What have you been assuming will “just take care of itself” in your marriage?
What have you been avoiding talking about in your marriage?
What habits exist in your marriage that you need to break?
What new practices do you need to add to your marriage?
These are potentially life-changing questions you need to be asking yourself. If you don’t make changes in your marriage today, when will you? Will you wake up together in twenty years and wonder why things are still just ho-hum and not amazing? (Do you even believe that your marriage can be amazing?) Will you even be waking up next to each other in twenty years if these things aren’t brought up and handled?
Sometimes the hardest thing about making a change in your life is just taking that first step. You’re taking a step into “personal issues” and it can feel a little scary. Sometimes it helps to get perspective.
What if you don’t make any changes and your life remains as it is? Can you really be satisfied with your status quo for the rest of your life? But let’s get real, things that are left to themselves don’t remain at the status quo. They decline. Unless something is intentionally acted on for the better, it begins to decline over time. You will become more and more fed up, and anxious, and annoyed and frustrated, and just plain sick and tired of living a life that feels unfulfilling, out of control, and hopeless.
This is how couples go from ear-to-ear smiles as they walk down the aisle together to discussing child custody arrangements just a few short years later.
Think I’m painting too grim a picture? Okay, maybe your marital “stuff” that you never address won’t lead you to divorce court, but does it allow for you to experience God’s best for you? Does your “stuff” allow God to use you as a positive influence and a strengthening force in your home and community? Does it keep your kids from having an accurate picture of what marriage is supposed to be?
Your marriage is like a living organism. It must be nurtured and cared for. It takes work. It takes pruning and watering. If your marriage is ever going to have sweet fruit that you can harvest and enjoy and bless others with, you have to do the work.
Sometimes the beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on what is going well and not so well in your life. You may be a person who never makes New Year’s resolutions or if you do, only ones that are about yourself. But marriage is a GIGANTIC part of your life. So it’s definitely an important thing to evaluate along with the rest of your life.
It’s easy to get complacent or even lazy in marriage. You may recognize that things aren’t as good as they could be. You may even recognize that there are problems. But you fail to address them because you fear stirring the pot. You fear the work it will take to make changes. You fear being blamed for the problems. You fear an apathetic response from your spouse.
It’s common to allow fear of what “might happen” to keep you from doing something you know you should. In this case, addressing the concerns in your marriage. But marriage requires doing hard things sometimes. It requires being an adult. Adults take responsibility and do what’s best, not what feels better in the moment.
Let’s say you don’t feel supported by your spouse in your career. You want to talk about it, but have been avoiding bringing it up. If you never mention it, you will likely never see any change in the situation unless the change is that your spouse not only doesn’t support your career, but begins to resent it.
If you do mention how you feel unsupported in your career, you open the door to a conversation. Your conversation can have a positive or negative reaction, but even a negative reaction is productive. If you receive a negative reaction to wanting to talk about how you feel, then you now understand a new area of your marriage that needs some work. Once you know where those areas are, you can address them.
If never talking about hard things is a common thread in your marriage, you can expect to either live your life in a shallow marriage that lacks true intimacy or you can expect divorce–because lots of people aren’t willing to settle for a lack of true intimacy and prefer to try to find it in another relationship. (You’ve probably noticed that trend.) Your spouse may be one of those people even though you never thought they would be.
It’s very possible that your spouse has the same grievances in the marriage that you do, but is also avoiding bringing them up. Be the one to make the first move.
Need further help? Find a couple with a good marriage who is willing to mentor you. Read good books on marriage together and on your own. Go to a good counselor who can help you and your spouse talk about your marriage in a constructive way.
No one is born knowing how to do marriage “right” all the time. Everyone can use some help from time to time. Few people seek it. The result is lots of suffering couples.
Don’t allow yours to be one of the suffering marriages. As we approach the new year, make a new commitment to each other to be willing to be adults in your marriage. Do what’s difficult in the moment that will result in a better future. Take care of the issues that need to be taken care of. Give your relationship the chance of being its best. Make this your best year ever.