Seven Habits For Building A Strong Marriage

Since we are away, teaching at a marriage retreat, it seems a good time to post some habits my husband and I have developed over the years which have helped to make our marriage strong.   37 years later, there is no one I would rather spend time with than my husband – my best friend.

If I were to list the most important habits we have incorporated into our marriage they would be:

1.  Practice daily prayer together. – It has been so meaningful to us to take our gratitude, concerns and requests to God as a couple, as well as individually.  I love the scripture in Exodus 33:12-17

    Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ [13] If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

    [14] The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

    [15] Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. [16] How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

    [17] And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”   

Our marriage is strong because we have chosen to practice His Presence with us.  Having God with us in our marriage means everything.  We cannot guide it or carry it alone.  We always need His Presence and involvement in our marriage.

2.  Have a purposeful assessment and planning time together each week.

 We have found that “life” gets away from us if we don’t deliberately make plans along with our prayers.

Every week we take some extended time together to talk about our spiritual and emotional state of being, what is going on in our lives as well as well as what  areas need growth.  We follow this with some extended prayer time together.

1 Peter 1:13-16

    Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. [14] As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. [15] But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; [16] for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

If we don’t set aside a time to plan and prepare our minds for action things get crazy and we end up not practically living out our priorities.

Our bumps have usually come from unmet or differing expectations, resulting from things that we did not talk through.

When our children were still at home, we also walked through their schedules  – considering  their physical and emotional needs, how we would prioritize getting time with them, and how to include time for family devotionals.  We strove to have a deliberate approach for developing the spiritual and emotional connections in our family, seeking family feedback from within and without the family.

3.  Eat together at the dinner table   – Most days (with a rare exception) we strove to have everyone together at the family dinner table.  These were precious times. We still enjoy dinner together, even as empty nesters.  It has also served us well to go to bed at the same time most nights.

4.  Practice openness and transparency  –We have found it extremely beneficial to have another couple or two consistently in our lives who know us really well and care about our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.   We open up our lives to them.  This practice not only helps us grow, but it also helps us get rid of “blind spots” that can weigh us down.  These friends provide  a place to get “unstuck” if we come to an impasse.

5  Cultivate an outward focused lifestyle      Col. 4:2-6

    Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. [3] And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. [4] Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. [5] Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. [6] Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Galatians 2:10   All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Practicing hospitality in our home, along with finding ways to serve the poor has served our marriage and family in a tremendous way.  It truly is more blessed to give than to receive, and these practices have reminded us and our children that we are not the center of the universe, but are instead meant to give to and serve others.  This habit has refreshed our souls over and over again.

6.  Express love and affection to each other daily…don’t just assume it’s a given.  I’m amazed at the ways God expresses his love for me in the scriptures, through people, and through His creation.   My husband consistently encourages me and expresses his affection toward me.  This practice helps me (and our family) remember why we love each other…and encourages us to keep on giving.

7.  Enjoy God’s pleasant boundaries.

Psalm 16:6

    The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

        surely I have a delightful inheritance.

We have found it extremely helpful and important to enjoy each other, and to enjoy the pleasant boundaries we have been given. That’s why you may find us taking a walk, sipping coffee on the front porch as the sun sets, sitting by the fire,  riding our bicycles, walking in the snow, playing with our grandchildren, running our dogs, licking a frozen yogurt cone at Bedford Farms, hiking a trail or watching the waves roll on the North Shore.

It’s never too late to begin good habits!

Thirty-Seven Years

How do you tell someone you have loved for nearly forty years that you love them…in such a way that you really express the depth of your heart?  I met my husband 40 years ago when my “then boyfriend”  invited him to church with us.  He was the resident adviser in the dorm where my boyfriend lived.  His girlfriend went to school in another state and so we often invited him to do stuff with us.  We became best friends…and the rest is history.  As today we celebrate our 37th anniversary, I feel like the most blessed woman in the world.  Genesis 2:24

December 14, 1974

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

I’m so grateful for God’s plan for  husband and wife to be united as one person, as repeated again in the New Testament.  I’m also amazed at God’s plan for His dearly loved church.  The lessons are endless.

Ephes. 5:31-32

    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” [32] This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.

However, today I want to express gratitude to my husband.  I fell in love with him because of his integrity and sincerity.  I loved the way he loved God with such passion, had courage to obey the truth he read about in the Bible, and led from a tender and serving heart.  His spirituality and God-given wisdom was evident.  I deeply respected him from the beginning of the time I got to know him.  He was (is) also very athletic, smart and handsome, which I also admire(d).  37 years later I still feel the same way, only the feelings have grown exponentially.  The following poem, by my favorite poet, Edgar Guest, was read at our wedding:

     It takes a lot of living in a house to make it a home,
A lot of sun and and shadows, and you sometimes have to roam
Before you really appreciate the things you left behind
And hunger for them somehow, with them always on your mind.
     It doesn’t make any difference how rich you get to be,
How much your chairs and tables cost, how great your luxury;
It isn’t home yet, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow your soul is sort of wrapped around everything.
     Home isn’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Before it’s a home there’s got to be a lot of living in it;
Within the walls there’s got to be some babies born, and then
Right there you’ve got to bring them up to women good, and men;
     And gradually as time goes on, you find you wouldn’t part
with anything they ever used- they’ve grown into your heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
You’d hoard; and if you could you’d keep the thumb-marks on the door.
     You’ve got to weep to make it home, you’ve got to sit and sigh
And watch beside a loved one’s bed, and know that death is nigh;
And in the stillness of the night to see death’s angel come,
And close the eyes of she that smiled, and leave her sweet voice dumb.
     For these are scenes that grip the heart, and when your tears are dried,
You find the home is dearer than it was, and sanctified;
And tugging at you always are the pleasant memories
Of those that are no more – you can’t escape from these.
     You’ve got to sing and dance for years, you’ve got to romp and play,
And learn to love the things you have by using them each day;
Even the roses around the porch must blossom year by year
Before they become a part of you, suggesting someone dear
     Who used to love them long ago, and trained them just to run
The way they do, so they would get the early morning sun;
You’ve got to love each brick and stone from cellar up to dome:
It takes a lot of living in a house to make it home.

Adapted from “It Takes A Heap ‘a Livin” by Edgar Guest

I believe this expresses well so many sentiments that have made our love even sweeter as the years go by.  Every year, every event…happy or sad, and however difficult or even easy… has added depth to the stones and mortar of our home.  Wherever in the world I am with my husband – is home to me.  I am so grateful that our marriage and family is built on the foundation of God and His word.  This is what has made it strong.

 Joshua 24:15

    But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”