After my husband asked me out on our first date, we were inseparable. We couldn’t get enough of each other’s company. Our dating days were filled with joy, delight, anticipation, passion, and little conflict. But after we got married, into the newlywed years and beyond we started to grow familiar with each other.
We saw flaws up close and personal. We argued and nitpicked over various things. Our personality differences began to clash in opportune circumstances. Our expectations weren’t always fulfilled. Sexual intimacy was a learning process and required work. We had our share of opinions and more.
A perfect marriage just wasn’t reality. We were sinners living in a broken world and we quickly saw our own sin and selfishness under the microscope. We loved each other, but the truth was that at times we didn’t always like each other.
Well God is still using the school of experience to teach me that regardless of how nasty my sin is and how hard the marriage relationship can be, God has still given me the greatest gift, joy, and pleasure there is on this earth being married to my husband and journeying through life with him as his helper and lover.
German theologian and great hero of the faith, Martin Luther, once said:
There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.”
I couldn’t agree more with his words. But how do couples get there? How do you truly enjoy and like your spouse for the long haul?
I certainly haven’t arrived but over the past seven years of my marriage, I’ve learned a few truths that have helped keep my relationship to my husband pleasurable and less vulnerable to distraction and danger.
- Be quick to forgive. Eventually, your spouse will offend you and you’ll offend your spouse. What you do with that offense is everything. Harboring bitterness will rot your marriage, but constantly forgiving him will bring life and wholeness. Let your marriage be marked by love and forgiveness no matter how difficult the issue or circumstance. “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Prov. 17:9).
- Communicate your feelings. Sometimes your spouse doesn’t exactly know how you’re feeling or what areas you’d like to see changed. Pray about how you might approach him and when you do, respectfully speak the truth in love about what’s bothering you: “Babe, when you do _______, it makes me feel _______.” Create a plan of how both of you can work together on your weaknesses so that unity and oneness is reached. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (Prov. 15:1-2).
- Get busy in the bedroom! Ditch the distractions that tempt you away from physical and emotional intimacy and make your bedroom a safe haven for love. Don’t let being tired or your kids be a regular excuse. Giggle, wrestle, flirt, dream, and be creative. Eat ice cream in the bathtub. Put some cologne on. Break out your honeymoon lingerie. Do whatever it takes to freshen up your intimacy and enjoy each other to the fullest. God created sexual intimacy with your spouse to be exciting and intoxicating. “Take me away with you- let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. Friends we rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. See how right they are to adore you!” (Song of Solomon 1:4).
- Guard your mind. Discipline and protect your thoughts from wondering about another man or woman that isn’t your spouse. You’re not exempt from temptation and sowing a thought reaps an action. Don’t buy the lie that you deserve different or better. Focus your thoughts on what is pure and good and true. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
- Do what you love, together. Sports. Shopping. Outdoors. Blogging. Hiking. Crafting. Gardening. Woodworking. Cooking. Photography. Whatever hobby or pleasure you love, invite your spouse to enjoy it with you. Even if you don’t like his interests, participate anyway because you love him and want to be with him. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn and laugh about. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).
- Watch those comparisons. I wish my husband were more like my friend’s husband. How come my wife isn’t as sweet as my co-worker? How come my husband doesn’t buy me flowers or give me time away from the kids? Your spouse is unique and has been gifted in different ways to compliment you. Comparing him to others is a joy-killer. Reflect on his positive qualities and appreciate them. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
- Keep Christ at the center. In our brokenness and sin, Jesus didn’t leave us on our own but came to earth to save and rescue us from ourselves. Our sin was great and costly, but his grace and forgiveness was greater. No matter the struggles we face, he is the one who is able to transform our character and mend our marriages. Daily, we need God’s strength and guidance to love our spouse the way He loves. We desperately need the power of the gospel to infuse every aspect of our life and marriage. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).
With hard work it’s possible to not only love, but also like and find lasting pleasure and delight in the man or woman God has given you. A good marriage is always within reach no matter how far removed you are from your dating days.