursue different dreams during your time together. You will be a very important part in their journey. You have the power to make those dreams happen or to speak death to them. Of all people that will support your spouse your voice is the one that they will treasure and cherish the most. Support your spouse. Recently as a family we were celebrating my mother in law graduating from Bible School. She is 64. Baba was the proudest of all of us especially because they achieved that goal together. He was there to support her during times of great discouragement when she almost gave up. He was there to encourage her to write her assignments and to allow her time to do research. He was there for her and his support meant the world to her.
12. Be Transparent. Be truly naked to each other. Do not have secret meetings that your partner does not know about. You would know when you are about to do something wrong. There is nothing that puts a crack in a marriage to a point of it collapsing more than infidelity. Guard against the enemy using anything to come between you. When you meet a member of the opposite sex it is best to let your spouse know. This inspires confidence and a sense of security.
13. Never forget to go through life hand in hand. Be one in your goals and in how you approach your married life.
14. Cherish your vows. When life happens it is sometimes hard to stick to your vows but make a commitment that whatever life throws at you, that you will uphold the sacredness of your vows. During the financial crisis that hit the world many abandoned their marriages as they could not cope with downgrading. They forgot to be there for better or for worse; for richer and for poorer. Let us be committed to be there through all the storms of life and then to be there when life seems to give us “peaceful seas”.
I was told when I got marriage to endure. They said, “Uzunyamezele ke mntanam” (You must endure my child). I do believe that marriage will present those times to you when you must stand your ground; endure and fight for your marriage but that is not what marriage is about; a constant struggle. Marriage can be beautiful; fun and enjoyable if you let it. Your spouse should be your best friend. May our Lord help all of us invest time and effort in making our marriages abundant and full of life.
God bless your marriage and family.