This June will be my 12-year wedding anniversary (the picture above is proof). We have been through several career changes, grad school, moves, mission trips and other ministry ventures together besides having our four boys. As I reflect back on twelve years of marriage and fourteen years of being together, here are 6 key ways God has shown us to maintain a happy, intimate and thriving marriage.
Talk and then Pray Together
Pray separately and together on a regular basis (everyday). Keep a prayer journal together to track the desires of your heart, prayers for each other and those you care about. It’s always cool to go back and see what life was like 4 years ago, 10 years ago and to see how God has grown you two as a couple and as individuals.
Keep on dating each other. The more kids you have, Lord willing, the more you must prioritize time alone together to talk about your marriage, goals, dreams and of course your kids. This helps prevent you from getting so kid-focused that when it’s time for your kids to leave the home the end result isn’t two strangers that have been little more than roommates for the past 18 years.
Extend God’s Grace to Your Spouse
Extending grace in this sense means to forgive one another as Christ forgives you, bear with one another in Christ and to love each other deeply. It’s so easy to want to nit pick about what the other isn’t doing that you think he/should be doing or to hold grudges but neither one results in fruit that builds your marriage. Forgive and be forgiven. As you learn to confess your sin to each other and forgive one another, your intimacy and strength of your relationship will grow—not because of the absence of sin, but because of the presence of grace extended when we sin.
This is a fun one. Talk about what you would do if time and money were no obstacle. Beware not to feed a discontented heart, but if you could do anything, what would it be? Where is God leading you? How is God possibly calling you to serve Him in the future that may take a huge step of faith? (Hint: these are good things to record in your marriage prayer journal).
Sometimes serving with your spouse can be really hard for couples, especially couples that are very different from one another (or have 4+ kids!). However, there is an intimacy and spiritual oneness here that is like no other in service to the Lord. Service is one of the ways God matures us and it’s how we’re brought back to God’s big picture instead of our own world where He may not be the #1 priority. It helps to reinforce you two as a cord of three stands as you do life together. (Hint: this is another good thing to track in your marriage prayer journal).
Support One Another’s Dreams and Goals
Knowing and supporting your partners’ dreams and goals is a window into their soul. It’s knowledge into the hopeful “not yet”. Sometimes these dreams and goals come to fruition and sometimes they don’t. Either way, it’s important to know what your spouse aspires to beyond what they “have to do” or are currently doing. Knowing this about the other demonstrates interest in them as well as the opportunity to consider how God may want to use you to support or help them grow. This is vital for a thriving marriage and PS: relational intimacy leads to sexual intimacy/better sex and who doesn’t want that for their marriage?
God desires that our marriages are a reflection of His sacrificial, loving and unconditional love for us. As we grow together as husbands and wives, we are to both become more like Him. Through prayer, quality time spent together getting to know each other and serving our Heavenly Father, our marriages are strengthened and fortified to reflect His glory and bless those in our homes and beyond. May God grant you the grace to grow in Him so that your marriage may be filled with joy.