Monday, September 11, 2017

Is Your Marriage Extraordinary?

Somewhere around year three of marriage, Howell and I determined that we didn’t want an average or an OK marriage. We wanted an extraordinary marriage. I’d say, after nine years, we’re still working toward what that means, but the truth is, I do think we have an extraordinary marriage because I think we’ve been intentional to sow into our relationship.

Both of us are even-tempered, and we both like most of the same things, so maybe have an advantage in that we genuinely could spend all our time doing stuff together.

But time has been a precious commodity these last twelve months, as we have faced serious transitions in our working lives. I changed position last fall, and the rest of the school year was quite a whirlwind. Howell accepted the position as Administrative Pastor at our local church in May, and his first five months have been equally as busy.

It’s always a challenge to learn a new position or to face a transition like a new job. But I think we’ve been extra challenged to have both changed positions in such a short time period.

Our chapel speaker this last week, Dr. Delvin Atchison, spoke about learning to rake leaves in windy conditions.

Isn’t that real life?

It’s always windy—especially out here in West Texas.

Despite what the last twelve months have looked like, Howell and I have stayed as close and as connected as usual, and I was thinking this week—how did we do that?

I've thought about four areas that I think are keys to an extraordinary marriage, keys that we try to practice: 

1. Communicate every day. This sounds simple, but I don’t mean talking every day, but actually communicating! Howell and I are both introverts—though I don’t think he’s nearly as introverted as me. So you might think that talking isn’t our thing. But we’re both intentional to connect every day, to ask about our days, to share the top stories, to share emotions that we’ve felt. Some days, we’re coming and going, but other days, we’ve got more time. Whether it’s short or long, whether it’s after work or right before bed,  try to find time to talk.

2. Have sex often. We’ve said before how important we think this is (see here and here, for example). In fact, I’ve even made the statement that most marriages fail when a healthy sex life fails to exist. Sex is the highest, most intimate form of communication you can have with your partner. If this is an area that’s a struggle for you, read a good sex book (we recommend this one), talk to your spouse, or talk to a counselor. The question of “how often” might depend on your season of life, but we’d recommend no less than once or twice a week. The most important answer to “how often” is a goal or desire that’s agreeable to both of you.

3. Set aside a date night. Whether it’s a night out or a night in, try to guard your time together for one evening every week. If you have kids, I promise this is the best thing you can do for them and for your marriage. Get a babysitter. Find a fellow friend with kids and swap date nights. Beg grandparents. Whatever you’ve got to do—find time to be alone. And then protect and enjoy that time together!

4. Forgive easily and permanently. When you're both in a season of windy weather, you're going to step on each other’s toes sometimes. But if you don't communicate through those conflicts, you'll create a disconnect that grows with time. You'll stop having sex. You'll make excuses to avoid date night. And the daily communication will break down. It's essential—the most essential key, in fact—that you learn to forgive easily and permanently. Don't drag it out, and don't drag it back up. Ask God to reset your heart to place of honor for your spouse, to a place that protects and cherishes your marriage.

Howell and I are not perfect, and we don’t always get it right. But I think it’s important that we try—that we’re always intentional. Our prayer is that your marriage would move from ordinary to extraordinary today! 

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