Most of the time when I think of the word "bliss" I think happiness. Webster adds the idea of a state of well being or contentment. How many of you would say you have marital bliss?
I hope you all are responding in the affirmative. Ha, ha. I'm sure there are some of you who are happily married, but the majority of us struggle. As I've said before, anything worth doing is often difficult. I know marriage can get hard. It can be an all out war. Not that you and your spouse are fighting all the time, but that you are constantly fighting within your self to do the right thing, say the right thing, be gentle, show kindness, meet their needs and so on. Just like our faith, marriage can benefit from a few tools to help it grow. Let me preface this by saying, I know not everyone is in a cooperative marriage. You may have an abusive spouse or a spouse who does not share your faith, or perhaps your spouse has issues with pornography or some other addiction. If your spouse does not want to grow in the relationship with you, you can still benefit from these tools in that you will grow. Your own growth will make a difference in your marriage. However, if you are in a dangerous situation please contact someone who can help you. All the growth in the world will not fix a person if they do not want to be fixed.
1. Partnering in faith. Sharing a common faith is a key component in bringing intimacy to a marriage. Being in agreement on things like politics, social issues and what sort of belief system you have, will go a long way in making a marriage stronger. But you can't just share common ideals, you need to do something about it. Go to church together. Read the Bible and pray together. Go to a couples Bible study. Do volunteering together. This has a ripple affect. Not only do you grow closer to one another because you are spending time together doing something you both want to do, but if you have children, they will see the benefit these things have on your relationship and in the church and community.
2. Read books together. You can read any books together. Once again, the act of being together, reading and talking about what you read can be a catalyst for growth. My husband and I have read numerous marriage books together. His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr. was one of the first books we read together. Every book offers some good information that will help you understand your spouse better. Here are some other good titles: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray, Sacred Sex by Tim Alan Gardner, For Women Only and For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn ( I linked this to a set that sells both books and a DVD, but you can buy each book separately) and Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge. Every single one of these books has information to help a couple process their differences and work through those areas of miscommunication. My husband, Mark, the philosopher really liked His Needs, Her Needs and the two books by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. These books presented the topic of marriage in a very straight forward, list type way. My personal picks were Sacred Sex and Love and War. Both of these presented the information from a Biblical perspective. That does not make me a better person than my spouse. We just process information differently and see the world through different colored glasses. And that is okay. If you can read any of these together you'll be further ahead than if you hadn't read anything at all. And if your spouse doesn't want to read, by all means read them yourself. They will give you valuable insight into the male species and what he is thinking within the marriage. BUT read it with an open heart. Not with a pen and paper in hand to make a list of all the things your spouse is not doing right. If you are the only one interested in growth, then let God grow YOU!
3. Get away. This cannot be stressed enough. Getting away, is tantamount to growth in your marriage. If you are limited on time and resources go on a date. My husband and I have a date night every week. Actually, now that our girls are on their own, we have as many date nights as we want, but we still set Wednesday evening aside to go out to dinner and then we usually end up at a Barnes and Noble, because we both love books. Find a babysitter if you do not have family in town. Your church is a good place to look for teenagers who are willing to watch your kids for a few dollars. If you are able to, get away every 6 months for a weekend. Go to a hotel, a state park lodge or camp ground. If you can't do that, send the kids to your parents or in-laws and stay home all weekend. Light candles, play music, get movies and just relax and enjoy one another. Another good place to go is to a marriage conference. My spouse and I have never gone to a conference. We both love to camp and hike, so we usually design our own weekends away. However, there are many different types of marriage retreats and conferences. Just Google "marriage conference" or "marriage retreat" and different options will come up. Or check with your church. They may already have something in place.
4. Counseling. Finally, I want to talk about counseling. I am a firm believer in getting good Godly counsel. Don't expect that your spouse will be excited about this, at least not right away. It is much harder for a man to bare their soul to a perfect stranger than for a woman....at least that's how I feel. However, if you feel you need help, get it. Do it for yourself and for the benefit of your marriage. A counselor can help you see yourself and your spouse differently. It is preferable that a couple do this together, that way you can both talk and express your feelings with a mediator present. Part of a counselor's job is to get you talking and to keep you on track. We all know how we can get sidetracked when we are trying to talk to each other about our marriages. Something comes up about the past, shots are being fired, someone ends up angry and the other is crying! Sound familiar? Counseling is not a bad thing and can be a great help for your relationship.
Lastly, I would like to add a personal note. My husband and I love each other and when we married we made a commitment. It has not been easy. We are both strong personalities with our own way of looking at the world. Time has tempered us, but if I had to do it over again, I would have started reading earlier. I would have gone to counseling sooner. Don't wait until you have gotten so set in your ways that changing will be like pulling an elephant through the eye of a needle. Start early and be teachable. Humility is a huge factor in having a thriving, growing marriage.