One of the things I have observed about many Christian marriages is that they are in a rut. These couples are comfortable, like each other, and are busy with all of the responsibilities of life. If they would stop long enough to evaluate their marriage, they would discover a couple of great friends who are sharing the same home. These people may not believe in divorce, so they simply co-exist as a couple.
Why does this matter?
You may be asking if it really matters. After all, life gets busy and marriage can’t always be passionate. Here’s the thing – in the eyes of God, if you are married, there is no more important relationship on earth. In the beginning, God designed marriage to be a man and a woman coming together to become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This design of oneness is what God dreams for your marriage. It’s a big deal. Your marriage is not made to co-exist or just be comfortable. Your marriage is made to be an expression of two people who are growing together as one. God desires for your marriage to be filled with a spiritual, emotional, and physical oneness with each other.
This oneness is for your benefit, but also for so much more. It is a oneness that is meant to be two people working as one to bring life to the world (Genesis 1:28-30). It is also a oneness that is meant to reflect what God is like (Genesis 1:27). God is a Trinity of three persons who are one. Marriage is an opportunity to give a glimpse of how God can be three separate persons, and yet still be one. In case you missed what I said earlier, oneness is a big deal.
Shannon and I have been married for almost 24 years. We have four children together. My job requires a fair amount of travel. We both like to be involved in serving in our local church. As you can imagine, life is a little bit crazy. We have learned that it is easy to get in to a rut, and it requires intentional discipline to get out and stay out. Here are some lessons we have learned together.
1. Stay Connected to God
It is far easier to grow in oneness when you are staying connected to God. Personal disciplines of prayer and Bible reading/meditation will help you hear God’s voice. Praying together as a couple will grow your spiritual intimacy. God has the ability to show you where you need to get out of your own selfishness and see the needs of the other person. He also gives you the strength you need to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of your marriage.
2. Evaluate Your Priorities
Would your spouse say that you prioritize your relationship with each other? Are your children, hobbies, volunteer efforts, or job more important to you? Stay aware of the decisions you are making in life, and filter everything through the lens of a desire to strengthen your marriage.
3. Evaluate Your Time
Is there regular time in your schedule for you and your spouse to be together – alone? It is difficult to grow towards oneness if you are not spending time together. Here are some disciplines we have built into our life:
- Daily – take 15 to 20 minutes after dinner to connect on each other’s day. Talk about the good, bad, and ugly. Yes, we even did this with younger children. It took a lot of discipline and work, but we managed to do it.
- Regular date nights, whatever that looks like for you. Make it a way to connect with each other and not just watch TV or a movie.
- Find fun things to do together. We’ve even taken ballroom dancing lessons. Yes, I looked ridiculous. But we had a great time together.
- Twice a year – getaway. We were fortunate to have our mother in law living close by. She came to stay at our home when our children were young so we could getaway for a weekend twice a year. These were usually 24 hours in some relatively cheap hotel. It was just the discipline of getting away and connecting on a deeper level.
If communication is difficult in your marriage, you may want to listen to this podcast interview I did with Neil Josephson from Family Life Canada.
4. Evaluate Your Marriage
What does your spouse need from you? Ask them – Listen – Do something about it. If you are pursuing oneness, then you will seek to serve your spouse. Yes, there are limits. Your spouse should never ask for something that goes against God’s commands, or something that will hurt you in any way. These requests are selfish. Once you understand what your spouse needs from you, then try and narrow down to one area you can begin to work on and set some goals/action steps. Ask them to help you do that. It is unlikely you can correct everything overnight, but don’t let that stop you from correcting something. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages is a great place to start with this.
5. Dream Together
Do you have dreams that you share? Dreams will bring you together towards a common goal. They will give you something to keep talking about and striving towards. Your dreams can involve:
- Experiences for your marriage (travel, owning a home, having children, etc)
- Shared mission (how you can bless others, how you can shape the lives of your children and grandchildren, etc)
This list is certainly not exhaustive, and I would love to hear from you on ways you have been able to get out of a rut in your marriage.
Be honest with yourself. Is your marriage building in oneness or are you in a rut? Talk to your spouse, pray together, and ask God to show you how to get out of the rut. Help your marriage to thrive! It will be a great gift to yourself, your spouse, and to the world.