Have you ever been around a couple (or read about a couple) and thought, “These people have it!” Not that they are perfect or conflict-free, but that they have somehow uncovered the secret of having an enjoyable and effective marriage?
Sadly, I cannot say that I know too many couples that hit me this way, but a few do spring to mind. Most of the couples I see that seem to have mastered the art of love have been together for years and have probably been through a lot on their journeys.
These amazing couples seem to share some similar habits that aid their marriage’s effectiveness. When I write ‘effective,’ I mean they are not only happy in their marriage, but their relationship reaches farther than their home. These couples are inspiring to others, they give of themselves to their community and they use their collective talents to reach people and goals.
Over the next three posts, we’ll discuss nine habits we find in highly effective couples. Onto the first three for today…
“The family that prays together stays together.” Who has not heard that saying? It may seem trite, but it is so true. Have you ever tried praying for your enemies (Matthew 5:44)? If you have done so with a pure heart (i.e., praying with no sin hidden in your heart and not through clenched teeth ~smile~), you can attest to the fact that it is impossible to hate someone for whom you are faithfully praying.
So consider how powerful prayer is to your marriage. If you pray for your spouse (or significant other) daily, it will be virtually impossible to harbor bitterness in your heart towards him or her. If you take it a step further and pray with your spouse daily, now you are a force to be reckoned with! Not only are you both asking God to bless the other person, but you are agreeing in prayer and petitioning God together. If you are not in good standing with someone, you will not be able to pray with them long before you feel the need to clear the air and reconcile!
In addition to prayer, effective couples spend time studying God’s Word separately and together. I admire men who bring their families together for daily (often nightly) Bible reading and prayer time. I have even heard of some men reading a passage of Scripture before every meal… spiritual nourishment before physical nourishment. God’s Word is powerful and He said that it would accomplish the purpose for which He sent it (Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:10-11). When couples fill their relationship with God’s Word and communicate with God in prayer (James 5:16), they safeguard themselves against Satan’s tactics as he would love nothing more than to rip a Godly couple apart.
Dating in Marriage
Dating is an essential part of an effective marriage. We tend to consider dating something couples do before marriage, but it is even more important to date your spouse after marriage. Before the altar, couples tend to have less trouble making time to connect. They rearrange schedules, stay up late on the phone, and find excuses to be together.
When the “I do”s are behind them and a couple is living in the same house, it is easy to start taking each other for granted. People often think that because they live in the same house that they are together and don’t need to go on dates; however, being in close proximity does not a connection make. Married couples have to be diligent to pull themselves away from the hustle and bustle of life and choose to connect and enjoy being together.
As a wife, I can attest to the fact that I look forward to our date night all week long! Not that we only connect on date night, but I know that when our special night of the week rolls around, I don’t have to cook, we go out to a fun restaurant, and we have a good amount of time to just talk. Sometimes we mix it up and do something out of the ordinary, but I simply look forward to some concentrated “us” time… and yummy food. ~smile~
So, start planning now if you are not married yet. Make a list together of fun date ideas you would like to try and make a pact that you will go out of your way to keep dating once you are married! Once the dust settles after your honeymoon, try to pick a specific night of the week to go on a date. If your schedule will not allow you to always be free on a particular night, be sure to plan a date weekly once you know your availability.
We have all seen our share of sitcoms or movies where guys sit around making fun of how their women just want to “communicate.” The word communication as it relates to relationships has received a bad rap over the years. Do you find the urge to roll your eyes when your sweetheart says, “Why won’t you communicate with me?”
Men and women have some relatively extreme differences in how they naturally communicate which can make talking, listening, and understanding between the sexes a challenge. Men need to understand that most women process through problems by talking them out. When we are mid-sentence and our men interrupt, “This is what you should do…,” we want to scream, “Please, just listen to me! Stop trying to fix everything!”
On the flip side, women need to understand that men are natural-born fixers. God put it in their nature. “Why are they sitting around talking about the problem when the solution is so obvious?!?!” Ladies, we have to admit that our way of working through issues is nerve wracking to most men… so let’s show them a little more grace when they come to us with a seven-step plan to solve our problem. ~smile~
Effective couples master the art of active communication. They learn to listen intently and really hear what the other person is saying. They strive to understand each other instead of striving to make themselves understood. Such communication takes maturity. Our inner three-year-old is completely self-seeking, but when we mature, we can delay our gratification and serve someone else first.
If you are trying to understand your sweetheart and he or she is trying to understand you, then you will rarely be at an impasse. But if you put all your energy into being heard and getting your own needs met, you will experience a breakdown in communication. If a married couple stops communicating, they can expect divorce at worst and an unfulfilling, lonely, ineffective marriage at best.
Most highly effective couples did not walk into married life with such a title. It generally takes years of determination, practice, and continual growth to reach that stage. Ask God to mold your relationship into an effective union which is worthy of emulation by your peers and those who come after you!
Do you know any married couples who make it a point to pray together, date often, and actively communicate? If so, take them out for lunch and take notes on how they’ve had a successful marriage!