We've all done it. Allowed ourselves to become complacent. We get comfortable in our ruts and we stay there. Just as growth is essential in our Christian faith, it is just as important in our marriages. Unfortunately, marriage seems to be one of those areas that get tossed onto a pile of "things I need to do later." You know the pile. It includes things like, call my mom, do the taxes, start that diet, cut up the credit card and work on my marriage.
All relationships need to be nourished. Those that aren't usually fall by the wayside. National statistics are telling in that many marriages are ending in divorce. Marriage is a garden that needs care and attention. Without it, the seeds originally sewn in the soil of "I do", end up overrun by the weeds of "I don't" or "I won't".
Growth needs to happen for the strength of the marriage. A building is only as strong as the foundation it is built upon. A brick or stone structure is usually less influenced by the elements than a wood or mud and straw structure. You may have began your marriage on a foundation of Christian bricks, but if you continue to build with bricks of neglect and manipulation, the walls will grow steadily weaker.
Another reason growth is essential to our marriages has to do with romance. I love romantic movies, but I am aware that movies only show a small aspect of a loving and committed relationship. Romance takes work and requires growth. Men, don't assume that because you brought your wife flowers once, that every time you bring them she will swoon. Us women are fickle and all about change. Women, don't assume that because you have gained weight and have more wrinkles, that your husband no longer needs to see you in a sexy nighty. He still does and he still wants to. Romance is all about mixing it up and growing.
Our marriages also need to be growing and vital for the sake of our faith. A solid, committed marriage can be a force for the gospel in our families and in our communities. When kids see Mom and Dad still together and still working it out, it can be a testimony to them of what is possible for their own lives as adults. I speak here, from hindsight. I wish I would have been more aware of just how much our girls were watching us as they grew up. Perhaps, my husband and I would have tried a little harder to work with each other, rather than against each other.
This testimony can broaden out into the community as well. I recently gifted a young couple, who are friends with my younger daughter, free babysitting once a month for their three children. I wanted this Christian couple to not only have a date night, but also the opportunity to see an older married couple willing to help and serve, thus giving them a chance to strengthen their own marriage through time alone.
Start thinking about ways you can help your marriage grow. Are you in a rut? Do you go to the same places every week on your date night? Do you even have a date night? When was the last time you cuddled on the couch while watching a movie? Or gone to a movie at the theater? When you go out to eat, do you go to a loud noisy restaurant where you can't hear yourself think let along hear your spouse talk? How much time do you actually listen to your spouse when they are talking and are you actively listening? I know as a woman we are often guilty of "listening" while we are doing the dishes or making dinner. In one ear and out the other. Do you go to church together? Do you pray together? All of these things and more can contribute to the growth or stagnation of your marriage.
Marriage is hard. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes perseverance...but so does anything that is worth while.
Come back next week for another look at areas in our marriage that can benefit from growth.