Great marriages don't just happen, you have to build them.
Sharon and her husband built the garage and decided to live there until the house was constructed. Five years later, they were still in the garage. The house plans still took a prominent place on the wall…but life was busy. They hadn’t planned to let construction slip…it had just happened as the busyness of day-to-day took center stage. They were fairly comfortable for the moment…but building had stopped.
Building a marriage is much like building a home. You put deliberate plans in place and then you actively pursue the construction. Day-to-day busyness must be guarded against and the building must be conscious. When building stops, status quo settles in. Having a deliberate eye on construction can keep building fun and productive.
The marriage relationship is the highest of all human relationships. It can be a complete sharing of heart and soul, mind and body, or it can be simply a living arrangement of co-existence. Most marriages are somewhere in between. Any marriage can benefit from implementing some new or resharpened tools to move deliberately in building into a growing relationship.
Here are five practical and positive tools to use in building your marriage.
1. The team tool
Remember you are a team. When two team members forget they are on the same team and begin to compete with each other, no one wins. Marriage is not about winning; it is about pulling together in the same direction. Stop for a moment and look honestly at yourself. Do you need to win every argument or be right about some insignificant disagreement?
Maybe he is the one with that need to be right. Remember you are on the same team. In things that don’t matter, drop it. In things that do, plan for a time out and set a date to revisit the issue. Verbalize the fact that you are a team. Bring in a third party if you repeatedly stalemate on one issue. Think in terms of “I choose us.”
2. The response tool
Don’t react; respond! Your reactions actually tell more about you than your actions do! Take time to think before you just react! Evaluate why you react in certain ways and plan ahead of time what you are going to do next time it happens. Know what your buttons are…do you react negatively if he is late getting home and didn’t call? What situations do you find yourself reacting in? Choose to be conscious of the “I choose us” frame of mind and think about your reactions. Many couples get on a merry-go-round of reactions and find themselves in a hostile environment neither of them wants. Choose to respond instead!
3. The blessing tool
Give a blessing today! In the book The Blessing, Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent describe the deliberate practice of expressing honor and devotion to other people. It’s actually a practice with deep biblical roots. Many marriage partners have come to this special relationship without ever having received honor or devotion. Sometimes they come with trust issues because these things were not a part of their heritage.
Begin today to put words of honor and devotion into your partner’s heart. Speak truth from your heart. Let him know what you appreciate about him. Affirm his positive traits. “You give such attention to detail.” or “Your boss knows he can depend on you.” If you have to stretch a long way to find something, start where you can. It may be something like, “I appreciate how you provide for our family. Thank you.” Or “Maggie really needed you to see that test she did so well in. Thanks for taking time to listen to her.”
For some, this tool will be easy to use. For others it will feel awkward and hard to put to use. If you draw a blank in finding words of affirmation begin to watch carefully for the little things you can affirm. Ask God, who sees the best in all of us, to reveal to your heart some positive qualities you can affirm.
4. The sharing tool
Share as much of life as possible! Share your time, share your thoughts, share your interests, and share his interests. This is a tool that must be deliberately engaged or life will push it aside. Time spent together doing things affords a connection opportunity. History together is built one event at a time. Make sure you are inputting positive events that build a positive archive. Plan dates. A movie night, dinner out, or even a coffee date is a good way to keep sharing alive!
If life has crowed the sharing out of your relationship, be deliberate in building it back in. Start small, share a certain TV program and sit beside him. Share a cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade for a couple of minutes in the middle of a task he is doing. Even cleaning the garage or basement together can connect you. Reminisce briefly now and then. “This old bike brings back memories of those good times we had biking that summer before we moved.” Share your time. Go with him to look at a car or take a trip to Home Depot. Begin to share your thoughts.
5. The contact tool
Make daily contact! It is entirely possible to live with someone and not make any or very little contact. Contact is an excellent building tool and you can use it in a variety of ways. Each day try to connect in one way, whether emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually. Think about it and try to be deliberate. Some construction tools look overwhelming, yet when you know how to use them they are extremely valuable in the building project.
- Emotionally – Share a thought that goes beyond picking up milk or confirming the time of an appointment. Use “I feel…” comments.
- Offer support emotionally. “You’ve had a lot of pressure lately. Why don’t you sleep in a bit Saturday?” “I know we are in a financial crunch right now, but we’ll do what we have to do and together we’ll get through it.”
- Encourage in any way you can. Remember that communication is only seven percent words we speak and the rest is our tone and body language. Tone and body language are the emotional language we speak.
- Mentally – Connect by sharing a newspaper article you read, a news commentator you listened to or from a book you are reading. Ask him his opinions and listen to them. Share a story from your day or ask a question about something that interests him.
- Physically – Give lots of non-sexual touching such as a quick hug, a hand on the arm, a pat on the hand or the back. Touching says “I care” and touch is one of our basic human needs. If all touching has become a signal for sex, touch on the way out the door, touch casually, touch in passing.Do make time for the sexual contact as well. Plan for it. Dwell on the good things about your husband. Have a relaxing bath, get out a candle and surprise him with a sense of pleasure at being together.
- Spiritually – Many couples never share on this level even if they share the same faith. Spiritual sharing gives a third dimension to a relationship. Share a thought or a reading that inspired you. Take time to pray for him. Let him know you are praying for him. Pray together if possible.
Endeavor to connect regularly on all levels.
But what about me?
These tools all focus on you as the builder. It is more important to be the right partner than to have the right partner. You can only change you. You cannot change your partner; you can only change how you relate to him. But what if your emotional and spiritual gage is on empty? What if you need someone to build into you?
Plain and simply, the answer is God! No, don’t stop reading…it’s true and it is a very practical thing you can experience. God loves you. He has only your best in mind. He waits for you to invite Him to share the journey of life with you. When you open your heart to receive His love and forgiveness for living your life your own way, He comes in and begins to build into you so you, in turn, can build into others. Invite God into your life; invite him into your marriage. He is the well from which you can draw. Ask Him to give you insight into your husband. Ask Him to give you a loving and responsive heart. Ask Him to give you strength and wisdom. Ask Him for words that build up and bless. Ask Him for patience. He created you and He created marriage. He is the master builder and the one that is truly qualified to help you use these tools.
On your own you can find a measure of success in applying these tools. But God holds the manual and, when invited, He can enhance your life and your marriage in ways you never imagined. Why not invite Him now?
Father God, Thank You that You care about me and that You actually desire to walk with me through life. That amazes me! I open my heart to You right now and accept Your love and forgiveness. Help me to understand how You love me. Help me to come to You and Your deep well of resources every day. God, I don’t fully understand how You work in my life, but I ask You to teach me. Give me the patience and the insight to build my marriage stronger. Thank You for my husband. Bless him and protect him. Teach me to know You and to grow in Your ways. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.