Wedding days are stressful, aren’t they? We want the perfect venue, the perfect caterer, the perfect DJ, the perfect photographer, the perfect dress, the perfect weather, etc… So much work, planning, expense, and even prayer goes in to the perfect execution of the wedding day that we sometimes forget that we are making a commitment to a lifetime that will be far from perfect.
- For better as well as for worse.
- In sickness as well as in health.
- For richer as well as for poorer.
- Until death do us part.
What if we put the same level of effort into cultivating a thriving and healthy marriage that we put in to having a perfect wedding day?
In week 2 of our message series “Happily Ever After” we discussed a vital aspect of any relationship: faithfulness. Another word for faithfulness is loyalty. How would you define loyalty? Merriam-Webster defines it as “unswerving in allegiance”. Some synonyms include devotion, allegiance, constancy, and fidelity. Loyalty or faithfulness does not just happen on accident. Loyalty is a choice, and it is a choice that we make daily if we want any hope of our marriage not just surviving, but thriving over the course of a lifetime.
In our message, we learned three things we can do in hard times that will cultivate faithfulness.
1. Draw near
One of our instincts when we become wounded is to isolate ourselves for protection. Instead of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with each other, we will find ways to emotionally distance ourselves and avoid the pain we’ve suffered. Some ways include avoiding conversation or even avoiding each other, or perhaps pouring ourselves in to our work, our kids, or our hobbies. While we can convince ourselves that we are helping the marriage by avoiding a confrontation, the reality is quite the opposite. It can have (and usually does have) a devastating affect. So what can we do instead? Draw near.
We must draw near to each other. This is an intentional, some times painful, decision, but we have to face our own pain or face the pain we have caused, and we have to do it together. Jesus reminds us in Mark 10:7-8 that when we marry we are no longer two, but one flesh. What hurts one hurts the other. Whether it was a word that was spoken, or an action that was done, or a tragedy that’s been endured, what has hurt one has hurt the other. Draw near to each other and find healing.
We also much draw near to God. I can’t remember where I first heard this, but imagine your marriage relationship as a triangle with you and your spouse as the bottom two points and God as the top point. As you both pursue, and draw closer to, God you will naturally be drawn closer to each other. This is why it is important to know whether or not the person you are considering marrying is interested in pursuing God. If they are not, more than likely it will pose a problem at some point in the marriage.
2. Hold Fast
Some times it may seem like the only viable option in the middle of a difficult situation is to quit. Don’t.
Before I get in to that statement, let me give a brief aside. If you are in an abusive relationship, meaning your spouse is hurting/beating/emotionally scarring you, don’t feel like you have to stay in order to please God. If I can be quite frank, my advice for you is to get out, get safe, and get help. The abuse is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You did not make him or her that way. If your spouse is abusive it’s because they are abusive. Get out. Get safe. Get help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a website or you can give them a call: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Your marriage can be saved and restored by the power of God, but first you have to get yourself safe from further harm.
OK. Moving on.
If there is a low point in your marriage for whatever reason, then it may come across your mind to consider quitting. Don’t. Instead hold fast to your commitment to your spouse. Remember your wedding day! Remember staring in to his or her eyes and making your dedication to love through anything and everything life may throw your way. I have yet to meet a person who married their spouse with the intention of quitting one day. Remember why you married him or her in the first place. Remember your wedding day.
When I was a teenager, my parents taught me the two rules they lived by as husband and wife:
- Don’t go to bed angry and
- Never use the word “divorce”. Ever. Like never ever.
Those two rules provided a safe environment to deal with whatever came their way. They may have had some long nights, but they worked out their issues. They may have faced some serious problems, but divorce was never an option that was on the table so neither of them felt they had to hold back in order to “save” the marriage. Was their marriage perfect? No. But as a kid I watched as we struggled financially, emotionally, and even relationally but their marriage never faltered. And, after 46 years, they are still going strong, so I’m convinced that there is some validity in those two rules.
3. Love in word and deed
Your spouse needs to hear you say, “I love you.” Yes they do. Men are typically the ones who balk at this. We typically assume our wives instinctively know we love them. Well of course they do, but they need to also hear it from time to time as well.
Equally important, however, is that we show our love for our spouse. Words without action are empty and meaningless. One of the best books (in my opinion) on showing love to our spouse is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it, he describes five ways we receive love:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
Some of our relationship problems stem from communicating love to our spouse in our love language rather than theirs. Mr. Chapman does a much better job of explaining this, so rather than write about it here, I’ll just suggest that if you don’t have the book, get it. Get two copies and read through it together. You will not regret it.
So there you have it. Three ways we intentionally choose loyalty and faithfulness when life gets hard and our marriage begins to struggle. Which of these seems easiest to you? Which seems most difficult? How will you respond in your next storm?