To wrap up our wedding week (which you can read more about here, here, and here), I thought I would share the most important part of my and Robert’s marriage. Before I jump into this list, you need to know my husband and I do not have a perfect relationship. (Just keepin’ it real.)And, honestly, if any couple tells you they have a perfect marriage, don’t believe it. A lot of times we are victims of insecurity in our relationships because we compare ourselves to all of the others out there that appear to be so wonderful on the surface. “We compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel,” as Steven Furtick likes to put it. Social media can be deceiving. What people don’t talk about is the dirty dark side that can end up being the downfall of a marriage. Just like no Christian is 100% sinless, no couple is either.
So here are some ways I thought up to keep a marriage in check. (Robert and I could stand to do some of these more often too. Remember that “no marriage is perfect” thing? Yep, just qualifying it here again.)
1. Text a scripture to each other every day. Even if you can’t make this a daily ritual, just sending your spouse a verse on a day when he or she needs encouragement is enough to get through a difficult time. Some great apps to use are Daily Bible and Verse-A-Day, and you can even search for scriptures depending on what message you or your spouse needs to hear. Self-doubt is a subject I continually search and find tons of incredibly encouraging verses even if sometimes I just need to read them for myself.
2. Pray together. Since the beginning of our marriage, Robert and I have gotten into the routine of holding hands and saying aloud a prayer together before we go to sleep at night. We alternate nights for who prays. It usually consists of thanking God for blessing us with so many of the things we take for granted, asking forgiveness of our sins, asking Him to help us be a reflection of His love in our own marriage and to those we see daily, and to guide us in whatever challenge we are facing in life at the time. It helps us talk about our problems. It helps us put our issues into perspective. And, best of all, it gives us comfort because we know that, through Christ, the two of us are not alone. Praying together has gotten to be such a habit that I honestly can’t sleep without doing it. In the beginning, it terrified me to pray aloud. But if you can’t be 100% open with your spouse, who can you be open with? He/she needs to know your worries to help you through it.
3. Pray for each other when you’re apart. Marriage is supposed to bring out the best of both spouses. If my husband is going through any sort of struggle and I feel powerless to help him through it, I pray for him. I pray that he will have peace. I pray that he will overcome. I pray that he will love himself as much as I love him. And you know what? God always gets him and us through it. ‘Cause ya know…He’s just awesome like that.
4. Tythe. Let me give this a disclaimer: God wants your heart more than your money. Tything can be a scary subject, especially in a young marriage when money is really tight. But even if you can’t give the traditional 10% of your income, give what you can and do so with a glad heart. Believe it or not, it helps balance the budget and keeps us focused on what are truly the most valuable things in life. If Robert and I could handle it on one beginning teacher’s salary while parenting a newborn and living with my parents, anyone can do it. And we managed to become debt-free and bought a brand new house a year later. Trust me, God provides.
If you’re just beginning with it, start small and work your way up to the 10% as you figure out your finances. But do challenge yourself and give when you first get your paycheck. There have been times when we gave our meager “leftovers” after we had paid for frivolous things. I felt ashamed. I felt like we were putting God on the back burner and putting more importance on our own greed. And I knew it wasn’t right. So now, tything is like part of paying the bills. Just like sending in our electricity check keeps the lights on, sending in our tythe check keeps us in a financially conscious state of mind. It’s not always easy, but it’s essential. For all of the things God has provided for me, I think He deserves as much as I can give back to help those who need much more than I.
5. Host a couples’ Bible study at your house. Right after Olivia was born, we hit a patch of major stress, as any new parents would. We were discouraged. We were worn down. We had lost sight of so many things. Thankfully, a friend of the family who is a pastor offered to start an at-home Bible study with us. I’m not going to lie; I was apprehensive because I’m a major introvert, and I felt guilty for even having those misgivings. One evening, our pastor friend came over along with two other young couples we had invited who were close friends. Upon that very first study session, we were hooked. We connected with our faith in a way that we never had before. And it was simply a matter of having a few people come together a couple Sunday evenings a month, read a 5-10 verse story, and have a chat. We had a support system with couples our own age, and they were going through the same problems we were. It was life altering in our own marriage as well as theirs. Turn it into a social gathering, throw some hotdogs on the grill, and watch the big game after your Bible study. Never underestimate what a small group of people can do together in their faith. It is powerful stuff. (If you’re interested in the course we followed, I’ll be happy to share it. Shoot me an e-mail from the button on the sidebar and I would love to send the files to you!)
6. Volunteer. This is one that I would love to be able to get into more often. Sometimes getting perspective in your own marriage is a matter of getting out in your community. I used to teach music to children every summer at my church’s Vacation Bible School, and it felt great to get involved. Putting together Operation Christmas Child boxes is a blast to do too. Work together with Habitat for Humanity. Get involved with a charity. Robert and I want to start volunteering at homeless shelters. It’s just another one of those things that can put life into focus, and you learn to appreciate what you do have in your marriage.
7. Attend church. This one probably seems pretty straight forward, but yeah there are days when we just want to sleep in and be lazy. (I’ll come clean; we sometimes skip…guilty.) If you aren’t feeling it at the one you currently attend, try out new ones! If you can’t make it to church though, that doesn’t mean you have to completely miss out. Have a devotion instead. The Love Dare is a great place to start. Or you can flip on a TV broadcast of a sermon. Elevation Church here in Charlotte consistently has an incredible message that is always good to hear. We can say we are strong in our faith and don’t need to go to church that often. But ya know…people with good teeth still need to go to the dentist. You don’t want to show up when you’ve reached the point of total decay in your life. Get check-ups and maintain- both dentally and religiously. 🙂 (If you are rolling your eyes at that metaphor, hang with me here. I never said I was good at this.)
8. Be careful what you expose yourself to. Be aware of triggers. Be conscious of moments when you can sense temptation. Take notice of things that desensitize you be it lust, violence, greed or anything else, and keep it in check. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy a good action flick or read a book with a bit of romance in it. Whether we want to admit it or not though, we know when something crosses a line. When that happens, know that it’s time to walk away from it. That violence may start to creep into how you talk to or treat your spouse. That lust may turn you away from your husband or wife. And that can create some drama that is difficult to bounce back from.
9. Be open with each other. If you mess up, confess it. If you are angry, try your best to calmly talk about it. If you just need to vent, do it. But on the flip side of that, be forgiving too and know that everyone makes mistakes. Game playing was for the relationship drama of your teen days. If you want to entrap your spouse and manipulate his/her behavior, you’re not being honest in your relationship and that never ends well.
10. Hold each other accountable. Piggy-backing off of #9, if you want an honest, trustworthy marriage, passwords and locks shouldn’t exist to create barriers between each other. Robert knows all of my passwords, and I know all of his on social media and on our cell phones. That’s not to say that I go searching through his text messages or snooping around on his Facebook, but it just sends both of us a message to the other that says, “Hey, I have nothing to hide.” And because we have nothing to hide, there’s no reason to snoop in the first place.
Okay I feel way too “preachy” now, but I just wanted to share what works for us. Try some of them out. You would be amazed at the results.
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