10 years ago today, Scott took me to dinner and proposed that we renew our vows on our 10th anniversary. In the meantime, we’d go back into marriage counseling (for the 5th time) and do everything we could to work on our marriage so that we’d actually want to renew our vows.
To put it mildly, our first ten years of marriage were challenging. We were known as “the conflictual couple,” the couple voted least likely to succeed, the couple who had a friend scornfully tell us “I’ll never have a marriage like yours.”
We loved each other and we loved God. We bore 3 children, and wanted things to improve for their sakes as well as ours. So we kept trying, and working, and trying and working. And 10 years ago today, we rolled up our sleeves to work harder.
Frankly, marriage counseling for the 5th time, although helpful, was no cure.
The big turnaround came 2 weeks before our 10th anniversary, when we spent a week at a marriage ministry called Cana. Somehow, through prayer, sharing, listening, and more prayer (after a deep dive the first half of the week that made us wonder if we had made things worse), God stepped in and finally gave us the ability to forgive and release old hurts and grudges.
Since then, although we by no means have the perfect marriage, we have a marriage that’s about 85-90% reconciled. Can I say how much easier it is to live in a reconciled marriage?
3 weeks ago, Scott and I were asked to preach on marriage at our church. Here, in brief, are our top tips:
- Quickly seek help whenever you need it: We’ve been in marriage counseling 5 times. We’ve done Living Waters (a relational and sexual inner healing program). We receive regular spiritual direction, and over the years, we’ve splatted our stuff to our friends who’ve been kind enough to mediate. It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to enable healthy marriages.
- Pray Together, Daily if you can: About 7 years into our marriage, after a particularly heinous fight, Scott proposed that we pray every morning when the first person awoke for a minute each, asking God to give our spouse a great day, and then close with the Lord’s prayer. 2 minutes of prayer. Pathetic, right? But what felt pathetic to us wasn’t pathetic to God. We trace an upward trajectory starting with our 2 minute prayer practice.
- Just do it! (Make love regularly): Marital sex is a spiritual discipline, so keep it the same way you’d keep the Sabbath. Because when we go too long without physical connection, our spouse’s body becomes a stranger, and it becomes embarrassing or difficult to be truly naked with them.
- Give the gift of good communication: Give your words as a gift, and receive your spouse’s words as a gift as well. Set apart times to talk and relate to one another—regular date nights, weekends away with no kids, writing letters. Make it a priority to spend time communicating with your spouse.
- Forgive and reconcile: Forgiveness is the essence of any successful marriage or relationship because the one thing we know about every marriage is that you have 2 imperfect people who will hurt one another, even when they don’t want to. For those who follow Jesus, we’re commanded to forgive. But forgiveness is not reconciliation. With reconciliation it takes two to tango. Reconciliation involves healing and restoring a broken relationship, often to a better and healthier place than it was before. Reconciliation takes the 5 “R”s—recognizing wrongdoing, risking relationship, repenting, relearning the attitudes of Christ, and restitution.
The title of our sermon was “God can Transform Marriages, He Transformed Ours!”
19 years into this journey, I’m excited for the next 19.
(To hear a podcast of our sermon, click here. Warning, we talk about sex and I use the word “peri-menopause” both of which made our kids visibly squirm in their seats.)
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