Are you in a season where you need a reset on your dreary marriage? All marriages go through tough seasons and can use a refresh.
Do you feel stale in your marriage? Or stuck or bored or discouraged, or maybe just a little bit antsy?
If we’re honest, we who are married have all felt this way at different times, even if our marriage is strong. Just as there are seasons in nature, there are seasons in marriage.
While a newlywed season might be blissful, reality will hit. Real-life is not all bliss. Infertility, job loss, financial pressure, health issues, personality conflicts, and wounds from the past will pop up at some point. We may be overwhelmed by toddlers, stressed by prodigal teenagers, or dreading the empty nest.
Every Marriage Has Its Seasons
It is helpful to view life in terms of seasons. Each season will bring blessings unique to that season, but each will also have challenges. We must learn to articulate the challenges-be honest about them- but then choose to focus on the blessings.
Marriage has a way of revealing to us just how selfish we are. Life is no longer about me. We are now an us. And each one of us is, by nature, a self-centered, selfish human being. Make me happy. Meet my needs. Cater to me.
At marriage conferences in which we have spoken, we ask each couple to turn and face their spouse and say, “You are married to a very selfish person.” This often produces laughter and hopefully a little more reality!
Growing in marriage involves recognizing our sinful nature, asking forgiveness, and believing in God’s power to change and mold us together.
Marriage takes work-whether you’ve been married six months or 60 years. And just like most things, marriage needs continual refreshment. It’s all too easy to get lazy in marriage. Marriages are either growing or declining. They cannot remain the status quo. We must reject stagnation and instead infuse and refresh our marriage with steady relational vitamins.
How might we refresh our marriage in this new year?
1. Remember the Covenant
Genesis 2:18-25 describes God’s creation of marriage. Marriage was his idea, and it is good. Most of us were married in a service that included promises made to God and to one another. We pledged to…”as long as we both shall live.”
This is a covenant. A solemn promise willingly made before God, each other, and friends. We made these vows with stars in our eyes, not knowing that those stars would become tears at different times.
No matter how difficult or dreary your marriage might become, this covenant acts as a protective fence around you, even if you are bored or furious or have regrets or feel like walking out. Remember the covenant. It’s your promise to God. Face your issues. Get counseling as needed. (If you are in an abusive situation, you must get professional help.) Talk to your Pastor, find an older believing same-sex mentor.
Don’t hang out with women who bash husbands. Instead, find a friend who is for your marriage and who will pray for you and encourage you to move closer to your spouse. It is important to realize that no man can meet all your needs. Only God can. We must run to Him.
The bottom line for each of us is: This is first about my relationship to the Lord.
ASK MYSELF: Am I willing to keep the covenant I made to Him? To work on my marriage? What specific steps will I take to grow closer to God and to my spouse?
Luke has reminded us: “For nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37). He can redeem any relationship. It will take time–longer than we’d like and work–harder than we thought, but He is for our marriage.
Our God is a Redeemer GOD. His Grace will be sufficient for us.
2. Recall Memories of Happy Times
We all get stuck in life. We get bored with the “same old same old.” It becomes dreadful and dreary. Weary of one another and tired of ourselves. Especially in a season of pandemics. We long for something fresh. We long for Hope.
It’s time to pull out old photo albums. This is where we “oldies” have an advantage. We actually made albums! Look through these faded, worn-out books and remember those adventures. Locate favorite memories on your phone from the past and take turns describing what you enjoyed about that event.
It is far easier in the tyranny of life to forget the good times. We have to refresh our memories with one another AND our memories of God’s faithfulness.
ASK EACH OTHER: Where did you experience God’s faithfulness in the first five years, ten years, etc. (of your life and of our marriage?) Looking back, where do you see God’s hand?
This will not only help us to recall the good times, but it will also enable us to get a bigger picture of God’s faithfulness.
Over and over in the Old Testament, we see Moses and others recalling God’s faithfulness in the past. These recollections helped to build the Israelites’ faith for the future. We can emulate this.
3. Refocus on What is Good
Early in our marriage, I found myself stuck. I was curled up on the couch trying to have a quiet time with the Lord before five little people overwhelmed me with their demands. As I tried to pray, my mind wandered to thoughts about John. I wish he’d offer to help with the bedtime/bath routine more. And I wonder if he even thinks about how hard my day is. And that suggestion I made him for the office- he never even responded…and, and… Sitting in my discontent, I realized I’d become a “Picky Wife,” and I was embellishing it moment by moment.
What if he offered to help with the kids’ baths, told me how much he appreciated all my hard work, simply said, “that’s a good idea,” etc. then what? With a jolt, I realized I would have thought of something else that displeased me. I had fallen into the “Picky Trap.” A wife who cannot be satisfied. Convicted of my self-focus, I asked God not only to forgive me but to change me.
I began to take a “daily marriage vitamin.” Each morning I asked God to remind me of one thing that I was thankful for in my husband– that He regularly gets up in the morning to study the scriptures and pray for us, that he takes care of the car repairs, that he is a man of integrity, etc.
For over 50 years, this simple marriage vitamin has helped me focus on the good in my man instead of meditating on his faults.
It can become easy to assume things about our mate. What he longs for, what makes him feel respected, etc. And we often get it wrong! It might help to do a fresh study of him- research what he likes, what his dreams are, what’s a favorite childhood memory, his favorite place to be, when he feels cared for by me.
ASK EACH OTHER: What are three things that I can do that make you feel loved?
You will likely be surprised. One of John’s was: “Rub my back, scratch my shoulders.”
I don’t like it when he does this for me! So, therefore, it did not occur to me to do that for him. But hearing him say this, I have begun to do this more and more. I still don’t like it, but it’s not about me; it’s about him. So we all have different love languages, and we need to do for our spouse what communicates love to them, which may be very different from what communicates love to us. So ask them and then begin to practice—over and over again.
4. Recognize the Importance of FUN
We used to have a red raspberry patch. I took good care of it for years- weeding, fertilizing, and propping up vines. It produced lovely berries twice a year. But then life got complicated, and I no longer had time to care for the patch. So finally, we had to mow it down.
Looking at my languishing berries, I realized how easy it would be to let my marriage languish. Life was so full of pressures. I was merely trying to survive. I had to resist the mentality that whispers; I’ll work on my marriage when life calms down. Life will not calm down. We continue to fill it. And then, as some couples hit the empty nest, there’s not much joy left in the marriage relationship. It has been under fertilized. Not cared for along the way.
One of the best pre-marital pieces of advice we got was: Decide now to have a regular date every week for the rest of your life. Go out for fun, not to have a hard discussion. This is a time to nourish a friendship.
For most of our lives, we’ve kept this commitment. Often, it’s been every other week. Of course, interruptions happen, but if you put it on your calendar and arrange childcare, you will more likely do it, and it will make a big difference in nourishing your marriage.
Empty nesters must work particularly hard at this. It’s too easy to get stale and fall into a sluggish routine. Instead, take up a new hobby together. Take turns planning an unusual date.
Choose laughter over frustration.
One of the things I pray for my marriage and each of my kids is that as a couple, they will LAUGH—more and more. Laughter is far more important than we realize. It gives us perspective. It brings joy, and it is catching! A home filled with laughter is one you want to visit.
ASK EACH OTHER: What is one new thing, date, or hobby that we can pursue together this year? How will we do this?
Ephesians 3:20-21 says,
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.”
May God refresh each of our marriages in the new year with HIS ABUNDANCE.
Susan Alexander Yates
You Need This Book!
No matter how many years you’ve been married, you need this book! Our marriages are either growing or slowly dying; they won’t remain “status quo.” We have to initiate growth. With unusual honesty, rich insights, and splashes of humor, Lisa and Phylicia give us ideas that will help us put a spark into our marriages.
~ Susan Alexander Yates
Speaker and author of 15 books including, Cousin Camp, A Guide to Creating Fun, Faith, and Memories that Last