Everyone goes into marriage wanting happiness. Our quest for a happy marriage will not be without its obstacles. How we deal with the obstacles will determine the vitality of our marriage. Today’s post is the first in a series on ways to strengthen your marriage.
God intended marriage to reflect the unity He experiences in the Trinity. In their book, A Model for Marriage, Jack and Judith Balswick put it this way, “Marriage serves as a sanctifying process as spouses strive for unity in the midst of their unique differences.” Unity in the midst of diversity – that’s a challenge.
To experience this unity we need to feel safe. How do we create an environment where we are free to open up and say what is really going on? Where we can say what we really think without fear of rejection? Where we feel free to be ourselves, “warts and all”?
Our marriages need to be a safe haven. “Safe haven” is a nautical phrase that refers to the place where ships would go for winter seeking protection from the storms. Likewise, our marriage needs to be a safe haven from the storms of life. To create a safe haven we need to trust, be open, and be engaged in the relationship.
One of the cornerstones in any relationship is trust. The writer of Proverbs tells us, “People with good understanding will be well liked, but the lives of those who are not trustworthy are hard” (Proverbs 13:15, NCV). When we violate trust with our spouse, emotional walls go up. The unity that God desires for us is lost. We desperately want to connect, but we can’t find a way in to our partner’s heart. We are shut out.
The reality is none of us are perfect. There will be times when we violate our spouse’s trust. When we do break that trust, we need to ask for forgiveness, express our regret, own our mistakes, repent by changing our ways and offer to make amends. It takes a long time to build trust and only a moment to lose it. Living a life of integrity goes a long way in building trust. The question we need to wrestle with is “Am I trustworthy?” Do I give my spouse any reason to not trust me? Without that ability to trust, a safe harbor can’t be built.
Openness is making all aspects of our lives accessible to our spouse. It is easy to be open when things are going well. It is much harder to be open when we are struggling or feeling insecure, but being vulnerable in those moments strengthens trust.
However, being vulnerable is risky. We might experience rejection. This fear can imprison our hearts. It feels safer to keep others out. It seems counterintuitive to let someone see “the real me.” But when we open that door and let our spouse in and find we are loved despite our faults, trust is built. It builds a bond that enables us to walk through the storms of life together.
In order to build trust and be open, we need to be engaged in each other’s lives. We need to communicate, “I love you, value you and want to stay close to you.” How? Life can get so busy. Work is time-consuming and demanding, especially if both spouses are employed. We often feel physically and emotionally exhausted by the time we arrive home.
If we have kids, we have a whole new set of demands. We are responsible to train, discipline and play with our children while demonstrating the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, and the energy of a court jester. The list of demands continues: a house to clean, property to be maintained, cars to fix, family obligations… Where do we find time to be together?
Making time for each other is an investment in your marriage. Even in the midst of the chaos, make your marriage a priority. Schedule regular times for just the two of you. Some of these times need to be checking in and talking about business and schedules. Other times need to be fun and relaxing.
Each day ask your spouse, “How are you?” and listen with a sympathetic ear. Pray for them. Send a text, email or note that lets them know you are thinking of them and you love them. Reach out and give them a hug, a kiss, hold their hand. Let them know you are there and want to be with them. As we build trust, open up and stay engaged we will build a safe harbor to weather the storms of life and experience the joy and unity God has designed for us.
Questions to reflect on:
- How trustworthy am I?
- Are there areas in which I need to seek forgiveness or forgive?
- How open am I in my relationship?
- Am I engaged in my marriage?
- In what ways will I invest in my marriage this week?