If you're just reading for the first time, the introduction to this series is here and part 1 on spiritual intimacy is here, and part 2 on emotional and physical intimacy is here and part 3 on dos and don'ts for spouses is here
While pithy and poignent quotes about love and marriage are certainly not in short supply, there are two that I've read recently that really stand out to me. Sadly, I don't even know who originally said them but they are both true all the same:
"If you're too busy with other things to make sure your spouse knows and feels just how much you love them, you're too busy with petty things that don't
"The best gift a man can give to his children is to love his wife"
That first one is cuts right to the point and may even put someone on the defensive right away but the truth of it is, there is almost nothing in the world more important than a healthy, happy marriage relationship. If sports, hobbies, work, or anything else is taking your time away from your husband or wife to the point they feel neglected and unimportant, your priorities are simply in the wrong place. Sadly, one of the common complaints from women who are struggling through a difficult marriage relationship is that her husband leaves her feeling invisible. That feeling leads to many others if not remedied, such as despair, insecurity, resentment, bitterness and anger. Likewise for husbands, a common complaint is that she makes him feel inadequate which leads to a big change in his attitude toward her that may include feelings of spite, indifference, and even insults leveled at her. In many cases the spouse causing the hurt feelings of the other isn't doing it on purpose, they've just adapted to a busy life and this is the result. This is something that should never, ever happen. Allow me to say that again, this is something that should never, ever happen.
If you're in a marriage where your spouse has ever voiced this concern to you and you've not done anything about it, make today the day you DO do something about it. After all, you love each other very much, and no matter how mundane or routine or stressed your relationship has become, each of you genuinely does have the power to turn things around. As my own husband would say when it comes to this, "just do it". He's not one to mince his words.
The second quote up above is timeless and will come back to bless your entire family over and over again. Little girls grow up with their loving daddy expressing his affections to her mommy and it becomes the pattern they come to expect in an honorable, wonderful man when they're of an age to begin thinking about it. Likewise for little boys, when they have this kind of a dad as their example it becomes the pattern they want to emulate when they get older and begin thinking about how to treat a lady, and eventually a wife. Husbands, if you want your children to have high standards for their future spouses, do all you can to show them what a good and loving man looks like. Wives, this same principle applies to you as well, make no mistake. In your words and deeds model as best as you are able, the kind of wife you want your daughters to be and the kind of wife you want for your son.
Now, at the beginning of this series I said that I was not basing any of it on personal, subjective experience and that is true. None of what I have shared with you has been advice from me, personally, but advice I've read from professionals. Now you may be wondering just how valid any of this advice is, so this is the part where I will share a bit of personal, subjective experience. Keeping in mind every marriage relationship is as different as there are pesonalities. In other words, the advice DOES work wonders, but your results will vary.
Mine and my husband's relationship is one that most people would call very, very good. Before we ever had romantic thoughts about the other we were friends for nearly a year. Good friends, and fast friends, we quickly discovered we were very much alike and could quite literally talk about almost anything and we did. We both agree that this was a fantastic foundation to begin with and it's kept us close all these years. However, like just about every other married couple we began to get so busy with kids, family, work, etc., that our marriage began to suffer in certain areas that we never thought it would. The tricky part of this is that it's so subtle, so gradual that by the time it occurs to you that you've arrived "there" you're both already quite set in your own routines and it's very hard to stop and change things up.
It wasn't that long ago that we both had to admit we were in fact there, that our marriage was in a place we didn't want it, and we were both determind to get away from that and work hard at a better marriage. I began to read just about anything I could get my hands on and discuss what I'd found with him and see how it fit (or didn't - and not all advice applies in all cases, to be sure) our own personal circumstances. I found a lot of advice and a lot of checklists and a lot of "quizes" for husbands and wives to take in an effort to break the ice, break the patterns that got you "there" in the first place, and we began to incorporate much of the advice I've written about in this series. In short, the result was absolutely incredible.
So much so, that now we look forward to our time together more than we have in years. We weren't really able to change our routines that much but we did make some changes and now things have changed so much between us, it's almost like a brand new relationship built over a pretty wonderful one to begin with. Not long ago I tweeted that I wasn't sure it was possible to fall in love with your spouse again after so many years of marriage, but if it was possible, that it happened to me. I was assured by the comments I received that yes, it is certainly possible. Now, Kevin and I have that kind of marriage that you hear about, but privately wonder if it's real or exagerrated. I can assure you, those marriages do exist and they're very real.
I cannot stress to you enough, if you and your spouse have found your marriage in the ruts, in a routine, and lacking or suffering in some way as a result, applying some of the advice you've read in this series (whatever might apply, or whatever might apply but you can change up a little bit to fit your circumstances) will make an incredible difference and you'll both be the happier for it.
I'd love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on this so please feel welcome to leave a comment. I hope in some way this has blessed someone, or more than just one someone.