In this Marriage Insight, we’re sharing some thoughts from one of our favorite books, “Romance in Real Life” written by Ellyn Sanna. (Unfortunately, this book is no longer being published.) We love the thoughts written in it concerning growing the marriage relationship. So, we’re sharing a few so you can be enriched, as well. Please prayerfully read and consider if and how you can apply them to your marriage.
To Improve Your Marriage Relationship:
“Make your marriage your number one priority after your relationship with God. …It’s too easy to let our marriages fall into the background. We would never say our marriages weren’t important—and yet we act as though they are not.” …“Being married isn’t a decision you make once and then be done with it. The wedding ceremony doesn’t magically transform us into ‘married people.’ Instead, being married is a lifetime process we must commit ourselves to again and again.” (Ellyn Sanna)
I admit that I have been guilty of this. My husband and I both have. When we got married, we just slid into life from that stance. There were a lot of things to do to build our life together, and so we got busy at it. Like many spouses, we became so focused on making life “work” for us that we ran past each other to accomplish them. Steve was busy building his broadcasting career. He started out in radio, and then went into television news. Eventually, after giving our life to Christ, God called him into Christian radio. And then he went into managing a Christian radio station. All of this made him, and us very busy.
I worked at his parent’s art gallery and painted watercolors on the side. I also had an agent who sold them around the country. Additionally, I eventually went into illustrating Sunday School supplementary material. All of this was happening while we were putting together our apartment, then purchasing a home. I got pregnant earlier than we thought possible. (The doctors told me I probably couldn’t get pregnant because of medical complications. They were wrong 🙂 We had one son, and then another two years later. We loved them even before they were born, but they sure made our lives all the more busy.
Sliding into Disconnection
As a result, we just let things slide that we really shouldn’t have—such as intentionally growing our marriage relationship. We thought our love would keep growing and growing as it had in the past. But we were wrong. It slid backwards into disconnection, and dysfunction. Thankfully, the Lord helped us, as we did things His way, to rebuild and keep building it.
“The plain fact is that most of us do not take marriage seriously. We get so caught up in all of the other demands that our marriage and the quality of our togetherness fall to the bottom of our ‘to do’ list.” (Evelyn and Paul Moschetta)
All of us need to remember that:
“Marriage has no automatic pilot. You can’t flick a switch and lean back and forget about it. You have to stay at the controls, making adjustments, making it fly. Every day you have to decide to love your mate. Every day.” (Kevin Leman)
You have to make big and little choices to choose each other over other demands whenever possible. I remember hearing one spouse tell the other, “I choose you” when questioned as to why they turned down what appeared to be a great opportunity. That’s what it takes sometimes. First, we chose each other by walking down the aisle to vow our unending love to one another. And then afterward, we make daily choices to grow our marriage relationship. If we don’t it could go in a direction that is anything but loving.
Choosing to Give
It’s true what Henry James Borys once said:
“A marriage can be improved in many ways but I cannot think of one that doesn’t have something to do with giving.”
“Giving” in marriage is manifested in many ways. You are to give “honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) It’s a matter of giving of yourself to your spouse, “as unto the Lord.” When sacrificial giving is involved, imagine that you’re doing this for the Lord. That is because essentially you are—it’s much like giving “something to drink” to someone that is thirsty. Jesus said that when you do this for others, you do it for Him. (See: Matthew 25:35-40.) Remember:
“Marriage is not just a spiritual communion and passionate embrace. Marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload and remembering to carry out the trash.” (Dr Joyce Brothers)
Al Janssen gives a few added examples of this type of giving of oneself, in his excellent book, Marriage Masterpiece: God’s Amazing Design for Your Life Together. (Just change the pronouns and the verbiage around, if you are the wife.) He talks about what it takes to lovingly give to, and serve his spouse, as he knows he should. He expands upon that idea by saying:
“I have numerous opportunities every day to give up what I want to do and instead serve my wife. In this way, I glorify God because my sacrifice is a reflection of His heart and how He loves His bride.”
Al goes on to say, that sometimes:
• “It means biting my tongue when I’d rather defend myself against something she said.
• It means getting up in the middle of the night when a child cries rather than pretending I don’t hear anything.
• Sometimes, it means putting down my reading material and really listening when she wants to talk.
• It means taking over some chores when she’s got a hectic day.
• It means cleaning the kitchen Sunday evening rather than leaving the mess for her to face on Monday morning.
• And it means that when I’m accidentally exposed to porn while channel surfing in a hotel room far from home, I shut off the television because I won’t allow any impure thoughts to invade my marriage.
“One of the original purposes of marriage as God intended it in the Garden of Eden was to reflect His image. That means marriage is about something bigger than the two of us. Marriage is one of God’s primary means of speaking to the world, and the world takes notice when a man truly loves His wife the way Christ loves His church.”
The same goes for a wife who goes the extra mile to show love to her husband as Christ would have her. There are a few more “choices” we can make that can help us grow our marriages. To learn more, please read:
Our Marriage Relationship Calling
It’s important to realize that God has a very high calling for our marriages. He uses it as a vehicle to grow us up to maturity as we learn to love and serve beyond our own comfort zone.
“Marriage is an occasion to practice the gospel day in and day out. …If we want our marriages to grow and flourish, we will follow the pattern for love that Christ lived. We will look for opportunities to lay down our lives, to put our love into practice. In the context of our daily lives, this seldom means we literally give up our lives for the spouse we love. More likely it means we pick up their dry cleaning—or take out the trash for them when they’re running late.” (Ellyn Sanna)
“A growing relationship means turning romantic love inside out—from love that takes to love that gives.” (Henry James Borys)
Isn’t that what Christ did for us? Didn’t He give, more than He took? He is our example that we’re told to follow. We’re told in the Bible, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:6) Ultimately:
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 5:1-2, from The Message)
If you want to improve your marriage relationship, do as Christ did and does. As Christ followers, that is our calling.
It is also our calling to “encourage one another daily.” (See: Hebrews 3:13.) We are to do this within our marriages, and outside of them. Therefore, it is our hope that you will post some of your tips on this issue below. You may know of some that could help others to improve their marriage relationships. Please join us in this mission.