From the beginning of this, please note something: Marriage is hard work. In saying that, I want to pose a question:
Are we working too hard on our marriage?
Before you fire off emails, posts, rebuttals, etc at me, I want to work out a thought that came out the other day. It stemmed from a simple saying:
Work smarter; not harder.
When my son turned 10, he got his first pocket knife. He’s seen me whittle before (I’m not very good) and he’s been wanting to do it too. I wanted to make sure it was sharp and it stayed sharp. Anne was concerned he was going to lose an appendage keeping it sharp. But I explained something key: The sharper you keep your knife, the easier it is to work on the project and, thus, less likely to get hurt. So, often I’d have Ethan bring me his knife and we’d take a few moments to sharpen his blade. I know it frustrated him to stop his project for something that seemed so small, but little corrections to the blade made all of the difference. Struggling with a dull knife invites motions and angles that can lead to injuries.
Marriage is no different. Some of you are working hard on some areas with “dull blades.” You find yourself getting hurt in conversations and conflicts. You leave moments together with “nicks” on your heart. I want to help you work smarter. It doesn’t remove the hard work, but why make hard work harder? It’s time to regain your “edge.” It’s time to step back and make some small, intentional moves that can keep your marriage sharp.
1. Monitor the Love Languages.
The longer we’re together, the more apt we take communication for granted. We assume our spouse should just “know” what’s going on and/or what we are thinking. So we go on “business as usual” not realizing the sharpness of our talking has been dulled because we either stopped speaking appropriately to our spouse or didn’t realize that the season of life has changed our spouse’s love language. Some of you are working incredibly hard communicating to your spouse and it’s not working. Could it be that you’re speaking the wrong language? Could it be that tones and mannerisms are dulling the blade of your communication?
Sharpening Tips: Read “5 Love Languages” together. Be a student of how your spouse and how he/she communicates. Find opportunities to pour into what speaks to them and not you.
2. Keep in touch with each other.
There’s no excuse in today’s age of tech to not have steady communication. From a regular time to go over the upcoming week to having daily time to talk about the simple things of the day. These are quality moments that keep couples sharp and prepared. It’s amazing how a 15 minute talk can keep a razor’s edge to your marriage and prevent unnecessary conflict. It’ll astound you how a few texts during the day can prepare hearts for intimacy. Keeping in touch doesn’t take much but it is “jaw-dropping” how much benefit it brings for such simplistic actions. Remember, quantity doesn’t equate to quality. A hand-full of quality daily moments can make you sharper than once-in-a-while quantity connection.
Sharpening Tips: Get a Google calendar to share so that appointments/schedules are understood. Text to connect not to keep track. Randomly direct message, Facebook message, etc. your spouse about your day. Random “I love you” messages will do more than you realize.
3. Have Fun.
I seriously can’t blog about this enough. It’s, quite possibly, the area of marriage both husband and wife take for granted the most. It doesn’t seem necessary for some. It seems to be the first thing to be sacrificed. Yet it might be one of the most spiritual acts you do together. Fun doesn’t have to cost anything!!! It can be so simple AND cheap. When you have fun…
- passionate feelings are rekindled
- defenses are lowered and the real you comes out
- intimacy is stoked
- you remember why you got married
Couples that don’t consistently have fun are working with a dulled-blade and have to work harder AND rarely get the results of couples who consistently feed their marriage fun.
Sharpening Tips: Schedule, as best as you can, a regular “date” time for you two. Look for random moments during mundane weeks to break away for a quick date (Anne and I do froyo). Take turns on who plans the dates.
4. Show appreciation.
There’s not a person existing that doesn’t like to feel appreciated. From gratitude to complements, don’t assume your spouse knows that you appreciate them. Kind words and encouragement will build the infrastructure of servanthood in your marriage. Appreciation sharpens the heart of humility. It creates an atmosphere where spouses look for ways to meet the needs of their partner. Refusal to show appreciation dulls the joy in serving. That which was once a labor of love is not a job of obligation.
Sharpening Tips: Show gratitude for the not-so-obvious/normal things in life (doing well at their job, how well they’re doing as a parent, etc). Using your spouses love language, express random appreciation that will benefit him/her more than you. Drop a note. Make a favorite meal.
5. Have a consistent love life.
PLEASE DON’T SKIP over this if you have a lower sex-drive than your spouse. Please don’t diminish this because it’s not a big deal for you. Regular (defined by the two of you) sexual connection creates health on every level (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual). Like working with a dulled blade, frustration, confusion, and hurt are easy byproducts of an inconsistent love life. Sexual needs are the only needs that NO ONE ELSE can supply in your spouse but you.
Sharpening Tips: Talk frustrations through regardless of how previous talks went. See intimacy beyond sex by fostering healthy touches and communication that are not laced with sexual expectations. Plan out nights for intimacy and keep it consistent (that might sound unromantic, but for those who struggle with their libido, it actually helps them be ready on every level).
6. Don’t tolerate bitterness.
Call it bitterness. Call it unforgiveness. Call it a grudge. It really doesn’t matter what name it goes by, it’s poison. It will be cancerous to your marriage. Bitterness will do more than dull the blade of your marriage, it’ll rust it though. It’s designed to destroy you both. Sharp couples know that bitterness is never worth it and work to keep their blade free of it. Razor sharp couples make sure that forgiveness is asked for and granted. These type of marriages live life free of the bondage that bitterness wants to lead to. Are you keeping score on each other’s faults? Are you trying to repay someone for their mistakes? You’re not just hurting them…you’re hurting you and the marriage. Do not put up with unforgiveness. Release it to the Lord and leave it with him.
Sharpening Tips: Forgive in proportion to how God has forgiven you. Get counsel on deep-seeded hurts. Communicate your act of forgiveness to your spouse. If you’re the one who messed up, ask for forgiveness AND forgive yourself.
I know I could add more, but these are the few that have been weighing on my heart. With your marriage, keep it sharp. You will find yourself working smarter than working harder. And by doing that, you’ll see yourself “whittling/sculpting” a marriage that reflects an image of God to be a testimony to the world around you.
Don’t forget to check out more of Dave’s writing on marriage at www.pdave.me